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Today the foreign policy as a matter of significant national importance was deliberated in the Riigikogu, with speeches made by Minister of Foreign Affairs Urmas Paet and Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Riigikogu Enn Eesmaa.

Urmas Paet’s speech was dedicated to the subjects of the EU enlargement and partnership with the states in the neighbourhood of the EU and NATO. In connection with the enlargement, Urmas Paet stated that Estonia would open its labour force market to the citizens of Bulgaria and Romania as soon as they would accede, and expects similar behaviour also from other Member States. Looking back at the two-and-a-half year period of membership of the 2004 new Member States, we can see that the development has been rapid and the new Member States have successfully transposed the common rules of the EU. But a more complete integration into the Eurozone has been impeded by postponement, slow opening up of the labour force market and also difficulties which have emerged in connection with the enlargement of the Schengen area, for which the 2004 new Member States are not fully responsible. Mr. Paet stated that life had clearly improved in the new Member States during those two years: the environment is cleaner, in many states the pace of development and the influx of foreign investments has been impressive.

Mr. Paet also highlighted the accession negotiations carried out with Croatia and Turkey, the candidate status ascribed to Macedonia and the perspectives given to other Western Balkan states. Mr. Paet said:”The support to the enlargement has decreased in the European Union as a whole and the number of its opponents is increasing. This spring, 45 percent of the citizens of the European Union were in favour of the enlargement and 42 percent against it. In Estonia and in other new Member States the support to the further enlargement was considerably stronger than in the old ones – 66 percent, including 50 percent in Estonia.

Minister of Foreign Affairs also highlighted the cooperation between the European Union and NATO as well as the neighbourhood policy, in connection with which he mentioned that one of the strategic partners of the European Union was Russia. In the words of Mr. Paet, Estonia considers it very important that the European Union, in relations with Russia, should proceed from its values and internal unity, and would not sacrifice its values to pragmatic interests. Mr. Paet said: “Estonia is working towards the goal of launching the negotiations between the European Union and Russia on an updated partnership and cooperation agreement as soon as possible.”

In his overview of NATO developments, Minister of Foreign Affairs stated that in the world of changing power relationships and crises NATO must become renewed as well as enlarged, must have close cooperation with the European Union and other organisations, develop its partnership relations with the states who share the same values, such as Australia, New Zealand, South Corea and Japan. NATO must maintain its reliability by upholding its principles as well as by fulfilling its main tasks.

Estonia’s development cooperation with our high priority partner states in Eastern Europe as Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine, was also mentioned.

When highlighting the developments of the European Union, the co-reporter Enn Eesmaa – the Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Riigikogu stressed that the legislation of the Community needed to be amended and improved. The priorities of the Union continue to include the energy sector, the problems of the Common Market, security, economic migration and climate change. Speaking of further enlargement of the European Union, Mr. Eesmaa said: “The idea of accepting several states at a time is not a very good one, because even neighbouring states have a very different development level.”

Highlighting the EU neighbourhood policy, Mr. Eesmaa stated that the development of legal and domestic matters, energy, transport environment and innovation towards the recognition of common values was of vital importance. Russia does not wish to participate in the neighbourhood policy programme. Mr. Eesmaa called the members of the Riigikogu to continue parliamentary contacts and dialogue between Estonia and Russia.

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The Riigikogu passed with 71 votes in favour the state Public Servants Official Titles and Salary Scale Act  (1018 SE), initiated by the Government of the Republic. The purpose of the Act is to bring the State Public Servants Official Titles and Salary Scale Act in conformity with the Foreign Service Act, enforced on 1 January 2007, pursuant to which the salary scales of diplomatic posts and in the meaning of the Foreign Service Act corresponding to offices of administrative employees will be henceforth regulated. The Act enters into force on January 1, 2007. Nobody voted against the Act, one member of the Riigikogu abstained.

The Riigikogu passed with 69 votes in favour the Structural Fund Assistance for the Period of 2007-2013 Act (936 SE and 999 SE), initiated by the government of the Republic. The Act stipulates the bases and procedure for the provision and use, reclamation and repayment of the structural fund assistance, also the bases for the provision of the named assistance and supervision over the use of it, and the procedure for challenge proceedings. This Act enters into force on 1 January 2007. One member of the Riigikogu voted against the Act, nobody abstained.

The Riigikogu passed with 69 votes in favour the State Fees Act (1011 SE), initiated by the Government of the Republic. The new Act creates additional clarity in calculating the rate of state fees, in the payment of state fees and in other processes related to charging the fees. The problems and interpretation difficulties in emerged during the implementation of the former Act have been taken into account, as a result of which the new Act clarifies all that is connected with charging the fees, making it more comprehensible to the payer of the fee as well as to the body charging the state fee. The Act enters into force on 1 January 2007, § 93 of the Act enters into force on the day following its publication in the Riigi Teataja. 2 members of the Riigikogu voted against the Act and 1 member of the Riigikogu abstained.

The Riigikogu passed with 61 votes in favour the Social Tax Act Amendment Act (1032 SE), initiated by the Government of the Republic. Among other things the monthly rate – the basis for the payment of social taxes was increased to EEK 2,000. The Act enters into force on 1 January 2007, sections 1, 4 and 10 enter into force on 1 January 2008 and section 5 on 1 January 2009. 3 members of the Riigikogu voted against the Act and 4 members of the Riigikogu abstained.

On the motion of the Environment Committee as leading committee the Bill on Amendments to the Nature Conservation Act (1008 SE), initiated by the Isamaaliit Faction and Res Publica Faction, was withdrawn from legislative proceeding at tits first reading. 31 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of the motion and 17 members of the Riigikogu against it.

The Riigikogu Press Service