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November 21, 2007

The Riigikogu passed five Acts:

The Act on Amendments to the Commercial Code and Associated Acts (102 SE), initiated by the Government, which transposes a directive simplifying the cross-border merger process of various types of limited liability companies regulated under the national legislation of parties to the European Economic Area, was passed with 88 votes in favour. The Directive sets out general requirements for common merger agreements, the publication thereof, merger reports drawn up by the management bodies of companies, independent expert reports and certain aspects of approval of merger agreements.

The Act on Amendments to Acts related to the Notaries Information System and Legal Registries (105 SE), initiated by the Government, which creates a general legal basis for the implementation of the notaries’ information system e-notary and digital information exchange between the e-notary and state data bases, was passed with 88 votes in favour. So far, the use of the e-notary was regulated at the level of a Regulation. The regulation of the communication between the “e-notary” and state registers is important from the point of view of state registers (Land Register, Commercial Register, etc.), since the entries compiled by notaries are introduced immediately and smoothly to the state register via “e-notary” and it is notably easier for the land register and registration departments of the courts to process these than the applications sent by letter or e-mail. This also alleviates the risk of human errors.

The Act on Amendments to the Weapons Act, the Planning Act and the Rescue Act (101 SE), initiated by the Government, which specifies and improves the regulations relating to the Defence Forces training areas, was passed with 63 votes in favour (24 votes against). Pursuant to the Act, the Government of the Republic shall decide the establishing of a training field of the Defence Forces or the National Defence League on a reasoned proposal of the Minister of Defence. The county governor of the location shall ensure the representation of an object of national importance in county plans and other plans. After the Government has made the decision, the Ministry of Defence will make a proposal to change the county plan or the comprehensive plan, where necessary, and a plan of the training field. The Act gives the provision delegating authority for the establishing of the requirements for use of and safety requirements for individual training buildings of the Defence Forces which are not located on training areas.

The Act on Amendments to the Defence Forces Service Act (124 SE), initiated by the Government, which allows personnel who have passed the age limit for contractual active service but are fit for service and are needed in the Defence Forces to continue their service, was passed with 88 votes in favour. The specified age limit is 50 years of age for soldiers and junior officers, 55 years of age for non-commissioned officers, Majors and Lieutenant Colonels; 60 years of age for Colonels and higher officers.

The Act on Ratification of Agreement between the Republic of Estonia and Georgia for Avoidance of Double Taxation and Prevention of Fiscal Evasion with respect to Taxes on Income and on Capital, and Protocol thereto (119 SE), initiated by the Government, with the objective of favouring investments, ensuring equal treatment of persons and eliminating double taxation, which may occur as a result of joint influence of the Acts of two states, was passed with 77 votes in favour. The Act imposes restrictions on taxes on income and on capital, which may be established to the residents of the other state by the state of the source of income. The Act also creates additional possibilities for the prevention of tax evasions.

The Riigikogu concluded the second reading of five Bills:

The State Budget of the Year 2008 Act Bill (122 SE), initiated by the Government. 51 motions to amend were submitted for the second reading, including 27 motions from the Centre Party Faction, 15 motions from the Green Party Faction, 7 motions from the People’s Union Faction; one motion came from members of the Association of Islands and one from the Finance Committee. It was more extended and contained the amendments expected by the Government. The motion of the Finance Committee included a specification of final beneficiaries of the new period of structural funds, a specification of the contents of foreign funds and amendments relating to structural changes in reorganisation of implementation of programmes. “Analyses and calculations have been done in ministries to find possibilities to reduce the planned operating expenses so as to finance other necessary expenses. As regards the remaining amendments, they found no support in the Committee and the Government did not support them either,” said the Chairman of the Finance Committee Jürgen Ligi in the discussion. Neither found they support in the course of voting at the sitting of the Riigikogu during the second reading. The revenue of the next year’s state budget is EEK 96.3 billion and the expenditure is EEK 93.6 billion. The surplus of 2.7 billion which constitutes circa 1 per cent of the GDP will be assigned to the reserve fund. The second reading was concluded. The term for submission of motions to amend is 6.00 p.m. on 27 November.

The Bill on the Ratification of the Geneva Act of the Hague Agreement Concerning the International Registration of Industrial Designs and on Amendment of Other Acts arising therefrom (100 SE), initiated by the Government, which gives the opportunity for applicants to submit applications for the international registration of industrial designs to the WIPO International Bureau also through the Patent Office. This makes the system more applicant-friendly by giving a choice for applicants.

The Bill on Amendments to the Government of the Republic Act and Other Acts arising from Merging of Governmental Authorities (125 SE), initiated by the Government. In connection with preparation of the merging of divisions of the area of government of the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications, amendments are to be introduced to thirty six Acts. The governmental authorities to be merged are the Energy Market Inspectorate, the Competition Board, the Railway Inspectorate, the Communications Board and the Technical Inspectorate.

The purpose of the Bill on Amendments to the Farm Animals Breeding Act (94 SE), initiated by the Government of the Republic, is to specify the criteria of farm animal breeds and the principles of preserving of endangered farm animal breeds, and to bring the Act into conformity with the EU legislation. The number of breeds is steadily decreasing on the world level because cross-breeding with universally popular commercial breeds overshadows numerous local breeds for economic reasons. The Bill has been elaborated on the example of relevant legislation of the Czech Republic, Finland and Slovenia, the requirements for the protection of endangered breeds in England, as well as the Strategy for Conservation of Genetic Resources in the Nordic Countries.

The primary objective of the Bill on Amendments to the Prosecutor’s Office Act (104 SE), initiated by the Government, is to harmonise the requirements for education set for persons in the office of prosecutor (except the office of assistant prosecutor) and the requirements which prosecutors must comply with, with the requirements set for persons in the office of judge and assistant judge as well as persons exercising liberal legal professions. The second objective is to change the procedure for the appointing of judges in a way which allows a Public Prosecutor to be appointed without public competition, as is the case with the Attorney General, the Chief Public Prosecutor and the Senior Prosecutor. A Public Prosecutor would be appointed by the Minister of Justice on the proposal of the Attorney General. This amendment simplifies to an extent the filling of Public Prosecutor vacancies.

The Riigikogu concluded the first reading of seven Bills:

The Bill on Amendments to the Juvenile Sanctions Act (98 SE) amends the provisions concerning the procedural acts relating to the application of sanctions by juvenile committees, and the regulations concerning the work at school with minors who are sent to a school for students with special needs.

The amendments provided in the Bill on Amendments to the Veterinary Activities Organisation Act and Associated Acts (147 SE), initiated by the Government, will bring the Act into conformity with the corresponding Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council. The most notable are amendments to the principles for determining a supervision fee set out in the chapter regulating the veterinary supervision fee, and amendments to the rates of the fee collected arising from the Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council which are established to replace the existing rates arising from the Directive of the Council. In some cases, the specified rates will rise by half or more depending on the area of handling because the corresponding Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council will no more allow the use of reduction of the rates of fees starting from 1 January 2008. Another significant amendment is connected with reorganisations in the activities of veterinary laboratories and transfer from veterinary laboratory activity licences to the procedure of granting of authority, which is going to eliminate the problems encountered upon the implementation of the Act and dissonances between the Act and the corresponding Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council.

The Bill on Amendments to the Alcohol Act (89 SE), initiated by the Government, with the main objective of resolving urgent issues relating to the supervision exercised over handling of alcohol. Amongst other things, the Bill amends the procedure for confiscation of alcohol which is not permitted to be handled. Pursuant to the Act which is currently in force, confiscation of alcohol which is not permitted to be handled is obligatory. The Bill abandons the requirement of obligatory confiscation and the competence of making a relevant decision is going to lie with the supervisory agency. If alcohol which is not permitted to be handled is discovered, then issuing of a precept in order to withdraw the product from the market and bring it into conformity with the requirements will be sufficient. In addition, the Bill provides the right for minors to possess alcohol provided that it is in a sealed packaging. In the opinion of the initiator, overall prohibition on possession of alcohol constitutes an ungrounded restriction of the right of ownership since alcoholic beverages may also be obtained by succession. The Bill also allows for minors to be employed for work related to the handling of alcohol in sealed packaging: the storage or delivery of packaged alcohol for commercial purposes.

The Bill on Approval of the Agreement on the Privileges and Immunities of the International Atomic Energy Agency (138 SE), initiated by the Government. The objective of the Agreement is to invest the Agency with the legal capacity necessary for the performance of its functions, and the privileges and immunities necessary for the independent performance of its functions on the territories of Member States.

The Bill on Amendments to the Courts Act (114 SE), initiated by the Government, which liquidates the Viru Circuit Court as of 1 October 2008. As a result, the Viru County Court is subordinated to the Tartu Circuit Court. According to the initiator, the reason is the inefficiency of the Viru Circuit Court: due to a difference in the work load, the cost of the adjudication of a matter in the Viru Circuit Court is higher by 53 per cent for the state, as compared to the Tallinn Circuit Court. According to the initiator, the number of civil matters which have not been adjudicated has soared in the moderately loaded Viru Circuit Court whereas the Tallinn Circuit Court with its notably heavier work load has seen no rise in the number of matters which have not been adjudicated in recent years and, as regards administrative matters, it has even gone down by 44 per cent during the years 2004–2006. The Estonian Centre Party Faction moved to reject the Bill at the first reading. The result of voting: 27 votes in favour, 46 against. The motion was not supported.

The Bill on Amendments to the National Coat of Arms Act (130 SE), initiated by the Government, disambiguates the use of the stylised national coat of arms as a design element and security feature in documents issued on the basis of the Identity Documents Act, in view of the specific character of the element and security considerations, allowing the image of the stylised national coat of arms to be used in identity documents.

The major impact of the Bill on Amendments to the Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing Prevention Act (137 SE) is an increased credibility and transparency of economic environment. In the developing of the new regulation, a major aim was to develop measures which would prevent the financial system from being used for the purpose of money laundering and terrorist financing. The Bill takes account of international standards and the risks which have recently emerged in connection with the rapid development of information technology. Better acquaintance with customers or parties to contracts increases the credibility and transparency of commerce.

At Question Time, the Minister of Agriculture Helir-Valdor Seeder answered questions about agricultural policy, the Alcohol Act, agricultural investments and the rural development plan. The Minister of Education and Research Tõnis Lukas answered questions about the financing of general education, and pre-school education. The Minister of Culture Laine Jänes answered a question about rankings of cultural events.

The sitting ended at 7.43 p.m.

The verbatim record of the sitting (in Estonian) is available at: https://www.riigikogu.ee/?op=steno

The Riigikogu Press Service