At today’s sitting, the Riigikogu passed 11 Acts and concluded the second reading of seven Bills. Among them, a Bill increasing family allowances also passed the second reading.
The Riigikogu passed the Act on Amendments to the Employment Contracts Act (625 SE), initiated by the Government. According to it, employers will have an opportunity to enter into short-term employment contracts with the unemployed in more cases. Such contracts guarantee greater protection to employees than contracts for services and authorisation agreements.
Under the current procedure, it is possible to enter into a fixed-term employment contract successively, i.e., with a less than two-month interval, twice at a maximum, or to extend it once. Due to the restrictive regulation, employers may enter into other contracts under the law of obligations, e.g., authorisation agreements and contracts for services, instead of employment contracts. In such cases, however, the employee remains without labour law protection; for example, the working time limits and the requirements for the minimum remuneration and rest and occupational safety are not applied.
The amendments allow to enter into up to eight-day fixed-term employment contracts within six months without limits. However, it will have to be taken into account that, if a new fixed-term employment contract is entered into after a six-month period, the contract becomes a contract entered into for an unspecified term.
49 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of passing the Act and 13 were against.
The Riigikogu passed the Act on Amendments to the Code of Enforcement Procedure and Amendments to the Act on Amendments to the Code of Enforcement Procedure and the Enforcement Agents Act and Amendments to Other Associated Acts (648 SE), initiated by the Government. Its aim is to make the procedure for collecting claims for maintenance more effective.
The amendments provide for a regulation under which maintenance claims that will become due in the future can also be filed to an enforcement agent for compulsory enforcement. The Act also specifies the right of the party seeking collection of maintenance to subject the payment of the maintenance to the constant control of an enforcement agent in the case when the person obligated to pay maintenance does not pay maintenance voluntarily.
52 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of passing the Act and 13 were against.
The Riigikogu passed with 70 votes in favour the Act on Amendments to the Animal Protection Act and the Release into Environment of Genetically Modified Organisms Act (677 SE), initiated by the Government. The processing of animal experimentation project licence applications together with the functions of the protection of experimental animals will be transferred from the Ministry of Rural Affairs to the Agriculture and Food Board who will begin to issue authorisations on the proposal of a relevant evaluation committee. The amendments also specify the procedure for the publication of non-technical summaries and the retrospective assessment of animal experimentation projects.
The Riigikogu passed the Act on Amendments to the Rescue Act and Other Acts (678 SE), initiated by the Government, the purpose of which is to increase internal security and safety. The amendments concern mainly explosive ordnance disposal and fire safety and the role of the Emergency Response Centre in the development of the services of the authority and in the ensurance of the quality of services.
The Rescue Board will be able to involve volunteers with the necessary knowledge and skills in explosive ordnance disposal in order to ensure the consistency of explosive ordnance disposal for the resolution of resource-intensive events and crises. About 20 assistant explosive ordnance disposal technicians will be involved in a year and the requirements for professional qualification will be established for them. The Emergency Response Centre is given the right to use the contact details of the persons entered in the database of emergency notifications and help and information notifications in order to obtain feedback from the person who has called or has sent an SMS message to the emergency services as to whether he or she is satisfied with the service provided to him or her.
Fire safety amendments are for the most part connected with the regulation for the disclosure of the data on the maintenance of heating systems and for water points. The Rescue Board is also given the right to use a person’s contact details entered in the rescue information system with his or her consent in order to send notifications relating to the activities of the Rescue Board, for example, concerning the day of the next chimney sweep and the use of water from fire water points.
54 members of the Riigikogu supported the passing of the Act and 13 voted against.
The Riigikogu passed with 67 votes in favour the Act on Amendments to the Alcohol, Tobacco, Fuel and Electricity Excise Duty Act and the Act on Amendments to the Alcohol, Tobacco, Fuel and Electricity Excise Duty Act (705 SE), initiated by the Government. It will postpone by one year the rises in excise duties that were due in 2023–2026. The pre-crisis level for excise duty rates will be achieved in 2027.
The excise duties for electricity and certain fuels were lowered for two years from 1 May 2020 in order to mitigate the impact that the crisis due to the spread of the COVID-19 virus would have for fuel consumers, and to facilitate economic subsistence. An Act adopted at the end of 2021 provided for a gradual four-year restoration of the excise duties for fuel and electricity to the pre-crisis level starting from 1 May 2023.
According to the amendments, the agricultural sector and oil shale mines will be able to use diesel fuel for specific purposes until 30 April 2024 at the minimum rate of the European Union which is 21 euro per 1000 litres. From 1 May 2024, the rate of excise duty on diesel fuel for specific purposes will rise to 107 euro per 1000 litres for the agricultural sector and oil shale mines will be able to use only diesel fuel taxed at the standard rate.
The Riigikogu passed with 61 votes in favour the Act on Amendments to the Income Tax Act (706 SE), initiated by the Government, which increases the income exempt from income tax from 500 euro to 654 euro per month. Around 368,000 people or 56 per cent of working-age residents will benefit from the amendment. People who earn 654–1200 euro per month will gain most, that is, 370 euro per year, from the amendment of the minimum rate for tax-exempt income.
The amendment will not concern the people receiving the old-age pension. The tax-exempt income to the extent of the average old age pension will begin to apply to them from 1 January and the regressive tax-exempt income system will not apply to their income. The average old-age pension is projected to be 704 euro in 2023.
The Act also extends the opportunity for legal persons to make donations and gifts free of income tax for maintaining the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine as well as for giving and organising humanitarian aid. It will be possible to make donations free of income tax until the end of next year to NPO Estonian Refugee Council, NPO Mondo, the Ukrainian Cultural Centre, the National Defence Promotion Foundation, the Estonian Red Cross, the Estonian Voluntary Rescue Association and Tallinn Old Town Rotary Club.
Reili Rand from the Social Democratic Party Faction took the floor during the debate.
The Riigikogu passed with 59 votes in favour the Act on Amendments to the Funded Pensions Act (707 SE), initiated by the Government. It will accelerate the reimbursement of the 4% contributions not made during the suspension of contributions to the funded pension from 1 July 2020 to 31 August 2021, which initially was to take place in January of 2023 and 2024 for those who had decided to remain in the second pillar pension scheme. The contributions will be reimbursed to the full extent in one year, in January 2023, instead of two years as initially planned.
The amounts to be reimbursed will be calculated according to the actual contributions but their final amount will become clear at the beginning of 2023 when the average return of mandatory pension funds from 1 July 2020 to 31 December 2022 will be known. If the average return is positive, the amounts reimbursed to members of pension schemes will be increased in proportion to this. The amounts will be allocated in January and additional pension fund units will be issued to members of pension schemes on account of this.
Ivari Padar from the Social Democratic Party Faction took the floor during the debate.
The Riigikogu passed with 62 votes in favour the Act on Amendments to the Cultural Endowment of Estonia Act (720 SE), initiated by the Cultural Affairs Committee. It will enable the Cultural Endowment of Estonia to support the completion of several cultural construction works of national importance at the same time, instead of two. According to an amendment, the supporting of a cultural construction work lower down the shortlist must not affect the completion of a facility higher up the shortlist.
According to the Act, it is possible to support a facility lower down on the shortlist earlier than a facility higher up on the list if the preparation for the facility higher on the shortlist does not allow for a grant to be allocated. A precondition for funding a facility lower on the shortlist will be that this does not affect the completion of a facility higher on the list, that is, the Cultural Endowment has the readiness and possibility to begin to also support the cultural construction work higher up the list.
During the debate, Jaak Juske from the Social Democratic Party Faction, Viktoria Ladõnskaja-Kubits from Faction Isamaa, Signe Kivi from the Reform Party Faction and Siret Kotka from the Centre Party Faction took the floor.
The Riigikogu passed with 63 votes in favour the Act on Amendments to the Electricity Market Act (740 SE), initiated by the Economic Affairs Committee. It will give an opportunity for local government authorities and the authorities administered by them to buy electricity from a seller of electricity at the price regulated by the Competition Authority, that is, as a universal service until 30 April 2026.
In order to use the universal service, the authority will need to enter into a new public contract with the seller of the universal service. In the case of premature termination of an existing contract, the contractual penalty that was agreed upon when the contract was entered into will have to be paid where necessary. The plan to establish a capacity limit of 1 GWh per year for electrical energy consumption within the framework of universal service for the authorities administered by local governments was abandoned in the second reading of the Bill.
The Riigikogu has already earlier established a universal service regulation for household consumers and micro and small businesses, sole proprietors, non-profit organisations, foundations, and persons who mediate electricity to consumers of the universal service.
During the debate, Taavi Aas from the Centre Party Faction and Aivar Kokk from Faction Isamaa took the floor.
The Riigikogu passed with 59 votes in favour the Act on Amendments to the State Budget for 2022 Act (685 SE), initiated by the Government. It amends the distribution of expenditure by activities in programmes and the distribution of funds between expenditure and investments. According to the State Budget Act, the Government may initiate a draft State Budget Amendment Act without amending the total amount of funds not later than two months before the end of the budgetary year.
The Riigikogu also passed the Act on the Ratification of the Agreement for the Termination of the Agreement between the Government of the Kingdom of Norway and the Republic of Estonia on the Mutual Promotion and Protection of Investments (646 SE), initiated by the Government. The purpose is to terminate the bilateral agreement with Norway on the mutual promotion and protection of investments. The termination of the agreement is necessary in order to ensure that investors from all EU Member States and Norway are accorded equal treatment based on European Union legislation and the agreement on the European Economic Area.
58 members of the Riigikogu supported the passing of the Act.
Seven Bills passed the second reading
The Bill on Amendments to the Electronic Communications Act (659 SE), initiated by the Government, passed the second reading in the Riigikogu. It will create a legal basis for the adoption of an operational and location-based system for alerting the population to threats. Location-based threat alerting enables to send people instructions on how to behave in crisis situations, for example, in the event of a chemical accident, armed attack, explosion threat, wildfire or another threat.
In the case of threats that are identifiable early on, the availability of early warning gives the possibility to prevent serious consequences, for example to charge telephone batteries, to refuel, to stock up drinking water and food, to avoid going to dangerous places, to shelter or to evacuate.
While at present communications undertakings send threat alerts to all their clients and SMS roaming service users regardless of where the people are staying, in the future there will be the possibility to send threat alerts only to the people staying in particular threat areas. It will also be allowed to use regional threat alerting in crisis management exercises.
The Bill on Amendments to the Apartment Ownership and Apartment Associations Act and Other Acts (641 SE), initiated by the Government, passed the second reading. The amendments to be made will resolve problems that have arisen in practice in issues concerning apartment ownerships and apartment associations.
While currently for example a developer can submit an application for the establishment of apartment ownerships in the Digital Land Register, in the future, such transactions will have to be notarised. The Bill will allow apartment associations with up to ten apartments to maintain their accounts on a cash basis and the obligation to submit annual reports will be eliminated. At the same time, this amendment will not apply to apartment associations that have an administrator.
In addition, local governments will be given an opportunity to establish a conciliation body acting under the Conciliation Act for disputes concerning apartment ownerships and apartment associations. This will enable disputes to be settled more affordably and quickly than by court actions.
Tarmo Kruusimäe from Faction Isamaa took the floor during the debate.
The Bill on Amendments to the Commercial Code and Amendments to Other Associated Acts (cross-border movement of companies) (713 SE), initiated by the Government, passed the second reading. It will transpose into Estonian law the EU directive regulating cross-border conversions, mergers and divisions. The directive adopted in 2019 opens up opportunities for companies in the EU single internal market and fosters economic growth and competition.
While cross-border merger of private limited liability companies and public limited liability companies is possible now as well, the Bill will introduce cross-border division and cross-border conversion as new possibilities. At the same time, the control over the conditions for cross-border movement will be tightened. For example, it will not be possible if restructuring, bankruptcy or criminal proceedings have been commenced in respect of the company. The provisions on the protection of the interests of members, creditors and employees will also be amended significantly. Among other things, in the future, the involvement and participation of employees in the cross-border movement of companies will be better ensured.
At the same time, the Bill will amend the verification obligation of the registrar in the issuing of cross-border movement certificates. The registrar will have to follow more widely the motives for cross-border movement. There will also be an obligation to cooperate with other authorities in the issuing of certificates in order to minimise the use of cross-border movement for malicious or criminal purposes.
The Bill on Amendments to the Persons Repressed by Occupying Powers Act and the Social Welfare Act (increasing the benefits for repressed persons and persons sent to eliminate the effects of a nuclear disaster) (698 SE), initiated by the Government, passed the second reading. It will increase by 62 euro the allowance paid to repressed persons and persons treated as repressed persons as well as the benefit paid to persons who were forcibly sent from Estonia to eliminate the effects of the nuclear disaster in Chernobyl.
While at present the allowance paid once a year is 230 euro, according to the Bill, from next year it will rise to 292 euro. In the words of the initiators, the benefit has not increased since 2018, while in the meantime a remarkable rise in the cost of living has taken place. In the opinion of the Ministry of Social Affairs, people who receive the benefit will be estimated to number 7,800 next year.
During the debate, Helmen Kütt from the Social Democratic Party and Henn Põlluaas from the Estonian Conservative People’s Party Faction took the floor.
The Bill on Amendments to the Medical Devices Act and Amendments to Other Associated Acts (701 SE), initiated by the Government, passed the second reading. It will repeal in the Medical Devices Act the provisions falling within the scope of regulation of EU Regulations, as a new framework for the regulation concerning medical devices has been created with EU law and the directives that have been regulating the field until now have been repealed.
The EU Regulations have set harmonised and higher standards of quality and safety for medical devices in order to meet common safety concerns as regards such devices. The Bill will specify the rights and tasks of economic operators, users of medical devices and the Health Board in the implementation of the Regulations.
Among other things, the Bill will introduce an obligation for distributors to give notice if a system of medical devices, a procedure pack or a higher-risk in vitro diagnostic medical device is distributed in Estonia for the first time. This will bring about additional administrative burden for economic operators but will help achieve a better market overview of medical devices on the market in Estonia and achieve efficiency of market surveillance in order that the Health Board could identify non-compliant, including falsified and dangerous medical devices on the Estonian market and remove them from the market if necessary.
The Bill on Amendments to the Family Benefits Act and the Family Law Act (703 SE), initiated by the Government, passed the second reading. Its aim is to improve the livelihood of families with children, to promote the birth rate and to ensure that the allowance for families with many children will be linked to the rise in salaries and in the cost of living. Particular attention will be on single-parent families and families with many children, that is, the types of families with a higher-than-average poverty risk or where the raising of children involves higher costs for the family.
According to the Bill, the allowance for the first and second child will increase from 60 euro and the single parent’s child allowance from 19.18 euro to 80 euro per month. The allowance for families with many children will increase from 300 to 650 euro per month in the case of three to six children and from 400 to 850 euro per month in the case of seven or more children. According to the Bill, from 1 May 2024 the allowance for families with many children will be indexed with the pension index.
In addition, the Bill provides an amendment in the regulation for calculating maintenance provided for in the Family Law Act. According to it, the allowance for families with many children will be taken into account to the extent of 50 per cent when calculating the minimum maintenance. The purpose of the Bill is to calculate more clearly and fairly the payment of the allowance for families with many children when calculating maintenance.
According to the initial Bill, the payment and gradual termination of the allowance for families with many children had been planned to be applied until the youngest child of the family attained 24 years of age, and then the allowance would have begun to decrease in stages. However, during the second reading of the Bill, the Social Affairs Committee decided to bring the age limit for step-by-step exit from allowance for families with many children to 19 years, that is, forward by five years. Since, as a result of the amendments, the allowance for large families will begin to decrease earlier than has been planned, the allowance is going to be 650 euro instead of the planned 600 euro in families with three to six children, and 850 instead of the planned 800 in families with seven or more children.
The Social Affairs Committee also introduced other amendments to the Bill. For example, the requirement under which the child must be enrolled in a school will be abandoned as a condition for the payment of child allowance for children aged 16–19. This will make both the allowance for families with many children and the child allowance available to families where the child does not continue their studies for some reason, for example, due to special needs. In order to promote studying, the rule will remain in place that, if a 19-year-old young person is studying during the current academic year, the payment of the allowance will be continued until the person graduates from the school or until the end of the academic year. In addition, the Bill was amended by adding a provision for situations where a child under three years of age dies. In such a case, the state will allow for a parental benefit to the extent of one month for both the mother and the father.
According to the Bill, child benefits and allowances for families with many children will increase from 1 January. Under the Bill, families where the payment of family allowances has already been terminated because the children under 19 years of age are not studying will again be entitled to family allowances. The Social Insurance Board will make the relevant payments retroactively by the end of March at the latest. Families will not have to submit applications or documents for that.
During the debate, Siim Kiisler and Jaanus Karilaid, Maria Jufereva-Skuratovski and Tõnis Mölder from the Centre Party Faction, Jaak Valge, Helle-Moonika Helme, Mart Helme and Peeter Ernits from the Estonian Conservative People’s Party Faction, Heljo Pikhof and Indrek Saar from the Social Democratic Party Faction and Heiki Hepner, Tarmo Kruusimäe and Mihhail Lotman from Faction Isamaa took the floor.
The Bill on Amendments to the Social Welfare Act and the Income Tax Act (704 SE), initiated by the Government, also passed the second reading. It will establish the regulation for funding the general care service provided outside the home of a person on a 24-hour basis from 1 July.
While up to now the recipient of the service and the people who maintain them have had to bear the main burden of the service, in the future, the public sector will also begin to participate in the covering of the costs of the service. The local government will cover the expenses of a qualified care worker from the cost of the service place of the person entitled to receive the service, and the recipient of the service will pay for the accommodation and catering costs and other costs related to the provision of the service.
With a view to mitigating the increasing obligation for local governments, the rate of the income tax received by local governments will be amended and the income from state pension will also begin to be taken into account in the distribution of income tax from 1 January 2024. During the transition period, that is, next year, the funds earmarked for the measure will be distributed between local governments through the support fund. The additional expenditure for the state budget is projected to be 40 million euro in 2023 and 57 million in 2024. This will enable local governments to also develop the services supporting living at home and to enhance the provision thereof.
The Social Affairs Committee made an amendment to the Bill before the second reading, under which NGO Slava Ukraini will be included in the list of associations benefiting from income tax incentives to whom legal persons can make donations and gifts free of income tax for maintaining the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine as well as for giving and organising humanitarian aid.
Helmen Kütt from the Social Democratic Party Faction took the floor during the debate.
A Bill passed the first reading
The Bill on Amendments to the State Assets Act, the Land Reform Act and the Local Government Organisation Act (712 SE), initiated by the Government, passed the first reading. It will make the acts relating to land between local governments and the state simpler and more transparent.
The Bill will harmonise the possibilities to mutually ascertain and exercise public interest upon transfer of lands of the state and local governments, and the state will be given the right to intervene to acquire lands in the event of public interest. The local government will have the obligation to ascertain whether the immovable property has utility for the state where the local government begins to transfer land or constitute the right of superficies on land that it has previously received from the state without charge. Upon the return of land to the state, the state will compensate to the local government for beneficial costs incurred on the immovable, provided that these have significantly improved the immovable.
Under the Bill, the compensation and consideration that local governments pay to the state will be reduced from 65 per cent to 50 per cent of the usual value of the land upon further transfer of immovable property received without consideration as well as upon the transfer of immovable property that is suitable for developing the business environment or for use as residential land. At the same time, any beneficial costs incurred on the immovable by the local government can be deducted from the consideration paid to the state. In addition, the term for payment will be extended from five to seven years upon the transfer of immovable property that is suitable for developing the business environment or for use as residential land.
The Riigikogu rejected at the first reading the Bill on Amendments to the Electricity Market Act (679 SE), initiated by the Centre Party Faction. Its purpose was that the universal service measure developed to mitigate the energy crisis would be extended to micro, small and medium-sized enterprises who are a vulnerable target group directly affected by the energy crisis similarly to household consumers.
Rene Kokk from the Estonian Conservative People’s Party Faction took the floor during the debate.
39 members of the Riigikogu supported the motion of the Economic Affairs Committee to reject the Bill and 22 voted against it.
The sitting ended at 7.33 p.m.
The video recording of the sitting will be available to watch later on the Riigikogu YouTube channel. (Please note that the recording will be uploaded with a delay.)
Your feedback is important. Please share it with us!