The Riigikogu passed three Acts:
The Act on Amendments to § 5 of the Artificial Insemination and Embryo Protection Act (787 SE), initiated by the Social Affairs Committee, was adopted with 79 votes in favour. The Act extends the range of persons entitled to receive artificial insemination as a health care service. The Act eliminates the list of medical contraindications which deny artificial insemination to a woman, such as had been established by a Regulation of the Minister of Social Affairs and, accordingly, lays the decision-making authority on the need for and the permissibility of artificial insemination on the doctor alone.
The Act on Amendments to the Labour Market Services and Benefits Act and the Unemployment Insurance Act (879 SE), initiated by the Social Affairs Committee, was adopted with 78 votes in favour.The Act aims to facilitate accepting short-term employment as well as to increase the flexibility of repeat unemployment insurance benefit. The Act changes the procedure for implementing the waiting period for paying the unemployment allowance and the unemployment insurance benefit. In case of repeated loss of job, the payment of the allowance will no longer be preceded by a waiting period of seven or sixty days, which means that the calculation of both the unemployment allowance and the unemployment insurance benefit will start from the day of application if a person again loses their short-term employment. The Act creates the possibility to communicate with the unemployment insurance office by means of telecommunications instead of having to appear in person, which increases the flexibility of communicating with the Unemployment Insurance Fund.
The Act on Amendments to the Social Welfare Act (904 SE), initiated by the Government, was passed with 77 votes in favour. The purpose of the Act is to eliminate the bottlenecks related to the content and organisation of special welfare services for persons with special mental health needs which are financed from the state budget, in order to clarify the regulation concerning the provision of special welfare services. The Act grants to persons who need a special welfare service the right to receive a service that supports employment, regardless of the severity of their disability or the percentage of loss of capacity for work. According to the current Act, the severity of the disability or the percentage of loss of capacity for work must be found to fall within a certain range in order for the patient to be applicable for services of supporting nature which are financed from the state budget. The Act also specifies the terms for isolating a person. This will be allowed also in cases where the person is dangerous not only to themselves or others persons receiving the service but also to the staff, for example. The Act also provides the right to postgraduate studies to young people placed in substitute homes, similarly to the young people who are raised and supported by their parents.
The discussion of the matter of significant national importance “Estonia’s response to European challenges” included reports by the Minister of Economic Affairs and Communications Juhan Parts, Member of the Riigikogu Mart Nutt and the Director of the Estonian Traditional Music Center Ando Kiviberg.
Parts stressed that Estonia must shape its European policy from realistic and pragmatic premises. In issues of economy, foreign trade, domestic market and taxes we must concentrate on our actual interests, and defining and protecting these. Estonia’s interests in the field of economy cannot be based on anything but the conditions necessary for developing our economy, on the requirements and restrictions that the current and the possible future companies are struggling with in Estonia.
Parts noted that as an EU Member State we definitely have a voice and the right to make decisions, but that the construction and shaping of the beautiful and wealthy Europe of our dreams requires us to work on ourselves first. „The economic challenge facing our country is simple in itself. We must become much wealthier than we are today, and the only way to do this is to keep our economic growth above the European average for a long time,“ the Minister emphasised. He added that this is a serious challenge for Estonian companies as well as for the state. It is in our best interest to make Estonia an innovative, highly productive, business-savvy exporter country. EU economic regulation must provide the environment that supports attaining this goal. “Actually, the elements that contribute to Estonia’s success are exactly the same that should form the basis for the increased competitiveness of the whole European Union. Whether the economic conditions and interests of various countries are always conducive to finding the best solution is another question altogether,“ Parts said. He talked about diverse ways for Estonia to achieve success through EU membership.
Nutt concentrated on the prospects of developing the model of our statehood. He listed three paths of development and discussed their contents. These are business state, social state and nation state. He defined the categories as clearly provisional and speculative. Nutt stressed that the development models of the business state, the social state and the nation state are not necessarily contradictory. Business, social values and modern nationalism can function in a balanced and harmonious way within a democracy, and can develop parallel to one another. „These can, however, easily fly off the balance if the country is run on the principles of voluntarism or attempted to shape into a business venture or a social welfare institution,“ Nutt warned. Estonia’s Constitution defines it as a modern nation state where all citizens notwithstanding their ethnicity have the same rights and duties, and yet the Constitution provides guarantees for the survival of the Estonian language and culture. „In order for Estonia to continue developing as a nation state, there is no need to amend the Constitution. In order to make Estonia a business or a social state we must at some point amend the Constitution,“ Nutt said. He emphasised that Estonia should remain true to the principles clearly laid out in the Constitution, as this would ensure the continuation of the nation state as well as of the parliamentary democracy. Nutt added that a conservative financial sector and a liberal economy along with low corruption and good control over monopolies are the best means to ensure the functioning of the market economy, and that the society should not be in the service of the economy, but vice versa. This is the only way to maintain a cohesive and balanced society.
Kiviberg discussed the factors that influence the development of our national culture. He stressed the importance of combining the culture of our ancestors with modern trends. Kiviberg thinks that the cultural space of Estonia is the sum of several different regional cultures. We should care for their various peculiarities with the same zeal that we care for the song and dance festival culture, for example.
Hannes Astok, Mart Laar, Marek Strandberg, Lauri Vahtre, Andres Herkel, Mari-Ann Kelam and Mai Treial took the floor during the debate.
The Riigikogu Press Service
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