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At today’s sitting, the Riigikogu heard the report the report of Minister of Climate Kristen Michal on the implementation of the long-term national development strategy “Estonia 2035” and passed five Acts.

Speaking about the major reforms in front of the Riigikogu, Michal highlighted the Climate Resilient Economy Act which would become a Bill in the near future and would be submitted for approval and a wider debate and then to the Government and parliament. “The Parliament will then probably be able to discuss it in this autumn session and will be able to see how to go about it and what the future holds for this Bill. Personally, I hope it will be adopted, as it will give Estonia’s business and economy a clearer vision for the future, boost our competitiveness and outline the ways to operate in various sectors,” he said.

According to the Minister, the idea of the Act is to describe in what way Estonia will use its economy, industry, and energy, as well as legal environment and financial resources in the future. “Its aim is to reduce emissions, to reach a point where industries and different types of production leave less pollution, to achieve a future where materials are reused,” he said.

According to Michal, energy and the transition to cleaner and more affordable energy will make up a big part of the future of a climate-resilient economy. Among other important topics, he mentioned waste management reform, where debates are ongoing with market participants, municipalities, and stakeholders, as well as forestry and nature conservation reform and the upcoming water services reform.

During the debate, Tiit Maran from the Social Democratic Party Group, Hanah Lahe from the Reform Party Group, Igor Taro from Estonia 200 Parliamentary Group, Arvo Aller from Estonian Conservative People’s Party Group and Urmas Reinsalu from Isamaa Parliamentary Group took the floor.

The Riigikogu passed five Acts

The Riigikogu passed the Act on Amendments to the International Sanctions Act and Amendments to Other Associated Acts (332 SE), initiated by the Government. According to it, the assets of persons in Russia that have been frozen under international sanctions can be put into use to compensate for the war damages caused to Ukraine.

The Act creates a national mechanism to ensure the financial liability of an aggressor state for damage caused by the most serious violations of international law. Under the amendment, the assets of the individuals and companies that have contributed to Russia’s wrongful acts which have been frozen under sanctions can be used as an advance payment for the damages owed by Russia to Ukraine.

Before the second reading, the Constitutional Committee had incorporated an amendment into the Bill according to which the Ministry of Foreign Affairs would decide on the use of the assets as an advance payment for compensation for damage in the course of administrative procedure. According to the initial wording, it would have been necessary to apply for authorisation from administrative court to use the assets.

According to the Act, a decision on the use of assets as an advance payment for compensation for damage can be made where damage has been caused by a wrongful act and the damage has been proved and must be compensated for under international law, and the foreign state that has sustained damage has submitted a relevant claim to the foreign state that has caused the damage, and the state that has caused the damage has not met the claim within a reasonable period of time. In order to initiate proceedings on the use of assets in Estonia, a relevant request will have to be submitted to Estonia and the conditions for the use of the assets as an advance payment for compensation for damage and for assigning the right of claim to the owner of the assets will have to be agreed upon with the state that has submitted the request. In addition, the link between the owner of the assets and the wrongful act will have to be sufficiently proven.

The amendment provides that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will have to ascertain all the facts and ownership relations relating to the assets and identify that there are no exceptional circumstances that would make the individual’s interests outweigh the need to apply the measure. According to the Act, the owner of the assets will have the right to contest the decision on the use of the assets in administrative court.

In addition, the amendment specifies the competences of state agencies in the implementation of international sanctions and provides them with clearer legal bases for the implementation of sanctions and for supervision.

During the debate, Hendrik Johannes Terras from Estonia 200 Parliamentary Group, Varro Vooglaid from the Estonian Conservative People’s Party Group, Lauri Laats from the Centre Party Group, Urmas Reinsalu from Isamaa Parliamentary Group, Marko Mihkelson from the Reform Party Group and Raimond Kaljulaid from the Social Democratic Party Group took the floor.

65 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of passing the Act and three were against it.

The Riigikogu passed with 70 votes in favour the Act on Amendments to the State Budget Act (391 SE), initiated by the Finance Committee. It increases the role of the Riigikogu in making budgetary decisions of constitutional institutions and will avoid a situation where the Government decides on the funding of the independent institutions whose task it is to independently control and balance the activities of the executive power.

The amendment creates the basis according to which the Finance Committee of the Riigikogu will approve the budget requests of constitutional institutions before a draft state budget is initiated in the Riigikogu. The Government will continue to have the right and obligation to assess the budget requests of constitutional institutions.

According to the Act, constitutional institutions submit budget requests in full to the Finance Committee and the Ministry of Finance, and in the event of disagreements, the Government submits a dissenting opinion, with justification, to the committee. The committee takes the macro-economic forecast into account when approving the budget volumes of constitutional institutions. A resolution of the Finance Committee and the budget requests of constitutional institutions are annexed to the explanatory memorandum to the draft state budget.

According to the Constitution, the Riigikogu, the President of the Republic, the National Audit Office, the Chancellor of Justice, and the Supreme Court, as constitutional institutions, are independent in their activities. According to initiators, independence as the basis of a democratic state based on the rule of law and the guarantor of the separation of powers means, in the most general sense, that constitutional institutions must be free from pressure from other branches of government, in particular the executive power, in the performance of their functions.

The Riigikogu passed the Act on the Protection of Persons Who Report Work-related Breaches of Union Law (257 SE), initiated by the Government. Its aim is to ensure protection to whistleblowers who report breaches of EU law that become known to them in the course of their work-related activities. The Act creates a minimum framework for receiving reports of breaches of the requirements arising from EU law, for follow-up and giving feedback, and for the protection of whistleblowers in order to respond as promptly and effectively as possible to acts that are in conflict with EU law.

The Act due to come into force this September provides for the conditions and extent of the protection of whistleblowers. The new regulation provides for the ways and channels of reporting and determines when, to what extent and under what conditions whistleblower protection applies. State and local government agencies and the agencies administered by them as well as enterprises having 50 or more workers have an obligation to establish a reporting channel for reporting breaches of EU law.

A person who reports will be granted protection on the condition that he or she has reasonable grounds to believe that a breach has been directly commenced or it has been concluded, the breach falls within the scope of the Act and the reporting takes place in accordance with the Act. The enjoyment of the protection will not depend on the motivation of the whistleblower or whether they act in public interests. In particular, it will be necessary that breaches of the requirements arising from EU law in specific areas be reported, that reports be first made internally or to the competent authority and that the whistleblower have grounds to believe that the information is true.

During the debate, Liisa Pakosta from Estonia 200 Parliamentary Group, Eduard Odinets from the Social Democratic Party Group, Helir-Valdor Seeder from Isamaa Parliamentary Group and Anastassia Kovalenko-Kõlvart from the Centre Party Group took the floor.

52 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of passing the Act, 24 were against and there was one abstention.

The Riigikogu passed the Act on Amendments to the Food Act (378 SE), initiated by the Government. It makes amendments of a technical nature in order to ensure that the Act is in better compliance with EU law.

The Act repeals the provision delegating authority regarding the procedure for regulating state supervision of contaminants in food of animal origin because this is regulated by EU Regulations. Provision is also made for the possibility to outsource the service of an accredited laboratory if the laboratory is located in another EU Member State or in a country that is a contracting party to the European Economic Area. In addition, application for an authorisation concerning the treatment of foodstuffs with ionising radiation is specified.

Evelin Poolamets from the Estonian Conservative People’s Party Group took the floor during the debate.

61 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of passing the Act, 11 were against, and there were two abstentions.

The Riigikogu passed with 74 votes in favour the Act on Amendments to the Act on Introduction of Euro and Amendments to Other Associated Acts (399 SE), initiated by the Government. It establishes mandatory rounding rules for one- and two-cent euro coins in cash settlements. This means that, in the case of cash payments, the merchant has an obligation to round the cost of the shopping basket up or down to the nearest five cents. The final purchase amounts ending in one, two, six or seven euro cents will be rounded down and amounts ending in three, four, eight and nine cents will be rounded up.

The amendment due to come into force at the beginning of next year will reduce the need to produce more one- and two-cent coins. At present people receive coins as change in shops but they make very little use of them themselves when buying. As a result, most coins fall out of circulation and the need to produce more arises. However, the production and handling costs of low denomination coins are disproportionately high compared to their value and the environmental impact of their production and handling is high.

Two Bills passed the second reading

The Bill on Amendments to the Building Code and Other Acts (acceleration of the deployment of renewable energy) (308 SE), initiated by the Government, passed the second reading in the Riigikogu. It will establish the superficies licence for offshore wind farm as a new type of licence for offshore wind farms.

While so far electricity producers have had to apply separately for a superficies licence, an environmental permit for special use of water, and a building permit, the Bill will consolidate the requirements for these permit-granting procedures into one. Application for a superficies licence for offshore wind farm will be more extensive than each separate process but at the same time it will be quicker because on the whole there will be less submission of documents and performance of various acts. Obtaining a superficies licence will give the right to start the construction of an offshore wind farm, and the special use of water needed for that. In the future, a single administrative act will be issued which will also reduce the number of court actions.

The Bill will also simplify the renewal of wind turbines and solar farms and establish a state fee for proceedings for new applications for a superficies licence, and a state fee for proceedings for those who wish to transfer to integrated permit proceedings. In addition, a directive will be transposed into Estonian law to enhance the development of the trans-European transport network.

During the debate, Andres Metsoja, Mart Maastik and Aivar Kokk from Isamaa Parliamentary Group, Igor Taro from Estonia 200 Parliamentary Group and Helle-Moonika Helme from the Estonian Conservative People’s Party Group took the floor.

The Estonian Conservative People’s Party Group moved to suspend the second reading of the Bill, but the plenary did not support the motion. Six members of the Riigikogu supported suspension and 43 voted against.

The Bill on Amendments to the Customs Act (350 SE), initiated by the Government, also passed the second reading. It will simplify customs control of postal items both for customs authorities and for postal service providers and enhance the prevention of sending prohibited and restricted goods to Estonia.

The Bill will specify the procedure for preparing the minutes for the examination of postal items. It will be provided that no minutes for the examination of a postal item will be prepared where the postal item is examined in the presence of the postal service provider and no circumstances indicating a violation are discovered in the course of the examination. Under the current procedure, a report must always be prepared regarding every examination of a postal item. In the case of examination, a postal item is opened and closed by an accountable employee of the postal service provider in the presence of a customs official, and a report is prepared regarding every opening of a postal item under the Postal Act regardless of whether a breach is identified or not. After the amendment of the Customs Act, the obligation to prepare a report will be maintained for customs only in the case a breach of law is identified.

As a result of the amendment, time will be saved both for customs authorities and for postal service providers and it will be possible to direct this resource to enhance supervision so that as few as possible prohibited goods, such as tobacco products, psychotropic substances and falsified medicinal products, would reach Estonia. As customs controls will be carried out more quickly the person placing the order will receive the goods faster.

Three Bills passed the first reading

The Bill on Amendments to the Traffic Act and the Police and Border Guard Act (429 SE), initiated by the Government, passed the first reading in the Riigikogu. It will establish clearer rules for the use of personal light electric vehicles and prohibit the stopping of motor vehicles on the pavement.

According to the Bill, electric scooters will have to be parked parallel to the pavement edge and, where possible, no further than 20 centimetres from the edge. An at least 1.5-metre-wide pavement section will have to remain clear for passage for other users. Local governments will have the right to restrict the speed limit for scooters where this is necessary, for example near kindergartens and on heavy-traffic streets.

It will also introduce a maximum permitted alcohol limit of 0.5 milligrams of alcohol in the blood or 0.25 milligrams in one litre of breath for personal light electric vehicle drivers, cyclists, and light moped drivers. Until now, upon checking, the police have had to make a subjective assessment of whether or not a person is intoxicated. In order to increase safety, motor vehicles will have to maintain a 1.5-metre lateral distance when passing a cyclist or a scooter or moped driver.

Amendments will also be made in respect of the stopping of motor vehicles on the pavement. In the future, it will be allowed to stop or park on the pavement only where the traffic sign permits it. Up to now, the principle has been that it is allowed to stop a motor vehicle on the pavement to load goods, even in the case where no preconditions have been established therefor in terms of traffic management. The marking of places for loading goods can be organised by the municipality, the possessor of land, a company or, for example, the apartment association.

To influence parking offenders, the maximum fine rates related to the violation of the requirements for stopping and parking will also increase. In addition, the Bill will make an amendment to terminate the database of the automated traffic supervision system and to transfer its data to the police database POLIS.

The Bill on Amendments to the Social Welfare Act and to Other Acts (special welfare services and change of residential address) (421 SE), initiated by the Government, passed the first reading. It will continue the implementation of care reform and the reduction of the burden of family caregivers.

The Bill will create a day and week care service for people with intellectual disabilities who need extensive support but have the possibility to live with their close ones in their own home part of the time. The target group of the service will be people with moderate, severe or profound disabilities, as well as people with other intellectual disabilities, both specified and unspecified, who have high care needs. Up to now, this target group has been using a daily living support service, which is however designed for people with low support needs and is more about guiding them towards independence.

Under the Bill, a person will be able to use the day and week care service for a maximum of 23 days per month. For people who need support for less than 10 days a month, a suitable solution will be found among the special care services provided by the local government or among other special care services.

In order to guarantee access to the service, it will be specified that, in the case of support for daily living, the costs relating to the premises used or owned by the service provider will have to be covered by the municipality where the person is residing according to the population register. With regard to the registration of place of residence, the Bill will introduce a derogation for those who are staying in a social welfare institution providing a 24-hour social service and whose registered place of residence is a special care home that has been closed in the course of the reorganisation of special care institutions, or the municipality of its location, or who do not have a valid residential address in the population register following the closure of a special care home. The municipality will be able to register their place of residence to the accuracy of municipality or city district.

The Bill on Amendments to the Financial Supervision Authority Act and Other Acts (422 SE), initiated by the Government of the Republic, passed the first reading. Its aim is to reduce the risk of disruption to business operations and essential services in the financial sector and the threat to information assets and financial assets that may be posed by cyber-attacks, technical failures as well as other operational errors.

In the future, financial entities will have to report major ICT-related incidents to the Financial Supervision Authority and the Information System Authority as well as to clients when an incident has an impact on their financial interests. Enterprises will have to have action plans so that in the event of attacks and disruptions it would be possible to limit damage and to resume the provision of services quickly. Mitigation of risks ensures the protection of data, clients’ trust, and the continuity of business operations.

Apart from certain exceptions, the Bill will influence the whole financial sector, including banks, insurance undertakings, and investment firms. Some companies will be subject to lighter regulation, and exemptions have been provided for microenterprises. The Bill will ensure conformity between the law regulating the activities of the national financial sector and the European Union’s digital operational resilience requirements applicable to financial institutions. At the end of 2022, it was agreed to harmonise and enhance them.

In addition, on the basis of an EU Regulation, the Bill will increase the limits for insurance amounts of compulsory indemnity insurance contracts of insurance intermediaries.

The deliberation of a Bill was deferred

The first reading of the Bill on Amendments to the Basic Schools and Upper Secondary Schools Act and the Vocational Educational Institutions Act (404 SE), initiated by the Centre Party Group, was cancelled at today’s sitting due to the absence of the presenter. The purpose of the Bill is to increase the minimum cost of a school meal from one euro to two euro per day per student. In the opinion of initiators, providing for the two-euro minimum rate of the subsidy in an Act would help ensure that school meals are healthy and delicious and continue to be available free of charge to students. The state last increased the minimum rate of school meal subsidy in 2018.

The sitting ended at 9.14 p.m.

Photos (Author: Erik Peinar / Chancellery of the Riigikogu)

Verbatim record of the sitting (in Estonian)

Video recording will be available to watch later on the Riigikogu YouTube channel.

Riigikogu Press Service
Karin Kangro
+372 631 6356, +372 520 0323
[email protected]
Questions: [email protected]

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