At today’s sitting, the Riigikogu approved eight Acts.
The purpose of the Act on Amendments to the Code of Civil Procedure (securing of action based on infringement of intellectual property rights) (231 SE), initiated by the Government, is to enable faster and more effective protection in cases of alleged infringement of copyright, rights related to copyright and industrial property rights. For this, the Act provides for a possibility in such cases, in order to secure an action, to apply for a court to obligate the intermediary whose services are used in the infringement of rights to take measures to stop or prevent the infringement.
In the event of an infringement of intellectual property rights that consists of making certain content available on the Internet, the amendments made by the Act enable to require the intermediary for example to take the content down temporarily or to prevent access to it for the time of judicial proceedings. In particular, in the case of infringements occurring on the Internet, the intermediary is often in the best position to stop the infringement quickly and efficiently.
The obligation to enable rightholders also to apply for a court to issue provisional and precautionary precepts in respect of intermediaries in the event of an infringement of intellectual property rights arises from European Parliament and Council directives.
81 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of passing the Act.
The Act on Amendments to the Bankruptcy Act and Other Acts (195 SE), initiated by the Government, increases the efficiency of bankruptcy proceedings and thereby improves the functioning of the business environment. Among other things, the Act provides for the establishment of an insolvency service, changing of the system of the remuneration of trustees, extension of the obligation to file a bankruptcy petition, and the specialisation of courts in bankruptcy proceedings of legal persons. It also regulates the termination of a seizure applied with regard to and a judicial mortgage established on debtor’s assets, verification of pledgees’ claims, and the arrangement of court proceedings and appeals that begin before declaration of bankruptcy, and enhances the implementation of prohibition on business in bankruptcy proceedings.
79 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of passing the Act.
The main aim of the Act on Amendments to the Law of Obligations Act (lease relationships) (232 SE), initiated by the Government, is to stimulate and develop the leasing market and thereby to offer people the option of leasing a place of residence as a sensible alternative to owning a home. The lease regulation has remained unchanged for nearly 20 years. As a result of the amendments, market participants are enabled to regulate their mutual relations more flexibly, at the same time keeping in mind the need to rely on balanced solutions.
The Act eliminates the absolute ban on contractual penalty in the case of residential lease contracts, provides for the maximum rate of penalty for late payment in the case of residential lease contracts and allows for more extensive agreements on the division of the repair obligation. With a view to protecting the lessee, the right of extraordinary cancellation is provided for the case when the lessor raises the rent unilaterally and this is not acceptable to the lessee, and in such cases a rent rise is precluded until the termination of the contract. The lessor will have the right to cancel the contract due to delay in payment by the lessee in the event of smaller arrears or a shorter delay (two months instead of three). At the same time, the Act provides for restrictions on the amount of contractual penalty, several content and format requirements for agreements on the repair obligation, as well as more extensive notification obligations for the lessor upon cancellation due to delay in payment.
During the debate, Toomas Kivimägi (Reform Party) and Heljo Pikhof (Social Democratic Party) took the floor.
73 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of passing the Act and eight voted against.
The Act on Amendments to the Alcohol, Tobacco, Fuel and Electricity Excise Duty Act (207 SE) initiated by the Estonian Conservative People’s Party Faction, the Estonian Centre Party Faction and the Faction Isamaa, provides for a suspension of the charging of excise duty on tobacco liquids until the end of 2022. During this time, the Alcohol, Tobacco, Fuel and Electricity Excise Duty Act will not be applied either in the case of tobacco liquids. During the period when no excise duty will be charged on tobacco liquids, no obligation to pay excise duty on tobacco liquid revenue stamps will arise. In addition, the tax authority will be given a basis for refusing to accept orders for revenue stamps. The acceptance of orders for revenue stamps will start no later than two months before the excise duty on tobacco liquids will begin to be charged again.
The amendments enter into force on 1 April 2021. The suspension of the collection of the excise duty will give undertakings an opportunity to reduce the price of tobacco liquid and thereby to create a stimulus for users to acquire products from Estonian places of sale and not from border trade.
During the debate, Tarmo Kruusimäe (Isamaa), Maris Lauri (Reform Party) and Jevgeni Ossinovski (Social Democratic Party) took the floor.
53 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of passing the Act and 27 voted against.
The Act on Amendments to the Land Tax Act and the Taxation Act (285 SE), initiated by the Government, establishes the basis for the transfer of the land tax information system from the Land Board to the Tax and Customs Board and solves the problem that has arisen in practice where it is impossible to issue a land tax notice to successors of land who have not re-registered the right of ownership of land in the land register. In addition, the Land Tax Act is brought into conformity with the State Assets Act according to which the responsibility to pay the taxes related to the assets lies with the user of the state assets. The Act specifies the right of the Tax and Customs Board to forward information on the tax liability of a taxable person to a rural municipality or city government as necessary.
A problem that has arisen in practice is also solved. At present, it is possible for successors to avoid payment of land tax if the right of ownership of land has been transferred to them in the course of succession but they have not submitted an application to amend the entry for the owner in the land register to the registrar of the land register. In order to avoid such a situation, in the future, it will also be possible for the Tax and Customs Board to issue a land tax notice to the successor of land to whom the right of ownership of land has been transferred according to the succession register.
81 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of passing the Act.
The Act on Amendments to the Copyright Act, the Taxation Act and the Principles of Legal Regulation of Industrial Property Act (change of the “blank cassette remuneration” system and extension of the functions of Estonian Patent Office) (233 SE), initiated by the Government, amends the right of authors to receive remuneration when their audiovisual works or audio recordings of their works are copied without their consent for personal uses. In the future, the “blank cassette remuneration” will also begin to be distributed to producers of first fixations of films.
The Act provides that the remuneration collected must ensure authors, performers, producers of phonograms and producers of first fixations of films fair compensation for the estimated damage that is caused to them due to the limitation of their economic rights and that takes into account how many copies are made for private use.
Under the earlier law, the amount of the “blank cassette remuneration” was established in law as a percentage of the value of the goods, and the recording devices and storage media subject to the remuneration were established by a Regulation of the Government. As an amendment, the Act provides a short list of the devices that the Government must include in the list mandatorily under the law. Laptop, tablet and desktop computer and smartphone are such recording devices, and external hard disk drive, USB flash drive and memory card are such storage media. The minimum and maximum remuneration rates applicable to both recording device and storage media are also established. The rate of the remuneration collected on recording devices is 3–8 euro and the rate of the remuneration collected on storage media is 0.03–4 euro.
The amendments are necessary in order to ensure greater flexibility of the system and the possibility to adjust it according to changes in customer behaviour. They also enable to take into account, when establishing the remuneration rates, what is copied, the volume of copying, and what devices and data media are used to reproduce sound recordings and audiovisual works.
In addition to the above, under the Act, some implementation tasks relating to copyright are transferred from the Ministry of Justice to the Estonian Patent Office. Such tasks include the role of the authority that exchanges information regarding orphan work status in Estonia, the exercise of state supervision over the activities of collective management organisations, and the organisation of the work of the copyright committee.
During the debate, Tarmo Kruusimäe (Isamaa), Raimond Kaljulaid, Leo Kunnas (Estonian Conservative People’s Party), Heidy Purga (Reform Party) and Aadu Must (Centre Party) took the floor.
82 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of passing the Act.
The Act on the Repeal of the Trading Act and Amendments to Other Acts arising therefrom (235 SE), initiated by the Government, updates, organises and simplifies the legal regulation of the trade sector in order to reduce over-regulation, duplication and the volume of legal regulation as well as administrative burden.
The Act repeals the Trading Act and amends the Acts that have a connection with it. The Trading Act does not give added value in regulating the activities of the undertakings operating in the trade sector, including in ensuring conformity of products and services or in relations with the consumer, but it duplicates the rules that have been established for economic activities under other Acts. The Act sets no new restrictions on engaging in business in the trade sector. The legal framework necessary to exercise the freedom of enterprise remains in place.
76 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of passing the Act.
The Act on the Accession to the Metre Convention (278 SE), initiated by the Government, provides for accession to the Metre Convention with the aim of becoming a full member of the units of the organisation and gaining access to a number of services, for example, calibration of national standards.
When Estonia accedes to the Metre Convention, significantly broader opportunities and rights will open up compared to the current associate membership. As a contracting state, in addition to participation, Estonia will also be able to vote at the meetings of the General Conference and to nominate candidates for seats on the Committee, that is, it will be possible for Estonia to influence the development of metrology at the most general international level. Participation in the work of the Committee gives the contracting state an opportunity to direct the focus of the development of metrology and the character of research and development projects. Through participation, Estonia will be able to promote the digitisation of metrology and to influence other countries to adopt the e-governance solutions created and functional in Estonia in the field of metrology. When Estonia accedes to the Metre Convention, it will obtain access to the free services of the Bureau, that is, the contributions of the contracting state ensure free access to the comparison measurements of national standards and the calibration services.
The Metre Convention covers the issues of metrology, or the science of measurement, on a global scale. The main task is to develop and create increasingly accurate and wider-ranging measurement standards covering different areas of measurement and to increase the equality of the standards of different countries.
59 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of passing the Act. There was one abstention.
Two Bills passed the second reading
The Bill on Amendments to the Natural Gas Act (256 SE), initiated by the Government, will transpose the EU directive concerning common rules for the internal market in natural gas.
The amendments proposed in the Bill are related to the additional obligations of the Competition Authority with regard to the conduct of cross-border disputes and the regulation for the conclusion of agreements with third countries on the operation of transmission lines and upstream pipeline networks. It also specifies the starting of the negotiations between a third country and Estonia for the conclusion of agreements on the operation of transmission lines and upstream pipeline networks, concluding the contract, and receiving the relevant permission from the European Commission.
The purpose of the Bill on Amendments to the Code of Criminal Procedure and the Forensic Examination Act (implementation of the Regulation on the mutual recognition of freezing orders and confiscation orders and the Regulation on the European Public Prosecutor’s Office) (261 SE), initiated by the Government, is to ensure cooperation between European Union Member States in the mutual recognition of freezing and confiscation orders according to an EU Regulation applicable from 19 December.
According to the Bill, the Prosecutor’s Office will be the authority competent to handle and execute freezing orders and Harju County Court will be competent to recognise the orders. The Ministry of Justice will be competent to handle confiscation orders and courts will be competent to recognise confiscation orders. It is expected that the mutual recognition of freezing and confiscation orders will become faster, as the abovementioned regulation provides for specific deadlines for the recognition and execution of the orders.
In addition, the Bill will make an amendment in connection with the application of the EU Regulation providing for the establishment of the European Public Prosecutor’s Office. The Bill will provide for the powers of the European Prosecutor and the European Delegated Prosecutor in criminal proceedings.
The amendments included in the Bill will amend the provisions that give the Prosecutor General a certain procedural competence. It will also be provided that, upon the performance of the tasks of the European Public Prosecutor’s Office, the European Prosecutor and the European Delegated Prosecutor will have the same rights that the Prosecutor’s Office has under the Code of Criminal Procedure. The competence of the Prosecutor’s Office in pre-trial proceedings, the procedure for resolving appeals, and concluding a contract of employment with the head of a forensic institution will also be specified.
Two Bills passed the first reading
The Bill on Amendments to the Alcohol, Tobacco, Fuel and Electricity Excise Duty Act (297 SE), initiated by the Finance Committee, will give undertakings who are applying for a permit for exemption from excise duty on energy and those holding it greater flexibility to assess the length of the period for the assessment of qualification for a reduced excise duty. While the current Act provides the possibility to assess electrointensity and gas consumption intensity on the basis of the data of the last financial year ended, under the Bill, undertakings will be able to choose freely one to four consecutive financial years to be the length of the assessment period.
The greater flexibility planned under the Bill will provide undertakings experiencing economic difficulties an enhanced opportunity to meet the threshold criteria for a reduced excise duty and to avoid a potential obligation to pay the excise duty difference.
The Bill on Amendments to the Courts Act (298 SE), initiated by the Constitutional Committee, will make the procedure for the convention of, voting in and elections of the Court en banc more flexible. It will also specify the duration of the term of office in local government bodies for members who are judges elected by the Court en banc in a situation where their term of office expires but the Court en banc has not elected new members.
The explanatory memorandum notes that the aim of the amendment is also to ensure the functioning of the Court en banc in exceptional circumstances when it is impossible for judges to convene physically and consequently to adopt decisions that are important to judges. The current regulation does not allow to organise flexibly the convention of a regular Court en banc and the votings and elections held in the Court en banc, or to extend the term of office of members of local government bodies who are judges elected by the Court en banc. The amendments planned will enable the Court en banc to convene partially or fully in the form of a video conference, and to apply written or electronic voting in the adoption of decisions and in the elections of members of local government bodies who are judges. The purpose of the Bill is also to ensure that the memberships of local government bodies can carry on in a situation where the term of office of a member of a local government body who is a judge elected by the Court en banc ends due to the expiry of the term before a following Court en banc is convened.
One Bill was dropped from the proceedings
The Bill on Amendments to the Penal Code and the Code of Criminal Procedure (fight against hate crime) (276 SE), initiated by the Estonian Reform Party Faction, will ensure compliance with the decision to combat certain forms and expressions of racism and xenophobia by means of criminal law, adopted in the Council of the European Union in 2008.
The explanatory memorandum notes that, once the Bill enters into force, the social environment will be better protected from hatred and hostility and from unfounded discrimination on any basis whether it is nationality, race, physical characteristic, state of health, disability, age, gender, language, origin, ethnic affiliation, religion, conviction, sexual orientation, gender identity, or financial or social status.
During the debate, Mart Helme (Estonian Conservative People’s Party), Riina Sikkut (Social Democratic Party), Toomas Kivimägi (Reform Party) and Mihhail Lotman (Isamaa) took the floor.
The lead committee moved to reject the Bill at the first reading. 50 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of the motion and 39 members of the Riigikogu against it. Thus, the motion was supported and the Bill was dropped from the legislative proceedings.
At the beginning of the sitting, alternate member of the Riigikogu Marko Torm took his oath of office.
Before discussing the items on the agenda, members of the Riigikogu asked numerous questions about conducting sittings by remote attendance. The Reform Party Faction moved to hold the plenary sitting on Thursday by remote attendance. 42 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of the motion and 40 voted against. Thus, the motion was supported and the Members of the Riigikogu can attend the sitting on 17 December both in the session hall and by electronic means.
The sitting ended at 7.33 p.m.
Verbatim record of the sitting (in Estonian)
Photos of the sitting (Author: Erik Peinar, Chancellery of the Riigikogu)
The video recording of the sitting will be available on the Riigikogu YouTube channel.
(Please note that the recording will be uploaded with a delay.)
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