At Wednesday’s sitting, the Riigikogu approved five Acts which concern the maintenance of the marital property register, the funding of the childcare service for children with a severe or profound disability, the transposition of “the Broadband Directive” into Estonian law, the establishment of a new rescue information system and an emergency notices database, and the changing of the funding of higher education. The Riigikogu passed nine Resolutions concerning the use of the Defence Forces units in missions and in the fulfilment of the international commitments of the Estonian state.
The Riigikogu approved five Acts:
The Riigikogu approved with 86 votes in favour (1 abstention) the Act on Amendments to the Marital Property Register Act and Amendments to Other Associated Acts (transfer of the maintenance of the marital property register and the making of entries) (258 SE), initiated by the Government. On the basis of it, registry officials and notaries will begin to enter data into the marital property register via the population register and e-notary.
Under the current Act, the registry department of Tartu County Court makes entries in the marital property register and is the registrar. In order to reduce the expenditure of the state on the maintenance of the registers, the maintenance of the marital property register and the role of chief processor is transferred to the Chamber of Notaries.
The aim of the Act is to preclude double processing of data, ensure secure data exchange between registers, and enhance the working processes.
The marital property register is a state register for the registration of proprietary rights provided for in the spouses’ marital property contract and, in the cases provided by law, other proprietary rights. The marital property register is maintained fully electronically as of April 2014, and all registry cards are available electronically publicly.
The Act enters into force on 1 March 2018.
The Riigikogu approved with 89 votes in favour the Act on Amendments to the Social Welfare Act and Amendments to Other Associated Acts (317 SE), initiated by the Government, under which the childcare service for children with a severe or profound disability provided for in the Social Welfare Act is changed into a social service organised by local government. In that connection, the funds for the state-funded childcare service for children with a severe or profound disability will be distributed to local governments according to the number of children who need the service. Funding will be ensured through the local governments support fund.
According to the Act, additional one million euro will be allocated from the state budget to support the parents of children with a profound disability. At present, the state funds the supporting of children with a severe or profound disability partially, and it does so through county governments. After the amendment, only local governments will engage in the organisation of childcare service, as they know the best the needs of the children and families of their community.
In the future, the childcare service organised by the local government will also include children with a severe or profound disability with the specification that the state will partially cover an additional funding need arising from the disability.
According to the Act, organisation of domestic adoption is transferred from the competence of county governments to the Social Insurance Board in order that all acts relating to adoption would be concentrated into one authority. The amendment will ensure a uniform approach to adoptions all over Estonia. In connection with that, the Child Protection Act, the Family Law Act and the Code of Civil Procedure are also amended, besides the Social Welfare Act.
The Act will enter into force on 1 January next year.
Monika Haukanõmm, who took the floor on behalf of the Free Party Faction in the debate, supported the Bill, but she stressed that supporting only the parents of children with a profound disability with one million euro would result in a too narrow target group. She said that there are 7113 disabled children in Estonia, and 706 of them have a profound disability. Haukanõmm expressed the hope that the target group would be extended in the future.
The Riigikogu approved with 90 votes in favour the Act on Amendments to the Building Code, An Act to Implement the Building Code and the Planning Act and the State Fees Act (250 SE), initiated by the Government, which transposes into Estonian law the relevant EU directive on measures to reduce the cost of deploying high-speed electronic communications networks, or “the Broadband Directive”.
The Directive aims to reduce the costs of deploying the communications network and to ensure that, by 2020, all Europeans have access to internet speeds of above 30 Mbps and 50 % or more of European households have access to internet connections above 100 Mbps. For that, according to the Act, communications undertakings are ensured access to physical infrastructures suitable for rolling out communications networks, i.e. masts, ducts, pipes, inspection chambers, manholes, cabinets, antenna installations, towers and poles.
In order to maximise synergies across networks, the Act is addressed not only to communications network providers but to any owner of physical infrastructures, such as electricity, gas, water and sewage, heating and transport services, suitable to host communications network elements.
An electronic communication capability will be created for the register of construction works as of 2017 where communications undertakings will be able to communicate with other businesses owning physical infrastructures, agree on surveys of infrastructure, and apply for access to infrastructure.
Starting from January 2017, new buildings and residential buildings with two and more dwellings will have to be equipped with in-building physical infrastructure allowing the delivery of electronic communications services. The same obligation will apply in the event of major renovation works concerning buildings and residential buildings with two and more dwellings. In the case of this requirement, a parallel can be drawn with electricity and water routes which are also mandatory for buildings constructed.
The Act affects private property owners, state authorities as well as network holders, including electronic communications undertakings. As to state authorities, the Act affects particularly the Technical Regulatory Authority who will be the pre-trial dispute resolution body within the meaning of the Broadband Directive, resolving the disputes that arise.
The Act will enter into force on 1 January next year.
The Riigikogu approved with 86 votes in favour the Act on Amendments to the Rescue Act and the Police and Border Guard Act (309 SE), initiated by the Government. In replacement of the current rescue information system, a new rescue information system will be established for the performance of the functions of the Rescue Board, and a database for processing emergency notices will be established for the performance of the functions of the Emergency Response Centre.
As of 1 November 2014, the Emergency Response Centre receives all emergency notices to the emergency care, the rescue service and the police by the number 112, but they are processed in different information systems. An information system where emergency notices to the emergency care, the rescue service and the police will be processed will be established at the Emergency Response Centre. All response resources will be managed in a single information system. This will ensure that vital medical care reaches faster those in need.
Separately from that, the rescue information system, which the Rescue Board will use for more effective performance of its functions in the future, will remain in place. The Rescue Board will be able to collect also the data of persons injured at rescue events, in addition to the data of the deceased. Information on fire safety advising and fire prevention will also be entered into the rescue information system.
The Act enters into force on 1 January 2017.
The Riigikogu approved with 84 votes in favour (1 abstention) the Act on Amendments to the Universities Act, the Institutions of Professional Higher Education Act and Other Acts (295 SE), initiated by the Government. The Act changes the scheme for the funding of higher education in which the quality of teaching and the feedback from the labour market will be taken into account. The financing of institutions of higher education will become more stable, and reporting will be reduced.
Base funding will be added in the model for funding instruction at higher education levels as a new component to increase stability. Funding will be divided into activity support and targeted support. Base funding will constitute at least 80 per cent and performance funding up to 20 per cent of activity support. In the case of base funding, the average of the activity supports allocated to educational institutions during the previous three years will be taken into account. Performance funding will be divided between universities on the basis of quality indicators and in reward for meeting the objectives set out in the contract under public law.
Targeted support will be allocated where possible for the implementation of national priorities, and its proportion will be small. To allocate activity support to educational institutions, the university and the Minister of Education and Research will enter into a contract under public law for three years at the approval of the Government in which the objectives of the university will be agreed upon.
At present, institutions of higher education are funded from the state budget to the extent of 70–75 per cent with regard to activities relating to quality and performance, and to the extent of 25–30 per cent with regard to activities supporting carrying out instruction. Instruction at higher education levels is funded from the state budget in universities in public law, state institutions of professional higher education, and some private higher education institutions.
The Act enters into force on 1 January 2017.
The Riigikogu passed nine Resolutions concerning the use of the Defence Forces units:
The Riigikogu approved with 79 votes in favour the Resolution of the Riigikogu “Extension of the Time Limit for the Use of the Defence Forces in the Fulfilment of the International Commitments of the Estonian State in the Peacekeeping Mission in Kosovo” (333 OE), submitted by the Government, which allows to continue participation in the NATO operation in Kosovo with three active servicemen until 31 December 2017. Active servicemen of Estonia serve as staff officers and staff non-commissioned officers in Pristina. Estonia has participated in the NATO peacekeeping mission in Kosovo since 1999.
The Riigikogu approved with 64 votes in favour (7 against) the Resolution of the Riigikogu “Use of the Defence Forces in the Fulfilment of the International Commitments of the Estonian State in Another International Military Operation Led by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization or its Member State, the European Union or the UN upon the First Contribution thereto” (335 OE), submitted by the Government, which provides for the use of up to 50 active servicemen, as necessary, in an operation led by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization or its Member State, the EU or the UN, or in another international military operation in compliance with the generally recognised principles of international law next year.
The contribution of Estonia and the amount will depend on the needs of a specific operation and the possibilities of the state. Estonia can contribute with staff officers as well as certain units, for example, mine clearance team, infantry platoon or special forces. Rapid and flexible contribution to operations is guaranteed with the Resolution of the Riigikogu.
The Riigikogu approved with 71 votes in favour (1 against) the Resolution of the Riigikogu “Extension of the Time Limit for the Use of the Defence Forces in the Fulfilment of the International Commitments of the Estonian State in the International Military Operation Inherent Resolve” (338 OE), submitted by the Government, which allows to contribute with up to ten active servicemen in the international military operation Inherent Resolve in 2017.
Estonia’s participation in this operation began in August 2016 when a six-member training team in the Danish contingent, with the main task of military training of Iraqi security forces, began service in Al Anbar Governorate. Besides, as of September 2016, an Estonian senior officer is serving in Baghdad in a US-led multinational military strategic team that advises Iraqi ministries and security forces. The aim of the operation is direct and supporting military action against ISIL, in the first place in Iraq and Syria. Elements and headquarters leading and supporting the operation are also located in Bahrain, Cyprus, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Qatar, Turkey and Saudi Arabia. In view of the priority of the fight against ISIL, Estonia is ready to additionally contribute to the operation where necessary and where possible, for example with staff officers. The number of active servicemen contributing additionally would remain within the quota provided for in the Resolution.
The Riigikogu approved with 73 votes in favour the Resolution of the Riigikogu “Use of the Defence Forces in the Fulfilment of the International Commitments of the Estonian State in the Composition of the NATO Response Force” (332 OE), submitted by the Government, which provides for the use of up to 220 active servicemen of the Defence Forces in the composition of NATO Response Force NRF in 2017 as necessary. The NRF is a high readiness unit capable of conducting military operations anywhere in the world. The NRF ensures NATO’s rapid reaction capability, and it has a key role in launching NATO’s collective defence operations at very short notice. Ensuring the operational capability of the NRF is in the direct interests of the Estonian state. The North Atlantic Council decides on the use of the NRF unanimously, which means that the NRF can be used only with Estonia’s consent.
The Riigikogu approved with 62 votes in favour the Resolution of the Riigikogu “Extension of the Time Limit for the Use of the Defence Forces in the Fulfilment of the International Commitments of the Estonian State in the Training and Advisory Mission in Afghanistan” (334 OE), submitted by the Government, which extends the time limit for the use of up to six active servicemen in the composition of the NATO-led advisory and training mission Resolute Support (RSM) in Afghanistan until the end of 2017. Estonia will continue contribution with a four-member mine clearance team in the North-Afghanistan region led by the framework country Germany. Estonia has participated in the ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) Afghanistan operation for 11 years (2003-2014), and is participating in the RSM starting from 2015.
The Riigikogu approved with 59 votes in favour the Resolution of the Riigikogu “Extension of the Time Limit for the Use of the Defence Forces in the Fulfilment of the International Commitments of the Estonian State in the UN Peacekeeping Mission in Lebanon” (331 OE), submitted by the Government, which provides for the extension of the time limit for the use of up to 50 active servicemen in the composition of the UN-led international peacekeeping mission UNIFIL (United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon) in Lebanon until the end of next year.
The rotation of the Estonian servicemen participating in the operation takes place twice a year. Therefore, both leaving and arriving units can stay in the operation area simultaneously in the rotation period. For that purpose, the Resolution provides that the maximum limit for the Defence Forces for participation in the Lebanon operation can be increased in the rotation period to up to 100 active servicemen within one month as of the arrival of the members of the Defence Forces who participate in the rotation in the operation area. The majority of the Estonian contingent consists of a mechanised infantry platoon together with a logistics element and staff officers. The duties of the group are observation, patrols and the manning of checkpoints, which also involves cooperation with the Lebanese armed forces.
The Riigikogu approved with 54 votes in favour the Resolution of the Riigikogu “Extension of the Time Limit for the Use of the Defence Forces in the Fulfilment of the International Commitments of the Estonian State in the Post-Conflict Peacekeeping Mission in Lebanon, Israel, Egypt and Syria” (336 OE), submitted by the Government, which extends the time limit for the use of up to six active servicemen in the UN-led peacekeeping mission UNTSO (United Nations Truce Supervision Organization) in Lebanon, Israel, Egypt and Syria until the end of next year.
Estonia mans positions of staff officers as well as senior staff officers. The function of the UNTSO is to observe adherence to peace agreements and armament agreements in the Middle East, and to prevent escalation of conflicts. The Estonian military observers have been participating in the membership of the UN military observation mission since 1997.
The Riigikogu approved with 59 votes in favour the Resolution of the Riigikogu “Extension of the Time Limit for the Use of the Defence Forces in the Fulfilment of the International Commitments of the Estonian State in the European Union Military Mission EUNAVFOR Med/Sophia” (337 OE), submitted by the Government, which allows to contribute in the composition of EUNAVFOR Med (EU Naval Forces in the Mediterranean) next year.
The aim of the operation is to disrupt the activities of human traffickers in the central area of the Mediterranean between the territorial seas of Italy and Malta, and Libya. Estonia is participating in the EUNAVFOR Med/Sophia operation with a logistics staff officer starting from August 2015. The Resolution allows to send up to six active servicemen on an operation.
The Riigikogu approved with 61 votes in favour the Resolution of the Riigikogu “Extension of the Time Limit for the Use of the Defence Forces in the Fulfilment of the International Commitments of the Estonian State in the European Union Training Mission and the UN Peacekeeping Mission in Mali” (339 OE), submitted by the Government, which extends the time limit for the use of up to ten active servicemen of the Defence Forces in the European Union training mission EUTM Mali (European Union Training Mission in Mali) from 1 January to 31 December 2017.
The time limit for the use of up to ten active servicemen of the Defence Forces in Mali in the UN peacekeeping mission MINUSMA (United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali) is also extended until the end of the next year. In 2016, Estonia is contributing to the EUTM Mali mission with instructors whose task is to provide military training to the units in Mali. Contribution also includes staff officers who participate in the planning and advising process of the training of the units in Mali. Next year, Estonia will contribute to the MINUSMA with two staff officers and an observation and advising team who will serve in the multinational intelligence unit ASIFU (All Sources Information Fusion Unit) led by Holland in the composition of the MINUSMA.
The Riigikogu concluded the second reading of two Bills:
The Investment Funds Bill (297 SE), initiated by the Government, will make the Estonian funds market more attractive and facilitate competition in the pension fund market.
The Bill will facilitate the entry of new pension management companies in the market, and make the exchange of the units of a pension fund significantly cheaper for the people. Namely, the limit for the redemption fee for units collected will fall from the current one per cent to a maximum of 0.05 per cent in the case of conservative pension funds, and to 0.1 per cent in the case of other mandatory pension funds. In the future, the management company will not receive the redemption fee but it will go to the fund.
The Bill will extend the choice of investment funds that that can be established in Estonia. New fond types will enable Estonian management companies to better compete with the management companies of other countries, and will contribute to the general development of Estonian fund management.
The Bill provides for the possibility to establish unit trusts, that is, funds operating in the form of limited partnership, in Estonia. After the new Act enters into force, it will also be possible to establish public limited company funds, which are distinctive in comparison with regular public limited companies and the current public limited companies in that they do not have fixed share capital (“public limited company with variable share capital”).
In comparison to the current Act, the Bill makes a clear distinction between funds directed at retail investors and those directed at professional investors – so-called public and non-public funds. The Bill makes several other amendments concerning the rules and prospectus of investment fund, the liability of depositories, and the regime for failure of funds. These amendments will simplify the creation of investment funds and set clearer frames for the obligations of management companies.
The Finance Committee had made 21 amendments to the Bill during the second reading, several of which are connected with public limited company funds coming to the market, and index funds. For example, the possibilities for pension funds to invest more in index funds were widened.
The Bill on Amendments to the Law of Obligations Act and Amendments to Other Associated Acts (321 SE), initiated by the Government, will amend the Law of Obligations Act by adding provisions that will ensure availability of basic payment services linked to the payment account to consumers. This includes, for example, opening a payment account, placing funds in a payment account, withdrawing cash, initiating direct debits, credit transfers and payment card transactions, etc. Credit institutions may only charge reasonable fees for basic payment services.
According to the Bill, in the future, the fees will be established taking into account national income levels and the average fees charged by credit institutions for payment services linked to the payment account.
The Bill will enable the consumer to switch banks or other payment service providers more easily within a Member State. The Bill provides for new information requirements for a fee information document. Banks will have an obligation to provide the consumer, at least annually and free of charge, with a statement of all fees incurred for payment services linked to a payment account.
The Bill will transpose the EU Payment Accounts Directive. The deadline for transposition was 18 September.
The Riigikogu suspended the second reading of a Bill:
Under the Bill on Amendments to the Income Tax Act, the Social Tax Act and Other Acts (302 SE), initiated by the Government, employers will have the possibility to compensate the costs incurred for the promotion of employees’ health to the extent of 100 euro in a quarter without it being taxed as a fringe benefit. The amendment will enter into force in 2018, and it will be established for a term of five years. The Bill will also ensure that the average pension is exempt from income tax in 2017. For that, the increased basic exemption for pensions will be raised to 2832 euro per year.
According to the Bill, the social tax exemption for sickness benefit paid for the second and third day of sick leave enters into force as of 1 January next year. For the purposes of equal treatment, the Bill extends the range of persons who are entitled to income tax exemption in the case of allowances and benefits paid when a regular official, assistant police officer, volunteer rescuer or person engaged in emergency situation work is killed or dies, or his or her work ability decreases.
Chairman of the Finance Committee Mihhail Stalnuhhin introduced the 21 motions to amend the Bill that had been submitted. Amendments concerning the reform of basic exemption in general were introduced into the Bill. The income tax rate will remain at 20 per cent. The general rate of basic exemption will raise to 500 euro per month as compared to the current 170 euro. The rate of basic exemption will however not be applied in the case of an income of 2100 euro or more per month. Tax exemptions related to children will remain in place in their current form.
As of 2018, the new system will also replace the refunding to the low-waged. The average pension continues to be exempt from tax. Together with the rise of the basic exemption, the joint declaration of income of spouses will no longer be in place. The VAT on accommodation services will remain at 9 per cent, and the planned rise to 14 per cent will be cancelled.
The half-percent lowering of the social tax will be cancelled. The impact of this budget will be approximately 40 million euro.
The amendments will reduce the excise duty rates for the main fuels and harmonise the others. The rise of the excise duty rate for diesel fuel from 4.93 cent per litre to 5.42 cent per litre planned for 2018 will be cancelled. There is also a plan to postpone the rise of fuel excise duty rates planned for 2017 to the beginning of February, instead of the beginning of January. The excise duty rate for natural gas is planned to be raised by 25 per cent in 2018-2020.
According to the coalition agreement, a fee for registration of automobiles upon first registration and upon every change of owner will be established which should enter into force as of 1 July 2017. For that, the state fee will be differentiated on the basis of the CO2 emission. In the absence thereof, the value of engine power in kW will be used.
There are also plans to raise the excise duty rates for low-alcohol beverages – beer, cider and wine.
The benefit for families with many children paid to families raising three to six children is planned to be raised to 300 euro per month, and the benefit for families with seven or more children will be raised to 400 euro per month.
On the motion of the Finance Committee, the second reading of the Bill was suspended. The new deadline for submission of motions to amend is 9 December at 4 p.m.
During the debate, Andres Ammas, Andres Herkel, Aivar Sõerd, Jürgen Ligi, Martin Helme, Maris Lauri, Igor Gräzin, Priit Sibul, Jüri Jaanson and Jaak Madison took the floor.
Representatives of the opposition criticised the motions to amend the Bill and the hasty proceedings.
The sitting ended at 7.26 p.m.
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