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The Acts that were passed in the Riigikogu today will terminate the provision of the universal service in electricity sale, allow people to work during long illness, make it easier to obtain a temporary travel document abroad and relieve the restrictions for manufacturers and sellers of articles of precious metal.

Four Acts were passed

The Act on Amendments to § 11¹ of the Identity Documents Act (256 SE), initiated by the Government, was passed. It makes it easier to obtain a temporary travel document when the document expires or is stolen or destroyed while the person is abroad.

The new regulation enables persons who find themselves without a valid travel document in a foreign country to obtain a certificate of return or a permit of return necessary for returning to Estonia without appearing in person in a foreign mission or honorary consulate of Estonia. In the future, it will be possible to check the identity of an applicant from a distance and to deliver a certificate of return or a permit of return to them by express mail. The amendment will simplify the provision of consular assistance in 24 countries where Estonia and no other European Union country have foreign missions.

Rain Epler (Estonian Conservative People’s Party) took the floor during the debate.

71 members of the Riigikogu voted for the Act and one was against. Thus, the Act was passed.

The Act on Amendments to the Electricity Market Act and Other Acts (termination of the universal service and the ensuring of security of supply) (351 SE), initiated by the Government, was passed. It will enable termination of the provision of the universal service in electricity sale and will strengthen security of energy supply.

Universal service was set up to put a cap on the price of electricity and thereby protect people from the very high electricity bills of two winters ago. By now, electricity prices have fallen and people who are still using the universal service have found themselves in a worse situation compared to those who buy electricity at the exchange price. Termination of the service will bring down the price of electricity for them. The Act provides for the termination of the universal service from 1 July this year.

A legal framework for the introduction of a reserve capacity mechanism for electrical energy is created, the administrative costs related to the LNG loading quay and infrastructure are included in the strategic gas stocks payments, and the Competition Authority is given the right to initiate misdemeanour proceedings if a seller is found to have resold gas acquired from the strategic gas stock to a consumer at a price higher than its acquisition price.

In the course of the second reading, the Act was amended by adding a provision aiming to ensure that the provision of universal service is not interrupted. In the event of the failure of a procurement, the amendment will enable the distribution network operator to nominate a temporary seller of electricity until a seller of electricity is found by public procurement.

During the debate, Rain Epler (Estonian Conservative People’s Party), Mart Maastik (Isamaa) and Lauri Laats (Centre Party) took the floor.

64 members of the Riigikogu voted for the Act and two were against. There were two abstentions. Thus, the Act was passed.

The Act on Amendments to the Precious Metal Articles Act, the State Fees Act and the Equipment Safety Act (363 SE), initiated by the Government, was passed. It eliminates the restrictions that have become unreasonable for manufacturers, importers and sellers of articles of gold and silver.

Up to now, manufacturers and importers of articles of precious metal had to affix their sponsor’s marks to articles which had to be entered in the state register of sponsor’s marks. The new Act enables the data concerning sponsor’s marks to be submitted electronically and extends the validity of the registrations of sponsor marks from one year to ten years. It also eliminates the requirement to submit physical samples and reduces the volume of the data presented in sales documents. For example, it is no longer mandatory to present the mass of articles.

In addition, the restrictions on the retail of articles of precious metal are repealed. Up to now, for example, watches made of precious metal and gold jewellery were not allowed to be sold in street trading, on markets, in doorstep sales, at public events or in stands. In the future, this will however be permitted.

The state fee for the registration of sponsor’s marks will increase from 20 to 30 euro, and the rate of non-compliance levy which was established in 2004 will increase from 640 to 9,600 euro. The registration of sponsor’s marks will be transferred from Metrosert Ltd to the Consumer Protection and Technical Regulatory Authority which has better technological capacity and practical competence for this.

During the debate, Leo Kunnas (Estonian Conservative People’s Party) and Mart Maastik (Isamaa) took the floor.

61 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of the Act. Thus, the Act was passed.

The Act on Amendments to the Health Insurance Act and Amendments to Other Associated Acts (prevention of incapacity for work) (377 SE), initiated by the Government, was passed. It enables people who are on a long-term sick leave to continue working under adapted conditions. Up to now, a person on a sick leave was not allowed to work or earn income subject to social tax in the period of release from work specified in their certificate for sick leave.

According to the new Act, employees can work under conditions adapted to their health on the basis of their certificate for sick leave, for example part-time or by performing lighter tasks, after they have been on a sick leave for 60 days. During the time a person works on the basis of a certificate for sick leave, they are able to receive labour market services supporting their capacity for work, and a benefit from the Estonian Health Insurance Fund to compensate for the decrease in their remuneration. The amendment is made because, every year, an average of 17,000 employees have temporary incapacity for work lasting for more than 60 days, and an estimated 5,000 of them would use the opportunity to work while they are on a sick leave, and approximately 1,800 would need supporting services for that.

In addition, an amendment allows for a care leave of 60 days for parents whose children get a diagnosis of a severe illness. Currently parents are entitled to a care benefit for up to 14 calendar days when their child falls ill. As an exception, parents receive a care benefit for up to 60 days if their child has a malignant tumour and the treatment of the child commences in a hospital.

From 2025, the Bill will provide a new additional regulation on the reimbursement of medicinal products and medical devices which will reduce the cost-sharing burden for people with high costs for medicinal products and medical devices. In addition, social tax relief will be extended to all benefits for temporary incapacity for work if the employer wishes to voluntarily compensate the employee for loss of earnings during sick or care leave.

During the debate, Arvo Aller (Estonian Conservative People’s Party) and Andre Hanimägi (Social Democratic Party) took the floor.

64 members of the Riigikogu voted for the Act.

At the sitting, Minister of Culture Heidy Purga made a report on the implementation of the long-term national development strategy “Estonia 2035″, including “The Fundamentals of the Estonian Sports Policy until 2030”. The Minister noted that we had reasons to be happy because even after the difficult COVID crisis, the Estonian population was one of the most active participants in culture in Europe, and that our target of at least 80% of the population participating in cultural life was realistic. “More than 30,000 singers, dancers and musicians took part in the Song and Dance Celebration, which was attended by nearly 90,000 people. The joy of a successful party was truly endless, as the final song sung under the Song Celebration Arch confirmed. This is very important because culture creates fellowship in society and boosts the global visibility of our small country. This, in turn, leaves a very positive mark on Estonia’s economy,” she said, noting that culture also gave meaning to national defence.

According to Purga, despite all the good news, the sector’s biggest concern remains the same. “It is about the availability of culture and regional differences in Estonia. The perception of the presence of the state is a security issue as well, and the cultural sector has an opportunity to help offset these shortcomings,” the minister said, citing the example of networks of public libraries. “We have over 500 of them. Increasingly, the library is becoming a community hub and a provider of a wider range of public services. The half-a-million-euro Library Accelerator for municipalities, to which municipalities will contribute the same amount, will also provide an opportunity for this leap forward.”

The Minister also listed other changes that should contribute to the development of the cultural sector. These include increasing the size of the Authors Compensation Fund and social guarantees for creative workers, making the system for the construction of cultural buildings more flexible, supporting the film industry through the cash rebate fund, investments into the linguistic diversification of the communication space, promoting the digital availability of culture and the creative industries, supporting the reconstruction of Ukraine and supporting Ukrainians in Estonia who have fled the war, and supporting Estonian language learning.

The Minister of Culture also highlighted that 2023 had been the Be Active Year. “By making exercise part of our everyday lives, we can be sustainable as a people as well. The economic benefits come into play here too, as healthier and happier people stay longer in the labour market. Who would want to sit idle at home when your body and mind are ready to do the work that gives pleasure and is rewarding? A mere 1% higher employment rate in the 65+ age group would generate more than €7 million a year in income tax for the state, while a 3% higher rate would generate as much as €21 million. All of this will help to reduce health care costs, and again maintain a high level of participation in our culture and the desire to create experiences for oneself over a longer period of time, for example by participating in a folk-dance group or amateur theatre,” said Purga. “Our children don’t tend to move much outside the gym. Promoting exercise will therefore remain a priority for us now that the Be Active Year has passed on the baton to the Cultural Diversity Year,” the Minister assured.

During the debate, Tanel Tein (Estonia 200), Helle-Moonika Helme (Estonian Conservative People’s Party), Heljo Pikhof (Social Democratic Party), Vadim Belobrovtsev (Centre Party), Riina Solman (Isamaa) and Kristo Enn Vaga (Reform Party) took the floor.

The second reading of a Bill was deferred to tomorrow due to the end of the working hours of the sitting. It is the Bill on Amendments to the Riigikogu Election Act and Amendments to Other Associated Acts (344 SE), initiated by the Government. It will clarify the regulation of online voting and will create the possibility to also vote by mobile phone in elections in the future.

The Bill will eliminate the shortcomings that became apparent in the regulation of online voting in recent elections, and which have also been pointed out by the Supreme Court. With a view to increasing transparency, according to the Bill, the regulation that so far has been established by Resolutions of the National Electoral Committee will be provided at the level of Act.

Before the second reading, the Constitutional Committee had incorporated into the Bill an amendment according to which the National Electoral Committee would retain its right to establish by its resolution the technical requirements for online voting as the organisation of online voting may change over time. According to an amendment, the National Electoral Committee will establish by its resolution the electronic identification schemes to be used to identify voters. It will create the possibility for voters to identify themselves by Smart-ID in the future. At present, a secure computer with Internet connection, and an ID-card with valid certificates together with a reader, or mobile ID are needed to vote online.

The committee also made an amendment to the Bill to clearly provide for the option of using m-voting in elections in the future. According to an amendment, the National Electoral Committee will assess the suitability of technical solutions before each election and will define by its resolution the operating systems to be used. The Bill will specify that a voter application will be established in particular for more common operating systems and an individual verification application will be established for mobile device operating systems. According to the Bill, a voter application may be established for the latter as well.

The amendments allowing for the use of Smart-ID as well as m-voting are planned to enter into force in October this year. Thus, these options cannot yet be used in the European Parliament elections at the beginning of this June.

In addition, the Bill will specify the tasks and responsibility of the State Electoral Office in the development and management of the information systems relating to elections. The role of the Information System Authority will also be provided for in the Act. According to the Bill, the electoral office will also have the right to involve other competent authorities and persons into the organisation of the development, management and hosting of the election information system and online voting system and into the ensuring of cyber security of such information systems.

Verbatim record of the sitting (in Estonian)

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

Riigikogu Press Service
Maris Meiessaar
+372 631 6353, +372 5558 3993
[email protected]
Questions: [email protected]