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At today’s sitting, the Riigikogu passed three Acts and concluded the first reading of four Bills.

The Riigikogu passed the Act on Amendments to the State Fees Act (598 SE), initiated by the Government, which makes it simpler for Ukrainian war refugees who are health care professionals, pharmacists and dispensing chemists to take up employment in their area of specialisation.

According to the amendment, when they receive international protection, they will be released for one year from the obligation to pay a state fee upon their registration with the register of the Health Board and review of their professional qualifications. This way, an opportunity is created for war refugees to continue work in their area of specialty and to avoid a situation where lack of funds could hinder this. At present, health care professionals, pharmacists and dispensing chemists who have acquired their profession in a foreign country must pay a state fee of 195 euro for the review of their application for registration as well as their application for the recognition of their professional qualifications.

The amendment will apply retroactively from 24 February when the Russian armed forces launched large-scale military action in Ukraine.

57 members of the Riigikogu supported the passing of the Act and 18 were against.

The Riigikogu passed with 70 votes in favour the Act on Amendments to the Working Conditions of Employees Posted to Estonia Act, the Employment Contracts Act and the Unemployment Insurance Act (599 SE), initiated by the Government, which brings Estonian law into conformity with the Posted Workers Directive. The Working Conditions of Employees Posted to Estonia Act is amended by adding a provision prohibiting unfavourable treatment, which will protect posted workers who turn to a court or administrative authority to protect their rights.

The amendments also give a construction sector worker an opportunity to require remuneration not only from his or her employer but also from the person who commissions subcontracting from his or her employer. It will be possible to do this in the case when previously he or she has turned against his or her employer with a remuneration claim and the claim has not been satisfied within four months from the commencement of enforcement proceedings. If the total remuneration can be claimed from the employer, the liability of the person who has commissioned subcontracting will be limited to the minimum remuneration, which is currently 654 euro per month. The person who commissions subcontracting will be able to avoid the payment of remuneration if the person can prove that he or she has acted with due diligence.

In addition, the Act amends the dates for the establishment of the rates of unemployment insurance premium in the Unemployment Insurance Act. The Government approves the rates of unemployment insurance premium for four years on the proposal of the supervisory board of the Estonian Unemployment Insurance Fund. According to an amendment, the Estonian Unemployment Insurance Fund will have to submit a proposal for the premium rates by 1 September instead of 21 August, in order that it could be taken into account in the process of drafting the state national budget. The Government will have to establish the premium rates by 15 October instead of 1 October.

Riigikogu passed with 71 votes in favour the Act on Amendments to the Mental Health Act and the Health Services Organisation Act (600 SE), initiated by the Government, according to which coercive psychiatric treatment is on the list of health services of the Estonian Health Insurance Fund and it will begin to be funded from the budget of the Estonian Health Insurance Fund.

Under a contract, the Estonian Health Insurance Fund is already now checking all treatment bills submitted for coercive psychiatric treatment and emergency psychiatric care. It is also paying for the provision of emergency psychiatric care, including the involuntary emergency psychiatric care to people not covered by health insurance. In order to harmonise the funding of health services, the service of coercive psychiatric treatment imposed by a court will be included among the health services funded from the budget of the Estonian Health Insurance Fund. At present, the costs of coercive psychiatric treatment are covered from the state budget through the Ministry of Social Affairs.

Before the first reading, the Social Affairs Committee made amendments to the Bill that will give clinical psychologists the right to act as independent specialists, that is, to provide psychological treatment under a licence, separately from general and specialised medical care.

The application for a licence is open to legal persons and sole proprietors who employ a person having the qualification of a clinical psychologist or equivalent qualification. The licence requirement will help ensure that independent providers of psychological treatment meet the qualification requirements, that their activities and the interventions they apply meet at least the minimum level of psychological interventions and that the treatment is provided with the level of care normally expected of providers of health care services.

The amendments will give the Estonian Health Insurance Fund the right to enter into contracts with service providers approved by the Health Board for the provision of psychological treatment, and family physicians will be able to refer all patients in need of psychological treatment to the contract partners of the Health Insurance Fund.

Before the second reading, the Social Affairs Committee made amendments to the Bill to also include speech therapists and physiotherapists in the category of independent specialists. They will also be subject to a licence requirement. Physiotherapy and speech therapy and psychological treatment may be provided for treatment purposes without a licence until 30 June 2024. All these specialists are also given the right to forward data into the health information system, which in turn will reduce the unreasonable workload of family physicians.

Four Bills passed the first reading

The Bill on Amendments to the Municipal Council Election Act (594 SE), initiated by members of the Riigikogu Helir-Valdor Seeder, Heiki Hepner, Tarmo Kruusimäe, Raivo Tamm, Üllar Saaremäe, Priit Sibul, Andres Metsoja and Mihhail Lotman, also passed the first reading in the Riigikogu. Its aim is that aliens residing in Estonia, except for citizens of the European Union, would no longer have the right to vote in local elections. In the initiators’ words, the right to vote of the nationals of certain third countries in local elections in Estonia has become a security issue.

At present, the right to participate in local elections extends to aliens who reside in Estonia on the basis of a long-term residence permit or the permanent right of residence, who have attained 16 years of age by the election day and the address details of whose permanent place of residence have been entered in the Estonian population register. According to the Bill, in the future, only citizens of Estonia and the European Union would be able to participate in local elections.

During the debate, Maria Jufereva-Skuratovski from the Centre Party Faction, Jaak Valge from the Estonian Conservative People’s Party Faction, Toomas Jürgenstein from the Social Democratic Party Faction, Helir-Valdor Seeder from Faction Isamaa and Toomas Kivimägi from the Reform Party Faction took the floor.

The Centre Party Faction moved to reject the Bill at the first reading, but the plenary did not support the motion. 18 members of the Riigikogu supported the rejection of the Bill and 62 voted against.

The Fisheries Market Organisation Bill (645 SE), initiated by the Government, passed the first reading. It is intended to establish a national legal framework for the implementation of the European Union funds directed at fisheries and aquaculture, for the grant of state aid to fisheries and for the implementation of the measures of the common organisation of the markets in fishery.

The Bill will help implement the objectives of the EU Common Fisheries Policy as well as the national fisheries objectives, and the operational programmes drawn up for EU budget periods 2014–2020 and 2021–2027. The Bill will contribute to purposeful use of the funds allocated for the assistance and to more flexible funding of the activities and will help ensure the grant of state aid to fisheries pursuant to the rules in force in the EU.

The Bill on Amendments to the Unemployment Insurance Act, the Labour Market Services and Benefits Act and the Work Ability Allowance Act (657 SE), initiated by the Government, passed the first reading. It will link the period for the payment of unemployment insurance benefit with the economic cycles.

At present, the period for the payment of the benefit depends only on the length of service of the person and, depending on the length of the service, the benefit is paid for either 180, 270 or 360 days. Such a system has little flexibility, offering weak protection in phases of economic recession and strong protection in phases of economic growth.

According to the amendments, the period for the payment of unemployment insurance benefit will also begin to depend partially on the situation in the labour market. According to the Bill, when a person applies for unemployment insurance benefit, the period for the payment of the benefit to him or her will be set as 180, 210 or 300 calendar days according to the length of his or her service. Before the end of the period for the payment of the benefit, the Estonian Unemployment Insurance Fund will calculate the number of registered unemployed and will compare it with the average number of unemployed over the earlier period. If the unemployment indicator reflecting the developments in the economy is low, the period for the payment of the unemployment insurance benefit will not be extended.

Compared with the current Act, the base period for the benefit will shorten by 60 days for people whose insurance period is longer than five years. In the event of the usual level of unemployment, the period for the payment of the benefit to them will automatically extend by 60 days and, in the event of high unemployment, by 120 days. The base period for the payment of the benefit will not change for people whose insurance period is shorter than five years; however, the period for the payment of the benefit to them will not extend in the event of the usual level of unemployment. It will however be extended by 60 days if the economic situation worsens, that is, in the event of high unemployment.

The Bill on Amendments to the Administrative Procedure Act and Amendments to Other Associated Acts (634 SE), initiated by the Government, also passed the first reading in the Riigikogu. It will create the possibility to conduct automated administrative procedures and will provide for additional requirements for the transparency of personal data processing.

Automated administrative procedure means that, in the cases where the state has got enough data on a natural or legal person and there is no need to investigate anything further, a decision is made online only via an information system, that is, without immediate intervention by an official or employee acting on behalf of an administrative body. For example, if a child is born, childbirth allowance could be on the bank account of his or her parent in a few days’ time.

With the future in mind, the Bill provides for the possibility to use automated dialogue systems, e.g., chatbots and virtual assistants, to perform the duty to give explanations, or to ask statements, opinions and explanations from parties to proceedings. In addition, in certain cases, administrative bodies will have the right to analyse a person’s profile and to use it to assess aspects related to the person.

At the same time, protective guarantees to avoid potential negative impacts of automated administrative procedures will be established for people. The guarantees are contextually set out in the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation. However, it is provided separately that, in order to achieve understandability and transparency, parties to proceedings will have to have a right to immediate contact with an official or employee acting on behalf of the administrative body.

Verbatim record of the sitting (in Estonian)

The video recording of the sitting will be available to watch later on the Riigikogu YouTube channel. (Please note that the recording will be uploaded with a delay.)

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

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