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At today’s sitting of the Riigikogu, Auditor General Janar Holm gave an overview of the use and preservation of state assets in 2019–2020. The National Audit Office had focused on the regional perspective of the services of primary importance to the people.

“We projected what may lie ahead for us already over the coming ten years. Who will provide treatment for us, who will teach us and who will maintain order and who will rescue us in Estonia in the near future? Do we have enough family physicians, police officers, rescuers and teachers at present and in the future,” Auditor General Janar Holm asked.

Auditor General acknowledged that Estonia had arrived at the point where it was necessary to admit honestly to the people that providing public services in a customary way, evenly and uniformly all over the country was too burdensome.

“It has been impossible to ensure uniform availability for a long time already and the reason is not only money but clearly also a shortage of people. The number of vacant posts in key specialities is increasing and there seem to be no people who could fill these posts,” Holm admitted. He pointed out as an example that the right to retire or imminent retirement also concerned half of the teachers, police officers and rescuers on the island of Hiiumaa, besides family physicians. The situation is the same with the family physicians, teachers and police officers in Lääne County. In Lääne-Viru County, Võru County and Jõgeva County, two thirds of family physicians have already attained pensionable age or will attain it within five or ten years.

Holm said that the low proportion and insufficient increase in the number of young specialists was a problem. He pointed out that, in the case of the most problematic of the sectors he had discussed, in family medical care, graduates of the ten-year-long family medicine studies often did not wish work anywhere else than in Tallinn, Tartu or Ida-Viru County.

The overview of the National Audit Office reveals that there is a stark shortage of subject teachers, particularly teachers of natural and exact sciences. The number of police officers is more or less adequate, but there is a shortage of rescuers in some places already now. “The population is ageing, the share of young people is decreasing, and the few young people that we have do not prioritise jobs in primary services,” Holm said. “There simply are not enough people and it will be impossible to continue the provision of primary services in the same manner.”

Holm underlined that, in the end, it was important that our transition into the new normal ahead of us took place in a managed way, ensuring availability of primary public services to all people at an agreed level, not randomly and not in such a way that some people might even lose access to indispensable services.

In his words, all this should also be seen as a challenge, and not only as a problem. “Estonia is not uniform but varied in its needs, opportunities as well as problems. Different needs indeed require different solutions. The service criteria at the necessary minimum level will need to be discussed again in public and agreed on,” Holm said. He stressed that people inevitably needed to be mentally prepared for the changes.

Auditor General drew attention to the fact that, in the near future, it would be necessary to make funding choices that were unmatched in the past and concerned the subsidy and loan from the European Union structural funds and the economic relaunch funding, the Just Transition Fund and the proposal of the climate and energy policy measures on the use of the profit from CO2 quota sales and the modernisation fund. “At the moment, we have over ten million euro structural funds plus our own loan opportunities that allow for very substantial reforms and decisions with a major impact to be made. This is not only an opportunity but above all a responsibility,” Holm said. “A large amount of additional funds does not automatically mean a golden future but, if used unreasonably, a waste of a unique opportunity or in the worst case even a decline in comparison to other countries.” In his opinion, it is important that, when making such weighty decisions, the Riigikogu be a demanding leader, ensuring a meaningful public debate and intelligible choices.

During the debate, Jürgen Ligi (Reform Party), Ivari Padar (Social Democratic Party), Peeter Ernits (Estonian Conservative People’s Party) and Aivar Kokk (Isamaa) took the floor.

One Bill passed the second reading:

The Bill on Amendments to the Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing Prevention Act and Other Acts (restructuring of the Estonian Financial Intelligence Unit into a governmental authority) (259 SE), initiated by the Government, will make the necessary amendments to the legislation, so that the Financial Intelligence Unit operating as a structural unit of the Police and Border Guard Board will be transferred to the area of government of the Ministry of Finance as an independent governmental authority from 1 January 2021.

The legislative amendments provided for in the Bill concern the status of the Financial Intelligence Unit as a governmental authority and in particular the availability of the information necessary to prevent money laundering and the financing of terrorism and the ensuring of legal certainty upon the distribution of information to other authorities. In addition, the Bill specifies the right to sign the agreements concluded before 1 January 2021 and administrative acts.

The purpose of the Bill is to ensure that the Estonian Financial Intelligence Unit as a governmental authority can exchange information and cooperate with other authorities in Estonia and abroad largely on the same bases as it has been doing until now while the Financial Intelligence Unit has been a structural unit of the Police and Border Guard Board.

15 Bills and draft Resolutions passed the first reading:

The Draft Resolution of the Riigikogu “Approval of the Consolidated Report of 2019 of the State” (247 OE), initiated by the Government.

The consolidated report of 2019 the state consists of the management report, the financial statement, and information concerning local governments and public sector and government sector.

According to the report, the revenues of the state in 2019 were 10.86 billion euro. The expenditure and investments of the state totalled 10.99 billion euro – the expenditure 10.63 billion and investments 357.9 million euro. In 2019, the expenditure and investments exceeded the revenue by 130.3 million euro.

According to the data of the consolidated annual accounts of the state, the financial volume of the state assets totalled 16.3 billion euro as at 31 December 2019 and the majority of the assets consisted of fixed assets (forest, roads, buildings, machinery). Compared to the previous period, the financial volume of the assets has increased by 250.2 million euro.

As of 31 December 2019, the state has liabilities totalling 9.6 billion euro and they have increased by 802.1 million compared to the previous period. The larger share of the liabilities consists of long-term liabilities in an amount of 5.9 billion euro. The loan liabilities of the state amount to 3.4 billion euro and they have increased by 274.8 million compared to the earlier period. The state pension liabilities amount to around 2.8 billion euro.

During the debate, Aivar Sõerd (Reform Party) and Aivar Kokk (Isamaa) took the floor.

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 Bill contains two types of amendments. They 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.

The Bill on Amendments to the Code of Criminal Procedure (implementation of the Regulation on the mutual recognition of freezing orders and confiscation orders) (261 SE), initiated by the Government.

The Bill will amend the Code of Criminal Procedure with a view to ensure cooperation between European Union Member States in the mutual recognition of freezing and confiscation orders according to the relevant EU Regulation applicable from 19 December 2020.

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. This will involve no fundamental changes in the organisation of the work of the authorities. 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 related to the Regulation on the mutual recognition of freezing and confiscation orders will enter into force on 19 December 2020. The amendment relating to the establishment of the European Public Prosecutor’s Office will enter into force pursuant to general procedure.

The Bill on Amendments to the Imprisonment Act and Amendments to Other Associated Acts (transfer of the tasks of detention house) (275 SE), initiated by the Government, will create the possibility to also detain the detained persons punished by arrest, the persons detained for a short term (for 48 hours) and the persons taken to recover from intoxication in regional prisons, in addition to convicted offenders and persons held in custody.

As custodial institutions with the same tasks are operating in Tartu and Jõhvi, the Bill proposes to save on costs and to transfer the tasks of Tartu detention house to Tartu Prison and the tasks of Jõhvi detention house to Viru Prison so that the institutions could focus on their main activities. The amendment does not concern other regions of Estonia.

As a result of the amendment, 221 custodial places will be eliminated in Estonia. The fixed costs of maintaining custodial institutions, which also need to be borne for a large part in the situation where custodial institutions have low occupancy, will also decrease.

The Draft 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 France’s Military Operation Barkhane in Mali” (263 OE), submitted by the Government.

The draft Resolution will extend the time limit for the use of the Defence Forces from 1 January 2021 in the fulfilment of the international commitments of the Estonian state in France’s military operation Barkhane in Mali until 31 December 2021 and will reduce the maximum number of the Defence Forces personnel to up to 75 servicemen.

The Draft 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” (264 OE), submitted by the Government.

The draft Resolution will extend the time limit for the use of up to three servicemen from 1 January 2021 in the fulfilment of the international commitments of the Estonian state in the United Nations-led international peacekeeping mission UNIFIL (United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon) in Lebanon until 31 December 2021.

The Draft 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” (265 OE), submitted by the Government.

The draft Resolution will extend the time limit for the use of up to ten servicemen from 1 January 2021 in the European Union training mission EUTM Mali (European Union Training Mission in Mali) until 31 December 2021.

The draft Resolution also provides for the extension of the time limit for the use of the Defence Forces from 1 January 2021 in the fulfilment of the international commitments of the Estonian state in Mali in the United Nations peacekeeping mission MINUSMA (United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali) until 31 December 2021 and a reduction in the maximum number of the Defence Forces personnel to up to five servicemen.

The Draft 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” (266 OE), submitted by the Government.

The draft Resolution provides for the extension of the time limit for the use of up to six servicemen from 1 January 2021 in the United Nations-led peacekeeping mission UNTSO (United Nations Truce Supervision Organization) in Lebanon, Israel, Egypt and Syria until 31 December 2021.

The Draft 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”” (267 OE), submitted by the Government.

The draft Resolution will extend the time limit for the use of the Defence Forces from 1 January 2021 in the United States-led international military operation “Inherent Resolve” until 31 December 2021 and will reduce the maximum number of the Defence Forces personnel to up to ten servicemen.

The Draft 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 North Atlantic Treaty Organization Readiness Units” (268 OE), submitted by the Government.

The draft Resolution provides for the use of up to 70 servicemen as necessary from 1 January 2021 to 31 December 2021 in the composition of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Response Force NRF (NATO Response Force) and up to 200 servicemen in the composition of the NATO Readiness Initiative in a military operation organised for the purpose of maintaining or restoring peace and security on the basis of Chapters VI and VII of the Charter of the United Nations and in any other international military operation in accordance with generally recognised principles and provisions of international law.

The Draft 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 United Nations, upon the First Contribution thereto” (269 OE), submitted by the Government.

The draft Resolution provides for the use of up to 50 servicemen, as necessary, from 1 January 2021 to 31 December 2021 in a military operation organised for the purpose of maintaining or restoring peace and security on the basis of Chapters VI and VII of the Charter of the United Nations, led by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization or its Member State, the European Union or the United Nations, or in any other international military operation in accordance with generally recognised principles and provisions of international law, upon the first contribution thereto.

The Draft 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 North Atlantic Treaty Organization Mission in Iraq” (270 OE), submitted by the Government.

The draft Resolution provides for the extension of the time limit for the use of the Defence Forces from 1 January 2021 in the fulfilment of the international commitments of the Estonian state in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization mission in Iraq until 31 December 2021 and an increase in the maximum number of the Defence Forces personnel in this mission to up to 40 servicemen.

The Draft 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 United Kingdom’s Joint Expeditionary Force” (271 OE), submitted by the Government.

The draft Resolution provides for the use of up to 24 servicemen as necessary from 1 January 2021 to 31 December 2021 in the composition of the United Kingdom’s Joint Expeditionary Force in a military operation organised for the purpose of maintaining or restoring peace and security on the basis of Chapters VI and VII of the Charter of the United Nations and in any other international military operation in accordance with generally recognised principles and provisions of international law.

The Draft 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” (273 OE), submitted by the Government.

The draft Resolution will allow contributing with up to 46 servicemen in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)-led training and advisory mission in Afghanistan.

The Draft Resolution of the Riigikogu “Use of the Defence Forces in the Fulfilment of the International Commitments of the Estonian State in the European Union Military Mission EUNAVFOR Med/Irini” (274 OE), submitted by the Government.

The draft Resolution provides for the use of up to six servicemen from 1 January 2021 to 31 December 2021 in the fulfilment of the international commitments of the Estonian state in the European Union military mission EUNAVFOR Med/Irini.

On 22 June 2015, the European Union launched the military operation EUNAVFOR Med/Sophia in the central area of the Mediterranean to combat and prevent the activities of criminal networks engaged in human trafficking and the deaths of refugees on their journey across the Mediterranean to Europe.

Andres Metsoja (Isamaa) took the floor during the debate.

The sitting ended at 8.31 p.m.

Photos (Erik Peinar, Chancellery of the Riigikogu)

Verbatim record of the sitting (in Estonian)

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

Members of the press,

In view of the COVID-19 virus disease outbreak, the Chancellery of the Riigikogu is taking the necessary precautionary measures. Members of the press are asked to wear face masks and maintain social distance from interviewees where possible when visiting Toompea Castle.

Thank you for your understanding.

Riigikogu Press Service
Epp-Mare Kukemelk
+372 631 6356; +372 515 3903
epp-mare.kukemelk@riigikogu.ee
Questions: press@riigikogu.ee

 

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