At its today’s sitting, the Riigikogu decided to reject at the first reading the Bill initiated by the Government that was intended to update the system of nurseries and childcare institutions. Parliament also adopted six Acts. Two Acts passed the second reading, and two Acts passed the first reading.
The Estonian Conservative People’s Party Faction moved to reject the Pre-school Education and Child Care Bill (579 SE), initiated by the Government, at the first reading. 42 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of the motion and 34 voted against. Thus, the Bill was dropped from the legislative proceedings.
The Bill was intended to update the system of nurseries and childcare institutions. It was intended to replace the current Preschool Child Care Institutions Act by a new Act. The Bill was intended to improve various aspects in pre-school education, for example, the provision of support services, teachers’ qualifications, the involvement of the board of trustees and Estonian language training in Russian-speaking nurseries and to eliminate the waiting lists for nurseries.
According to the Bill, a parent was supposed to receive feedback concerning the allocation of a nursery place within two months as of the submission of an application. The Bill would have provided that parents can still inform the local government of their preferred options and if it was impossible to offer a place in a nursery of their choice, it would have to be taken into account when offering a place whether any sibling of the child was attending the nursery and whether it is close to home. According to the Bill, it would have been possible for local governments to cooperate with private nurseries when offering nursery places. At the same time, according to the Bill, in such a case it would not have been permitted to charge a higher fee than in a municipal nursery from parents.
According to the Bill, the organisation of teaching and education activities in nurseries was supposed to be based on the principles of inclusive education. For example, the Bill was intended to define the conditions for the application of enhanced or specialist support. It was also intended to make the formation of nursery groups more flexible.
The Bill provided that the language of instruction in nurseries would generally be Estonian starting from children of three years old and, by 2027, at least one teacher proficient in Estonian should be employed full-time for every group. On the decision of the manager of the nursery, another language of instruction or other languages of instruction could have been used in a group in addition to Estonian, but Estonian-language instruction was supposed to be ensured for at least half of the time.
Under the Bill, the requirements for assistant nursery teachers would also have been set out. According to the Bill, they were supposed to have secondary education and the qualifications of childminder awarded under the Professions Act or secondary education and pedagogical competences. The Bill was also intended to give a greater role to the boards of trustees of nurseries.
The Bill was not intended to change the system for funding nurseries, but it would have been pointed out that the local government can cover the parent’s contribution and the catering costs for the child either partially or to the full extent.
During the debate, Mihhail Stalnuhhin took the floor on behalf of the Centre Party Faction, Jaak Juske on behalf of the Social Democratic Party Faction, Helle-Moonika Helme on behalf of the Estonian Conservative People’s Party Faction, Heidy Purga on behalf of the Reform Party Faction and Heiki Hepner on behalf of Faction Isamaa.
The Riigikogu passed six Acts
At today’s sitting, the Riigikogu approved the Act on Amendments to the Health Services Organisation Act and Other Acts (533 SE), initiated by the Government, which will make the health system more flexible and human-centred. Among other things, the Act will ensure the availability of general medical care and improve the continuity of the servicing of practice lists.
According to the Act, from 1 July, general medical care will be organised by the Estonian Health Insurance Fund instead of the Health Board.
The Act specifies the bases for registering on the practice list of a family physician. According to the amendments to the Health Services Organisation Act, persons residing in Estonia on the basis of the right of residence and persons with health insurance who are legally staying in Estonia under a temporary basis for stay will have the right to register on the practice list of a family physician and to change their family physician on the basis of a written application. The Act enables, upon the first approval of a practice list, to keep the list shorter than the upper limit for a practice list as provided by law, in order to allow the new family physician time to get to know the practice list.
The Act also provides for the obligation of a family physician to inform the persons on their practice list at least six months in advance if the place of business of the family physician changes. The aim of the amendment is to enable patients to change their family physician if necessary or to make preparations in the organisation of their life so that they could get used to the fact that their family physician is moving to a new place of business. The Act provides for the possibility to ensure medical care in the situations where public competitions to find a family physician for a practice list have failed or a practice list unexpectedly remains without a family physician.
The conditions for the application for the beginner’s allowance are also mitigated: the period for the submission of applications is extended, and legal preconditions are created for the payment of the beginner’s allowance in a larger amount and for the beginner’s allowance to be used partially. The Act creates an opportunity to designate a priority region or specialty and to pay the beginner’s allowance for family physicians in an amount of up to three times the rate of the allowance. The rate of the beginner’s allowance is EUR 5000.
Under the Act, nurses who have acquired the specialty of nursing (specialised nurses) will also have the right to issue prescriptions for agreed medicinal products in a limited range to the same extent as has so far been applied to family nurses. The range of people who have the right to issue certificates of incapacity for work is also amended and nurses are given the right to issue certificates of incapacity for work.
53 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of passing the Act and 16 voted against.
The Insolvency of Natural Persons Act (575 SE), initiated by the Government, will make the insolvency proceedings for natural persons quicker, more efficient and less costly. For this, a new Act is established that regulates the opening of insolvency proceedings, and debt adjustment and debt discharge proceedings for natural persons. The Debt Restructuring and Debt Protection Act that has been in force so far is repealed. Bankruptcy proceedings remain to be regulated by the Bankruptcy Act.
According to the Act, insolvency proceedings for a natural person are opened by a request for insolvency proceedings which may turn into bankruptcy proceedings, debt discharge proceedings as well as debt adjustment proceedings. The system for counselling debtors also changes. In the future, a trustee who has passed a relevant examination will be counselling and assisting a debtor from the beginning to the end. Courts will appoint trustees for individual proceedings from the list of trustees maintained at the Chamber of Bailiffs and Trustees in Bankruptcy.
In addition, the Act regulates the awarding of the profession of practitioner in the field of restructuring in the restructuring proceedings for legal persons, and trustees in bankruptcy are given the right to open professional payment accounts upon carrying out bankruptcy proceedings. Under the current procedure, trustees in bankruptcy are allowed to use only debtors’ accounts for settlement.
67 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of passing the Act.
The Act on Amendments to the Feed Act (499 SE), initiated by the Government, brings the Feed Act into conformity with the Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council laying down the requirements for the manufacture, placing on the market and use of medicated feed. The general principles remain the same.
According to the Act, certain feed business operators will be subject to an authorisation obligation because, under a Regulation, in the future, feed business operators will have to hold an activity licence if their establishments engage in the manufacture, transport or placing on the market of medicated feed or intermediate products. According to the current procedure, an activity licence is required only in the case of the manufacture of medicated feed. In the case of other activities related to the handling of medicated feed, for example, upon retail of medicated feed for pets, a notice of economic activities must be submitted.
The Acts also updates the maximum penalty rates in place for legal persons in the Feed Act, which will range from 10,000 to 32,000 euro in the future. It will be possible to impose a fine of up to 50,000 euro on a legal person for violation of the requirements for feed, the requirements for the labelling of feed and the requirements for the handling of feed and feeding to animals.
69 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of passing the Act.
The Act on Amendments to the Medicinal Products Act and the Veterinary Act (544 SE), initiated by the Government, amends the Medicinal Products Act and specifies the provisions relating to medicinal products in the Veterinary Act in order to better implement the European Union Regulation applicable to veterinary medicinal products and to achieve its aims.
From 28 January, the activity licences of wholesale distributors of veterinary medicinal products are valid across the European Union. In view of this, the Act grants veterinarians and general and veterinary pharmacies the right to import to Estonia veterinary medicinal products from EU wholesale distributors of veterinary medicinal products. Up to now, veterinarians have been able to buy medicinal products from Estonian wholesale distributors of veterinary medicinal products.
Also, according to the Act, veterinarians will no longer have to apply for a separate authorisation from the State Agency of Medicines to use veterinary medicinal products without a marketing authorisation. Upon the use of medicinal products without a marketing authorisation in veterinary activities, the veterinarian will have to be guided by the requirements set out in the abovementioned Regulation. As the first option, however, authorised veterinary medicinal products continue to have to be used according to the terms of the marketing authorisation.
The Act specifies the tasks of the competent authorities in the field of veterinary medicinal products, i.e., the State Agency of Medicines and the Agriculture and Food Board, updates the regulation for the fees of the State Agency of Medicines and gives the State Agency of Medicines the right to allow exemptions in respect of the requirements for the packages of veterinary medicinal products.
69 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of passing the Act.
The Act on Amendments to the Identity Documents Act, the Consular Act and the State Fees Act (570 SE), initiated by the Government, includes the EU Emergency Travel Document among the identity documents issued under the Act.
An EU Emergency Travel Document is issued to any unrepresented citizen in the EU whose passport or travel document has been lost, stolen or destroyed, or can otherwise not be obtained within a reasonable time, for example to newborns born during travel. A citizen of a Member State is unrepresented in the case when his or her country of nationality does not have a representation in the third country or the EU or it is impossible for the relevant representation or honorary consul to issue an emergency travel document.
The issue of EU Emergency Travel Document has been provided under a decision of the Council of the European Union, which up to now has been applied under the statutes of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and a directive of the Minister of Foreign Affairs based on it.
In addition, the Act updates the provisions on the provision of consular services and acts, amends the rates of the state fees for acts performed in foreign missions and establishes new state fees for acts that are not yet subject to a fee. The state fees are brought in line with actual costs. The Act also updates the regulation for the state fees relating to the acts of the Police and Border Guard Board and differentiates the rates of the state fees for acts performed in the service bureaus of the Board, by post and e-mail and in the self-service environment.
69 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of passing the Act.
The aim of the Convention ratified under the Act on the Ratification of the Council of Europe Convention on Laundering, Search, Seizure and Confiscation of the Proceeds from Crime and on the Financing of Terrorism (583 SE), initiated by the Government, is to establish an international cooperation system to prevent serious crimes, which will enhance depriving criminals of the proceeds from crime and instrumentalities. Estonian law is in conformity with the principles of the Convention and the implementation of the Convention will require no additional resources.
42 countries and the European Union have signed the Convention. 37 member states of the Council of Europe have also ratified it. Estonia signed the Convention on 7 March 2013.
64 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of passing the Act.
Two Bills passed the second reading
Under the Bill on Amendments to the Cybersecurity Act and Other Acts (531 SE), initiated by the Government, the Government will be authorised to establish by a Regulation the requirements necessary to ensure cybersecurity, and the new Estonian Information Security Standard (E-ITS) will be part of them.
The amendment will repeal the provision delegating authority in the Public Information Act under which the system of security measures for information systems is established by a Regulation of the Government. The amendments will update the legal framework for information security and emphasise the approach of implementing information security comprehensively and across agencies, including all network and information systems, which has been introduced already earlier with the Cybersecurity Act. The Bill will enable to replace the three-level baseline security system for information systems (ISKE) with a new Estonian Information Security Standard. The fundamental principles, implementation logic and audit schemes of the three-level baseline security system for information systems ISKE have not changed since its first publication in 2003, that is, over at least 18 years. The provision delegating authority concerning the Estonian Information Security Standard is wider than the provision concerning ISKE, which is based on databases. It is based on network and information systems and applies to all systems, including to databases within the meaning of the Public Information Act. Before the Regulation on the Estonian Information Security Standard is adopted, it will be necessary to update the provision delegating authority. The inclusion of the provision delegating authority concerning the Estonian Information Security Standard into the Cybersecurity Act and its implementing acts is reasonable, considering the legislation regulating the processing of public information and cybersecurity and their mutual relations and structure. It is the purpose of the Cybersecurity Act to ensure the security of the systems essential for the functioning of society and to coordinate the prevention and resolution of cyber incidents.
Leo Kunnas took the floor during the debate, and on behalf of the Estonian Conservative People’s Party Faction moved to suspend the second reading of the Bill. 17 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of the motion and 40 voted against. Thus, the motion was not supported, and the second reading was concluded.
The Bill on Amendments to the Health Services Organisation Act and Amendments to Other Associated Acts (569 SE), initiated by the Government, will harmonise the current fragmented databases in order to ensure that the data in the current national register of health care professionals, the national register of pharmacists and assistant pharmacists and the national register of activity licences for the provision of health services will be managed uniformly through a new information system. Basically, the essentially intertwined registers will be consolidated into a single health care management information system.
In addition, the possibility of digital registration of health care professionals is provided for. The digital registration of health care professionals will begin to take place on the basis of the Estonian personal identification code through the self-service portal of the Health Board. If the data certifying the qualifications of the person are contained in the Estonian Education Information System, no additional certifications will need to be submitted to the Health Board and the decision on registration as health care professional will be made automatically. Currently, in addition to applications, documents certifying education must be submitted on paper or as photocopies. For people who do not have an Estonian personal identification code the registration process will remain the same compared to the Health Services Organisation Act.
Two Bills passed the first reading
The Bill on Amendments to the Occupational Health and Safety Act and the Employment Contracts Act (615 SE), initiated by the Government, will improve the organisation and quality of the occupational health service and the cooperation between employers and occupational health doctors in order to ensure safe working environment and to prevent work-related health problems.
According to the Bill, in the future, an employer will have to organise the provision of the occupational health service so that the occupational health situation as a whole in the enterprise is analysed in conjunction with it. This means that, besides the current organisation of the medical examination of employees, an occupational health doctor will also have to analyse the occupational health situation in the enterprise and to make proposals to improve the working conditions, as well as to advise the employer in improving the working environment and to make recommendations to promote health to employees. The amendments will facilitate a systemic approach to occupational health in enterprises which will help improve the working environment, protect employees’ health and prevent employees’ health problems. This in turn will reduce employers’ costs for in terms of employees’ sickness and absence from work. The Bill also provides for the obligations of the employer and the employee in ensuring a safe working environment in the event of remote working.
The Bill will regulate the processing of an employee’s health data where this is necessary to ensure occupational health and safety. The processing of an employee’s health data may be necessary to manage health risks caused by chemical and biological risk factors, to organise the occupational health service, to identify an employee’s alcohol intoxication and to investigate occupational accidents and occupational diseases. Since none of the abovementioned obligations is new, basically, employers’ rights will not be extended but the processing of health data will be clarified for the parties.
According to the Bill, it is also planned to create the possibility for employers to draw up and store reports on the investigation of occupational accidents and occupational illness in the working environment database, which will reduce the administrative burden involved in the drawing up, forwarding and storage of paper documents.
The Bill on Amendments to the Code of Administrative Court Procedure and Other Acts (openness of court proceedings) (574 SE), initiated by the Government, will increase the openness of court proceedings and the availability of case law, at the same time ensuring presumption of innocence and the protection of restricted-access data as well as the special categories of personal data and privacy of parties to proceedings who are natural persons.
In the future, court judgments pronounced publicly in the Riigi Teataja will be disclosed with a note “not entered into force” immediately. Once a court decision enters into force or is repealed, the relevant note will change automatically. At present, the access of the public only to court judgments that have entered into force is ensured. Court judgments that have been repealed or have not entered into force cannot be accessed.
In the Code of Civil Procedure and the Code of Criminal Procedure, the list of orders subject to disclosure on the computer network will be amended. Orders on release on parole and rulings made on apartment ownership and common ownership matters, and on matters of access to a public road and of tolerating artificial recipients of land improvement systems, and of utility works will also be subject to disclosure. In addition to orders of circuit courts of appeal and the Supreme Court terminating proceedings on petition, the decisions of district courts made in the same matters will also have to be disclosed.
In addition, non-parties to proceedings will be able to apply for examination of court files in cases heard in camera in civil and administrative court proceedings and in closed cases in criminal proceedings. In the future, a legitimate interest will be presumed in the case of examination of a file for journalistic purposes, but a court may request justification of interest.
In the interests of the administration of justice, a trial or hearing may be broadcast on a website at the initiative of the court. Information on the organisation of a broadcast will be disclosed on the Riigi Teataja website. The Code of Criminal Procedure will be amended by adding the right of action for people on whom a court has imposed an obligation to maintain confidentiality regarding facts that become known to them at a trial or hearing.
Two other Bills were dropped from the proceedings
The Bill on Amendments to the Act on Granting International Protection to Aliens (564 SE), initiated by the Social Democratic Party Faction and Member of the Riigikogu Raimond Kaljulaid, will amend the Act by adding a section providing for an allowance to people who grant free use of part of a dwelling belonging to them or a dwelling as a whole to an alien who is applying for international protection or who has been granted international protection. According to the Bill, the Government will be given the authority to establish the amount of the allowance and the procedure for the payment thereof. The initiators of the Bill are proposing that the allowance be 210 euro per month, and it would be provided for those who grant part of their residential space or a residential space belonging to them to the use of Ukrainian war refugees for at least six months.
Eduard Odinets took the floor on behalf of the Social Democratic Party Faction in the debate.
The lead committee moved to reject the Bill at the first reading. 58 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of the motion and nine voted against. Thus, the motion was supported, and the Bill was dropped from the legislative proceedings of the Riigikogu.
According to the Bill on Amendments to the Language Act (578 SE), initiated by the Social Democratic Party Faction and Member of the Riigikogu Raimond Kaljulaid, the requirements for Estonian language proficiency will not be applied to applicants for international protection and beneficiaries of international protection who will have arrived in Estonia before 31 December 2022 and will have stayed in Estonia for less than two years. The aim of the Bill is to allow the war refugees who have arrived in Estonia quickly to the labour market.
The lead committee moved to reject the Bill at the first reading. 59 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of the motion and nine voted against. Thus, the motion was supported, and the Bill was dropped from the legislative proceedings of the Riigikogu.
The sitting ended at 8.45 p.m.
Verbatim record of the sitting (in Estonian)
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.)