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President of the Riigikogu Jüri Ratas and President of the Republic Kersti Kaljulaid delivered speeches at the festive opening of the Riigikogu autumn session.

In his speech, Ratas underlined the need to find a broad consensus among political forces.

“It is our job to make decisions in this hall, with as broad a consensus as possible. I am proud of the Riigikogu who felt this responsibility and elected the next President of the Republic already in the second round of voting on 31 August. I am very grateful to the members of the Riigikogu for this accomplishment. On behalf of the whole Riigikogu, I would also like to wish President elect Alar Karis all the success in his future work as President of the Republic of Estonia. I am sure he will distinguish himself in this position as he has always done, and will also bring in something new and fresh, as it should be,” Ratas said.

Ratas emphasised that the work of the Parliament during this session had to be even more geared towards a dialogue with each and every person living in Estonia. A dialogue about how our people cope, security, how our nation would survive, about both mental and physical health, education, economy, this exhausting corona virus, and international situation. “We can have a dialogue only if talking and listening are balanced. I believe that this will help to pacify our society, improve relations, and increase our faith in our future. We need all this in today’s complicated world and in Estonia very much,” Ratas noted.

In his speech, Ratas touched upon several topical national issues. “As is tradition, the autumn session brings us to discuss the next year’s state budget. I welcome and support the debate on ensuring greater decision-making competence to the Riigikogu in drafting the state budget. In particular, I wish our Finance Committee every success in making the relevant proposals,” Ratas said. He very much hoped that the debates on the 2022 budget were going to be serious, in-depth, and motivated to find solutions. “The livelihood of our people, and the socio-economic sense of security based on the incomes of the Estonian people will have to be as prioritised and self-evident in the next year’s state budget as the one per cent of GDP planned for research and development, and the two per cent for national defence,” Ratas said.

Kaljulaid began her speech by saying that, over the last few months, there had been a great deal of criticism directed at our parliament that, in her opinion, the Riigikogu had not earned. “Criticism of the most recent presidential election, which, truth be told, was conducted exactly how the rules stipulate. That criticism was unfounded – you did your job swiftly and well. Our parliamentary state functioned the way it was supposed to,” Kaljulaid noted.

In her speech, President touched upon several issues relating to the legislative proceedings and emphasised the need to find quick solutions to them.

“The moral turmoil of the last few years, which everything surrounding the pandemic and vaccination has shown to us as a litmus test, proves beyond a doubt that Estonia needs the Riigikogu to be its guide. A Riigikogu that persistently puts into words our freedoms and responsibility in this kaleidoscopic life with which the world’s turning presents us. Which assures me, the citizen, that my contribution to improving Estonia’s future is similar to that of my fellow citizens, and that we will all enjoy a similar share in that better future,” Kaljulaid said.

“The Estonian Constitution prescribes that the Riigikogu last for all time. On the one hand, this obliges you to be worthy of your predecessors; to preserve and promote what has been accomplished here before. On the other hand, you are responsible for how the Estonian people regards the parliament, and thereby the state, in five, ten, and fifty years from now,” President underlined.

The Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir, conducted by Tõnu Kaljuste, added to the festive spirit at the sitting of the Riigikogu.

The Riigikogu passed two Acts and a Resolution

The aim of the Act on Amendments to the Water Act (381 SE), initiated by the Government, is to reduce bureaucracy and the workload of state agencies, as well as to specify the definition of water body and to clarify the restrictions provided for nitrate vulnerable zones.

The obligation to submit a spreading plan for liquid manure and a notice of grazing in a water protection zone is omitted from the Act. These data are also submitted in field records. The Act eliminates the obligation to submit duplicate data.

The restrictions on activities in nitrate vulnerable areas are specified so that it would be more understandable to agricultural undertakings where it is allowed to graze animals and where it is not allowed, in order to prevent risks to the quality of water bodies.

An amendment is also made to the Act according to which leak-tight collection tanks may be used in agglomerations of more than 2000 population equivalents, provided that the environment is protected to the same extent as when using a public sewerage system. In the event of the use of leak-tight collection tanks, the local government will have to develop a verifiable and systemic solution for servicing the wastewater collection tanks that would ensure that the local government has an overview of the volumes and locations of the provision of the service and the treatment of the wastewater collected.

An amendment is made to the Act according to which removal of sediment from a water body for the purpose of the maintenance of the water body will no longer be subject to application for a water permit but registering such an activity with the Environmental Board will be sufficient. It is also specified that removal of sediments is not deemed to be dredging if it is done on civil engineering works of land improvement systems in the course of maintenance works or renovation up to the depth of the water body determined by the initial building design documentation.

82 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of the passage of the Act, eight were against, and there was one abstention.

The Act on Amendments to the Collective Agreements Act and Other Acts (383 SE), initiated by the Government, brings the regulation of extending a term or condition of a collective agreement into compliance with the freedom of enterprise which is protected by the Constitution, at the same time ensuring a capacity for social partnership and collective involvement. The regulation of extension concerns collective agreements that are entered into between employers and federations or confederations of trade unions.

It is provided that, in Estonia, a federation of trade unions or a trade union in the same area of activity whose members constitute 15 per cent of the employees in the area of activity or which has at least 500 members as one party and the employers who provide employment to at least 40 per cent of the employees in the relevant area of activity as the other party may agree on the extension of a term or condition of a collective agreement.

The main problem of the current procedure is a lack of preconditions for the extension and application criteria as a result of which it is possible for a small group to agree on an extension of obligations to the whole sector. This is accompanied by a disproportionate restriction on the freedom of enterprise.

The compensations to officials who are unlawfully released from service also increase. More specifically, this concerns an official who is pregnant, who has the right to pregnancy and maternity leave, is raising a child under seven years of age or who has been elected a representative of officials and who is released from service unlawfully. Until now, the amount of the compensation has been six months’ average remuneration, but according to an amendment, the employer will pay compensation to the extent of the 12 months’ average remuneration of the employee to the employee.

The third major amendment concerns trustees and, once the Act enters into force, if there are two or more trustees, the employer will have to enable all trustees to perform the duties of trustee during the working time to the extent of the time prescribed for at least two trustees.

With the amendments, among other things, the duration of the payment of the unemployment insurance benefit and the unemployment allowance will be temporarily extended by 60 calendar days in the case when the registered unemployment rate rises above 8.5 per cent in Estonia.

73 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of the passage of the Act and 17 were against.

Under the Resolution of the Riigikogu “Approval of the Shortlist for the Establishment and Renovation of Cultural Construction Works of National Importance” (387 OE), submitted by the Cultural Affairs Committee, the following shortlist of cultural construction works of national importance was approved: Tartu City Cultural Centre, Narva Kreenholm Cultural Quarter “Manufactory”, Arvo Pärt Music House in Rakvere, an extension to the current building of the National Opera, and Tallinn film industry hub.

According to the Cultural Endowment of Estonia Act, the supervisory board of the Cultural Endowment supports the establishment and renovation of cultural construction works of national importance according to a shortlist approved by a Resolution of the Riigikogu. Up to two facilities can be supported at the same time. Every year, 60.6 per cent of the gambling tax received for a specific purpose by the Cultural Endowment is appropriated for the establishment and renovation of cultural construction works.

The construction of three cultural facilities of national importance has been funded from the funds of the Cultural Endowment of Estonia under a Resolution of the Riigikogu of 1996: the Kumu Art Museum, the Estonian National Museum and the hall of the Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre. The construction of the Kumu Art Museum has been paid for by today. According to the projections, the Cultural Endowment of Estonia will have paid its share of the funding of the construction of the Estonian National Museum by July 2022 and the share of the hall of the Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre by March 2022. Thereafter it will be possible to start funding the construction and renovation of the facilities shortlisted under this Resolution.

The Cultural Affairs Committee of the Riigikogu started to prepare a shortlist of cultural facilities of national importance in February 2020 when it made a public call to submit proposals. They expected proposals concerning construction works that would be important to the whole Estonian culture, contribute to ensuring the continuity of the Estonian culture, including national culture, and the integral development of the cultural sector, and facilitate cooperation between cultural sectors. The proposals were expected to justify the importance of the construction work for the region and to indicate its potential users and stakeholders.

In the course of the second reading, the motion to amend submitted by the Faction Isamaa was supported, according to which Tallinn film industry hub was included as the fifth item in the shortlist for the establishment and renovation of cultural construction works of national importance.

During the debate, Signe Kivi (Reform Party), Üllar Saaremäe (Isamaa), Viktoria Ladõnskaja-Kubits (Isamaa), Mihhail Stalnuhhin (Centre Party), Raimond Kaljulaid, Helmen Kütt (Social Democratic Party), Helle-Moonika Helme (Estonian Conservative People’s Party), Imre Sooäär (Centre Party), Tarmo Kruusimäe (Isamaa), Priit Sibul (Isamaa), Mart Helme (Estonian Conservative People’s Party), Aivar Kokk (Isamaa), Indrek Saar (Social Democratic Party) and Aadu Must (Centre Party) took the floor.

79 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of passing the Resolution, and there was one abstention.

A Bill passed the second reading

The Bill on Amendments to the Electricity Market Act (156 SE), initiated by the Government, aims to increase competition in the reverse auctions for generation of electricity from renewable energy sources, to reduce the use of fossil fuels in electricity generation and to improve the supply security of electricity generation in Estonia. Under the current regulation, the reverse auctions organised for the attainment of the national renewable energy objective are open only to generating installations that have not generated electricity before the reverse auction. According to an amendment, in the future, existing producers will also be allowed to participate in such reverse auctions, in order to motivate such producers to use renewable energy sources instead of fossil fuels as input for electricity generation in the future. In such a case, the winner of the reverse auction can be paid support for each reverse auction during three years starting from commencement of the generation of electricity from the renewable source related to the reverse auction.

During the debate, Eduard Odinets (Social Democratic Party), Heiki Hepner (Isamaa), Riina Sikkut (Social Democratic Party) and Jevgeni Ossinovski (Social Democratic Party) took the floor.

The Social Democratic Party Faction moved to suspend the second reading of the Bill. The result of voting: 11 votes in favour and 40 against. The motion was not supported. The second reading of the Bill was concluded.

The Minister of Education and Research Liina Kersna and the Chairman of the Cultural Affairs Committee Aadu Must made reports on the Education Sector Development Plan 2021–2035.

The Education Sector Development Plan 2021–2035 is a follow-up strategy for the Estonian Lifelong Learning Strategy 2020, which sets out the objectives for education for the next 15 years. The development plan has been drafted based on studies and analyses, vision documents drawn up by experts, the strategy “Estonia 2035”, the UN Sustainable Development Goals, the results of the work of the Education Sector Development Plan working groups, the feedback and input collected within the framework of public discussions and engagement events, and the Estonian Lifelong Learning Strategy 2020 and the results of its interim assessment.

In the case of the three strategic objectives of the Education Sector Development Plan, the current situation of the Estonian education has been described through strengths and shortcomings that have been pointed out in studies and analyses, vision documents, the education strategy working groups, and discussions with stakeholders. The underlying principle is that, in order to achieve the future goals of the Estonian education, it is necessary to maintain and develop further its strengths and to find solutions to the current shortcomings.

The first strategic objective is that study opportunities are multioptional and available, and the education system allows for smooth movement between education levels and types.

The second strategic objective is that Estonia has competent and motivated teachers and heads of schools, a diverse learning environment and student-based study.

The third strategic objective is that study opportunities correspond to the development needs of society and labour market.

The development plan sets out that the teacher is and will remain the key person in the planning and supporting of and giving feedback on the study process in general education school, vocational school and institution of higher education as well as in non-formal learning. The head of an educational institution must create a study culture and environment that supports studying and wellbeing, and skilfully direct the management and implementation of changes and attach importance to the support specialists’ role and cooperation with teachers. Therefore it is important that the jobs of teacher, vocational teacher, higher education teaching staff and support specialist, as well as head of educational institution be valued and well-paid. In the formation of the study environment, it is necessary to take into account the principles of the quality of space, and to ensure a mentally and physically safe environment that supports wellbeing to students and staff.

“In order that we would have a uniform cultural and value space and Estonian-language education, it is necessary first to ensure that students with other home languages have good Estonian language skills when they graduate from basic school. Because, as I said earlier, it is insufficient Estonian language skills and poorer knowledge and skills that affect the student’s study path and consequent career choices. Second, the development of a common cultural and value space within the framework of the study process must be supported in order to enhance social cohesion. Here, too, cooperation and schools play a crucial role. Third, to support the development of the Estonian language in higher education and as a research language. Research and education are indeed international, but in this regard it is important to preserve the Estonian language in higher education and as a research language,” Kersna explained.

During the debate, Jaak Valge (Estonian Conservative People’s Party), Marko Šorin (Centre Party), Mihhail Stalnuhhin (Centre Party), Imre Sooäär (Centre Party), Viktoria Ladõnskaja-Kubits (Isamaa), Heiki Hepner (Isamaa), Eduard Odinets (Social Democratic Party), Margit Sutrop (Reform Party), Riina Sikkut (Social Democratic Party) and Jevgeni Ossinovski (Social Democratic Party) took the floor.

On the motion of the Legal Affairs Committee, the third reading of the Bill on Amendments to the Code of Criminal Procedure (392 SE), initiated by the same Committee, was excluded from the agenda for the day.

During the open microphone, Oudekki Loone and Jevgeni Ossinovski took the floor.

The sitting ended at 11.33 p.m.

Verbatim record of the sitting (in Estonian)

Photos (Author: Erik Peinar, Chancellery of the Riigikogu)

Video recordings of the sittings of the Riigikogu can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/riigikogu.

(Please note that the recording will be uploaded with a delay.)

Riigikogu Press Service

Gunnar Paal, +372 631 6351, +372 5190 2837

[email protected]

Questions: [email protected]