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At the sitting that started at 2pm on Wednesday and lasted until Thursday morning, the Riigikogu passed an Act and concluded the first reading of eight drafts. The reviewing of the motions to amend the Bill amending the Act on this year’s state budget was adjourned due to the end of the working hours and will continue at Thursday’s plenary sitting.

The Riigikogu passed with 56 votes in favour the Act on Amendments to § 3 of the Social Tax Act and Amendments to § 34 of the Income Tax Act (260 SE), initiated by the Social Affairs Committee. It gives employers the possibility to pay voluntary sickness benefit free of social tax to pregnant employees who fall ill, and thereby it eliminates unequal treatment of employees.

If an employee falls ill, at first their employer and then the Estonian Health Insurance Fund must ensure replacement income for them. For the 4th until 8th day of sickness, the employer must pay the employee a mandatory sickness benefit which makes up 70 per cent of the average remuneration of the employee. In addition, it is possible for an employer to pay a voluntary benefit tax-free until the end of the period for the payment of the mandatory benefit so that the employee would retain their average remuneration during that time.

However, the current Act does not allow employers to pay voluntary sickness benefit to women released from work due to illness or injury during their pregnancy, and therefore an allowance for the preservation of earnings for a pregnant employee may be lower than that of other employees. The Estonian Health Insurance Fund pays sickness benefit to a pregnant employee to the extent of 70 per cent of their average income in the previous calendar year.

The amendment gives employees an opportunity to also preserve the average pay for pregnant employees during their sickness absence. With a view to ensuring equal treatment, the additional sickness benefit paid until the eighth day of sick leave is exempt from social tax. According to the amendment, the social tax incentive on the benefit also extends to pregnant sole proprietors. During the second reading, an amendment was made to the Bill to preclude the possibility that the calculated sickness benefit paid to a sole proprietor who is pregnant would be deducted from income and thereby be exempted from income tax insofar as the sickness benefits paid by both the employer and the Estonian Health Insurance Fund are subject to income tax.

The amendment was initiated when the Chancellor of Justice proposed that the provisions that do not ensure that, in the event of sickness, pregnant employees have the right to a replacement income which is at least equivalent to that of other employees be brought into conformity with the Constitution.

During the debate, Mart Helme from the Estonian Conservative People’s Party Group, Helmen Kütt from the Social Democratic Party Group and Tanel Kiik from the Centre Party Group took the floor.

Eight drafts passed the first reading

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” (312 OE), submitted by the Government, passed the first reading in the Riigikogu. It will enable to participate with up to three servicemen in the NATO mission in Iraq.

NATO Mission Iraq is a non-combat advisory and capacity-building mission that aims to address threats to the Alliance from the south and that assists Iraq in building sustainable, transparent, inclusive and effective security institutions. With a view to increasing Iraqis’ ability to stabilise their country, fight terrorism and prevent the return of Daesh, NATO advises Iraqi security structures by providing training in close cooperation with the Iraqi government.

The participation in the mission provides Estonia an opportunity to actively contribute to grounding the threats to the Alliance from the south, to contribute to NATO’s collective security, and to support allies and partner countries in the fight against terrorism.

Mart Helme from the Estonian Conservative People’s Party Group took the floor during the debate.

The Estonian Conservative People’s Party Group moved to reject the draft Resolution at the first reading, but the plenary did not support the motion. Two members of the Riigikogu supported rejection and 72 voted against.

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 Operation in Lebanon” (313 OE), submitted by the Government, passed the first reading. It will enable to participate with up to three servicemen in the UN mission UNIFIL next year.

The UN peacekeeping mission plays an important stabilising role in Lebanon and the whole region. The mission is mandated to monitor the situation in the region by contributing to the cessation of hostilities and to the ensurance of international peace and security, and to support the Lebanese government in cementing its governance in the southern part of the country. The UNIFIL’ area of operation is between the Litani River and the Blue Line.

As a country contributing towards collective security, Estonia is closely monitoring the developments in the Middle East, and the security policy impact of the events there on the stability in the Middle East and other parts of the world. Estonia’s participation in UN operations helps strengthen Estonia’s contribution to UN activities in securing peace.

Martin Helme from the Estonian Conservative People’s Party Group took the floor during the debate.

The Estonian Conservative People’s Party Group moved to reject the draft Resolution at the first reading, but the motion was not supported. Two members of the Riigikogu supported rejection but 68 were against it.

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” (314 OE), submitted by the Government, passed the first reading. It will enable to contribute with up to 76 servicemen to the composition of the NATO readiness force next year.

NATO Response Force (NRF) is a NATO high-readiness force capable of conducting military operations anywhere in the world. Estonia has contributed to the composition of NRF with a navy staff and support vessel and mine countermeasure vessels, explosive ordnance disposal units and military police units, special forces, a movement coordination unit, staff officers, and a joint infantry battalion together with other Baltic countries. 95 servicemen are in NRF readiness this year.

In connection with the establishment of a New Force Model, both the NRF and the NATO Readiness Initiative in their present form will be eliminated in the second half of 2024 and a NATO rapid reaction force with an updated concept will begin to replace them. After the end of the NRF, Estonia is willing to contribute to NATO readiness forces with up to 76 servicemen in order to be solidary with its allies and to contribute to NATO’s collective defence based on the 360-degree approach.

Anti Poolamets from the Estonian Conservative People’s Party Group took the floor during the debate.

The Estonian Conservative People’s Party Group moved to reject the draft Resolution at the first reading, but the motion was not supported. Two members of the Riigikogu supported rejection and 72 were against.

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” (315 OE), submitted by the Government, passed the first reading. It will enable to contribute with up to 24 servicemen to the composition of the United Kingdom’s Joint Expeditionary Force (JEF) next year.

The JEF is a coalition of the willing, initiated, owned and led by the United Kingdom, with membership of other countries, which is generally ready to contribute quickly and flexibly to operations across the full spectrum of warfare and crisis management. Nations assign to the JEF high-readiness military capabilities, which form a joint force comprising various armed services under single command.

The JEF is capable of operating on its own and as part of other larger military units. The use of the JEF is flexible – either all or just interested Member States can initiate potential operations and participate in them. Based on a joint decision of countries, the JEF focuses on ensuring security in the Baltic Sea region and the North Atlantic Ocean, thereby enhancing the defence and deterrence posture in the Baltic states.

Anti Poolamets from the Estonian Conservative People’s Party Group took the floor during the debate.

The Estonian Conservative People’s Party Group moved to reject the draft Resolution at the first reading, but the motion was not supported. One member of the Riigikogu voted for rejection but 68 voted against.

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 in Mozambique” (316 OE), submitted by the Government, passed the first reading. It will enable to participate with up to three servicemen in the EU Training Mission in Mozambique next year.

Estonia was one of the first countries to notify Portugal who was the framework nation of its intention to participate in the mission. Since the end of 2021, Estonia has been contributing to the mission with a legal adviser whose task is to advise the mission commander on legal matters and to train the members of the local armed forces in human rights and armed conflict law matters.

By participating in the mission, Estonia is contributing to meeting the objectives approved in the EU’s Strategic Compass where crisis management plays a significant role. It is also important to Estonia to develop cooperation with the strategic allies on the EU’s southern flank.

Rain Epler from the Estonian Conservative People’s Party Group took the floor during the debate.

The Estonian Conservative People’s Party Group moved to reject the draft Resolution at the first reading, but the plenary did not support the motion. Eight members of the Riigikogu supported rejection and 60 were against it.

The Draft Resolution of the Riigikogu “Use of the Defence Forces in the Fulfilment of the International Commitments of the Estonian State in International Military Operations Led by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization or its Member State, or the European Union, and other International Military Operations Led by the United Nations, upon the First Contribution thereto” (317 OE), submitted by the Government, passed the first reading. It will enable the use of up to 100 servicemen in international military operations led by NATO or its member state, the EU, or the UN, except in collective self-defence operations, upon the first contribution thereto. Estonia’s specific contribution will depend on the needs of the specific operation, and the Government will decide it within the limits of a Resolution of the Riigikogu.

The draft Resolution will ensure Estonia’s capability of deploying units of the Defence Forces to crisis and conflict regions quickly and flexibly where necessary. Similarly to other countries, Estonia is ready to contribute to ensuring international stability and so to also protect Estonia’s security interests.

Martin Helme from the Estonian Conservative People’s Party Group took the floor during the debate.

The Estonian Conservative People’s Party Group moved to reject the draft Resolution at the first reading, but the motion was not supported. Four members of the Riigikogu voted for rejection but 56 voted against.

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 Military Operation EUNAVFOR MED IRINI” (318 OE), submitted by the Government, passed the first reading. It will enable to participate with up to three servicemen in operation EUNAVFOR MED IRINI next year.

The primary aim of the operation is to support the implementation of the UN weapons embargo on Libya. This includes carrying out inspections of vessels on the high seas off the coast of Libya suspected to be carrying arms or related material to and from Libya. In addition to this, the mission supports the implementation of UN measures to prevent the illicit export of petroleum from Libya, the capacity building and training of the Libyan Coast Guard and Navy, and the disruption of the business model of human smuggling and trafficking networks.

By participating in the operation, Estonia is contributing in solidarity with the other Member States to EU defence cooperation and security which increases security on the EU’s southern border through the implementation of the UN arms embargo.

Evelin Poolamets from the Estonian Conservative People’s Party Group took the floor during the debate.

The Estonian Conservative People’s Party Group moved to reject the draft Resolution at the first reading, but the plenary did not support the motion. No one supported rejection and 55 members of the Riigikogu voted against it.

The Bill on Amendments to the Income Tax Act (337 SE), initiated by the Finance Committee, passed the first reading in the Riigikogu. It will change the conditions for deducting training expenses from the taxable income of a natural person and will extend the possibility to make donations and gifts exempt from income tax to support Ukraine.

While currently students can deduct their expenses related to their hobby education until they attain 18 years of age, the Bill will extend the right to deduct the expenses in the case of students over 18 years of age until they graduate from basic school or secondary school or complete their formal vocational education or are excluded from the list of the school.

The Bill will also extend by one year, that is, until 31 December 2024, the possibility to make donations and gifts exempt from income tax for the purpose of maintaining the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine and for providing and organising humanitarian aid purposefully. Resident legal persons will be able to make donations and gifts free of income tax to NPO Estonian Refugee Council, NPO Mondo, the Ukrainian Cultural Centre, the National Defence Promotion Foundation, the Estonian Red Cross, the Estonian Voluntary Rescue Association and NPO Tallinn Old Town Rotary Club. NGO Slava Ukraini will be omitted from the list of associations from next year.

Martin Helme from the Estonian Conservative People’s Party Group took the floor during the debate.

The Estonian Conservative People’s Party Group moved to reject the Bill at the first reading, but the motion was not supported. 11 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of the rejection of the Bill and 43 were against.

The second reading of the Bill amending this year’s state budget was adjourned

The second reading of the Bill on Amendments to the State Budget for 2023 Act (303 SE), initiated by the Government, was adjourned at Wednesday’s sitting of the Riigikogu due to the end of the working hours. The Bill will amend the distribution of expenditure by activities in programmes and the distribution of funds between expenditure and investments.

During the debate, Mart Helme, Martin Helme, Rene Kokk, Arvo Aller, Anti Poolamets, Evelin Poolamets, Varro Vooglaid, Helle-Moonika Helme, Henn Põlluaas, Leo Kunnas and Siim Pohlak from the Estonian Conservative People’s Party Group took the floor. Unaffiliated Member of the Riigikogu Kalle Grünthal also made a speech.

The Riigikogu began to review the motions to amend the Bill at about 2.15 a.m. Parliamentary groups and members of the Riigikogu had submitted a total of 88 motions to amend the Bill for its second reading. In addition, the Finance Committee had moved a motion to amend consisting of several amendments and mostly specifying expenditure.

By the end of Wednesday’s sitting, the parliament had reviewed 41 of 89 motions to amend. The Estonian Conservative People’s Party Group has asked that all motions to amend be voted on successively by the plenary and has been taking a ten-minute recess before each voting. No amendment proposed by the opposition has been supported. The reviewing of the motions to amend will continue at the plenary sitting beginning at 10 a.m. today.

The deliberation of 11 other Bills will be deferred

The deliberation of five other Bills initiated by the Government will be deferred from the agenda for Wednesday’s sitting due to the end of the working hours. The first reading of the Bill on Amendments to the Building Code and Other Acts (acceleration of the deployment of renewable energy) (308 SE), the Bill on Amendments to the Information Society Services Act and the Penal Code (224 SE), the Bill on Amendments to the Imprisonment Act, the Penal Code, the Probation Supervision Act and the Code of Enforcement Procedure (updating of the Imprisonment Act and the deployment of digital solutions) (227 SE), the Bill on the Protection of Persons Who Report Work-related Breaches of Union Law (257 SE) and the Bill on the Ratification of the Amendments to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (226 SE) will be deferred.

In addition, the first reading of the Bill on Amendments to the Nature Conservation Act (78 SE), initiated by Members of the Riigikogu Rain Epler, Martin Helme and Helle-Moonika Helme, the Bill on Amendments to the Income Tax Act (73 SE), initiated by Members of the Riigikogu Kert Kingo, Arvo Aller and Martin Helme, the Bill on Amendments to the Value-Added Tax Act (79 SE), initiated by Members of the Riigikogu Arvo Aller and Rain Epler, the Bill on Amendments to the Penal Code (29 SE), initiated by Members of the Riigikogu Kalle Grünthal and Leo Kunnas, the Bill on Amendments to the Penal Code (72 SE), initiated by Members of the Riigikogu Anti Poolamets and Ants Frosch, and the Bill on Amendments to the Penal Code (76 SE), initiated by Member of the Riigikogu Varro Vooglaid, will be deferred due to the end of the working hours.

The sitting ended when the chair of the sitting declared a recess at 9.32 on Thursday.

Verbatim record of the sitting (in Estonian)

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

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

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