President proclaims second cluster law despite concerns

President Kersti Kaljulaid on
President Kersti Kaljulaid on "Esimene stuudio." March 23, 2020. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

President Kersti Kaljulaid promulgated the Act Amending the Auxiliary Police Act and Other Acts, which amends 35 different pieces of legislation to better organize the stop of coronavirus (COVID-19) on Monday. She also criticized amendments to the Aliens Act saying it will hinder economic recovery.

Writing on Facebook after promulgating the acts, Kaljulaid wrote crisis had highlighted several areas where laws needed to be changed to help manage the situation. However, she wrote, only these laws should be amended.

Kaljulaid said linking laws which are not directly related to mitigating the effects of the coronavirus crisis with crisis management measures takes away valuable time from implementing measures which are time-critical, such as those related to graduating from school.

She singled out an amendment to the Aliens Act, which changes the conditions for visas for third-country workers, from outside the European Union, for special criticism.

"The amended terms and conditions affect already issued visas too. The legislature must develop rules for workers entering Estonia from non-member states, but lawmaking should rely on the principle of legal clarity. So, if the country has issued visas pursuant to particular terms and conditions, it is not reasonable to retroactively amend them. A confident country does not operate like this," she said.

The president emphasized these conditions would remain in force even after the crisis period which would later hinder businesses and economic recovery.

"This will make the difficult situation that so many companies already find themselves in even more complicated. The issue has been raised both by separate businesses and business umbrella organisations. Several industry sectors now have the crucial need to engage foreign staff, especially qualified workers and seasonal labourers from abroad, and this need must be addressed if we want to keep the economy and family income growing. Thus, applying additional foreign labour force restrictions will only increase the economic decline in Estonia and prevent the recovery of our economy and expansion of employment options," Kaljualid said.

The changes to the Aliens Act have been introduced by Minister of the Interior Mart Helme (EKRE). It will mean many short-term, seasonal workers who have lost their jobs will have to leave the country after the emergency situation ends. Agricultural workers have been granted permission to stay until July 31 to help with the harvest. Construction, manufacturing, the service industry and agriculture will be the most affected by the changes.

Helme argues as the country will be facing higher unemployment, Estonians should do these jobs instead of foreign workers. Businesses say this is unlikely to happen as many Estonians do not have the necessary skills.

The Riigikogu passed the Auxiliary Police Act and Amendments to Other Acts Act (measures related to the spread of the COVID-19 disease on April 20.

On Monday, Kaljulaid also promulgated the Ratification Act of the Agreement between the Government of Estonia, the Government of Lithuania and the Government of Latvia on the Deployment of the Baltic Air Surveillance Network and Management System (BALTNET), adopted on April 22. 

Last week, Kaljulaid did not promulgate amendments to the Rescue Act and Weapons Act, citing inconsistencies with the Constitution, spokespeople for the president said.

The law was intended to give the database for processing emergency calls in crisis situations the right to receive data from the health information system on whether, where and when medical care or health care services have been provided to a person in that crisis situation.

When the president promulgates a law she puts it (a law or decree) into effect by official proclamation.


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Editor: Helen Wright

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