Marathon parliament sitting: Tax changes in, EKRE anti-immigration bill out

Minister of Finance Sven Sester (IRL) during the Riigikogu's marathon sitting on May 17-18. The opposition grilled Sester at length on the issue of the coalition's tax changes. Source: (Rene Suurkaev/ERR)

A marathon sitting of the Riigikogu deliberating 24 bills ended in the early hours of Thursday morning. Among other things, the bill for the ratification of the Rail Baltic agreement passed the first reading. The opposition criticized the coalition for cramming as many topics into a single sitting, saying that it was trying to wear out the other parties.

The opposition Reform Party promised before the beginning of the sitting that there would be no attempts at delay tactics. Former minister of education, Maris Lauri, told ERR’s Aktuaalne kaamera newscast that they would ask questions, explain, and debate the bills.

At the end of the all-night debates, 23 out of 24 bills had passed the first reading, the only exception being a proposal by the Estonian Conservative People’s Party (EKRE) to suspend Estonia’s participation in the European Union’s migrant distribution plan.

Despite vocal criticism, the bill to ratify the agreement to build the Rail Baltic project passed the first reading. Also passed was a bill calling for more flexibility in the state’s compensation paid to officials in the foreign service to accommodate family members abroad.

The much criticized so-called “sugar tax” on sugary drinks also passed the first reading, along with the coalition’s other tax change proposals.

A bill calling for adding e-cigarette fluids and other so-called alternative tobacco products to the products on which excise duties are levied also passed the first reading, along with other excise changes.

At the beginning of the sitting 84 of the MPs were present, a number that continued to vary until the early morning. The debates continued on with relative discipline throughout the sitting, though exchanges occasionally become pointed, e.g. when former minister and Reform Party MP Jürgen Ligi commented on EKRE’s bill to cut Estonia out of the EU’s migrant distribution plan that the party was “destructive” against attempts at actually solving problems.

At around 3:00 a.m. on Thursday morning the Reform Party’s parliamentary group left the sitting “in protest” against the “leftist” coalition’s tax changes, which it said would affect other debates as well. The government’s tax package had just passed the first reading.

The last bill was discussed after 6:00 a.m., the session ended shortly after.

In light of ever-increasing criticism and the demand for more flexibility in the coalition in tax matters by the new chairman of the Pro Patria and Res Publica Union (IRL), Helir-Valdor Seeder, the Social Democratic parliamentary group declared that they were ready to discuss “a change of emphasis” in the government and possibly introduce changes to the government’s tax package before the bill’s second reading in the Riigikogu.

Editor: Dario Cavegn

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