The Parliament passed two draft acts amending significantly the Aliens Act. As a result of the amendments, the possibilities for foreign entrepreneurs for receiving a residence permit for operating in Estonia will be expanded. Furthermore, the salary conditions for foreign workers will become more unified and the conditions for short-term employment in Estonia will become more flexible.
Over 300 legal acts entered into force on 1 January, among them those that have positive effect on entrepreneurs as well as those that influence businesses in a negative manner. Good news for small businesses is that drawing up of the annual report will become simpler. Accommodation companies should be happy to know that the plan to increase the value added tax for accommodation services has been set aside. The negative amendments are mostly related to tax laws. The government has made a last minute decision not to decrease the social tax by 0.5 percent. Additionally, from new year the excise duty of natural gas will increase by 20 percent and the excise duty on diesel fuel and petrol will be increased by 10 percent from 1 February.
The Ambassador of Canada to the Baltic States, H.E. Mr Alain Hausser will be speaking in Tallinn about the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement Between Canada and the European Union (CETA).
The government said that they support our proposal to release from the immigration quota these aliens who have received the residence permit of major investor, i.e. invested at least one million euros in Estonian economy. We are only glad, because such change gives a positive signal to the public as well as potential investors that foreign investors are welcome in Estonia.
The Estonian Chamber of Commerce and Industry celebrated its 91st anniversary on 10 November. At the reception gala, the Chamber introduced its newly published book Leading Brands of Estonia.
The Chamber of Commerce informed the Ministry of Social Affairs of supporting the amendment of the Employment Contracts Act, making the on-call time regulation more flexible for the employees of the ICT sector. At the same time we proposed that the more flexible on-call time rules should also be foreseen for other areas of activity where 24-hour unhindered work is required (e.g. air traffic controllers).
Participating in a Contact Visit gives entrepreneurs an excellent chance to discover new business opportunities. The Chamber in cooperation with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will be organising high level visits to Kenya and Vietnam in November and December. The visits will be led by Väino Reinart, Deputy Secretary General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The title of the Company of the Year 2016 was awarded to the engineering industry company Hekotek AS at the award ceremony for the Best Estonian Companies 2016 held on 13 October. The gala for the best companies is organised by the Estonian Employers’ Confederation, Enterprise Estonia (EAS) and Estonian Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
For the second consecutive year, the Young Entrepreneur Award 2016 was given out at the award ceremony for the best Estonian companies of the year. This year’s winner is Markus Villig, the founder and CEO of Taxify.
The Ministry of Social Affairs informed that they are planning to move on with the previously initiated plan to establish a sugar tax on sweetened beverages. We have been and still are of the opinion that establishing a sugar tax is an inefficient method for decreasing the consumption of “unhealthy” food and this does not serve the goal set by the Ministry.
The Chamber sent to the Ministry of the Environment its positions regarding the draft Packaging Act amendment act in which we set out that the Chamber does not support establishing a minimum price on large plastic bags, and does not consider necessary to ban the use of small plastic blags in shops.
The Riigikogu is discussing the draft amendment act of the Aliens Act. Among other things the amendments aim to supplement the list of people who in the future will not be included in the immigration quota. In the opinion of the Estonian Chamber of Commerce and Industry large investors from third countries who invest at least one million euros to Estonia should not be included in the immigration quota and pursuant to the draft act should have the right to apply for the residence permit.
The Estonian Chamber of Commerce and Industry in cooperation with Enterprise Estonia is organising a contact visit to China, giving the entrepreneurs an opportunity to become acquainted with the local opportunities and business culture, meet local entrepreneurs and find cooperation partners. The visit will take place at the beginning of December 2016.
A business delegation from Iran will visit Estonia on 3 June. Within the framework of the visit, the Estonian Chamber of Commerce and Industry will be organising a business seminar, which welcomes anyone interested in Iranian market. The seminar will give an overview of the relations between Estonia and Iran, the current situation and opportunities in Iran after the sanctions related to the Iran nuclear program were lifted, and the potential for technological and knowledge-based cooperation. After the seminar, you are welcome to meet the members of the delegation.
The Chamber is turning to the Constitutional Committee of the Riigikogu to address the question of the draft amendment act of the Equal Treatment Act. The draft act aims to eliminate unequal treatment of different social groups (e.g. disabled persons, the elderly) with respect to the availability of goods and services offered to the public. However, the explanatory memorandum does not contain analysis on the economic impact of this change. The analysis consists of only two sentences and the influence of the change on businesses has not been assessed at all. However, without a proper impact analysis it would not be possible to ensure good quality of legislative drafting.
The meeting of the Economic Affairs Committee of the Riigikogu discussed the new Public Procurement Act. Mait Palts, head of the Chamber who participated in the meeting said that the discussions were quite hopeful: “The most important aim is to improve the quality of our system of procurements and increase transparency of the entire process. The ideas of introducing the e-procurements and establishing a procurements centre are steps in the right direction. We must definitely focus on harmonising the practice and improving the quality of procurements in local municipalities. However, at the moment, there are many problems in the draft act, which should be address. Among them situations where a company with tax arrears or deletion warning can participate in the procurement proceedings and submit a bid. Such situation should not be possible in our business environment.”
Entry into force of the amendments to the Aliens Act are planned for autumn. The amendments take into account several proposals made by the Chamber. These amendments will allow aliens working or being engaged in business with much less bureaucracy.
The European Commission has developed amendments for changing the regulation concerning posted employees. Among other things, the aim of the changes is to introduce the principle that posted employees receive a salary that is equal to the salary of the employees of the country of destination of the posting. The Chamber does not support the proposal and we sent our respective opinion to the Ministry. We find that the planned changes may undermine honest competition and make using posted employees much more inconvenient, which contrary to the aim of making the functioning of the common market more efficient, damage it instead.
More than a week ago we returned from the visit to Iran with our 12-member business delegation. The majority of the entrepreneurs who participated in the visit confirmed that they are planning to return and actively develop the business contacts they made there. Before the visit we had many uncertainties and prejudices about Iran, but the experience received was very positive and I dare to say that the visit as a whole was more productive than expected.
The regular general meeting of the members of the Chamber will take place on 6 May 2016 at 14:00 at the Chamber (Toom-Kooli 17, Tallinn).