The Chamber of Commerce prevented business hostile legislative amendments
In the last weeks, the Chamber of Commerce prevented several unreasonable legislative amendments from coming into force. For example, the state waived at the very last moment implementing an additional fee for computers and mobile phones, there will be no bureaucratic demands for decreasing the gender pay gap, no restriction of the rights of land owners, and persons who have inherited foreign-sourced property won't be required to prove the licit origin of property.
1. The state waived the bureaucratic demands for decreasing the gender pay gap
The Chamber of Commerce was against the amendments of Gender Equality Act, because we see that those amendments would not have helped to decrease the gender pay gap, however, they would have caused significant administrative burdens for the employers. The draft would have, for example, made it a responsibility for an employer to collect and save data of men and women who have applied for a job and have been employed.
The Chamber of Commerce sees that there is no need to regulate with a law, which gender-based data should an employer collect. Already today, the employers must collect and present information to different state institutions that enables the employer and the labour inspectorate to evaluate the compliance with the principle of equal treatment in working relations.
We support completely the principle according to which men and women should be paid an equal pay for the same or equal work. We regard that the gender-based discrimination is not taking place occupationally, but the reasons lie elsewhere.
The Constitutional Committee of the parliament decided not to proceed with the draft at the very last moment.
2. No additional fees imposed for computers and mobile phones
The law regarding the amendments to copyright legislation, which would have imposed the so-called ‘empty cassette remuneration’ of up to four euros for computers, TV sets, set-top boxes, mobile phones, and other recording devices was not passed by the parliament due to the opposition of the Chamber of Commerce and other parties. In addition to the increase of expenses, the amendment would have increased the administrative burden of importers and vendors.
The purpose of the amendment was to pay a fair compensation to the authors for allowing their work to be copied for personal needs without the authorisation of the author. The Chamber of Commerce has previously proposed paying a fair compensation to the authors through the state budget. This solution will be now proceeded with.
3. The state set aside the restriction of the rights of land owners of valuable agricultural land
The parliament were discussing the draft which would have restricted the rights of land owners of valuable agricultural land on a large scale. For instance, according to the draft the land owner was prohibited from using their land for construction development, plant trees or bushes or let the land grow unwanted vegetation.
The Chamber of Commerce was against the restrictions brought out in the draft. We see that these restrictions are at variance with the constitution, breaching disproportionately the right of property and the freedom to conduct a business. Additionally, there are already options for protection of valuable agricultural land in the planning law and the amendments planned with the draft are not strictly necessary.
The parliament took notice of the criticism from the Chamber of Commerce and other interested parties and waived the proceedings of amending the rural development and agricultural market management law.
4. Reversal of the burden of proof in the Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing Prevention Act
The Legal Affairs Committee of the parliament decided last week to end the processing of amendments to the act that improve the prevention of money laundering. The biggest problem in the draft was the so-called reversal of the burden of proof, which would impose the burden of proof on the legal origin of the asset to its owner. If the owner or possessor of the asset does not do so, the FIU may apply to the administrative court for permission to limit the disposal of the asset for one year.
It is not excluded that the origin of the asset must also be proven by those who do not engage in money laundering. For example, in a situation where a cooperation partner from Belarus or Russia has transferred money to the account of an Estonian company, but the bank finds that the cooperation partner is not reliable and the reply to the request for clarification or the underlying transaction document, the contract, is not sufficient. Consequently, the bank considers that the company has not been able to explain its business sufficiently to the bank and that there is a suspicion of money laundering that may give rise to confiscation of the asset.
The Chamber of Commerce supports the objective of the draft to reduce the risk of large international money laundering incidents, but cannot accept such an approach to proof of origin. Such wide-ranging restrictions on fundamental rights are incompatible with the rule of law. Before setting standards, the potential impacts and their compatibility with the constitution must be carefully analysed. This is not the case here. It is therefore very positive that this draft did not go further.
5. The draft Waste Act was abandoned
The Chamber of Commerce, in collaboration with several professional associations, strongly opposed the draft Waste Act, which would have increased the costs for companies by tens of millions of euros a year. A draft of more than 100 pages, on which nearly 200 amendments were proposed, would have created great confusion for companies.
The Ministry of the Environment had the wish to incorporate the Packaging Act and the Waste Act into one law. The Chamber has repeatedly stated that there is no practical need for such a change. We submitted more than 30 pages of comments and remarks on the draft. In addition, we met several times with members of the Parliament, with the Minister of the Environment and officials of the Ministry of the Environment.
The act was set out to include a requirement for the manufacturer to provide information on the amount of energy and materials consumed to produce the product. Thus, the manufacturer would have had to calculate how much energy was used to produce, for example, one cucumber, a book or a bicycle. In addition, it set out to increase considerably the responsibility of packaging companies for the collection and recovery of packaging waste. For example, a shoes importer should have assembled shoe boxes and used shoes, reused them and borne the associated costs.
In addition, the Ministry of the Environment wanted to include in the Act the idea of on-site waste collection, according to which each house and apartment association should have a packaging container and the costs of emptying the container should be borne by the companies. In implementing this change, the costs for businesses would have increased by more than EUR 10 million a year.
Today, this draft has been taken off the table thanks to pressure from the Chamber of Commerce and good partners. The decision was made by the Environment Committee on 29 January.
For its part, the Chamber has offered several ideas and solutions on how we can solve the problems of the Waste Act, and we are constructive about new drafts to ensure greater waste recovery and clean Estonia.