Estonian ministry wants to cut red tape for development of defense industry

  • 2024-04-08
  • BNS/TBT Staff

TALLINN – Estonia's Minister of Defense Hanno Pevkur has put a bill to amend the Weapons Act and three other laws, aimed to  strengthen the country's defense industry and provide a competitive and developing environment for the industry, on the approvals round.

"Together with the sector, we have reviewed the possible shortcomings in legislation and prepared necessary amendments to enable faster and less bureaucratic production of munitions in Estonia," Pevkur said in a press release. "The aim is to strengthen the Estonian defense industry and ensure a competitive environment for the defense industry in Estonia, taking into account the needs of Estonian businesses. For example, we aim to reduce the burden on businesses when applying for permits and to involve foreign investors to a greater extent in the Estonian defense industry."

The bill would amend four laws: the Weapons Act, the Penal Code, the Code of Criminal Procedure, and the Explosives Act.

The amendment to the Weapons Act will create a legal basis for the involvement of companies from third countries that have friendly relations with Estonia and the European Union, such as Switzerland, Singapore or South Korea. In order to prevent threats to security, only companies from other countries that are not subject to arms-related sanctions or other restrictions imposed by the UN Security Council or the Council of the European Union will be able to operate in Estonia. The same applies to company directors. Thus, for example, companies from Russia and Belarus are excluded.

As a second change, the transport of military weapons and ammunition will be facilitated for companies that are not registered in Estonia and provide this service on a one-off basis.

It will be also permitted to produce vehicles, water craft, aircraft and other products without an authorization under the Weapons Act in the future if they are not fitted with a military weapon during production.

A fourth amendment to the Weapons Act will abolish the requirement for background checks for those employees, subcontractors, and service providers who are not exposed to or related information about the handling of military weapons or munitions. The administrative burden will also be reduced by not requiring a medical examination certificate from employees who already hold a valid weapons permit, which requires a valid medical certificate.

The Code of Criminal Procedure will be supplemented to say that the voluntary surrender of an illegal military weapon, a substantial part thereof or ammunition for military purposes to the Police and Border Guard Board does not lead to the opening of criminal proceedings. A similar regulation is valid today for the voluntary surrender of civilian weapons. The aim of the amendment is to fill the legal gap and reduce the number of military weapons in circulation and illegal possession.

The Explosives Act will be amended to reduce the burden on economic operators when applying for permits. Today, an activity license and a handling license must be sought separately under both the Weapons Act and the Explosives Act. In the future, only one activity license and one handling license will be required.