Seeder Goes After Free Transport 'Inequalities' ({{commentsTotal}})

Source: Photo: Postimees/Scanpix

Minister of Agriculture Helir-Valdor Seeder has requested that the chancellor of justice, Estonia's legal ombudsman, evaluate Tallinn's decision to only extend the new free public transport privilege to registered residents of the city.

Last January, the City of Tallinn implemented a free public transport policy, which has drawn praise, censure and international attention. A major criticism - other than the one that the policy is a populist tactic offering voters a free lunch - is that it only extends to city residents.

On one hand, non-residents are not taxpayers and therefore aren't chipping in to fund the policy; on the other hand, Tallinn is one of the country's only significant urban centers, where all the jobs are located, and masses flow to the city from their rural homes each work day.

Seeder said in a letter to the chancellor that the law may be in conflict with Estonia's public transport law, its constitution and EU principles. He said the chancellor, Indrek Teder, has also expressed doubt in the policy.

"In my opinion, the arrangement of public transport is a national responsibility and public transport must ensure people living in Estonia equal opportunities for movement. It is my standpoint that if the municipal government has approved free transport, it should be extended to every Estonian resident, regardless of where place of residence," Seeder said.

Public transport is also free for K-12 students regardless of residency, as well as to those over 65 years of age and those with certain disabilities.