Candidates for the European Parliament sparred over economics, protectionism and free trade in a debate hosted by the Vikerraadio radio station in Tallinn on Tuesday.
The candidates included Kaja Kallas (Reform Party), Eiki Nestor (Social Democrats), Ene Ergma (IRL), Jüri Ratas (Center Party), Imbi Paju (Green Party), Henn Põlluaas (People’s Party Conservative) and Emil Rutiku (Independence Party).
Jüri Ratas and Kaja Kallas debated over the economic program of the faction they would both join if elected.
Ratas said that the economic model should hinder emigration, increase employment, and support small and medium businesses. “Estonia’s current economic model is not right,” he said, adding that it needs more intervention from the state.
Kallas, in turn, said that state interference is not the solution, echoing the positions of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe in the European Parliament (ALDE). In her view, obstacles to the economy should be removed.
Since their views diverged, Ratas said there are different opinions within ALDE, but the basic viewpoint is that the state needs to be more involved.
Kallas replied by asking: “Have you not read the program?”
Kallas also hit out at protectionist measures that hinder Estonia’s exports, pointing at France as an example of its protectionist stance and recently expressed doubts over the necessity of the free trade agreement with the United States.
Eiki Nestor, a Social Democrat, said protectionism on the labor market should also be challenged, for example in the UK, which has set limits on the influx of labor.
Meanwhile, Rutiku suggested implementing a citizen’s salary in Europe, which has been discussed in Germany and, in his words, constitutes a form of redistribution that is currently done with taxes. He linked it to the issue of employing people who have been replaced by machines.
Ene Ergma also talked about job creation and advocated the continuation of Europe’s space programs, Copernicus and Galileo, which she said employ 90,000 people.
The panel of experts observing the debate included political scientists Anu Toots and Anneli Kommer, Margo Loor and Silver Lulla from the Estonian Debating Society, and journalists Indrek Kiisler and Alo Raun from Estonian Public Broadcasting.