Overview: Center Party’s cooperation protocol with Putin’s United Russia (3)
The Center Party, most likely a partner in the next coalition if not its leader, has a cooperation protocol in place with United Russia, the party of Russian president Vladimir Putin. The agreement, signed in 2004, has been the subject of plenty of criticism.
The protocol is short. Just two pages long, it declares that the two parties have common interests and goals, and defines a loose framework for mutual cooperation.
Exchange of delegates and information
In detail, it states that the two parties arrange consultations, and an information exchange in matters of current issues. Aims stated include the exchange of experience building up a political party, running organizational work, conducting audits, training and re-training, publishing, doing political youth work, dealing with international relations, and generally cooperating in areas where there is mutual interest.
The protocol continues with the regular exchange of delegations, meetings of experts, and shared events “in the interest of deepening the good-neighborly cooperation” between Estonia and Russia.
In further detail, in the protocol the parties declare their intent to cooperate on the regional level as well, including contacts between youth and women’s organizations as well as cultural institutions.
Sharing experience in legislative bodies
In two of the seven points of the protocol, cooperation between members of parliament is mentioned, intended to mainly be an exchange of experiences working in legislative bodies in Estonia and Russia.
Common committee on economic policy
The final point of the agreement creates the conditions for a common committee of the two parties in matters of economic policy. The aim of this group, the protocol states, is to help along the cooperation of the Estonian and Russian economies, and to analyze material that both sides are interested in.
For the Russian side, the protocol was signed by Valeri Bogomolov, then-secretary of the presidium of United Russia’s supreme council, and Valeri Gussev, the party’s chief international relations officer at the time.
For the Estonian side, the signatories were Ain Seppik, member of the Center Party leadership and deputy chairman of its parliamentary group at the time, and current deputy chairman of the Center Party as well as its presidential candidate earlier this year, Mailis Reps, who at the time was the party’s secretary in international relations matters.
Simson: Meetings haven't taken place in years
According to chairman of Center’s parliamentary group, Kadri Simson, these exchanges haven’t taken place in years. Also, Center Party chairman Jüri Ratas stressed in an interview with ETV’s “Aktuaalne Kaamera” newscast on Monday evening that there hadn’t been any contacts within the protocol’s framework, and that no work had been done together with United Russia in years.
The protocol has caused debate inside the Center Party as well, with an attempt to put it to a vote in the party’s 2015 congress. For now, according to Simson, the party doesn’t see a reason to change it either way.