Greatest achievement of 2014 was US troops in Estonia, says Reinsalu
Asked about his party's biggest accomplishment of 2014, IRL chief Urmas Reinsalu took credit for contributing to the deployment of a rotating contingent of US soldiers in Estonia.
“Our goal is to turn the rotation into a permanent one. It does not matter how the crisis in Ukraine unfolds, the geopolitical reality demands the permanent presence of those soldiers,” he told uudised.err.ee.
He added that the ideas and thoughts on security which IRL has pushed for during peacetime had now become a consensus. “The Reform Party has clearly backed away from its stand on a completely professional army. The Social Democrats have ceased to push for a drop in defense spending.”
IRL, while in government at the beginning of the year, pushed through the country's new long-term defense development plan, which covers a period of 10 years. As defense minister, Reinsalu visited Washington and lobbied for, among other things, American tanks to be based to Estonia. As it happened, his party's exit from the Cabinet more or less coincided with the crisis in Crimea and the specifics of the troop deployment were announced several months later, under the Reform-Social Democrat government.
Reinsalu commented on the ouster, saying: “The fact that the Reform Party betrayed its partner is usual policy for them which has twice between elections opened the doors to power for [Center Party head] Savisaar and now the Social Democrats,” adding that his party is a happy opposition member and would not pick fights for no reason and would back the government if they came up with good ideas.
The biggest challenge for IRL is to increase the standard of living, Reinsalu said, adding that 2014 was not a good year for the nation's economy. “We must be bold in making moves which will help economic growth. Our main goal this year is to draw up a development plan for Estonia's economy, which we hope will receive the backing of the people at the elections. The first step is tax reform for the low-income bracket.”
He said the aim is to win 135,000 votes, around 17,000 more than in 2011 when the party won 23 seats, four more than in 2007. Res Publica, now one half of IRL, won 28 seats in 2003 with Pro Patria, the other half, winning seven seats.