Estonian politicians are promising an eventful year. Expected in the Riigikogu are a new round of arguments over the subject of pension reform as well as discussions regarding the proposed pharmacy reform. Although no regular elections are scheduled to take place in 2020, political parties are nonetheless starting to ramp up preparations for next year's local government elections.
Both the Centre-EKRE-Isamaa coalition and the opposition, which includes the Reform Party and the Social Democratic Party (SDE), consider the planned pension reform to be one of the most crucial decisions. Likewise still on the table is the proposed pharmacy reform.
Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) deputy chairman and Minister of Finance Martin Helme said that the fact that no progress was made on either reform in December cannot be considered satisfactory.
Reform Party chairwoman Kaja Kallas, meanwhile, predicted a big fight ahead over the second pension pillar. "We will certainly put up a big fight over the pension pillar, which is already in the Riigikogu, and we know that there is interest in turning the pharmacy reform on its head again," Kallas said. "We will have to wrestle with that."
Isamaa chairman Helir-Valdor Seeder cited environment-related issues as important as well.
Helme said that the government wants to take more time to draw up the state budget strategy this year.
"Together with the state budget strategy, a slew of tax cut matters will also be on the table — diesel, natural gas excise, electricity excise," Helme said. "We have also received proposals to reduce taxes on e-books."
Kallas also noted that the Reform Party wants a change in government. The coalition, meanwhile, confirms that it plans to continue ruling.
According to Centre Party parliamentary group member Maria Jufereva-Skuratovski, only time will tell whether the coalition will last, but she has not heard any criticism from her voters recently.
Helme noted that there have been easier weeks and days and more difficult ones, but everyone still shares the clear objective of working with the long-term plan.
Seeder: Government stronger than it appears
Seeder, meanwhile, stressed that the government is stronger than it may outwardly appear.
"Several things were achieved during this half a year of activity, but there is a lot to do, and I believe this businesslike contact is what is holding this government together, and [the government] is considerably stronger than these verbal tremors by this or that politician or more broadly in politics," he said.
Kallas, however, was more critical of this alleged diligence. "If you take a look, then not one initiative has come from them," she said. "The opposition's bills are voted down, but at the same time, there are no bills by the government."
Coalition politicians, meanwhile, find that the Reform Party itself lacks a strategy.
"If you consider how the Social Democrats are acting, then it seems as though they have some kind of definite plan," Jufereva-Skuratovski said. "Unfortunately, I don't see such a plan by the Reform Party."
Editor: Aili Vahtla