Prime Minister: Pension reform now in the hands of the president

Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Center).
Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Center). Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

Prime minister Jüri Ratas (Center) said that the pension reform bill, which passed its second reading at the Riigikogu late Wednesday night, was now in the hands of the president, who could decide whether to enact it or not. Foreign minister Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa) went further and said the Social Democratic Party's (SDE) appeal to the president not to sign it into being was "terrorizing" her.

Prime minister: The decision is Kadriorg's to make

Jüri Ratas noted that Estonia is a state governed by the rule of law, meaning that if the president were to see any possible violation of the constitution, she has the power to send any bill back; otherwise she would sign it.

"That decision is now in [the official presidential residence of] Kadriorg," Ratas said.

Ratas said that it was the opposition Social Democratic Party (SDE) which had called for the president to go down the first of these routes, i.e. not sign the law into being.

"I read in the media today that the SDE have asked the president not to announce [the pensions reform act]. I think we have ensured in good faith that this pension reform is constitutional. But certainly the Riigikogu is always ready to discuss it again," the prime minister, who had in the past been opposed to the reforms, which make membership of the so-called second pillar (employee contributions) of the Estonian pension system optional where they had been mandatary for most wage earners since 2010.

Ratas added that as of Monday this week, Chancellor of Justice Ülle Madise's proposals for pension reform were also reviewed.

The government also tied the passage of the pensions bill with a vote of confidence in itself, to evade further delaying tactics by opposition MPs. The bill passed about half an hour before midnight on Wednesday.

Urmas Reinsalu: Pension reform in line with constitution without a doubt

Foreign Minister Urmas Reinsalu said there was no question that the pension reform was constitutional, and suggested SDE let President Kersti Kaljulaid decide on the law independently, though he could not say how that might pan out.

"I am not a fortune-teller, I am the foreign minister," Reinsalu said.

"As for SDE, I say yes, leave the president alone, don't terrorize her with this correspondence. The president makes her own decisions, she has the power to judge constitutional issues ," he continued, speaking at a government press conference Thursday.

"There are quite a few lawyers lined up here who could also say who they work for, but who are very prominent in posturing when it comes to 'unconstitutional' cases," Reinsalu added.

"I am convinced that this is a constitutional law, both in its substance, and in its form. Talking about the legal retrospective effect here is not true. It is not modeled on the past. All decisions that people will make are at their own discretion after this reform comes into effect, and are made with people still bearing in mind their futures," he added.

The Chancellor of Justice, whose role is to oversee the rule of law is adhered to, could take the pensions reform act to the Supreme Court. The last time she did this, last summer with the bill to slash alcohol excise duties, she was defeated.

SDE's presidential appeal

As reported on ERR News, SDE appealed to President Kersti Kaljulaid not to proclaim the law.

"The government pushed through the Riigikogu law deliberately in violation of the Constitution," said the party's leader, Indrek Saar.

The president, who is currently in Antarctica on an expedition marking the 200th anniversary of the continent's first sighting, has 14 days to decide whether to enact the law or return it back to the Riigikogu.

The bill passed its second Riigikogu reading by 56 votes in favor to 45 against.

Editor: Andrew Whyte

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