Isamaa leader: Pension bill won't change much despite president's rejection ({{contentCtrl.commentsTotal}})

Isamaa chairman Helir-Valdor Seeder.
Isamaa chairman Helir-Valdor Seeder. Source: Siim Lõvi/ERR

The pension bill, rejected by President Kersti Kaljulaid on Friday, may see some amends, but its essence will remain the same, says Isamaa leader Helir-Valdor Seeder.

"The essence of the law will certainly remain. The Riigikogu will not change this. But if there are certain legal aspects where there is a violation of the constitution and if they can be amended by parliament, I think parliament is ready for that," Seeder said.

The bill passed its second Riigikogu reading on January 30, but must still receive presidential assent before becoming law. The brainchild of Seeder's party, it has seen controversy over its main provision – making membership of the so-called second pillar of the Estonian pensions system, referring to employee contributions, optional, whereas it had been mandatory for most wage earners since 2010.

Seeder said Kaljulaid's veto came as no surprise, given she was one of the authors of the current system (the president's background is in economics and she is a former adviser to Mart Laar during his second period in office in the late 1990s/early 2000s-ed.).

It was predictable that the president would behave this way because it would have been very difficult emotionally for her to behave differently – after all, she was one of the authors of the current pension system and a committed supporter... it was expected that her sympathy, opinions and attitudes would be such that she would not proclaim it in the form adopted by the Riigikogu,"Seeder said.

When asked what to do next, Seeder replied that he would first look at the text of the president's decision. 

"And once this has been read and thought through, discussed, then we can say how we will proceed. If there are convincing legal arguments, then surely the Riigikogu will be ready to amend the bill and then resend it to the president," he said.

If there are no convincing amends in this decision, parliament can adopt the law unamended.

"However I'm not going to forecast that today," said Seeder.

The bill can also see a legal challenge by the Chancellor of Justice, who has questioned how constitutional it is in respect of equal treatment of those who remain in the pillar, who leave it, or who leave it later or who were never in it. The justice chancellor, Ülle Madise, could take the matter to the Supreme Court.

The actual announcement the president made also had no surprises or shocks, Seeder said.

"They are more or less the same as those that have appeared in disputes before in the Riigikogu, where there have been different law firms, different opinion experts, and where the Chancellor of Justice has pointed out these facts. There is nothing new here. These are legal, political and socio-economic arguments," he said.

"While the president indicates that people are at risk of poverty after the law change, these are not legal arguments. They are socio-economic assumptions and predictions for the future. It seems that this dispute is growing beyond simply legal arguments," he said..

On the question of how quickly the President of the Riigikogu could start dealing with the veto, Seeder said that no special procedure was planned, but there was no point in delaying it in the interests of clarity for all parties.

Critics of the reforms have included the IMF and the OECD as well as the Bank of Estonian chief Madis Müller. They largely revolve around concerns of a short term gain when accessing accumulated funds – which can only be done in one fell swoop – followed by a shrinking pension pot spread out among an ageing population in future.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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