Speaking on Vikerraadio on Tuesday, Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Center), the person in charge of the emergency situation in Estonia, said that Estonia will not be leaving the EU emissions trading system (EU ETS).
"I don't think well of it," Ratas replied when asked what he thinks of Minister of Finance Martin Helme's (EKRE) proposal for Estonia to exit the ETS even just temporarily, which the minister believes would help significantly reduce the cost of electricity for consumers and industry alike. "Estonia will certainly not make a single thoughtless decision that would be damaging to our future generations."
Ratas recalled that the ETS was launched in 2005 in the framework of the EU's climate policy, and that it has served as one of its cornerstones. He also highlighted that in Estonia, for example, pollution has been reduced 46.7 percent in seven years, as large investments were made into it.
"One cannot exit the EU ETS or temporarily leave it; that isn't possible," he said. "Suspending our membership and halting the purchase of quotas would mean infringement proceedings against the state, and Estonia does not support this."
Emergency situation extension not decided
Hosts Mirko Ojakivi and Arp Müller also asked Ratas why some ministers [Mart and Martin Helme of EKRE and Urmas Reinsalu of Isamaa] have begun decidedly talking about extending the emergency situation before the government has reached a decision regarding the matter.
The prime minister replied that this reflects these specific politicians' personal understanding of what is currently going on in Estonian society and worldwide in connection with the coronavirus crisis. He said that he himself doesn't plan on providing any major headlines, and that the government will make its decision regarding whether to end or extend the current emergency situation late next week at the earliest.
He did, however, discuss the indicators based upon which it could be decided how and when certain restrictions may be loosened. He highlighted the number of hospitalized patients and the number of patients on respirators in intensive care; according to Ratas, once a stable decline in these numbers can be seen, then the loosening of restrictions may begin to be discussed. He was also sure what would be done first.
"The most significant stage in the exit strategy is to do everything possible to begin restoring scheduled medical treatments stage by stage," Ratas said. "I have seen that a major concern has been planned treatments being strictly canceled or reduced. This will definitely be the first step. The second step, once the viral outbreak begins to recede, is connected to graduating 12th graders."
'EU will survive this crisis'
During the program, the prime minister was also asked about the survival of the EU, about which the Italian prime minister, for example, has said that if the wishes if Italy and others who agree with it aren't taken into consideration, the EU may end up facing collapse. Ratas, however, said that he did not believe that the EU would collapse, and instead would come out of the current crisis stronger and more unified.
"I believe that the European Union will survive," Ratas said. "The EU is strong, and is continuing to function despite the difficult situation. Certain countries are currently in a more difficult state, but these stages and approaches have been different by country. The EU has demonstrated its rapid action in economic packages and certain budget rules. I believe that the EU's cooperation will be improved in going through this crisis. I don't believe that the EU will collapse."
He added that he supports the approach supported in Estonia and the EU more broadly that as many businesses as possible need to be saved in the current crisis.
"In order to preserve jobs and incomes," Ratas said. "The worst thing right now is that no one in a single country anywhere in the world can provide definite answers. This virus and this disease are unknown. Will it come back, will a vaccine be developed, will drugs be found? Which is why the prevailing attitude is that the economy must be saved as much as possible and that businesses don't go bankrupt."
Editor: Aili Vahtla