Prime Minister: EU coronavirus loan proposal important step for Estonia

Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Center).
Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Center). Source: Government Communications Office.

Prime Minister Jüri Ratas has welcomed a proposed recovery fund aimed at areas of Europe hardest-hit by the coronavirus pandemic, as proposed by the European Commission on Wednesday. The prime minister said this was a positive step for Estonia, and that consensus would be both possible at coalition level, some of whose members expressed opposition to support when it was first announced, and at the Riigikogu, who would need to debate it, he said.

The joint loan requires the approval of all EU member states, and Ratas said the upcoming debate between all of them are likely to be arduous.

The Prime Minister also noted that the position of the majority of member states, including Estonia, is that tax policy should remain within the competence of member states.

Estonia does not support the creation of common, pan-EU taxation, he said.

The issue has also pointed to a potential cabinet split; the two smaller parties in the coalition, the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) and Isamaa have hinted that they may not support the loan plans, with finance minister Martin Helme (EKRE) criticizing the proposed recovery fund, set at €500 billion at present, earlier in the week.

At the same time, the Estonian government has not yet reached a single position, since the loan's exact conditions have not yet been clarified. 

In any case, the decision on the part of Estonia must be ratified by the Riigikogu.

"I am in favor of this issue being put before the Riigikogu," Ratas said, speaking on Wednesday's edition of ETV current affairs show "Aktuaalne kaamera".

Ratas himself as noted is in favor of the move, and said that the proposal, made by the European Commission on Wednesday and following calls to do same by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron on May 18 , is positive for Estonia, and as far as its content and conditions are known, is also a strong and important step for Estonia.

"We do not know these conditions definitively, the [European] Council must negotiate them," the prime minister said.

"Of course, the government's position is important and the [Riigikogu] Committee on European Union Affairs A must also give its assessment," he said.

"Considering the progress of the government and good cooperation, I believe that we will find the best solution for Estonia."

Ratas also said that taking a loan to deal with the coronavirus crisis ned not mean opening the door to possible future loans. 

"It is clear that a situation where very large sums are being put on the market is only linked to the coronavirus - in order to restart the economy."

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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