Minister of Finance Martin Helme (EKRE) and Minister of Social Affairs Tanel Kiik (Center) did not reach an agreement regarding the withholding of funds from three NGOs, the disagreement will now move forward in court. Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Center) thinks support should be paid out.
Martin Helme said at Thursday's government press conference that while the NGOs in question - Estonian Women's Studies and Resource Centre (ENUT), the Human Rights Centre and the Estonian Women's Associations Roundtable - may have acted honorably, the funding for the projects has been illegally allocated to them.
Helme said: "We have decided that we will spend money on NGOs who claim they promote equality but in actuality come to Toompea with placards to bring down government. Why we are funding this, I do not know."
The finance minster added that in addition to legal questions, there are also political questions in play.
Helme said of the funding of NGOs with money from the gambling tax: "I will hold on to it for as long as I can."
Kiik responded to Helme, saying the Ministry of Finance does not have any legal rights to force the State Shared Service Center (RTK) to stop paying out state support to organizations.
The social affairs minister said he has spoken to six different lawyers and none of them consider Helme to be in the right. Helme responded by saying the lawyers he has spoken to have said the opposite.
Kiik also noted there is no basis in legislation for scheduled funding to be suspended as the NGOs in question are awaiting the resources promised to them, adding that he is looking at alternative NGO funding options, starting 2022.
He explained: "Rule of law is valuable and its value is more lasting than that of whichever parties and ministers."
ENUT, the Human Rights Centre and the Estonian Women's Associations Roundtable were expecting to receive close to €75,000 in funding. They should receive over €500,000 in state support by 2022.
ERR News wrote on July 13 that on the orders of the minister of finance, the state halted funding to three projects promoting equality. Kiik called the minister's order unlawful and believed it was a political action on his coalition partner's part.
On July 14, ERR News wrote that Kiik expressed hope the funding for the Estonian Women's Studies and Resource Centre (ENUT), the Human Rights Centre and the Estonian Women's Associations Roundtable could be allocated from resources available in the state budget.
Today (July 16), Kiik sent a letter to Minister of Foreign Trade and Information Technology Raul Siem (EKRE), who is standing in place of Minister of Finance Martin Helme (EKRE) and Director General of RTK Tarmo Leppoja, in which he stated that Siem's decision to halt funding for NGOs promoting equality is illegal, news portal Delfi reported (link in Estonian).
Ratas and Aab agree promised support should be paid
Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Center) said he thinks the funding promised to NGOs should be paid out. He was optimistic and said the government will find a solution.
Minister of Public Administration Jaak Aab (Center) told ERR he agrees with Ratas. He added he needs to look into the issue and discuss it with experts.
Aab added: "As Minister of Public Administration, I have the right to give an order that the money will be allocated."
Aab noted the Minister of Finance and Minister of Social Affairs need to clear up their disagreements, as he can only decide on delayed payments.
Editor: Kristjan Kallaste