Seeder: Helme trying to win voter support by 'stealing' Isamaa ideas

Helir-Valdor Seeder and Martin Helme.
Helir-Valdor Seeder and Martin Helme. Source: ERR

According to Isamaa party leader Helir-Valdor Seeder, Minister of Finance Martin Helme (EKRE) is trying to catch the attention of EKRE voters by taking on Isamaa's election promises regarding pension reform, the subject of a recent Supreme Court hearing.

On Tuesday, Helme responded to a question from daily Õhtuleht (link in Estonian) on whether Supreme Court's decision would suspend pension reform.

Helme said: "If the Supreme Court comes out with a decision that would essentially thwart the reform, the next step politically is to liquidate the entire second [employer/employee contributions] pillar. There would not be anything voluntary about that. In one move, we would move all second pillar money to the first [state pension] pillar and that is that."

Helir-Valdor Seeder told ERR Wednesday that the EKRE leader's claims should not be taken seriously, all the more so because the idea was originally Seeder's.

He explained: "I came out with the initiative years ago. I will remind people that when I expressed it politely, it received no attention and when it came back a few years later, it was stated that it is one of Seeder's silly proposals which will not receive any party support. That's how it is. It was ignored for years."

Reform of the second pillar, which would make membership of the second pillar voluntary where it had been mandatory for most wage-earners since 2010, was a central plank of Seeder's party's election manifesto ahead of the March 2019 election.

The party was able to get the policy in the coalition agreement it signed with Center and EKRE.

Seeder added that Helme's comments on pension reform are directed at EKRE voters.

He said: "EKRE did not come out with this proposal, it has not been in EKRE's programme, or anywhere else. No talk of the optional second pillar. True, they have said that they support our proposal and that is how it is stated in the coalition agreement. But EKRE has not brought it up before and now it is shouted out emotionally, it is an obvious attention grab.

"It is more a question of political culture than pension reform. I am certain that either side will not be able to influence the Supreme Court's decision."

He added that it is not a certainty that the second pillar will ever be made optional: "It is a topic of discussion either way but we are not yet ready for such a large step. The coalition and society alike. We will wait for the Supreme Court's decision. I would not speculate and give such claims any attention currently."

A hearing on pension reform was held on Tuesday with the major sticking points being how and whether the reform, which makes membership of the so-called second pillar of the Estonian pension scheme optional, harms the situation of those retiring in future, in particular with regard to the state pension, Supreme Court Chief Justice Villu Kõve said.

The reform passed the Riigikogu earlier in the year but was returned twice by the president. Protocol requires the bill to be heard at the Supreme Court in Tartu, with the state represented by justice chancellor Ülle Madise.

Kõve said the court hopes to reach a decision in October.


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Editor: Kristjan Kallaste

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