Hosts of Raadio 2 talk show "Olukorrast riigis" Harry Tuul and Andrus Karnau talked about so-called Riigikogu protection money (direct regional investments – ed.) in the state budget process on Sunday, with Karnau pointing to positive aspects, while Tuul said the conduct of the Conservative People's Party (EKRE) in the process is hard to pin down.
"I believe it is positive that every MP can send a sum where they choose. It is a small, honest and lovely Christmas present by the delegate," Karnau found. "As long as it is transparent," Tuul added.
The hosts said that the total protection money sum of around €7 million is fathomable for the ordinary person, unlike the €13 billion making up the state budget.
"It is a more graspable sum and one simpler to analyze," Karnau said. "It is also the most transparent part of the budget as all the expenses have been detailed," Tuul added.
The hosts discussed considerable sums allocated to anti-abortion NGO Elu Marss (March of Life) that has ties to the Conservative People's Party (EKRE).
"For me, the question is whether EKRE is trolling the system in a situation where they have vowed to change it. In other words, have they already become a part of the system or are they trolling, being unable to change it, by funding their own, having questioned the decisions of previous governments in the past?" Tuul asked. Karnau said he holds the latter option to be more likely.
Tuul and Karnau pointed out that there are other sums besides protection money the coalition can use as it sees fit – EU support, recovery fund.
Karnau said that the protection money process also showcases Estonia's poverty if politicians hope to benefit from distributing such trifling sums, with meager opportunities of local governments the reason.
"Local governments have been kept on a short leash and it has been a conscious policy," Karnau found. He believes that minor regional investment decisions help parties secure political support outside of Tallinn. "The votes come in from the field as the saying goes and these allocations of funds constitute a way to give back," Karnau said, comparing the situation to political corruption.
The hosts also talked about the coronavirus situation in light of a private party held recently at a Saaremaa spa that was clearly in breach of restrictions the authorities failed to bring under control.
In light of the final conviction of Center Party politician Kalev Kallo of corruption offenses, the journalists asked why Center did not immediately expel Kallo despite the party's statutes clearly stating that convicted offenders cannot be members. "And if Kallo loves the party as much as he claims, why not leave himself?" Tuul asked. Karnau described the [so-called Savisaar corruption] trial as among the most noteworthy in Estonian history and one that unleashed a chain of events that has greatly changed Estonian politics after the court removed Tallinn Mayor Edgar Savisaar from office. "Taavi Rõivas might still be prime minister otherwise," Karnau suggested.
Both Tuul and Karnau criticized the court practice of limiting the publicity of administration of justice in light of a recent Supreme Court decision (the court satisfied a journalist's complaint regarding a ban on publication of witness statements in the Port of Tallinn corruption case – ed.) and found that a blanket ban on coverage for certain cases is disproportionate.
Finally, the hosts also discussed cyberattacks against the Ministry of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Social Affairs and Ministry of Foreign Affairs that the public learned of last week and their meaning for Estonia.
Editor: Marcus Turovski