Prime minister candidate Kaja Kallas, who is leading coalition negotiations for her Reform Party, said the coalition agreement with Center Party will be general and have more belief in science.
Kaja Kallas said the first day of negotiations saw representatives of the two parties (Reform and Center) agree on general principles and that the coalition agreement will be general, allowing the new government to step into power as fast as possible and to be able to react to changes in the health and economic crisis at hand.
"Firstly, we will form the coalition on equal basis, decisions will be made by consensus. It is a coalition that is looking toward the future," Kallas said.
The Reform chairwoman noted that a vaccination campaign is already planned to make it clear to people that vaccinations are the only way of bringing society out of restrictions and closures. Kallas noted that cooperation with the government's scientific council and universities will continue, so will COVID-19 monitoring studies. The coalition will also come out with specific support measures that will help open up the economy and exit the crisis situation. "We will put together an action plan to exit the closure and what the steps will be," Kallas said.
She added that the biggest difference with the previous government is that the new coalition will have more belief in science when it comes to making decisions.
Tough topics still to come
Kallas now has 14 days to form a government. "We understand that we need a government that acts fast because we are in the middle of a health and economic crisis. We are doing it as soon as possible. In discussions today (Thursday - ed.) we held to the schedule and moved at a good pace. There will certainly be tougher topics where it will be harder to reach an agreement, where we are on different positions," Kallas noted.
Mailis Reps, who leads the negotiations from Center's side, said the coalition will be a consensus coalition. "We are searching for clear solutions where both sides feel comfortable and respected. Our voter groups are different in principle, with different economic and regional backgrounds. The differences are not conflicting, we must find a way to make different members of society and regions feel comfortable," Reps said.
Finance to be discussed on Friday
Kallas said finance will be one of the topics of discussion on Friday and it will be a difficult topic based on how many different fields there are alone. At the same time, there should not be expectations of agreements in much detail. "We can delve into the content more when we start putting together the state budgetary strategy for the next four years in March. We will then have a better picture of state financing. We are aiming at having the coalition agreement relatively general, we cannot go into the details. We can argue over concrete topics for the budgetary strategy," Kallas said.
Reps noted that the distribution of ministerial portfolios will be one of the last topics to be discussed next week.
She added that there will also be interesting discussions on education, where Reform Party has been calling for a nationwide Estonian education, Center has however stood opposite of that opinion. Kallas said she thinks a compromise is possible.
Kallas noted that the new government cannot reverse the decision to make the second pillar of the pension system voluntary and the government has to move on.
Kallas: Center will probably not get the position of interior and justice minister
The Porto Franco corruption scandal popped up on Tuesday and led to the collapse of Jüri Ratas' government. Center Party is one of the suspects in granting a €39-million loan to real estate development through state credit agency KredEx.
Kallas told ETV's daily affairs show "Aktuaalne kaamera" on Thursday that Center will probably not be getting the positions of justice and interior minister in the new government as a result. "I acknowledge that it is a problem. I think it is in the public's best interest that those portfolios will not be in the hands of the Center Party, but we will discuss it," she said.
The Reform chairwoman added that the health crisis will not allow them to go through all topics at coalition discussions but the corruption topic will come up at some point. "We first need to deal with the problems we are facing and then other topics. This does not mean we will not discuss the topic," Kallas said.
She also confirmed that Reform and Center will get an equal amount of positions in the new government as for the current agreement.
Reform and Center: We will create political trust to move Estonia forward
In a joint statement on Thursday, the parties said they are trying to create a wider political trust and a willingness to cooperate to move Estonia forward.
The parties wrote they will begin coalition negotiations with the goal of forming a government that will continue solving the coronavirus crisis, will keep Estonia's vision forward and will develop the country in all of its areas and regions.
"Both parties understand that Estonia's political and societal atmosphere is tense and will do all they can to develop a wider political trust and a willingness to cooperate to move Estonia forward," the Reform and Center parties jointly noted.
"In addition, the coronavirus pandemic demands us to take action in order to stop the spread of the virus, to strengthen the health care system, to organize education, to ensure incomes for people and to support entrepreneurship," the parties added.
Principles of negotiations:
The parties also noted a few principles, based on which negotiations will be organized:
- We will stand for a political culture and respectful governance that will look toward the future and will treat all societal groups respectfully, based on the spirit of our Constitution.
- Estonia is a good little nation that supports all of its people and their desires to improve themselves and contribute to Estonia's development.
- We will be based on Estonia's and its peoples' best interests and the principles of justice and law. Estonia is a state of law where all societal decision procedures are as transparent as possible.
- We consider reducing social, economic and regional inequalities important and will look to improve the health and well-being of each person.
- We will stand for the rights of all Estonian people, including minorities, and will honor the privacy of their personal life.
- Estonia's foreign and security policies will be centered around membership in the European Union, NATO and the UN and an active representation of Estonia's interests in international organizations and in two-way communication.
- We will continue Estonia's active role in fulfilling European Union climate goals and we will work to implement different EU financing facilities to carry out a green and digital revolution that will not leave behind any Estonians or any regions.
Editor: Kristjan Kallaste