Isamaa calls for defense minister no-confidence motion

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Defense minister Kalle Laane (Reform). Source: ERR

Opposition party Isamaa says defense minister Kalle Laanet (Reform) should face a no-confidence vote at the Riigikogu over defense spending cuts which may lay off over 250 people.

The party's board announced on Tuesday, following a meeting, that making 270 defense personnel from the regular Estonian Defense Forces (EDF) and the volunteer Defense League (Kaitseliit) redundant would be unacceptable.

Isamaa's chair Helir-Valdor Seeder said Laanet's statements on the matter have been false.

He said: "Before presenting the state budget strategy, the minister of defense claimed that defense spending would not be reduced."

"As of now, we know that compared with the previous state budget strategy, contributions to security will decrease by tens of millions of euros. The defense minister then claimed that the cuts would not come at the expense of Estonia's defense capability. Now the commander of the defense forces, Lt. Gen. Martin Herem, has said that the redundancies in the defense forces will also concern active-duty personnel and Kaitseliit," he said.

Laanet told journalists on Tuesday that around 270 people whose ultimate employers are the defense ministry would be laid off, in order to comply with the current coalition's austerity plans.

EDF commander, Lt. Gen. Martin Herem, said that redundancies in the defense forces concern public servants and state officials, as well as active service personnel.

Defense attaches based in Tbilisi, Georgia and Warsaw, Poland, are also due to be axed under the plan.

The Reform/Center coalition recently announced that defense spending cuts of around €10 million this year, rising to €16.6 million in 2022 and 2024, and €20 million in 2024, will take place.

The announcement, which came off the back of the cabinet's state budget strategy document issued last month, was followed by media reports that one area to be slashed might be the EDF's military band, which would either be merged with the police equivalent, placed directly under the defense ministry's remit, or axed altogether.

While Lt. Gen. Herem faced criticism over the proposed move – which he said would be preferable to some other options – Kalle Laanet stressed that any defense cuts would be made in operational costs, while planned defense investments over the next few years would be left in place.

Isamaa had previously held the defense minister post for several years, via Jüri Luik, and before that Margus Tsahkna.

Seeder added that any defense minister unable to stand up for the area he or she is responsible for and who weakens Estonia's security via their decisions, including scaling down EDF or Defense League personnel, must go.

The proposed no-confidence motion has not been tabled at the Riigikogu yet, and would require a quorum of support from MPs to even be read before the chamber.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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