Izmailova: Greens aiming for coalition in Tallinn

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Züleyxa Izmailova. Source: Private collection

The Estonian Greens' list of candidates in Tallinn will be many times bigger than in the past at upcoming local government council elections, with the party prioritizing anti-corruption efforts, Tallinn mayor candidate Züleyxa Izmailova tells ERR in an interview. The Greens aim for a coalition seat in the capital.

Tallinn has always been important for the Greens in the local elections context. Will you run for mayor this year too?

Yes, it was decided some time ago. My name was put forward and I accepted.

What are the main topics the Greens will be concentrating on this time? Will Center be able to retain its hegemony in the capital?

To comment on yesterday's (Wednesday, June 6 – ed.) "Esimene stuudio," the mayor [Mihhail Kõlvart] was very confident until the conversation turned to corruption. That is when his confidence disappeared. Corruption is an important aspect for all parties in Tallinn.

Looking at polls, people are more or less satisfied with recent administration, and one is hard-pressed to find places where the powers that be can be successfully challenged. However, I see corruption, transparent administration and involvement as one such opportunity. The principles of open governance and involving locals in various municipal and environmental matters have always been priorities for the Greens.

Matters of urban environment and safety are high on the priorities lists of more parties this time around. This development is very welcome. And perhaps the Greens can be regarded as trailblazers here. Compared to other parties, we offer innovative solutions that will allow Tallinn to make more environmentally friendly decisions in the future.

We have been critical of Tallinn's climate plan. The current plan fails to address the most burning issues of urban sprawl, congestion and number of cars in Tallinn. All of these issues are firmly on the agenda. And I believe that the Greens will play first fiddle here this election.

What trails have you blazed in terms of green urban environment? What fresh ideas have you proposed?

Our program for Tallinn has not been made public yet and every candidate running in the capital can still add ideas to it. We agreed on our nationwide general platform yesterday (June 6 – ed.) that serves as the foundation for all Greens' programs. We hope to introduce our plan for Tallinn in the near future. Our general platform also has a lot other parties can emulate. I believe that our program for Tallinn is a lot more future-oriented and aimed at solving today's problems than any other party's. However, I cannot release those details yet.

Please shed light on a few core items in that program.

An urban environment where both 8 and 80-year-olds can get around comfortably and safely is definitely among our priorities. And that this level of accessibility would also extend to people with disabilities. We have heard parties talking about it, while we cannot see results in Tallinn.

Definitely also closer involvement of people when it comes to protecting green areas and various infrastructure objects. We want the people to have more say.

Processes of involvement that were frozen when the Greens left the city government. It is a field in need of a concrete activity plan. The level of involvement we are seeing today is not enough.

What is your opinion of what Tallinn is doing in regard to light traffic or bicycle roads? Is expanding the network of bicycle paths the right thing to do?

Yes, it is the right goal. We need to commend Tallinn here, even though corresponding efforts are coming along very slowly. The Tallinn bicycle strategy was passed years ago, while developments have not been rapid enough.

I do not really agree with the mayor when he says that a new generation is coming that requires a shift in cast of mind, because the city shapes people's movement. But the city is shaped by the city government. It is not about cast of mind but the simple fact that the car is the only mode of transport people can comfortably and safely use today. If you have children and many places to be in the same day, the car is the best way to get around today and this needs to change.

What could be a good solution for the new opera theater or its extension?

I'm forced to agree with the city government here. And I believe a lot of people agree that the Linnahall building could house the new opera theater. I do not support adding an annex to the National Opera Estonia, whereas it seems to be the preference of a loud minority. Fixing up Linnahall and turning it into a grand cultural venue would only benefit Tallinn.

What about the Tallinn Hospital?

Putting all your eggs in one basket is usually not a good idea. Thinking of the entire country, concentrating resources in a single location is not sensible. We need to make sure people have access to medical services near their home. I do not hold the project to be sensible, and then there is the choice of location. The alvar in question sports one of the most representative gene pools in the whole of Europe. Paving it over to create car parks is not what a European capital should be doing.

What about how Tallinn city government should be run after local elections and coalition talks? How many partners should Tallinn have?

Looking at Helsinki, where the mayor is from one party and all deputy mayors from different ones, I believe Tallinn would also benefit from a broader coalition. As concerns the city administration model, I believe reforms are in order. I would merge several administrative areas of deputy mayors, such as having a single deputy mayor in charge of city planning, environment and transport. I see these fields as strongly intertwined. More so as the Environment Department is clearly orphaned compared to other departments today. /.../ The coalition should go beyond one or two parties.

Where do the Greens see themselves after elections and what is the result you will be going after in the capital?

We want to get elected to the city council and participate in the coalition.

Talking about the rest of Estonia, where will you be coming out with lists of candidates?

The goal today is to have at least one name in every region. We will definitely have lists in Tallinn, Tartu and Antsla. But that is just the situation today and there will be more locations. We are also represented in some election coalitions. Relevant information will be published on our website.

How will these local elections stand out?

I believe that the people of Estonia should not waste their vote supporting parliament parties at local elections. It would send a message of dissatisfaction in terms of how the country is run, especially as concerns various social matters, cuts and environmental topics. What is happening in the administrative area of the Ministry of the Environment that has led to European Commission infringement proceedings over felling in Natura 2000 areas. Also, the shale oil plant project. People should consider all of these aspects.

I believe it would be far more sensible to vote for a party or election coalition not part of the current Riigikogu – Eesti 200, Greens and election coalitions all over Estonia. There is another reason – people can vote for ministers, MPs and even MEPs at local elections. It is not transparent or fair, constitutes unequal treatment of candidates and should not be allowed in the first place. /.../

How do the Greens plan to boost their support rating leading up to local elections? You haven't been active in various debates recently.

Our campaign has a role to play here. We have not launched it yet, it will take a little more time. Talking about the Greens' campaign, we plan to have several times the number of candidates than previously in Tallinn. I'm sure you will also see our campaign in the city.

The Greens have always brought colorful characters into their ranks leading up to elections, well-known people who have wished to contribute. Former First Lady Evelin Ilves is the last such example. Will we see interesting people joining the campaign this time around?

Yes, I believe so. Interesting is just the right word. People who have participated in politics before and have decided to go down that path once more. There will be people like that and people from the field of culture. We have a lot of candidates people can support in Tallinn and elsewhere.

An interview is a good place to drop a few names.

I will not be disclosing them just yet.

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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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