Urmas Sõõrumaa to consider stopping donations to political parties

Urmas Sõõrumaa.
Urmas Sõõrumaa. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

Businessman and president of the Estonian Olympic Committee Urmas Sõõrumaa told ERR that he is considering stopping donations to political parties because of the state's handling of the healthcare sector. He added that he will direct his money to the Patarei fortress development.

"Well, I have been a dreamer and visualizer for all my life and I am also hoping that life will get better now and I am sure it will. But I am a little disappointed in recent developments," Sõõrumaa told ERR's webshow "Otse uudistemajast" on Wednesday.

He said the government does not value and appreciate the independence and where Estonia is as a society. "And what's more, to me as a sports manager, I am hurt by the talk about health only in the context of injections, masks and restrictions. To me, health is something completely different. All we are talking about today is a disease. But health, vitality, ability to participate in society, the desire to be healthy - I have not seen any contribution toward that in recent years," Sõõrumaa said.

He said only talking about health in the context of the coronavirus leaves no room for discussion about health in general. "I have tried in different ways, but the last state budget, at least, left a zero for my attempts," the businessman said.

Sõõrumaa has been one of the greatest donors of political parties in recent years, donating €45,000 to the Center Party in April of this year. He told ERR that he is considering stopping donations entirely. "I do not have much money to donate nowadays, because all my available hundreds of thousands and millions will go toward developing objects such as the Patarei fortress," the Olympic Committee president said.

In October last year, state credit agency KredEx rejected Sõõrumaa's application for a €40 million loan towards the development. The businessman said earlier this year that he is hopeful of his chances of still getting the loan and noted that without a KredEx loan, the project may have to wait another decade.

"Of my scarce resources, I am prepared to support healthy processes. Healthy processes are actual health, actual nature, the actual environment," Sõõrumaa said.

He said donors do not expect favors from parties nowadays. "You cannot take it as so today. Perhaps these things were more closely linked in the 90s, but I would say that I have not spoken to a single politician in the last decade about me giving them this and them giving me that. This does not happen," the businessman noted.

When entrepreneur Hillar Teder donated €60,000 to the Center Party in the third quarter of 2020, people immediately linked the donation to a KredEx loan for the Porto Franco real estate development, which was managed by Teder's son. The loan was eventually approved, but an investigation later led to a government collapse with prime minister Jüri Ratas (Center) resigning and five people being suspected of criminal involvement. Hillar Teder was released from custody in March.

ERR asked Sõõrumaa if Teder's donation had signs of being leverage trading. "It is simple to connect the dots this way. Yes, it does seem so looking from the outside. But if you look at the broader picture, Hillar Teder has donated for decades and we certainly cannot say all these donations had the scent of Teder wanting something. He is just that kind of person, he has supported many around him," Sõõrumaa said.

According to the Political Parties Financing Surveillance Committee (ERJK), Sõõrumaa has donated more than €1.1 million to political parties since 2013. Center Party has received €535,000 and Reform has received €372,500.


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Editor: Kristjan Kallaste

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