Party leaders debate energy price compensation on 'Esimene stuudio'

The leaders of the five parliamentary parties in Estonia gathered to debate electricity price compensation measures on Wednesday's "Esimene stuudio". The chairs of the Reform-Center coalition pairing said an agreement on support measures is near.

Both Center Party chairman and Reform Party chairwoman Kaja Kallas confirmed that both parties are still working hard on reaching an agreement on energy price inflation compensation measures.

Ratas said the current support scheme leaves the middle class out and this group also requires support.

Kallas said Reform wants to help everyone, but it must be taken into consideration that any support would come from taxpayer money. "If we use this money to implement support measures, we cannot solve a whole list of other issues Estonia is facing," Kallas said.

"We have looked for solutions to help people without additional bureaucracy. I hope and it seems like we are getting close to such an agreement," the prime minister added.

Speaking of possible measures, Ratas said the options are lowering VAT, a price cap or paying out a concrete sum.

Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) chairman Martin Helme said Reform is once again drowning in a sea of Excel sheets. Helme said EKRE's main demand is putting an end to the electricity power exchange. "It is not a market. It is complete manipulation. The Nord Pool is not an exchange. It is manipulation, which encourages a steady decline in production," the EKRE chair said.

"It cannot be used to bankrupt people and companies. We should not focus on how we could compensate for high energy prices, but rather how we can bring down the price of electricity," Helme added.

Prime minister Kaja Kallas responded by saying the exchange has provided Estonia with cheaper electricity prices than the rest of Europe.

Isamaa has proposed an electricity market reform, which would create an additional opportunity for small consumers to choose an over-the-counter universal service instead of a package based on exchange prices.

Isamaa chair Helir-Valdor Seeder said his party's proposal is reasonable and simple. "It is the most reasonable solution out of the proposed solutions to allow people to buy over-the-counter electricity, which would not mean leaving the exchange. And the electricity price would be coordinated by the Competition Authority. The price would be €50 per megawatt-hour," Seeder said.

"The prime minister (Kaja Kallas - ed) and Reform does not comprehend how serious the situation is," he added.

Social Democratic Party chair Indrek Saar said the party has always defended a universal principle when it comes to support measures. "The state must provide help universally and not tease people with bureaucracy," Saar said.

"We presented a draft law in the Riigikogu this Monday, which would give an option to replace this complicated, time-consuming, bureaucratic and offensive system that the government has come up with, replacing it with a system that is fast and easy. Nobody would have to apply for anything. The state would support people by automatically compensating half of bills," Saar said.

Martin Helme (EKRE) in focus, flanked by Helir-Valdor Seeder (Isamaa) on the left and by Indrek Saar (SDE) on the right Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

Kallas: We are not in a rush with energy compensation measures

Speaking to ETV's daily affairs show "Aktuaalne kaamera" before her performance in Wednesday's debate, Kallas said there is no conflict in government regarding the support measures, which she said are not an immediate concern.

The prime minister said Reform and Center had substantive discussions on Wednesday, but no agreement was reached. Kallas added that since the government has already implemented energy measures, there is no need to agree on new measures right away.

"We have made a whole list of decisions for energy. We compensated 50 percent of the electricity network fee for all consumers. We compensated 100 percent of gas network fees for all consumers. We drew up a directed measure in October," she said, adding that the coalition is looking for additional measures.

"But I would say we are not in a rush with this, we have implemented measures, which are valid for seven months, you can apply retroactively. No one has to lose any sleep over increased energy prices in that sense," the prime minister noted.

Kallas said the government coalition will look to finish their discussions in the near future.

Show host Astrid Kannel asked Kallas if her political statement on national defense on Wednesday could have waited until the energy crisis was solved.

"You know, it is unbelievable that such questions are asked in the Republic of Estonia with what is happening around Ukraine and what Russia is demanding. It has been going on since the summer, we have had meetings in government since the summer about what we should do to increase our national defense readiness and we cannot delay these decisions," Kallas said.

Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) on "Esimene stuudio". Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR


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Editor: Kristjan Kallaste

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