Greens ex-leader: Other parties making proposals already

Züleyxa Izmailova
Züleyxa Izmailova Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

Züleyxa Izmailova, the former leader of the Estonian Greens party, told ERR that she did not leave the party due a conflict. She said that she has already received offers from other parties. Izmailova added that the Estonian Greens' ideas are fragmented, while there are no truly radical climate activists in the country, she said, in an interview with ERR which follows.

In political parties, as in all organizations, leaders still change, this is natural and necessary. But I can't remember a leader of a party voluntarily asking to resign while being still in power. Why did you act so radically?

I realized that this project is now over and it is time to move on. I believe I did the right thing. I can't imagine that I would simply be a member of the Estonian Greens party but would not be active. Today, I have many challenges outside the party.

You said that this project is now over. Is it over personally or does the project called Estonian Greens seem viable?

For me personally, it's over. Already on Saturday, party members will gather to elect new leaders. I hope the new leaders have the enthusiasm and vision to move this forward.

But why did you apply to leave on February 10? Already in the autumn, you announced that you did not want to remain the leader of the party; what happened in the meantime?

It is not worth looking for any magic formula from that date; I tied up some loose ends and felt that now was the time to leave.

Did others in the party's leadership know you wanted to leave the party?

I talked to people and some members of the party already knew it was going to happen.

Did you leave behind any conflicts or unpaid bills?

There are no conflicts at the moment, and I wish the party success. Estonia is in great need of such a party, and the new leaders need to do a lot of work because the Riigikogu elections will take place in a year's time.

Riigikogu elections are coming up for all parties. Have you already been called and made offers from competing parties? Your name will definitely get a lot of votes in the election.

I've already been called and spoken to. I haven't told them I'm not doing anything and I'm not going anywhere. It is too early to talk about this, but I have not ruled out anything. I'd like to take a look at what life has to offer besides parties.

The Social Democratic Party (SDE) and Eesti 200 are parties that stress that they are pursuing green politics. Already received proposals from both parties? You probably won't get a call from the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE)?

I really haven't been called by EKRE and I don't want to mention other parties. However, the Social Democrats have stood out the most in pursuing a green agenda. Among these members are many people who consider the green issue to be very important, including the new chairman of the party, Lauri Läänemets, who considers it necessary to train party members on green issues. In Estonia, green issues are not everyday issues on the basis of which political decisions are made.

Eesti 200 is also good on green topics, but I am not so familiar with their program or views. The Center Party and the Reform Party promised to address green issues during the creation of the government union agreement, but these things have clearly stalled. Hopefully this time the climate issues will be important in the election campaign, in previous years we have been talking more about taxes and school education in Estonian.

The green worldview has many followers. But have these supporters rather occupied the social and Eesti 200? Are you excluded? Wouldn't it be more sensible to join these two most popular parties and give them even more green light?

In western Europe, there are no green niche parties, they are not just talking about environmental protection, but more broadly, for example, about human rights. It is in other issues that the Greens should have more say in Estonia. Certainly, Eesti 200 and SDE have partially occupied this niche, and green slogans have also appeared on the posters of other parties. The task of the Greens is to finally find speakers who would be more serious candidates in the Riigikogu elections as well. We cannot blame the other parties for not being good enough ourselves.

Why has there not been real green radicalism in Estonia? Across the Gulf in Finland is the Elonkapina movement, which requires achieving climate neutrality in a few years. They closed the street in front of the parliament and blocked car traffic in Helsinki to meet their demands. Is there silence on this here?

Our environmental movements are rather more peaceful and trying to get to the table. There are fewer big events. Our green scene is very fragmented, we have many associations that operate in parallel, but there is no common force that would lead to protest in Toompea or elsewhere. I only remember the big forest protest against the pulp mill in Tallinn in 2017 and the spectacular event against the pulp mill in Tartu. I don't even remember anything from the last years.

It's convenient in Estonia too. Many people still say that a warm winter without snow is nice because heating bills are low. The significance of global climate change has not reached people, for example, hot summers, how many people died in Estonia last summer alone.

The Estonian press loves to talk about right-wing nationalist radicals, and their efforts are brought to light as much as possible. However, we know nothing about the activities of left and green radicals. Do you know any green extremists?

Yes, I know some green radicals. But we are not as strong as in other countries. We are trying to be more civilized. But there are quite a few climate activists in the world who have lost their lives in the fight. It's not an easy fight, and when you act on it, you get a lot of enemies, because you're literally going to attack someone's wallet. There are some radical people in Estonia, but this topic is not worth talking about.

Who sets the environmental agenda in Estonia? Which stakeholders?

The agenda is set by industry and business. The sphere of influence of industry is closely connected with the ministries. A very large number of meetings and round tables on apparent involvement show how the industry is in the majority. There are rather fewer people in common and environmental protection, and the decisions have been in favor of industry. There is a long way to go, and the Ministry of the Environment is known as the ministry of submitting environmental use and permits.

Is there more balance in forestry? There are some very angry, anti-deforestation movements there, aren't there?

[State forestry commission] RMK is only an executor of orders. But there is no balance, let's have a look at the debate on the forestry development plan. The development plan presented by the previous council offered more environmentally friendly options. The Ministry of the Environment simply repealed it and disbanded it. The new council has a greater representation of the forest industry. At the moment, we have been helped a lot by the EU and the European Commission, which does not allow deforestation in Natura sites and may be able to save a little old forest.

The Green Transition is an issue that will increasingly polarize society in the coming years. Politicians are still discovering this playing field, some are reaping the benefits of opposing the Green Transition, some of the slogans that accompany the green turn. For example, the current Minister of the Environment sees that its constituents are excited about economic issues, not the Green Transition. How to avoid a collision?

In fact, every party can pick out topics from the Green Transition that will allow them to find common ground. For example, national conservatives do not want a refugee crisis and too many people from another cultural space. Due to climate change, people will inevitably be forced to leave their homes, so climate change must be tackled. The most important thing is to understand that the Green Transition is a matter of survival and that everyone wants to live.

Do you believe that Estonia can really meet the goals of promised climate neutrality?

The content of the plans changes over time and we learn more and more about what is possible. We cannot predict how much Estonia wants to contribute to this. A lot depends on who will form the government after the next Riigikogu elections.


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Editor: Roberta Vaino

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