The Center Party wants to break up the current coalition and form a new government with EKRE, Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) said at a press conference on Thursday, suggesting this is the motive behind a new bill for €300 million increase in family benefits. She said a vote of no-confidence should be held but her preference is that the coalition continues.
"Good question, very good question," Kallas said at a government press conference in response to ERR's question about the atmosphere in the coalition.
"In general, it is still the case that the governing coalition is holding together. If we start doing things outside the coalition, if we start cooperating with EKRE, then there is a wish to bring EKRE into the government, there is no other explanation for it," Kallas said.
The junior coalition Center Party presented a draft bill for family benefits totaling €300 million on Thursday saying it was signed by all the parties in the Riigikogu except Reform.
Kallas said this is essentially an ultimatum.
"In two days, accept €300 million of fixed costs without a discussion ... Everyone wants to be popular. To make a popular proposal that everyone gets more money, that's half the equation. The other half, as though everyone has agreed, is that the Reform Party must find the money. This is not how things are done in a governing coalition," said Kallas.
"I see no other reason behind it than to want to do something different and with someone else. But I would say this — then man up and bring a motion of no-confidence against me, together with the coalition. Stop fooling around."
Kallas told ERR that if the bill enters into law this summer, as Center hopes, then it will be because a new coalition has been formed.
"The votes behind the political agreement will be different from those of the current governing coalition, and that means that I will no longer be leading this government," she said.
"Certainly we will then make efforts to create a new coalition and we still have the possibility to do so with the Social Democrats and Isamaa," Kallas said.
The prime minister stressed that her preferred outcome is that the current coalition continues.
"I do not want to break up this government, and I have done nothing to break it up," Kallas said.
Aab: We could have made an agreement with the Reform Party first
More discussions could have been held between the two parties before the bill was submitted, Minister of Public Administration Jaak Aab (Center) said on Thursday.
"When we currently have a government between the Center Party and the Reform Party, then an agreement should be reached by the coalition partners," Aab said he argued on Wednesday at a government meeting.
The minister said the party's Riigikogu faction decided to submit the draft anyway. Aab said he told his colleagues that this could mean the breakdown of the coalition.
"Everything depends on how we proceed. If agreements can be reached. Both the faction and the party chairman have confirmed that no one has any plans to break up the government, but maybe a little pressure is being applied to get the right things decided once and for all." said Aab.
The minister said he believed the bill has been submitted because the party did not achieve all its goals with the recent supplementary budget. "And now it is necessary to pursue a bigger goal," Aab said.
He denied there was a plan to break up the coalition or that discussions had been held with other parties.
"I do not know of any agreements that another coalition will be formed. My preference is for this coalition to continue," Aab said.
"There is no goal to cooperate with EKRE on various issues," said Aab.
The bill presented on Thursday would boost the monthly child allowance benefit to €100 per child plus €700 a month for those raising three to six kids and €900 for people raising seven kids or more.
Andres Kalvik, a spokesman for the Center Party, said that the draft had been signed by members of all the other parties in the Riigikogu, except Reform.
Center Party whip Jaanus Karilaid said 54 signatures have been added to the bill out of 101, enough to pass the bill.
"Several signatures are still missing, while I know people are with us. I hope we can find more support during proceedings," Karilaid said, adding that he hopes the bill will be passed before Jaanipäev, Midsummer's Day.
Reform Party whip Mart Võrklaev told ERR that Reform and Center agreed to discuss hiking family benefits in the 2023 state budget. He said entering the bill into proceedings is an uncoordinated step that will not have a positive effect on the health of the coalition.
Last month, Estonia's inflation was 19 percent, the highest in the Eurozone. Parties have been working to offset the rise in living and energy costs.
Center was in a coalition with EKRE and Isamaa between April 2017 and January 2021.
Editor: Helen Wright