Approximately 2,000 amendments have been submitted to the draft Family Benefits Act by the Reform Party to slow the bill's progress through the Riigikogu. The Center Party has agreed to hold extended sittings to process them.
Reform whip Mart Võrklaev said this has been done for several reasons.
A substantive debate should be held to find the best way to help children and families, he said. Additionally, the party still prefers to discuss the topic within the framework of the country's budget.
Thirdly, Reform does not want the government to collapse and for EKRE to return to power during the biggest security crisis in the last 30 years, Võrklaev said, referring to the war in Ukraine.
"It is incomprehensible to us that the coalition partner [Center] wants to add almost €300 million of additional expenses to the budget with the votes of the opposition, but expects the government to continue the same after that. The only way for the current government to continue is to discuss raising family benefits within the state budget," he said.
Võrklaev said the Social Democratic Party, which withdrew its signatures from the bill on Wednesday, has realized the draft has nothing to do with improving the situation of children and families but is designed to cause the collapse of the Reform-Center coalition.
Siret Kotka (Center) said the Social Affairs Committee will discuss the amendments on Thursday and hopes to send the bill to its second reading next week. The MP said the party had agreed to carry out sittings at night to process the amendments.
She said that Reform tabling so many amendments shows "they are against children and families".
"If they would have wanted to discuss it seriously, they would have made between five and 10 amendments," she said.
"It is possible that Kaja Kallas simply wants to stretch out the time that the coalition continues. But the Center Party wants the Family Benefits Act to be passed as a matter of urgency," said Kotka.
A bill presented by the Center Party on May 12 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 or more.
It aims to tackle the rapidly rising cost of living. Last month, Estonia's inflation was 19 percent, the highest in the Eurozone.
The bill has cross-party support in the Riigikogu but is not supported by the biggest party and coalition leader Reform.
Center, the junior coalition members, wants the bill to be passed before midsummer in June. Kallas has said the only way this will happen is if the government collapses and reforms.
Reform is not against raising child benefits but believes it must be done within the 2023 state budget. Center wants them raised as soon as possible.
Editor: Helen Wright