Prime minister: Unfortunately a line has to be drawn somewhere
While she wanted to retain the coalition with the Center Party for as long as possible, a line has to be drawn at some point, Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) told ETV news show 'Aktuaalne kaamera' (AK) Friday.
Kallas had dismissed Center's seven government ministers earlier that day, ending several weeks of stalemate and speculation over the coalition's survival.
Kallas told AK that: "Naturally, there are two sides to a coalition. I have stood firmly by my principles, and I cannot surrender them."
"I have tried to keep this coalition as long as possible, but unfortunately there is a border somewhere. It is clear that does not work and new solutions must be found, because Estonia needs new solutions," she went on.
Kallas aid she had warned the Center Party earlier that, if it took steps in the Riigikogu contrary to what was held in the coalition agreement with Reform, signed in January 2021, then that coalition would be over.
"I warned them that such a move was possible so this should have come as no surprise, as this escalation was being ratcheted up all the time," Kallas said.
The prime minister says she see common ground with Isamaa and the Social Democrats (SDE) in the field of education in Estonian, and in security, and also agrees to increase family benefits, if this is done in the framework of budget negotiations.
Kallas said she also expects a new coalition to be formed as soon as possible.
"We have made a proposal to SDE and Isamaa to start negotiations as early as today, and we have also set up our negotiating delegation. However, Isamaa and SDE still have time to make decisions. We are looking forward to this weekend and move rapidly in a short time," she continued.
At the same time, she expressed some realism about the chances of success of such a chain of events.
"Considering that there is actually only a short time left until the elections (in March 2023 – ed.), Estonia needs a functioning government, especially in the current security situation. In my opinion, we might have something in common with Isamaa and SDE on such important issues, be it education in Estonian, or be it security issues - where we should have no differences anyway."
Resigning as prime minister, a step which Center leader and Riigikogu speaker Jüri Ratas said Kallas should have taken Friday, was not on the cards in the interests of retaining a functioning government, she added.
Raising family benefits had been one of the final sticking points between Center and Reform.
Center tabled the bill to hike benefits to families last month, but unilaterally; Reform earlier this week issued around 2,000 amendments to filibuster the bill.
Kallas said that she was not opposed to the measure per se, however, and had objected more to its handling.
Reform's Riigikogu whip, Mart Võrklaev, said at the time Center tabled the bill that the agreement had been to discuss the matter in the context of the state budget negotiations process, which takes place in the fall.
Kaja Kallas as prime minister dismissed Center's seven ministers – three of whom will return to the Riigikogu while the remaining four will currently be out of a job – on Friday, following weeks of stalemate and more than one call for cohesion from the head of state, Alar Karis.
President Karis gave his assent to the dissolution to the prime minister, in accordance with constitutional procedure, on Friday afternoon.
SDE and Isamaa have not formally said they will commence negotiations with Reform, while Center says it wants to do the same – with Isamaa and with the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE), an alignment in office April 2019 to January 2021.
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Editor: Andrew Whyte