Consumption taxes should be reduced to offset rapid inflation, chairman of EKRE Martin Helme said on Monday. The party has been invited to reform a government with Center but has several key topics to discuss in negotiations.
EKRE's board will discuss on Tuesday afternoon how they will respond to Center's invitation. Helme believes he is likely to get the go-ahead to start negotiations.
He said there several key topics for the party, one being the rising cost of living crisis.
"Above all, we are talking about energy prices, but also everything else, food prices and fuel prices. Fighting price advance in those places. I think there are many things that can be done here. It is possible to lower some prices, such as electricity," he said, adding raising benefits also need to be considered.
Speaking about specific solutions, Helme, a former minister of finance, said: "VAT is one option, excise duties are another option. Both should actually be lowered, but I am not going to draw any lines in the sand right now or talk about very specific things. These things need to negotiated."
The EKRE chairman said lowering consumption taxes is key because it has an immediate impact.
"It's actually more effective than offering subsidies. Because let's not forget that when we give subsidies to people, those people pay those subsidies to energy companies," he said.
Immigration is another important topic and the party hopes to tighten up the current restrictions. This would apply not only to people who come to work in Estonia but to refugees fleeing war in Ukraine.
"Estonia's capacity to receive and help war refugees has long been exhausted," he said, adding Estonia has accepted the third-highest amount of refugees per capita after Poland and Hungary, totaling 3 percent of the population.
Estonia cannot accept everyone who arrives, he said, adding people should be helped to move on to other countries. "So I think we have no reason to say that everyone who wants to can come here," Helme said.
The third most important issue is the kindergarten bill and the transition to Estonian language education. While EKRE and potential coalition partner Isamaa see eye-to-eye, this cannot be said for Center. However, the chairman said he believed this issue could be agreed upon by all parties.
"There has been a lot of fake news of how we sunk a bill to render kindergartens Estonian-speaking. It was the other way around. The bill that would have allowed making current Estonian kindergartens bilingual is simply unacceptable for us. Strengthening the position of Estonian is crucial, especially in the conditions of mass immigration. As is protecting the idea of the nation state," Helme added.
The fourth is the protection of fundamental freedoms and rights. Helme said Prime Minister Kaja Kallas' coronavirus restrictions had "steamrolled" over these.
A future referendum on same-sex marriage is open for debate, he said.
The EKRE leader also said that the biggest obstacle on the path of the so-called old coalition returning is the fact opposition parties are not exactly itching to rule nine months before scheduled elections.
"The situation was working in our favor. We had a defunct government that would have become a lot more unpopular leading up to elections that would have added to our result. However, we are concerned that should the Reform Party be allowed to continue for nine months, the evil they will do in that time will be infinite and very hard to reverse."
"We want to get things done - of course. There would be no sense in joining the government just to continue on the path laid down by two liberal parties," he said.
Editor: Helen Wright