Isamaa chief: Russia border treaty issue should be 'frozen'

Helir-Valdor Seeder
Helir-Valdor Seeder Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

Some ongoing issues, such as the ratification of a border agreement with the Russian Federation, need to be 'frozen', Isamaa leader Helir-Valdor Seeder says, adding that the party would pursue this in any coalition negotiation deal with the Reform Party and with the Social Democrats (SDE).

On the border question, Seeder said: "At least with the participation of Isamaa, the government will not proceed with the conclusion of the Estonian-Russian border agreement, which the outgoing government has been working on and has showed unilateral initiative on," he said, calling the policy, which would recognize the current Estonian-Russian border and not that in the 1920 Tartu Treaty, where the borderline ran somewhat to the east of the present-day frontier, irrational and not something which should be picked up by the next administration.

"This would not be reasonably in the long run, or right at this moment. Furthermore, so far as the topic of hate speech is concerned, this must be frozen in its current form."

Seeder also said that two other laws in process, one regarding hate speech and one governing the protection of whistleblowers in Estonia, and which constituted the domestic legislation needed to enact EU directives on the matters, should also be likewise "frozen".

"Also, as far as the topic of hate speech is concerned, it must be frozen in this form."

A recent law which passed barring the public display of symbols associated with Russian militarism only did so once a section regarding hate speech in a broader sense had been removed.

The whistleblower bill would, if it passed, grant employees the right to report workplace violations without their identity being made public and without the risk of repercussions. In mid-February, the Center Party called for amendments to the bill, currently stuck at the Riigikogu, to be made, on the grounds that sufficient channels for such reporting already existed.

"The whistleblower law certainly does not have our support and such initiatives should certainly not be adopted and pursued by the next administration."

 As to defense and security, Seeder said he believes that there should be no major problems in the talks around this, though called for more clarity on defense spending.

"However, we're not just talking about money. The budget is the area by which our priorities are being guided, and the incumbent government has also said that an additional €800 million will go on defense. We don't know exactly where and on what," though adding that: "Isamaa believes that as much as possible should be invested in the field of defense."

Isamaa's family policies would also need to make it into an agreement.

"The homeland is still behind family benefits. Now our situation is changing in that we may no longer be in opposition, but rather want to be in a coalition, but the basis of our family policy will not change. We want the (family benefits) bill to be adopted in its current form," Seeder said.

Center's unilateral tabling of the bill at the Riigikogu without Reform's consent was one of the final straws that led to the breakup of the Reform-Center coalition, just over a week ago.

On education, another sticking point between Reform and Center, Isamaa wants to accelerate the transition to Estonian-language education, Seeder says.

He said: "The biggest problem has been that there has not been enough political will to do this so far. There are no teachers, there is no methodology, and not enough funding. When there is a political decision and goals, then resources will be found for it."

In the edays leading up to the collapse of the Reform-Center administration, Isamaa voted with Reform on a bill which would have made kindergarten education virtually wholly in Estonian, had it passed. However, Center voted with a Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) motion to strike the bill off the agenda, and SDE abstained, meaning the legislation was indeed canned.

Isamaa also wants to solve the problem of financing higher education, Seeder said. "The abnormal situation whereby no administrative agreements have been concluded with universities must be halted rapidly."

On the energy question, the government should contribute in every way to increase the security of energy supply in Estonia, and this includes both energy production and the improvement of connections, Seeder said.

Isamaa also wants to initiate electricity market reform at government level.

"This has not been approved by the parliament so far, but we want to raise it again during the course of the negotiations. We understand that it is not possible to implement it in such a short period of time, but it is possible to make a start at least," Seeder said.

 Helping those most at need survive soaring energy bills and inflation, and fighting inflation generally, is also a priority for Isamaa, Seeder said after Saturday's meeting.

"This is about taxes, excise duties, and also compensation - for high prices of  electricity, natural gas and heat. Last year this was not very successful, but we have to learn from mistakes and do it better next year," Seeder went on.

 Energy bill support measures were put in place from late 2021 following successive record prices being set in electricity, natural gas and also the district heating supplied communally to many apartment blocks, even before the Russian invasion of Ukraine and moves to decouple from the supply of Russian natural gas and the search for alternatives.

 There were in effect two strands to this support, one identified with Center, focused more on low-income households, and one from Reform, which primarily targeted business.

Isamaa was courted both by Reform and Center following last Friday's coalition collapse, making it the kingmaker of the piece, took over a week to announce its decision.

Seeder has also criticized Kaja Kallas for not standing down as prime minister, while speculation has been rife that Seeder himself would be running.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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