Isamaa and SDE: Negotiations still to arrive at core issues

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Coalition talks.
Coalition talks. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

Even though all three parties' topics had been tabled by day four of coalition talks between the Reform Party, Isamaa and the Social Democratic Party (SDE), an agreement is not yet in sight regarding core issues.

Isamaa deputy head Urmas Reinsalu said on Thursday that no progress has been made regarding Isamaa's priority of a family benefits hike, even though the Reform Party has proposed a compromise.

"The main things are still outstanding. Isamaa feels that our family benefits solution sports a higher quality and that we need to find agreement," he said.

Reinsalu added that it is Isamaa's position that executing the hike from January 1 is still appropriate as it would support families with children and the longevity of the Estonian people during a difficult period. "Of course, we will carefully listen to our partners' compromise proposals. Right now, we are convinced that our version sports the best quality."

Reform Party leader, Prime Minister Kaja Kallas said that her party has proposed a compromise that would see family and child benefits hiked gradually over four years, instead of Isamaa's wish of a one-off immediate hike.

"We have also proposed including the hike in legislation, so it would be rooted in more than just the state budget strategy," Kallas said, adding that hiking the single parent's benefit is also part of the plan.

The Social Democrats' idea of a basic exemption hike Kallas described as closer to Reform's heart as it would help low-income households.

But SDE leader Lauri Läänemets said that their proposal of an €800 basic exemption (currently €500 for an annual income of up to €14,400– ed.) has not made any progress at talks either. He welcomed regional policy talks on Thursday.

Läänemets said it was decided to speed up high-speed broadband last mile developments and allocate more EU structure fund assets to help smaller regions promote job creation and salary advance. He added that retaining Estonia's network of libraries is another one of SDE's goals.

"Libraries make for one network that still survives in Estonia, and it is very important to make sure that remains the case," he said.

It was also decided on Thursday that the merger of fleets will cover all state-owned ships, in addition to just naval and police vessels.

Kallas said that the energy working group has reached an agreement on how to expedite all manner of renewable energy planning processes and get rid of phantom grid connections to make room for new ones.

The PM added that all three partners agree that while Estonia has declared giving up Russian gas, decisions to take that step in reality can be made if necessary.

Reinsalu added that the coalition will also support the creation of an international tribunal for holding Russian war criminal accountable.

No talks on Friday or the weekend

Lauri Läänemets said on Friday that the education working group's proposals will be discussed on Monday and that the sides hope to get to the financial effects of decisions on Tuesday or Wednesday.

He said that while the parties want to have a coalition agreement by Midsummer Day, whether that can be achieved depends on including key issues.

"I would say that Isamaa has spent a lot of time talking about their things [in public], the Social Democrats sport a different approach and prefer to discuss things at the table. However, there are plenty of things regarding which we have gotten nowhere at all. I'm not 100 percent sure we will be able to agree on everything by Midsummer's. It depends on whether there is willingness to find ways to pay for all of it," he suggested.

The SDE chairman added that no more talks will be held on Friday or during the weekend.

Seeder: Not vying for minister, but not afraid of responsibility either

Speaking to ERR on Friday, Isamaa party chairman Helir-Valdor Seeder said that he considered it unlikely that a coalition agreement would be reached ahead of Midsummer.

"There are so many unresolved topics that we're not going to reach common ground within two or three days," he explained. "Some areas have gone into great detail."

He said that reaching an agreement could take another five days or another 15.

The Isamaa chair said that his party has not yet discussed the matter of which ministerial portfolios they would like, nor whether he himself would join the government this time. According to Seeder, it's too soon yet, and it would just cause unnecessary tension within the party.

"That will depend on various things, sides, and the coalition agreement," he said. "In some cases it's good when party chairs are all in the government together; in some cases, it's good when someone is supporting from parliament."

Nonetheless, he hasn't ruled out serving as minister himself.

"I won't rule anything out," he said. "I have served as minister in two governments. I won't be vying for minister by force, but I'm not afraid of the responsibility either."

While Isamaa did not participate in the no-confidence vote against Minister of Education and Research Liina Kersna (Reform) in the Riigikogu on Thursday, Seeder said that with her actions, Kersna has demonstrated that she should not continue as minister in the new government.

Asked by ERR whether such a position might spark additional tensions during coalition talks, the Isamaa chair said he didn't think so, as Reform was aware of his party's stance on Kersna prior to entering talks with them.

"The custom has been for all coalition parties to appoint their own ministers," Seeder explained. "But there are exceptions as well. The Liina Kersna case is certainly an exception in Estonian politics. We have previously been critical as well. I hope that once things get to the point where minister positions start to be divided up, everyone takes the common sense approach and a government is formed that doesn't include tension."


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Editor: Marcus Turovski, Aili Vahtla

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