Coalition talks stalled, but may be nearing agreement
Coalition talks between the Reform Party, Isamaa, and the Social Democrats (SDE) debate issues related to forestry, family allowance, and the transition to all-Estonian education. As the parties have been looking for compromises in order to form a coalition for a long time, the members of the negotiating group are hopeful that a final agreement will be reached in the coming days.
Reinsalu (Isamaa) said that Estonia cannot be satisfied with the initial results of the EU environment ministers' meeting in Luxembourg relating to the EU's climate and energy package, "Fit for 55", and that Estonia should do a better job of defending its interests.
"It is not a favorable outcome. Some objectives of Fit for 55, such as in forest management, as well as in a number of other areas, are too demanding for the Estonian economy. We should confront this openly and also draw conclusions that, namely, that we should express our concerns clearly to our partners," Reinsalu (Isamaa) said.
Reinsalu also said that those decisions must be thoroughly examined. "While protecting nature and setting environmental goals, we should also consider the weight this imposed on Estonia, which is not justifiable from the perspective of common sense or a feeling of fairness," he said.
Lauri Laanemets, head of the Social Democratic Party (SDE), said that reducing the amount of timber does not merely mean reduction of production, but that European funds will channeled into the forestry sector in order to produce goods with a greater added value and to protect jobs.
Reinsalu (Isamaa) said that the implementation of the forest development plan is important, and added that from the perspective of Isamaa: "The forestry plan must indeed address the volume of timber management, but should the regulations in this regard be imposed through political directives from above, is the topic for discussion."
Negotiators say that core agreements could be reached by the end of the week.
"I believe we are very close to reaching an agreement. It is difficult to say whether all of the details can be polished this week or whether they will be worked on next week," said Keit Pentus-Rosimannus, finance minister and vice chair of the Reform Party.
Despite the significant agreements, some issues remain unresolved.
It was decided that the first and second child allowances would be €80 per month each. The allowance for single parents will increase as well.
"As part of the child benefit, we have agreed to increase the single parent allowance from €19 to €80. This, in my opinion, is one of the most important aspects of the family allowance bill," said Läänemets (SDE).
It is still unclear whether the payment for families with three or more children will be €600, as proposed by the Reform Party, or €700.
"We have stated that the rationale for this bill is very important: so that families and families with many children can manage, and since this measure could also raise the birth rate, we believe a minimum increase to 700 euros is necessary," said Reinsalu (Isamaa).
The transition to Estonian-language education is also an ongoing issue during the coalition talks.
Previously, the Reform Party had proposed that all kindergartens switch to Estonian language in the year 24 and all schools in the year 27. The Social Democrats, however, oppose setting definite time-frames.
"While some political parties want to convert the existing Russian-language schools into Estonian-language schools, we want schools where children with different native languages learn together under the same roof. We should not have Estonian schools for Estonians and Estonian schools for Russians," said Eduard Odinets, an SDE MP.
As the parties have been looking for compromises in order to form a coalition for a long time, the members of the negotiating group are hopeful that a final agreement will be reached in the coming days.
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Editor: Kristina Kersa