No deal after overnight coalition talks, signs of hope for breakthrough

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Prime Minister Kaja Kallas.
Prime Minister Kaja Kallas. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

Coalition talks between the Reform Party, Isamaa and the Social Democrats (SDE), now in their fourth week, are no nearer to a deal despite an overnight session into the small hours of Thursday, the prime minister says, though the SDE deputy leader suggested talks could be on the brink of a breakthrough.

Reform's leader and prime minister, Kaja Kallas, tweeted at just after 3.30 a.m. Thursday morning, Estonian time, that: "The sun is rising and we have finished today's talks, unfortunately without an outcome," though SDE deputy leader Riina Sikkut said if the will was there, an agreement could be concluded within an hour of further talks.

The three parties had publicly stated Tuesday that there had been rapprochement on certain areas.

"The situation is still the same big issues as yesterday - family benefits, electricity market reform, people's livelihoods and Estonian-language education," Prime Minister Kallas told ETV news show "Aktuaalne kaamera" (AK) at the time, referring to the three key topics on the table.

"My feeling is that yesterday (i.e. Tuesday – ed.) we got closer to each other in these matters, and some things that are open, we will discuss them again now that everyone has been able to talk with their factions again.," Kallas said earlier on Wednesday.

On Thursday morning, SDE deputy leader Riina Sikkut told Vikerraadio's morning program that: "Isamaa has been the most rigid party in the negotiations," and that the talks would continue Thursday afternoon after those involved had had time to sleep, though no agreement had been reached yet, principally due to Isamaa and Reform's arguing over the family benefits issue.

Riina Sikkut, SDE's deputy leader. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

"They have different views on how generous it is to be generous," Sikkut added, though expressed more optimism for policies on Estonian-language-only education, from kindergarten-level upwards,

 "It's a pity that this great desire finds its outlet in the form of declaring annual quotas," she added, adding the transition would only be feasible if teachers' salaries are raised.

Late on, progress was also made on compensation for soaring energy prices from next fall, likely a repeat of last year's heating season, which, Sikkut said, would see automatic compensation for natural gas, electricity and district heating bills in the form of price ceilings – meaning no need to submit applications as happened early on in the crisis, late last year.

There would, however, be a volume limit too, Sikkut said

Isamaa chair: Agreement on some areas of energy, open on others, and on family benefits and education

Isamaa chair Helir-Valdor Seeder told ERR Thursday morning that the parties had agreed on electricity, to allow consumers to purchase electricity from Eesti Energia at the cost price plus CO2 price, from which €50 per MWh would be deducted as state compensation.

Whether this remained after the heating period (October to March) or not and whether there should be an upper limit on consumption remained open, he said, adding that a price cap for natural gas and district heating of €80 per MWh, beyond which the state would provide compensation at 80 percent.

On the issue of family benefits, Seeder said Isamaa's desire to include a subsidy of €700 and indexation for families with children in the coalition agreement, compared with Reform's €600 plus indexation or €700 without indexation, was up in the air, while on education, agreement was in place that in 2024, education from early childhood would be transferred to the Estonian language, with exceptions only granted at governmental level following applications at municipal level. So far as basic education went, grades one to four would be transferred to Estonian-only, with no exceptions, by or in 2024, Seeder said.

This article was updated to include comments from Helir-Valdor Seeder.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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