SDE: Compromise on Estonian-language education difficult for the party
Transition to Estonian-language education from kindergarten level to be implemented from 2024 is one policy which has been agreed upon at the ongoing Reform Party/Isamaa/Social Democrats (SDE) coalition talks, though the latter party has expressed reservations on this, principally relating to the time-frame and the availability of teachers.
SDE leader Lauri Läänemets said Thursday, following overnight talks that lasted into the small hours of that day, that: "The Social Democrats have always said that in general education we can transfer (to Estonian-language education) in 2026 at the earliest, which is what the specialists say. Then perhaps after three years, we will be able to find the teachers who will be able to teach grades one to four."
While a deal has still not been struck, and Reform leader and prime minister suggested Thursday that the process has reached the end of the line, thanks to Isamaa's intransigence, SDE has remained the more optimistic party of the three, by its public statements at least.
The party says the issues of reforming the electricity market (an Isamaa policy) and of providing support for soaring energy prices, has seen progress, though details still need to be hammered out in the case of the latter, Läänemets said.
He said: "In my opinion, we reached a very good understanding regarding energy support. We jointly agreed that the price ceilings for gas and district heating will be set at a very reasonable level; significantly better than was the case last winter. Perhaps the 'Norwegian'-style scheme that SDE has always wanted."
Electricity market reform plus the social electricity package have been agreed upon, he added, saying that the state may guarantee electricity price ceilings.
SDE's deputy leader Riina Sikkut had said much the same thing earlier on Thursday, adding that the system may also see a cap on consumption. Sikkut had also said that the transition to Estonian-only education by or in 2024 would only be attainable if teachers' wages were given a boost.
Other agreements include from 2023 the availability of care home facilities to the elderly as a whole, as needed, and regardless of their family's financial situation. Not only does Estonia have an ageing population, but its rate of poverty among the elderly is among the highest in Europe, SDE says.
SDE has proposed the state paying for nursing home coverage if the individual's pension cannot cover this or who do not have a pension, Helmen Kütt, SDE MP and vice chair of the Riigikogu's social committee said.
Again, the details of the funding model - the scheme would coast €40 million if places were available to all elderly persons, SDE says – need to be addressed.
The old age pension for 2022 will be on average €595, compared with the average cost of a place in a nursing home of €1,000, per month.
Family benefits for younger families with children is more of a sticking point, Reform's Kaja Kallas says, again relating this to Isamaa.
Kallas has called the existing system for larger families – support for families with three-to-six children and then with seven-to-nine children is already the third-highest in Europe, and then would be doubled, if Isamaa's proposals are implemented, the prime minister said.
The coalition negotiations started on June 13 meaning they are nearly a month old; although the midsummer break, the Riigikogu recess and high-level NATO and EU trips the prime minister has had to attend during that time will have had a delaying effect, the parties themselves have said they are not in any hurry to form an administration. The Riigikogu reconvenes in mid-September.
President Alar Karis has on more than one occasion called for clarity and progress in the matter.
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Editor: Andrew Whyte