Chairman of the opposition Conservative People's Party (EKRE) Martin Helme welcomes the new coalition's decision to hike family benefits but criticizes the incoming government of the Reform Party, Isamaa and SDE in other aspects. Helme believes Reform is taking advantage of the Social Democrats and that two Isamaa ministers could prove hapless.
What do you think of the coalition agreement? Should we start with the positive, the items EKRE likes?
Well, the child benefits hike definitely comes as good news. We consider it a demographic measure, and we need to realize that without Estonians, without new Estonians being born, all other activities are ultimately meaningless. So, it is a good thing they've included the benefits.
Talking about pain spots, I am very critical of three aspects. The first is that there will not be any real electricity market reform. On the contrary, we are still being told that all of our power will come from wind and solar by 2030, which is an absurd and utterly unrealizable goal. It can only mean that electricity will continue getting more expensive.
What they are referring to as an electricity market reform could have been done with a government or finance ministry decision last fall, ordering [national energy company] Eesti Energia to introduce a fixed-price package. That is not something you call a reform. In any case, it is not enough - the electricity and energy crisis is much deeper and more serious. Especially as concerns gas, I believe we are looking at very rough seas ahead.
National defense is the second aspect that worries me. Nothing has been added to what we've been told since the start of 2022 or the Ukraine war. And yet, we do not have a single government document, decision to flesh out these claimed goals. We have not really made the decision to procure air defense, we have not replaced the weapons given to Ukraine, whereas the Ministry of Defense is talking of a very long temporal horizon when asked when those arms and munitions replacements might happen.
Therefore, the entire national defense side of it is still slogans and propaganda that hides outstanding activities. Estonia's defense is weaker than it was in January as we have surrendered weapons and ammunition, as well as sacked high-ranking officers because of the coronavirus and lack of suitable postings. So, the national defense situation is dire indeed.
We also got nothing from [the NATO summit in] Madrid. Nothing beyond reaffirmation of friendly relations with the Baltics. Another serious concern.
And the third aspect that troubles me is the multicultural part of the agreement. It obviously betrays the ideological cramp of Reform and the Social Democrats – diversity and the promotion of other peoples and languages and cultures in Estonia. That is not the purpose of the Estonian state. The purpose of Estonia is to promote Estonianness.
Are you referring to the part about Ukrainians?
Not only that. There are several promises of how we will be fostering diversity in Estonia. A clear ideological stance.
Let us talk about ministers. What do you think and how many have you had contact with?
I believe that the people of Estonia have been collectively punished in the person of our new economy minister (SDE's Riina Sikkut - ed.). It is quite a disaster. And it is no accident. I interpret it as the Reform Party acting as a black widow spider that eats its mate after copulation. SDE has been saddled with one of the most difficult portfolios and has, in its infinite wisdom, manned it with one of their weakest members.
Do you mean to suggest that the economy minister will have to resign come winter no matter who holds the post?
That is not how it is! With clear political will and administrative capacity, all of the crises in Estonia can be alleviated to a considerable degree. It would have been possible already, while the necessary will, capacity and indeed political agreement have not existed.
It is clear that Riina Sikkut is being turned into the lightning rod meant to absorb everything that will go wrong this winter. Just as the Social Democrats have been saddled with the forests issue through the environment portfolio. Because no matter how you solve that problem, you will have half of society against you. I believe the Reform Party has been quite low in boobytrapping its coalition partner in this manner.
What about Isamaa ministers?
When it comes to Isamaa ministers, it seems painfully obvious that they simply cannot allow their MPs to join the government as it would bring in too many alternate members who have either left or been thrown out and ended up on the losing side of the party's in-house struggles. That is the reason they are who they are.
But what about the ministers themselves? Like the architect of the pension reform, that EKRE fiercely supported (candidate for minister of entrepreneurship and IT Kristjan Järvan - ed.) and (incoming justice minister - ed.) Lea Danilson-Järg who has worked on population topics. Your kind of people through and through?
I have no ideological criticism of them. Isamaa is the closest party to us in that regard.
But considering that the incoming justice and enterprise ministers lack political experience, and I'm not just talking about ministerial experience – few enough people have that – but also parliamentary experience in terms of how we do things here... They also lack administrative experience, knowledge of how things are done in the government and ministries – I believe there is considerable risk they will not be up to the task.
A risk that is further amplified by the fact they only have a short time in office. But they are outsiders and can easily return to their old professions should things not work out for them.
Editor: Marcus Turovski