President: State budget neither a black hole nor perpetuum mobile
Our now former aim to maintain fiscal balance ensured the sustainability of the state budget but also helped keep in check politicians who wanted to play Santa Clause with public funds. The recent situation has created the illusion that expenses can keep growing without tax hikes or dialing back elsewhere, President Alar Karis said in a speech to mark the start of the Riigikogu's fall session.
Karis said that he wishes to remain a good partner for the Riigikogu and reserves the right to give advice and edge MPs on even when not prompted to do so if he has the know-how and experience required.
"Energy prices make for the most urgent field you will be addressing in the coming weeks. We are in a rush, but let us still try to discuss our possibilities and compare our ideas to those of colleagues elsewhere in the world to find the best possible solution. For both home consumers and companies. And I would urge you, when passing legislation, not to leave room for interpretations that could clash with the Constitution or slow the entry into force of laws," the president said.
"That said, we need to understand that we cannot continue paying for electricity using public loan money forever. High energy prices could last for years. We desperately need new generation capacity that does not depend on the whims of militant or undemocratic states. A host of visions and strategies for environmentally friendly energy solutions have been created in Estonia in recent years. The combined capacity of planned wind farms is many times Estonia's peak consumption. The problem is that none of those things have matured beyond the planning phase."
Karis asked the Riigikogu to put in the work to make sure Estonia would not have to be talking about the need to bail out households and businesses in the conditions of soaring energy prices three or four years from now. "So that we could instead be talking about Estonia's new production capacity," he said.
Hiking various expenses in the state budget while making no mention of tax hikes has become all the rage lately, Karis suggested. "While crisis expenses and national defense investments made this way are sensible, covering recurring costs with temporary loan money is not," he said.
"Our now former aim to maintain fiscal balance ensured the sustainability of the state budget but also helped keep in check politicians who wanted to play Santa Clause with public funds. The recent situation has created the illusion that expenses can keep growing without tax hikes or dialing back elsewhere."
Karis said that it amounts to self-deception and fooling voters. "The state budget is not a black hole or a perpetuum mobile. Let us try to remain responsible when planning costs so we could leave future generations with something other than debt they can hopefully afford to repay."
The president also talked about national security both directly and through the need to boost education and culture funding as the foundation of broad-based national defense, which he urged MPs to always keep in mind.
Coming to so-called heavy national defense, Karis said that Estonia's defense investments and plans need to be realized irrespective of which parties make up the government. "Defense spending might seem colossal on the backdrop of dwindling prosperity, but in a situation where there is war in Europe, where Europe is defending itself against an aggressor, where Estonia is seeing major cyberattacks, it is simply impossible to save on defense."
The president also emphasized the importance of civil defense and preparedness before moving on to the continued need to support Ukraine and refugees from there. "We can help and support Ukrainians also on their road to joining the European Union. It will be a priority for long years to come."
The president talked about his institution's role as a protector of the Estonian Constitution, saying that the president's right not to proclaim laws goes beyond unconstitutionality. "There is no such limitation in the Constitution, and statements by its authors also suggest the president's role in checking legislation is broader."
Finally, Karis said that he believes the president should be elected by the Electoral College if the Riigikogu fails to do so, without the possibility of the election moving back to the parliament.
Follow ERR News on Facebook and Twitter and never miss an update!
Editor: Marcus Turovski