Minister of Foreign Affairs Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa) has categorically denied his party's involvement in an alleged agreement to share regional subsidies (so-called "protection money") with coalition partners Reform and the SDE.
"The Prime Minister referred to the former finance minister and her comment that everything had been agreed, some kind of list of "roofs" (projects earmarked for "protection money" – ed.) a few months ago. I reject this claim strongly and unequivocally!" Reinsalu told a government press conference on Thursday.
Former Minister of Finance Keit Pentus-Rosimannus (Reform) told ERR on Wednesday, that it had been agreed during coalition talks that the Social Democratic Party (SDE) would get more money in the state budget for regional investments and civil society.
Pentus-Rosimannus stressed that, the agreement was a trilateral one relating to the transition to Estonian-language education, which both Reform and Isamaa had wanted. "Therefore, the appearance of these funds in the budget cannot come as a surprise to the (coalition) partners," Pentus-Rosimannus told ERR when asked to comment on the row which erupted over the "protection money" investments, which were included in the interior ministry's budget.
"When the coalition was formed, the Social Democrats considered it just as important to contribute to regional funds as Isamaa and the Reform Party did to make the rapid transition to Estonian-language education. The agreement took into account both of these interests equally," she added.
However, Reinsalu said that no such agreement had been made. "There is no such thing as a list of "roofs" with a trilateral stamp - maybe they were unilateral, maybe bilateral, but in no case were they trilateral. Please, do not try not put this on Isamaa," he said.
During the process of discussions regarding the draft state budget, the issue of nearly €6.3 million in funding, which was allocated to the Ministry of the Interior following SDE leader and Minister of the Interior Lauri Läänemets' wish to support the construction and renovation of kindergartens and schools in several different regions of Estonia, was raised.
According to Läänemets, the money for these investments had been added into the budget by the previous Minister of Finance Pentus-Rosimannus.
Läänemets said on Monday, that he was aware the money was not being used for projects, which fall under the interior ministry's area of responsibility, but that the aim was to contribute to regional development. "From the very beginning, we agreed in the coalition agreement that we want to contribute to Estonia's regional development and to help Estonian children attending different kindergartens and schools. It just happens that, from a budgetary point of view, it was moved to the line of the Ministry of the Interior," Läänemets said.
The Riigikogu's Finance Committee decided on Tuesday to redirect the money back to the Ministry of the Interior, which can use it to support the work of non-profit organizations (NGOs) and foundations, which fall under its own area of responsibility.
Editor: Michael Cole