Seeder hopes to pass family benefits bill again next week

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Helir-Valdor Seeder (Isamaa).
Helir-Valdor Seeder (Isamaa).

Chairman of the coalition Isamaa party Helir-Valdor Seeder said he hopes to pass the law to hike benefits for large families again next week so the changes could still enter into force from January.

"We are prepared to amend that provision," Seeder said first thing.

The Isamaa leader said that the controversial sentence treating with the relationship of the large families benefit and child support payments was added following the initiative of the Reform Party and needs to be discussed again with coalition partners.

Seeder suggested it could be possible to pass the law, which President Alar Karis refused to promulgate on Thursday, as early as next week as the Riigikogu will be convening for an extraordinary session anyway.

"I do not see it causing major problems or tensions in the parliament as all five parties backed the bill and are interested in bringing it into effect from January 1," Seeder said.

Läänemets: Parts discriminating against first and second children need to be removed

Head of the Social Democratic Party (SDE) Lauri Läänemets said at the government press conference on Thursday that his party has been critical of parts of the bill that it deems discriminatory.

"I believe we need to return to the drawing board post haste. The bill needs to be opened and all parts discriminating against and deprioritizing first and second children taken out," Läänemets remarked.

Minister of the Interior Lauri Läänemets (SDE). Source: Siim Lõvi/ERR

The SDE leader said that sums earmarked for the instrument make it possible to also hike first and second child benefits. "I hope that we can discuss this matter with our partners in the coalition before or immediately after Christmas and take out the parts that are discriminative," he offered.

"Naturally, the law cannot come up for a new vote in the Riigikogu with indexation only for large families. Without first and second children, there are no third or fourth children," he added.

Kallas: Government has not had time to discuss matter yet

Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) said that the president's decision became known during the government's Thursday sitting and it has not found time to discuss the matter yet.

The cabinet has also not discussed the Social Democrats' proposals. "This would surely postpone the law entering into force, as well as everything we've agreed in the coalition. These agreements will be hard-won, especially in a situation where we've just passed the budget."

Martin Helme: President has no political veto right

Martin Helme, chairman of the opposition Conservative People's Party (EKRE) that also backs the family benefits hike, wrote on social media (link in Estonian) that Karis' decision not to promulgate the law reveals him as the Reform Party's president.

In the post, he describes the president's reason not to proclaim the law as nonsense and suggests Karis has exceeded his authority since the Estonian president has no right to veto legislation following political considerations.

"I am in my second Riigikogu, and I can assure you that we regularly pass laws that includes page upon page of sentences no normal person can comprehend and which any lawyer worth their salt can interpret in seven different ways," Helme writes.

"By refusing to proclaim the family benefits hike, Karis has revealed himself to be Reform's president and enabled Kaja Kallas to continue her crusade against children, large families and Estonia's birthrate. Of course, the game is being played on an especially cynical level where Reform get to pretend they did nothing."

EKRE have suggested Reform are still against the bill and looking to sink it.

"Should the Reform Party form the next government, they will not agree to back a family benefits hike in the next coalition and will have successfully foiled the initiative. Therefore, we must make sure Reform do not get to form the next government," Helme writes, taking the debate to the March Riigikogu elections level.

Martin Helme. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

The article was updated to add comments of Prime Minister Kaja Kallas.


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Editor: Barbara Oja, Kaupo Meiel, Marcus Turovski

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