Parties looking to sign new coalition agreement by next Monday
The Reform Party, Eesti 200 and the Social Democratic Party (SDE) are aiming to sign the new coalition agreement by next Monday. Prior to the signing, the agreement has to be approved by the three respective party councils. However, the negotiators say, that it is now time to discuss the most difficult issues.
"We have come to the most difficult issues and so will (now) discuss those things we disagree on. We are also looking at the financial situation and how the coalition will be able to govern the country," said Eesti 200 Chair Lauri Hussar.
Chief whip of the Reform Party's Riigikogu group Mart Võrklaev said, that the issues currently being discussed by the parties are those, which they have previously not been in agreement on. Tax-related issues in particular have proved to be a bone of contention between the parties in the recent past.
"This last week is traditionally the most difficult when it comes to coalition negotiations. A lot of work has to be done, but then at a certain point there is the surprise, that now there is an agreement. It often takes some time and then everything happens quite suddenly. Let's hope that will be the case this time too," said Võrklaev.
Lauri Läänemets, Chair of the SDE, said, that his party has managed to get some important things into the agreement, while other issues still remain contentious.
"For us, regional policy is very important, as is the reduction of regional inequalities. And ultimately the reduction of wage inequality, that is, raising the minimum wage," Läänemets said.
One of the topics being discussed during the talks on Monday was the revenue base for municipalities. In Lauri Hussar's view, everyone has made compromises, and the parties are also discussing issues, which are currently very topical in Estonian society.
"These include the survival of small rural schools and how they can continue their activities. Here we have a lot of common ground and are moving towards a solution," said Hussar.
No agreement has yet been reached on the distribution of ministerial portfolios or other posts.
"We have generally agreed that there will not be equal distribution of ministerial posts in this government. It will be more in proportion with the election results and so we will try to put the team together on that basis," Hussar said.
Whether the new government has fewer or more ministers than the outgoing one has still not been decided. One possible option is, that the total number of ministers stays the same as before, though their areas of responsibility might change.
"There will be changes to the work of the ministries. (The changes) concern climate issues, about regional development and the whole IT side of things," said Lauri Läänemets.
The coalition negotiators outlines, that both the new agreement and the distribution of seats in the Riigikogu should become clear by next Monday. After that, the new Riigikogu will convene for the first time. Läänemets said, that who assumes the posts of Riigikogu Speaker and deputy speakers will be part of the coalition agreement.
"We need to get the coalition agreement ready by this weekend. If necessary, we will sit down over the holidays, cook eggs and talk further," Läänemets added.
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Editor: Michael Cole