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Opposition: 2024 Estonian state budget 'worst of the century'

2024 state budget bill document - this is in fact the accompanying explanatory memorandum.
2024 state budget bill document - this is in fact the accompanying explanatory memorandum. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

Opposition leaders have called the 2024 state budget, which passed at the Riigikogu on Friday, the worst state budget of this century.

The opposition tried all options to prevent the adoption of the state budget, even during the final vote, which was interrupted by an effort to call time on the Riigikogu session before the state budget bill could be voted on.

But ultimately it passed.

Andrei Korobeinik, Center's deputy Riigikogu whip, told ETV news show "Aktuaalne kaamera" (AK) that: "This is historically speaking at the very least the worst budget of this century, and for us it is actually a very sad event."

Andrei Korobeinik. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

"This state budget should have been aimed at economic growth; kick-starting the economy. Instead, we are deepening the crisis, we are not building anything," Korobeinik went on.

The Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) chair, Martin Helme, said that while the state budget had been railroaded through the legislature, by tying it to a motion of confidence in the government (so MPs were voting on this, rather than the substance of the bill), the ball is now in President Alar Karis' court.

The president has to sign into effect all laws passed at the Riigikogu, while, Helme said, some other bills relating to the state budget have not yet passed at the Riigikogu, meaning the cart got ahead of the horse.

Helme said: "Now if we follow this line, the president is in a situation whereby he should not promulgate the state budget before all the legislation related to that state budget have also been approved."

Martin Helme. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

"Currently, one law related to the state budget has not been promulgated, so the so-called knocking of the state budget in this hall has not actually moved the process forward," said EKRE chairman Martin Helme

Minister of Finance Mart Võrklaev meanwhile noted that he had several days ago addressed a communique to all government ministers stating that the state budget bill would likely pass this week despite the EKRE filibuster which had contributed to the 745 amendments put forward to the bill between its first reading in October, and the present.

The minister added that the next focus should be thre preparation of investments, procurements and other areas relating to the implementation of the 2024 state budget, "so that we start doing everything to ensure that this money reaches our economy quickly."

President Karis this week declined to give his assent to a bill which passed in a manner, he finds, which was in breach of parliamentary procedure, and therefore unconstitutional

The law in question governs the rules for electronic delivery and receipt of documents in tax proceedings.

The head of state said that the ongoing Riigikogu filibuster, which began in early summer and continued after the Riigikogu came back from its summer recess, in mid-September, does not grant the government the right to continue tying all bills to confidence votes.

He said: "In this situation, tying the bill to a vote of confidence takes on a different meaning than that for which section 98 of the Constitution provides. Instead of attempting to convince MPs to back a piece of legislation, it is being used to overcome a procedural hurdle created by a single party," referring to EKRE.

Senior coalition partner the Reform Party said that there had been no issues with the law in question, so it will likely return to the president unamended.

It will then by up to the head of state whether to promulgate it at the second attempt, or to decline to do so and take the matter to the Supreme Court.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Barbara Oja

Source: 'Aktuaalne kaamera,' reporter Kadri Põlendik.

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