Jüri Luik, who was appointed Minister of Defence by the coalition Pro Patria and Res Publica Union (IRL), acknowledged that the Center Party has changed, however it should rescind its cooperation protocol with United Russia, Russia's ruling political party.
"I believe this agreement should be revoked," Luik said in an interview with daily Postimees (link in Estonian). "Or broken off, let's say. This would be the simplest solution."
Luik acknowledged, however, that the Center Party has changed a great deal.
"If we consider [Prime Minister and Center Party chairman] Jüri Ratas' activity even just in international relations — his meetings with [French President] Emmanuel Macron, [Chancellor of Germany] Angela Merkel — then I believe that a Western direction is pretty clearly set in stone," he said.
The new Minister of Defence, who was appointed to his position two weeks ago, said that he is not a typical internal politician. "I never have been, and internal policy, in all its multifacetedness, has never fascinated me," he admitted. "I have focused more on international and defense policy. The advantage of these fields is that there prevails a fairly large, almost universal consensus [regarding them] in Estonia. Then you feel the most that you are driving the state of affairs — that this isn't possible to separate into some kind of individual, partisan topics."
Former Commander of the Estonian Defence Forces and current MP Ants Laaneots (Reform) stated last November, when the Center Party came to power, that the party's cooperation protocol with United Russia posed a security risk for Estonia.
Center Party defends agreement
“The form of the agreement doesn't count, or whether it is frozen or not — what matters is that it is signed and valid," Laaneots said. "I really don’t understand why they are holding on to it. As long as there's a valid agreement between the Center Party and United Russia, there is not a single paper by a leftist government that could convince the Estonian people that their security is guaranteed."
Prime Minister Jüri Ratas, ahead of his appointment as Estonia's head of government in November, had said about the cooperation protocol that "it isn’t happening; it’s frozen."
Center Party Deputy Chairman and Minister of Education and Research Mailis Reps said on the ETV program "Kahekõne" in December that the party's cooperation protocol with United Russia is of symbolic significance for Estonia's Russian-speaking population and the party does not dare revoke it.
Editor: Aili Vahtla