Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Center) said on Thursday that, should there be a need for it, the Ministry of Finance is prepared to allocate an additional €10 million for defense investments, and thus there is no basis for speaking about cutting back on defense expenses in the same amount.
"The government has made a protocol decision according to which the Ministry of Finance, if needed, will in 2018 allocate €10 million to the Ministry of Defence from the Finance Ministry's reserve of intended use assets to cover expenses foreseen in the defense investment program," Ratas said.
The Estonian head of government said that talk of €10 million going missing from somewhere in the defense budget did not hold true. "The government coalition has clearly stated that we wish to invest an additional €60 million in the defense field," he noted.
Should the defense minister say that procurements concerning nationaldefense have progressed faster, then nothing would be delayed due to money, he added.
Minister of Defence Jüri Luik said that he could not accept a siuation in which the defense budget was becoming an object of political disputes.
Commenting at a government press conference on the decision to earmark €10 million from the government's reserve for the purchase of ammunition, Luik said that he considered this a "reasonable compromise."
"If this kind of earmarking, this compromise helps to eliminate political gridlock, then I believe that it is a reasonable compromise," the minister said.
Luik noted that Estonia's defense budget for 2018 is over half a billion euros, making it the largest budget since the restoration of Estonia's independence in 1991. "To start saying [in this situation] that we have the smallest defense budget of all time this year — I personally do not understand it," he added.
Until now, he continued, a "cross-party approach" had been maintained in questions concerning national defense, but the defense budget has since become an object of political disputes.
"I think that [the defense budget] was not an object of political disputes when the budget was sent to the Riigikogu, but now it is becoming an object of political disputes," the minister commented. "This is unacceptable to me and the whole government."
Politicians of the ruling coalition have decided not to transfer back into the 2018 state budget the €10 million designated for the purchase of ammunition that was postponed in the defense investment program until 2019, and may book an equal amount of money in the government's contingency reserve to be able to pay for ammunition if a deal can be completed before 2019, the daily Eesti Päevaleht said.
"We are not going to change the budget to add to it expenditure items which likely will be carried over to 2019," Pro Patria and Res Publica Union (IRL) chairman Helir-Valdor Seeder said. "It is not possible to carry out procurements of ammunition in 2018 in such manner that the ammunition is delivered within the same year," SeederThere's no need to add €10 million to the budget; there won't be any need for it.There's not going to be any need for it," Seeder said.
Former defense ministers Margus Tsahkna and Hannes Hanso have been the most vocal opponents of the transfer of the €10 million to 2019.
Minister of Defence Jüri Luik, in turn, has argued that the money was moved to 2019 because the ammunition to be procured will not be delivered before then,
Editor: Aili Vahtla