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Isamaa leader rejects Interior Minister border costs unanimity claims

Pro Patria chairman Helir-Valdor Seeder.
Pro Patria chairman Helir-Valdor Seeder. Source: (Siim Lõvi/ERR)

Isamaa/Res Publica leader Helir-Valdor Seeder has said that, contrary to proposals by Minister of the Interior Andres Anvelt (SDE), the coalition government is not of one mind when it comes to financing Estonia's eastern border to the tune of €320 million.

''There has been no agreement within the coalition that such a large amount is to be raised by 2026,'' Mr. Seeder stated, repeating doubts he had already raised about the efficacy of having such an expensive border. The most recent estimate of €320 million is nearly four times the original figure.

''We can only rely on what we agreed in the Spring, namely €90 million for the next four years,'' Seeder went on, referring to the original figure.

He further explained that the funding for 2018 and 2019 is secured on the basis of the Ministry of the Interior's own requests, and it would be prudent to use this time to consider how to make up the shortfall in money or rethink how the border work will go ahead.

''I'm at a loss as to why a political decision on the issue is not being made mid-summer; it's not wise,'' he went on.

Is €320 million simply to high a figure?

When asked about actual numbers, Seeder said that it was oversimplifying things to talk around the figure of €320 million – certainly the cost of the border developments could be set even higher than that.

''We have to find the optimum solution and work around it that way in consultation with expert advice,'' he stated.

''Whether €320 million is too high I don't know, but it's certainly significantly more than €80 or €90 million. It would be hard enough to negotiate an extra €10 million from state coffers, leave alone tens of millions,'' he went on.

Holistic view of security

According to Mr. Seeder Estonian security discussions should not revolve solely around the eastern border, but the bigger picture needs to be viewed.

''The whole picture is always under consideration when it comes to state budget strategy, where there are a variety of different areas and needs on the table and from which a viable solution derives. Then it will become clear whether €320 million is realistic, or whether, say €250 million is a better figure and should be granted come what may,'' he went on.

The Cabinet is due to discuss the topic on Thursday: "As for the financial sources of the construction of the border, this is to be decided by the cabinet on Thursday, not by me" said Seeder.

EU funding option

Mr. Seeder added furthermore that Prime Minister Jüri Ratas, Minister of the Interior Andres Anvelt and Social Democratic Party (SDE) leader Jevgeni Ossinovski have all also stated that funding should be requested from the EU.

"We know that more attention will be paid to the border issue in the next budgetery period, and more money will be allocated," Mr. Seeder continued.

Andres Anvelt told ERR on Tuesday that the coalition government had come to a common understanding that the €320 million figure for the eastern border project was the basis on which they should contiune, and confirmed that both Isamaa/Respublica and SDE were on board.

Isamaa/Respublica and SDE together make up the junior partners of the governmental coalition, with the Centre Party of Prime Minister Jüri Ratas constituting the larger part of the coalition.

Editor: Andrew Whyte

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