Sildam: What will Pro Patria do after losing the migration compact battle?

Journalist Toomas Sildam.
Journalist Toomas Sildam. Source: Sander Koit/ERR

Pro Patria's opposition to the UN Global Compact for Migration will not prevent Estonia from joining it, leaving the party as a member of the ruling coalition with a choice — to either swallow the loss, or issue a no-confidence motion against Social Democratic Minister of Foreign Affairs Sven Mikser and resign from the government, writes journalist Toomas Sildam.

Not one political party in Estonia supports mass immigration. That is a fact. There is not a single party here either that wants to open Estonia's borders to millions or hundreds of thousands of refugees. Likewise fact. And yet the UN migration compact, a global oganisation's attempt to agree on universal principles for migration, divided not only Estonian society, but also Jüri Ratas' government.

And we haven't seen the trenches dug between the ruling parties grow over. Pro Patria still believes that the migration compact is a Trojan horse and is keeping its hooves to the fire ahead of the Riigikogu elections, but the Social Democrats together with the Centre Party see no danger in a declaratory document that does not affect Estonia's domestic legal area.

Pro Patria politician Kalle Muuli recently said that should the Social Democratic Minister of Foreign Affairs Sven Mikser give the Estonian Ambassador to the UN the order to vote in favour of joining the migration compact at the UN General Assembly on 19 December, then Mikser's place is no longer in the government. Why? Because the government has not made a "yes" decision.

Muuli is right. The government really has failed to decide this matter, because Prime Minister Ratas hasn't wanted to put it to a vote. If he had, the government would have supported the migration compact 10-5. But Estonia is not Belgium, where, at a vote on the same issue, Prime Minister Charles Michel allowed the party opposed to the migration compact to leave the government because he had considered the entire issue to be the key to his cabinet's credibility and trustworthiness.

But Muuli's belief that Foreign Minister Mikser should be removed from office is the same type of ultimatum as issued by the leadership of the Social Democratic Party (SDE) to the prime minister a month ago, demanding the resignation of Minister of Justice Urmas Reinsalu, one of Pro Patria's top politicians. The resulting government crisis smouldered at length, until it fizzled out. Or so it seemed.

Pro Patria scores at least one point

True, Pro Patria is in a difficult position. Its vocal opposition to the migration compact has not increased — at least initially — voter support, but it did increase their self-confidence and strengthen them internally. But Pro Patria cannot show off a victory, which could only be Estonia's leaving from among the supporters of the migration compact.

They did nonetheless score one tiny point when Estonia's chair was left empty at the UN migration conference in Marrakesh because President Kersti Kaljulaid forwent taking the trip, as did Foreign Minister Mikser, in the interest of maintaining the peace in the government. But he is the one who has promised that Estonia will announce its support for the migration compact at the UN General Assembly.

Thus, Pro Patria actually still ends up the loser after all — they are in the government, but they are incapable of influencing the government's actions regarding the migration compact. They don't even have protests with jarring posters and slogans to show for themselves like the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) does ahead of the elections.

Thus far, Kalle Muuli's wish to see Mikser resign as foreign minister is not the official position of Pro Patria, but rather the personal opinion of one politician. Although this politician is ranked third in the Harju and Rapla Counties electoral district in Pro Patria's candidate list for the Riigikogu election, following Minister of Defence Jüri Luik and Minister of Finance Toomas Tõniste.

Two options

What can Pro Patria even do?

First of all, accept the situation and focus on other topics in their election campaign, whether making the II pension pillar voluntary, tax peace or increasing defence spending to 2.5% of the GDP. All issues worth discussing.

Second, they can join forces with EKRE, who is apparently going to attempt a motion of no confidence against Foreign Minister Mikser but is having trouble finding the 21 MP signatures necessary for it. It is unlikely that a no-confidence vote against Mikser will be successful in the Riigikogu, but going along with it would mean leaving the government coalition, a minority Centre-SDE government for a few months, and the wearing thinner of Ratas' reputation as the glue holding the government together.

But that would also mean Pro Patria giving up its Ministers of Justice, Defence, Finance, the Environment and Social Affairs portfolios and the visibility that comes with them. I doubt they really want to do that 76 days ahead of the elections.


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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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