VEB compensation bill halted until after the election

Prime Minister Jüri Ratas has said the VEB Fund question is done and dusted for the rest of the current Riigikogu's existence.
Prime Minister Jüri Ratas has said the VEB Fund question is done and dusted for the rest of the current Riigikogu's existence. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

The present Riigikogu will go no further in compensating VEB Fund certificate holders, it has been announced after a coalition meeting on Monday afternoon, bringing to a swift end what was effectively a governmental split on the issue.

Compensation from the fund, to those who had had assets freezed in the former VEB Bank around the time Estonia restored its independence, was still expected by five businesses and individuals, to a total amount of €15 million.

A bill, proposed by Jaanus Karilaid (Centre) aimed at restoring funds to those concerned, but a recent raising of the issue met with dissent from the two junior coalition partners, Isamaa and the Social Democratic Party (SDE). SDE leader Jevgeni Ossinovski said the issue should have been shelved till after the March election, it was agreed, and that Mr Karilaid was using it for political gain and in contravention of the agreement.

''As to the question whether the current Riigikogu is going to adopt the draft law, the answer is no, it has decided not to,'' said Prime Minister and Centre Party Chair Jüri Ratas.

Deferred to the XIV Riigikogu

Mr Ratas said that this was the overall position of the government: ''in the current situation, the coalition saw no opportunity to make a final decision in the Riigikogu,'' he said.

The bill would have needed to be voted into law, something which will not happen with this, the XIII Riigikogu, instead being deferred to the XIV Riigikogu after the March election.

''We certainly support the idea that clarification is needed and the just thing has to be done, but this is only possible if there is a broad degree of support. That is not the case in the current coalition,'' Mr Ratas said.

Isamaa and SDE were broadly united on this question; Justice minister Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa) had also voiced his opposition.

Further criticism came from Reform, the largest opposition party. Jürgen Ligi, Reform Chair, told business daily Äripäev that his party opposed the bill on the grounds that many of the VEB Fund certificate holders had been traded on the cheap.

''As far as I know, [businessman and former prime minister] Tiit Vähi bought his VEB certificate,'' said Mr Ligi, noting rumours that Mr Vähi had picked one up for Silmet, his rare-earth processing company in Ida-Viru County.

Mr Vähi in turn said to Äripäev that Mr Ligi was lying, and he ''had not bought or sold a single VEB certificate from any 'shopkeeper' ''.

A previous coalition split occurred in November on the issue of the adoption of the UN Global Compact on Migration, with Isamaa opposed and SDE in favour. With the election less than three weeks away, this is another question for the XIV Riigikogu.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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