EKRE danger to society, Centre danger to economy, says former premier

Andrus Ansip (Reform) on Friday's Otse uudistemajast broadcast.
Andrus Ansip (Reform) on Friday's Otse uudistemajast broadcast. Source: Anna Aurelia Minev/ERR

EU commissioner and former prime minister Andrus Ansip (Reform) was in the ERR news house on Friday, appearing in current affairs interview show Otse uudistemajast, speaking on his views on EKRE's divisiveness in society, and mishandling of the economy under Jüri Ratas' prime ministership.

With regard to the current coalition negotiations, and the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE), Mr Ansip said that that party's activities are principally aimed at deliberately and consciously disrupting society in order to pick up support from disaffected elements in society, rather than a desire to improve life in Estonia.

As examples, he noted the deliberate insults directed at doctors involved in abortion, and remarks about judges' heads rolling.

An independent judiciary is one of EKRE's central policy planks.

Mr Ansip also commented on recent statements made by EKRE's Martin Helme regarding public broadcaster ERR, noting that two possible outcomes could come from his charge that the broadcaster is biased and that journalists should be removed drom the airwaves or punished.

The first result would see a self-fulfilling prophecy whereby journalists respond in kind to those who attack them, to the extent that they lose credibility. The second would be self-censorship, in an effort to avoid such attacks and those on journalists' family members or associates.

Both are dangerous tendencies, which can be seen in an ongoing battle between US President Donald Trump, and news channel CNN.

To this extent, EKRE's statements are not any different from those of Russia Today or Sputnik, funded and/or operated by the Russian government, Mr Ansip said, adding that perpetually drawing attention to what is bad in a country brings a dangerous tendency for people to feel that nothing good ever happens.

Of the coalition negotiations, Mr Ansip said that if people had previously known that Jüri Ratas was being dishonest when he said he would not enter into coalition with EKRE, he and Centre would not have received as many votes in the general election.

Economic malaise would not have happened on his watch

Centre got 26 votes at the election, the Reform Party, 34.

Mr Ansip also added that if he had been at the Reform Party's helm, and not current leader Kaja Kallas, the party would still be in office and would not have fallen into opposition. Reform saw itself ousted in November 2016 after a vote of no-confidence in then-prime minister Taavi Rõivas, being replaced by Centre. Although Reform won the highest number of votes at the 3 March election under Kaja Kallas, it required suitable coalition partners, which have been found wanting.

He also noted that Estonia had fallen to the bottom end of the European table when it came to public debt, noting that whereas when he was prime minister he already had the measure of Estonia's financial outlook for the year by February, for Mr Ratas surprisingy seemed unaware ahead of the election that Estonia's budget had fallen into defecit both structurally and nominally.

''The position of the European Commission is unequivocal in saying that budget should be cut this year,'' said Mr Ansip, noting that no political party currently has access to the funds needed to enforce its electoral promises, since Mr Ratas' administration has created such a deep-seated deficit.

''There is insufficient money for anyone to honour their election promises, nor can the Reform Party hand people €500," he noted, referring to a central Reform theme of a monthly tax-free allowance of that amount, for all. Mr Ansip stated that Reform could not now instigate that policy, as a result of Centre's less than two-and-a-half years in office.

Mr Ansip is running in Reform's number one candidate spot in May's European Parliament elections.

The original broadcast (in Estonian) is here.

Editor: Andrew Whyte

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