Coalition marks 100 days in government, Ratas promising 1,306 more
Speaking at Thursday's government press conference, which also marked the current government coalition's 100th day in office, Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Centre) said that differences among the coalition Centre Party, Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) and Isamaa are several times smaller than the media shows the public, and promised that the coalition would remain together through the next Riigikogu elections — in another 1,306 days.
"There are 1,306 days to go until the next regular elections," Ratas, also chairman of the Centre Party, said at the press conference early Thursday afternoon. "A lot of opinions have been expressed that a new coalition should be formed that should exclude EKRE. But how can one say that a party is fit for the Riigikogu but not for the government?"
According to Ratas, one of his wishes is that not one political party with popular support is forcefully pushed aside. Nonetheless, he admitted that EKRE's rise from opposition to coalition has been a complicated one, recalling that he himself previously spent ten years in the opposition as a Centre Party member.
"The government will continue working," the prime minister said. "This coalition possesses a willingness to cooperate on work-related negotiations. Our government has both a vision and the desire to cooperate to ensure the best present, future and reputation for Estonia."
Ratas also highlighted the government's accomplishments during its first 100 days in office.
"For example, we have decided to launch a nationwide digital registration system [for medical appointments], electrify the railway and increase the number of electric trains, contribute more seriously to the prevention of domestic violence, and done much more," he listed. "At the same time, we took on a whole slew of issues, the resolution of which will require extensive overhauls as well as large-scale investments. Among these are pensions, state spending and, for example, climate."
Progress will also be made this month on the matter of making the currently mandatory second pension pillar voluntary.
Regarding criticism that he constantly has to apologize for statements made by EKRE ministers in his government, Ratas said, "If a politician expresses their opinion, then you can't call that an apology. People express their position and values in order to defend the political values of their party."
Ratas added that he has received a lot of positive feedback regarding Estonia this summer, including from abroad.
Helme: Reform, media should apologize
Leading EKRE politician and Minister of Finance Mart Helme, in turn, praised Ratas: "Jüri is an excellent team player and an excellent leader."
The government, however, was not given 100 criticism-free days in office, he continued.
"It's as though we've been living in two completely different worlds," Helme said at the press conference. "How the government actually works among itself and the image you see in the media — these are two completely different things altogether. Sometimes it's sad to see and difficult to explain to voters not to believe what you are reading and hearing about the government being on the verge of a breakup."
Helme admitted that neither teachers nor first responders can expect any major raises during the coming year, but added that this is the direction in which things are moving in the longer term. "It's a question of timeframe," he explained. "For example, it takes half a year for a bill to be drawn up; this is a normal tempo. We are on course to fulfill our promises. These promises will be fulfilled by the next elections."
Regarding apologies, Helme said that it is the opposition Reform Party and part of the media that should be doing the apologizing.
"It has been terrible to watch the hysteria that has been stirred up by the opposition," the EKRE deputy chairman said. "They owe the public an apology for this kind of hysteria. The media too, which has built up a meaningless narrative. We have three parties in the government, and cooperation demands effort."
Reinsalu: First 100 days earn A-
Minister of Foreign Affairs Urmas Reinsalu, a member of Isamaa, gave the government coalition's first 100 days in office an A-.
"Some tweets could have been left untweeted," he said, referring to statements made by EKRE politicians.
According to Reinsalu, despite the state's poor financial situation, they have manged to improve it, and without raising any taxes besides.
The Isamaa minister likewise reprimanded the media for denouncing high alcohol excise duties years ago and now doing the same after the duty rate was reduced last month.
Jüri Ratas' second government was sworn into office on April 29.
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Editor: Aili Vahtla