Party financing body recommends Estonian Greens file for bankruptcy

Green Party candidates and party members at election night in March.
Green Party candidates and party members at election night in March. Source: Siim Lõvi/Anna Aurelia Minev/ERR

The Supervisory Committee on Party Financing (ERJK) has recommended that the Estonian Green Party file for bankruptcy instead of paying fines the ERJK has already issued, ERR's online news in Estonian reports.

The party has been in the red since 2010, and in October last year, the ERJK issued the party with a precept ordering it to repay its long-term debts to creditors, on the grounds they are considered prohibited donations. The Greens challenged the injunction in court, but the latter upheld the ERJK's decision in late June.

"Since the Greens did not challenge the administrative court's decision within the prescribed 30 days, the judgment has become final, and the party has a duty to comply. If it does not, the commission is entitled to impose a penalty payment of €500," ERJK chair Liisa Oviir (SDE) wrote to the party's chair.

The €500 fine is the least of the party's worries, however, Oviir said, noting that in the course of the pre-injunction process, it advised the party to boost its finances by collecting all due membership fees, and asked it to draw up a financial plan based on its activities. This has been to no avail, however, it is reported.

"While the party was in a poor financial state at the time of the injunction, with net assets in the red to the tune of €21,000, as of the end of the first half of 2019 the situation was much worse, at debts of €46,000, accrued since 2010," Oviir noted.

This illustrates the party is not financially viable, as things stand, Oviir continued.

The law concerning political parties requires political parties to comply with financial discipline act responsibly in accordance with the Non-profit Associations Act 1996.

The committee has previously directed on, and once again draws the attention of the board of directors to, the liability of the board provided for in §32 of the act, including due diligence, and the obligation under §39 of the same act, to institute bankruptcy proceedings where the non-profit is insolvent."

Greens: We will liquidate over forthcoming year

Joonas Laks, Secretary-General of the Greens, told ERR that he had received the ERJK letter and that it would be discussed at the next party board meeting, which will take place on Tuesday or Wednesday of next week. Laks added that this is not the first time that the ERJK has argued that the financial position of the Estonian Greens is unsustainable.

"Following the June ruling at the Administrative Court, we decided not to argue any further, and to liquidate our obligations. We are currently working on a timeline for liquidating our debts, and are looking for supporters."

When asked whether this would be a case of weeks or months, Laks replied that the party would be able to liquidate its debts over the perspective of the next year.

While in many European countries, the Greens perform well – former MEP Indrek Tarand sat with the European Greens party grouping at the European Parliament for 10 years – in Estonia the party polled only 1.8 percent at the March 3 general election (a minimum of 5 percent is required for parties to gain Riigikogu seats).

As of Sept. 4, the Estonian Greens had 940 members, it is reported.

The party actually held six Riigikogu seats, 2007-2011, with the decline at the 2011 elections, where it polled at just under 4 percent, and the 2015 elections, where it polled less than 1 percent, being slightly reversed following the appointment of Züleyxa "Zuzu" Izmailova as party chair in 2017.

Former first lady Evelin Ilves ran for the party at the May European elections, with socialite Anu Saagim doing the same at the general election this year. One of the party's leading long-term activists, Peep Mardiste, has worked as an advisor for several European environmental organizations for several years.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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