New coalition ready to lead Estonia

The Baltic Times
Joel Alas, TALLINN

Estonian Prime Minister Andrus Ansip made history on April 4 when he became the first leader to survive an election as Parliament officially voted him back into office.

A coalition agreement saw Ansip”s Reform Party join with IRL and the Social Democrats, forming an economicallyliberal, politicallyconservative government balanced by a soft left minority.

The Estonian Greens, who fell out of coalition talks, predicted an early end for the government because of Reform”s dominating style.

Reform managed to bag most of the key cabinet positions, including the foreign minister”s post, which had been contested by IRL leader Mart Laar. Instead Laar, a former prime minister, has decided to lead his party from outside the cabinet, opting for no ministerial position rather than a lowly one.

Another former prime minister, IRL”s Juhan Parts, will return to a senior position, taking the post of minister of economic affairs and communications, which was vacated by Center Party leader Edgar Savisaar.

Former Tartu University rector Jaak Aaviksoo will become the new minister of defense, while former Tartu mayor and choir leader Laine Janes will be the new culture minister.

Foreign Minister Urmas Paet and Justice Minister Rein Lang retained their positions, while former deputy parliamentary speaker Ene Ergma shifted up to become speaker of the house.

In the opposition camp, the Center Party nominated Juri Ratas to become deputy speaker, a cushy role to compensate for being bumped from the post of mayor of Tallinn to make way for Savisaar.

Ansip said he hoped the new coalition would survive its full four year term, a feat not yet accomplished by any Estonian government.

“We know, for example, that it took 70 years in Finland for a government to last through the electoral period. I hope it won”t take that much time in Estonia,” Ansip said.

He said the parties would hold together if they made decisions by consensus.

Greens leader Marek Strandberg said Reform”s lack of desire to cede positions during negotiations made it unlikely the government would survive.

“If this coalition is to work with the same mindset, then the lifespan will be very short,” Strandberg told The Baltic Times.

“If simple decisions about matters such as Cabinet positions cannot be made with choice, then there is no future for this coalition. The road to a nonworking coalition is to neglect free will within,” he said.

The coalition agreement contains some interesting goals, including reducing the HIV infection rate to European norms, substantially boosting parent payments and birth schemes, and renaming the Tallinn Airport after former president Lennart Meri.

In economic matters, the government has pledged to make the transition to a euro economy a “priority,” but gave no indication of how it would achieve the necessary inflationary slowdown.

In answer to international business concerns, the government said it would “speed up” the application process for work permits.

It pledged to push ahead with its flat tax drop to 18 percent by 2011, as well as to increase the taxfree threshold to 3,000 kroons.

Despite dropping out of coalition talks, the Greens managed to push several key suggestions into the resulting coalition agreement.

Among them was the establishment of an alternative stock exchange for entrepreneurs that allows a company to float itself with 1 million kroons in assets, rather than the 1 million euro level required by the current Tallinn Stock Exchange.

The Greens also scored an agreement to make hospital fees costbased and a push to introduce “health contracts” that promise individuals benefits in exchange for exercise.

In addition, 400 million kroons will be allocated to providing kindergarten places for every child, while parent payments will be increased to encourage families to expand.


Estonia”s new government

Prime Minister – Andrus Ansip (Reform)

Foreign Minister – Urmas Paet (Reform)

Economic Affairs and Communications Minister –

Juhan Parts (IRL)

Defense Minister –

Jaak Aaviksoo (IRL)

Justice Minister – Rein Lang (Reform)

Social Affairs Minister –

Maret Maripuu (Reform)

Finance Minister – Ivari Padar (SDE)

Interior Minister – Juri Pihl (SDE)

Agriculture Minister –

Helir-Valdor Seeder (IRL)

Public Administration Minister – Vallo Reimaa (IRL)

Culture Minister – Laine Janes (Reform)

Environment Minister –

Jaanus Tamkivi (Reform)

Speaker of Parliament – Ene Ergma (IRL)

Deputy Speaker of Parliament – Kristiina Ojuland (Reform)

2nd Deputy Speaker of Parliament – Juri Ratas (Center)