Books on Estonia
Update No: 316 - (26/04/07)
The fractured polity
Those who keep informed about Estonian affairs are aware that its political
scene is fractured into many small parties. This entails coalition government.
There have been almost as many governments as there have been years of
They have all had much the same reformist policies, albeit former premier Mart
Laar had the distinction of introducing the flat tax that has taken on
Laissez-faire and free markets are the guide-lines in an open commercial
context, although one trammelled now by EU restrictions. The decision to enter
the EU was largely a political one, to make independence from Russia utterly
New coalition government forms
Estonian Prime Minister Andrus Ansip made history, however, 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 economically-liberal,
politically-conservative 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
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
defence, while former Tartu mayor and choir leader Laine Janes will be the new
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 Centre 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, however, 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 non-working 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, the great man of Estonian politics, who died recently.
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 slow-down.
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 tax-free 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
The Greens also scored an agreement to make hospital fees cost-based 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)
Defence 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 (Centre)
Estonia police bans rally in protection of Soldier monument
As sign of Estonia's robust independence, the Ansip government is to
dismantle a Soviet-era war monument.
The Estonian police banned the rally "For tolerance and dialogue" (set
for April 22nd} in the protection of the Liberator Soldier monument. Members of
the voluntary movement "Night Watch" suggested staging it near the
Clock of Freedom opposite the Tallinn Townhall and called on all supporters for
preserving the monument to lay flowers at its pedestal.
"We want to persuade the authorities not to put up fencing around the
monument on May 9 so that all who wish, could lay flowers at the monument on the
V-Day," Night Watch activist Dmitry Klensky said in an interview with
The police press service reported that the ban on a rally was imposed in
connection with an idea that "such actions represent a threat to public law
and order". Besides, organizers ostensibly violated deadlines of sending
applications to the town hall on staging mass events.
On April 25, the common grave of Soviet soldiers near the monument will be
opened, since the authorities decided to shift their remains to a military
cemetery. Then, it is planned to dismantle the monument to the Liberator
Soldier, which Estonian premier Andrus Ansip called "a symbol of Soviet
The essence of the problem is that the Russian army that 'liberated' Estonia in
WWII only exchanged Nazi control from Berlin for Communist control from Moscow.
There was no species of freedom, quite the contrary. Estonians both under the
Nazis and the Communists, had helot status and unsurprisingly do not regard the
Soviet occupation as anything other than what it was - a brutal foreign
occupation. However during the communist years the Soviets drafted into the
Estonian workforce large numbers of Russians and other slavs, who found
themselves marooned there on the independence of Estonia - many of these are now
Estonian citizens. Obviously they have a different feeling for the dead soldiers
commemorated in the monuments and military graves at the centre of this
"Liberator Soldier" dispute.
President Ilves calls to boost ties with EU, NATO
Estonian President, Toomas Hendrik Ilves, again voiced his will recently to
cement ties with the 27 member EU bloc and NATO, HS reported.
"A small country can seek to get closer into the core of the EU, and NATO
as well," Ilves said in the Presidential Palace in Tallinn before his visit
to Finland. Ilves' was calling for Estonia, a country of just 1.4 million
inhabitants to have a say in international affairs, and also at times influence
decisions connected with its larger neighbour Russia, it was reported.
Before Estonia joined NATO, Russia made stronger threats of deteriorating
relations than Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed to Finland over the
same matter. Ilves and his wife Evelin Ilves were scheduled to arrive in Finland
on March 21st for an official state visit. Joining them was a delegation of
about 50 business representatives, journalists and Defence Forces Commander Ants
Laaneots. The guests were to sail on the Pitka, a military vessel.
Pitka is named after Johan Pitka, former commander of the Estonian Navy. He fled
to Finland in 1940 and proposed to President Risto Ryti that the two countries
form a federation, with a common head of state and a common defence forces
commander. As members of the EU, Estonia and Finland are linked closer together
than ever before. The traditional good relations between Estonia and Finland can
also be seen in the personal life of Ilves. Ilves is a supporter of a broader,
and a more closely-knit European Union, it was reported. Although the model of a
large and strong EU does not seem very realistic, Ilves refuses to make any
dividing lines within the EU. The Estonian president is worried at the prospect
that the constitutional treaty for the EU might not be ratified, HS reported.
A proposal for closer cooperation of the Eurozone countries was also attractive
to Ilves, it was reported. If a common taxation and social policy were possible,
the next step would be a common foreign policy. President Ilves wants the new
government that is to be formed in Estonia to take measures to fight overheating
of the economy. Inflation, spurred by rapid economic growth, has been Estonia's
stumbling block in meeting the criteria of the Eurozone.