Three Estonian parties sign coalition deal

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The Reform Party, the Social Democratic Party (SDE) and Pro Patria and Res Publica Union (IRL) on Wednesday signed an agreement to form a coalition government to govern Estonia during the four years until next elections.

The chairman of Reform, Taavi Roivas, said that instead of opting for an agreement on minimal common ground the three parties knowingly chose a more difficult path to reach a coalition deal. He said that hence the complexity of the negotiations served the interests of all the parties involved in the coalition and actually the interests of the entire Estonian state.

According to Roivas, the parties at first worded six main questions and searched answers to them. «There's no more room for wavering,» Roivas said. «From now on difficult decisions have to be made.»

The chairman of SDE, Sven Mikser, highlighted the need to achieve economic growth and carry out an administrative reform. Mikser said that in accordance with the coalition agreement, the prime minister will be responsible for administrative reform and a special ministrial post has been created for that purpose with the Ministry of Finance. «Now it's time to start working,» he said.

IRL leader Urmas Reinsalu started with a joke: «This coalition agreement has the face of IRL and there are also a couple of good ideas from partners.» He said that in order to improve the Estonian state the state reform and administrative reform must be carried out, the state made more cost effective for the taxpayer and transformed into a provider of better services.

«The negotiations were very tense, but there was no hesitation,» Reinsalu said. He said all the three parties used exhaust tactics in the negotiations but also made compromises.

According to the distribution of ministerial portfolios agreed by the parties, Reform will get seven of the 15 Cabinet jobs, or those of prime minister, foreign minister, minister of economic affairs and infrastructure, interior minister, minister of rural affairs, minister of education and research and minister of public governance.

SDE will get the Cabinet posts responsible for defense, foreign trade, culture, and health and labor, and IRL those responsible for justice, finance, environment and social protection.

The chairman of Reform, Taavi Roivas, will retain the post of prime minister, Hanno Pevkur that of interior minister and Keit Pentus-Rosimannus of minister of foreign affairs. The portfolio of education and research will go to Jurgen Ligi, former long-serving minister of finance, Kristen Michal is set to become minister of economic affairs and infrastructure, Urmas Kruuse, the so far minister of health and labor, will become minister of rural affairs, and Arto Aas minister of public governance.

SDE has picked the party's leader Sven Mikser for the position of minister of defense, which he occupied also in the outgoing Roivas government, Urve Palo, the outgoing minister for economic affairs and infrastructure, for minister of foreign trade, Indrek Saar for minister of culture and Rannar Vassiljev for minister of health and labor.

The board of IRL has decided that chairman of IRL Urmas Reinsalu will become minister of justice, vice chairman of the former Riigikogu's finance committee Sven Sester minister of finance, Marko Pomerants minister of environment and Margus Tsahkna, vice chairman of the former Riigikogu's social affairs committee, minister for social protection.

The coalition building negotiations that started in a four-party format on March 6 switched to a three-party format on March 21 when Roivas as the leader of the election winning party announced that Reform was dropping Free Party as a potential government partner because of differences over taxes.

The three parties command 59 seats in the 101-seat Riigikogu. According to the result of the March 1 general elections, Reform has 30 seats, Center Party 27, SDE 15, IRL 14, the Free Party eight and the Estonian Conservative People's Party (EKRE) seven seats in the new parliament.