Palo ponders leaving politics

Toomas Randlo
, ajakirjanik
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Photo: Sander Ilvest

Having announced resignation from entrepreneurship minister's post this Sunday, Urve Palo (Soc Dems) says she is considering leaving politics altogether and will decide within days.

-Last week featured scandal erupting around Port of Tallinn, Soc Dems deciding to continue in government, and on Sunday you announced resignation. What will you remember most?

For me, last week was not eventful. Since the coalition was formed in spring, I have had a very eventful time. Sunday’s decisions were not born during this past week, rather these past five months. As the government was formed and Riigikogu voted for the Prime Minister, beholding the composition of the government I said at my faction we should not vote yes. Then, I had my initial doubts.

-Still, doubts and all, you became a minister.

Yes, as I had my doubts which afterwards proved true. In hindsight, I’m saying I ought to have listened to my gut feeling and said I am not going into this government.

-Are you disappointed in the Soc Dems leadership decision to remain in the coalition?

Let’s say I really hoped the decision would be positive and that after a long while we would be trying to form a leftwing government.

-What exactly would have been positive, then?

For the soc dems to have left the government. The result was very tight. Six votes went missing for us to exit. This serves to show that among Social Democrats dissatisfactions is strong with the coalition.

-So you are disappointed in the decision, yesterday?

I am disappointed that we had this decision but I had been considering that. I had made my decision a while ago. I was ready not to continue in the government if the decision would be to continue in the coalition.

-Was the resignation due to soc dems not pursuing the kind of policy you hoped they would, or did the Port of Tallinn scandal play a role as well?  

I only learned about the corruption suspicion last week. I had made the decision that I did not desire to continue as minister in this government several months ago.

-What was the reason, several months ago?

The honest answer is I came into politics, nine years ago, on basis of values. It is very important for me what the values are that social democrats are representing. These values fit me.  

Regrettably, for the third time we are in government with Reform. I realise that in this government we are not able to carry out our policy in a way I think is right. As a minister, I have always worked full steam, a hundred percent out of private time and on account of the family. I have to believe that the work is for Estonia’s good. In this government, I no longer found that motivation.

-You said you hesitated as the coalition was being formed and decided several months ago, for yourself, to step down from being minister. Why then did you continue till now? Did you believe Jevgeni Ossinovski could change something?

Yes, because Mr Ossinovski promised that rising to be party chairman he’d open the coalition treaty. The whole month of July, soc dems discussed all over Estonia what we wanted to see in the coalition treaty. A most important item for me was to rise income tax free minimum to €400. That would have meant rearranging the tax system. This cannot be done with cosmetic changes, this takes changes in principle. I hoped perhaps a miracle would happen and Reform would be willing to do changes of principle. But at the same time I guessed the agreement would never be as during ten years Reform has made itself hostage of its promises.

Therefore, I was waiting for the leadership meeting to see how the soc dems view the issues of opening the treaty. In my opinion, the time was right to try a leftwing government and bring fort change of principle in Estonian society

-What will be with the government? Budget talks are nearing, the next year will feature presidential elections, and tensions will rise again. How long will the government last like this?

I’d rather not predict. Obviously, the budget talks will be tough because the money is so scarce.

-What about your own future? Will you continue in politics?

I will make my decision within days. There are several options, but at the moment I am weighing whether I will continue in the Soc Dems fraction in Riigikogu or will be watching politics from the side. I have worked in private sector for 15 years, and been in politics for nine. I do still remember how things are done outside of politics.