Rõivas to critics: while you talk we work

Peaminister Taavi Rõivas oma kabinetis.

PHOTO: Sander Ilvest / Postimees

Within first year while in coalition with Soc Dems and IRL, Prime Minister Taavi Rõivas (Reform) has managed to send administrative reform into parliament, tidy the eastern border and bring in seven refugees. Therefore, he dares say he's at helm of a government of great decisions and ambitious above average. 

- It’s your second government actually. Is it much different to be prime minister a year before and a year after elections?

With the first government, the end part was harder as instead of daily work I had to focus on campaigning. To focus on attacks somewhat obstructive to daily work.  

With the second government, it was the initial months that were hard, when the fragmentation of the parliament made it harder to form a coalition. When about to create the coalition, we knew not that the Free Party was not ready to take governing responsibility. That caused wasted time and frustration in all partners. Definitely, the beginning was affected by coalition partners desiring to elect new leaders. But at the end of the summer, especially when we got it over with compiling the budget, for many surprisingly early, I realised that in critical issues the cooperation was going rather well.

- Administrative reform reaching the parliament is surely the Deed of the Year for your government. How will the discussion go from here, won’t there be surprises by partners?

I do not believe there will be disputes. That would mean for factions fundamentally distrusting their governmental delegations including chairmen and other leading politicians. After the long discussions and involvement of experts, we three reached a consensus. There were no differences. I would be very much surprised if any from governmental factions in parliament would say that what our chairmen have agreed is good for nothing. I would not expect that.

Sure, in parliament they will be searching for details for improvement. Surely, there’s options for that and the parliament does always polish the bills, involving additional interest groups. I am convinced that in all parties the word of the governmental delegations will stand.

- Won’t there be surprises like last summer when Jevgeni Ossinovski wished to open the coalition treaty? Have such tensions disappeared from between you?

Last summer may be explained by both coalition partners getting new chairmen who wished to see their handwriting in the coalition treaty. Very patiently we took time and energy to go over these critical issues in the treaty; among other things, we wrote added details into administrative reform as well. No revolution with the opening of the treaty.   

- You have surely heard the murmurings about this trio not making it to the new elections and this government not being good for Estonia. That it’s a via dolorosa ...

Show me a government regarding which this has not been said! I see that great things can be done with this government. Not always is the criticism by analysts in proportion with what is really being done. During this past year, many have been the doomsayers, how the government will not see the autumn, the winter, but while these so-called experts write up their opinions, the government is at work.  

- To weariness, much has been said about the registered partnership act (by essence, the homosexual agenda – edit) while it does illustrate your first year. You never managed that and, actually, it was known during the coalition talks.  

Registered partnership act is not in the coalition treaty, as we knew that of the two of the three partners desired to apply the law already passed; one has historically been against. It was unbecoming to demand from IRL that this be a condition for entering the coalition. This we did not desire to do nor do we now desire to do that.

Regarding the passing of the act, there was support from other parties also. At the moment, it is tougher as Centre applied very strict party discipline saying no way anyone may vote for the implementation clauses. We know it is boiling bad at Centre and none risks to think with their own head.

With EKRE it was hopeless from the start; nevertheless, some did believe the Free might in these issues be more tolerant. However, the Free said that as party they were not supportive of the act and at the moment they are trying to do everything in order to create a stalemate at legal affairs committee (of parliament – edit) – this, I must admit, is a very bad surprise.

- Mart and Martin Helme are holding rallies all over Estonia where people are joining EKRE en masse with intent on take 50 seats at next general elections. The people are nodding and the meetings end with standing ovations. Will the haughty attitude in other parties towards EKRE not provide a painful backlash at some point?

No, I would not say anyone looks down on them. But it needs to be honestly stated that there may be a sound to what they say but the sound is hollow. While EKRE has been saying for a year that mass immigration is just about to begin and yet we have just seven entered as fleeing a war of whom two men are professionals and the rest a family with three kids, then, I beg your pardon, tough luck for the Helmes to go and explain this seven is mass immigration and Estonia can’t help seven people.

Sure, people have reasonable fears facing the unknown, but we may definitely state that the Helmes have short term been successful in stirring these fears but I Continually believe in the wisdom and discernment of people in Estonia. It’s the responsibility of the government herewith to explain that all who come are vetted.

- How do you assess yourself and your first year? Looks like you are abroad constantly and Estonia is languishing somewhat. A one-off visit to East-Viru County to a outing-session does not help much.

As Prime Minister, I have been to vary many cities and villages of Estonia. I indeed travel a lot in Estonia, but it just does not turn into big news all the time. Outside of Estonia, I meet with world leaders and this crosses the news threshold way better than, say, when I meet some local elderly or pupils in a parish.

Naturally, Prime Minister spends lion’s share of time in Estonia but like being on visit to Japan now (till Sunday – edit) I have the largest business delegation with me as compared all presidents and ministers over these past 25 years. Likewise, I had the largest business delegation with me while visiting the USA. These are noteworthy endeavours and certainly extremely important for Estonian economy, to open doors.  

While preparing for NATO summit in Warsaw, I cannot talk about everything with my NATO colleagues over the phone. From time to time, we must meet eye to eye. In my two terms in office, foreign and security policy have always been a priority and a rising priority. Should we think if Estonia could rejoice in economic growth or social wellbeing or regional policy, that we might have total certainly that Estonian independence would be protected without having allies in Europe, Asia and America, naturally the answer is we couldn’t. In a situation where our Eastern neighbour has become very aggressive, security will be priority.