Tu, 3.10.2023

Felling volumes and new fossil fuel investments to be cut

The sixth day of coalition talks concentrated on the environment, energy and climate, as well as healthcare and social security.
The sixth day of coalition talks concentrated on the environment, energy and climate, as well as healthcare and social security. Photo: Mihkel Maripuu / Postimees

The Reform Party and Center Party agreed to lower felling volumes in state-owned forests and stop investing in new fossil fuel projects during coalition talks on Tuesday. The sides also agreed on an amendment to allow minors to seek psychiatric help without their parents’ consent to be introduced as soon as possible.

The sixth day of coalition talks concentrated on the environment, energy and climate, as well as healthcare and social security.

End to additional fossil fuel investments

Reform Party chairman Kaja Kallas said that the incoming government will try to put together a forestry development plan and lower felling volumes in state forests. “We agreed to ease up on (economic) pressure to cut to allow the State Forest Management Center (RMK) to lower its volumes that should translate into a general reduction in felling volumes,” Kallas said, without providing anything in terms of details. She added that the coalition remains open to the idea of a cellulose factory to add value to local timber.

Kallas also said that other steps to speed up Estonia’s switch to renewable energy include facilitating the construction of offshore wind farms. The incoming coalition plans to introduce a new socioeconomic model in Ida-Viru County in order to hit European climate targets. “The people there have very specific skills, and we will use the Just Transition Fund to create a new industry there that can make use of them,” Kallas described the Ida-Viru County vision.

No additional funds will be invested in fossil fuels. This does not mean the planned Eesti Energia shale oil plant will be reversed. “We need to admit that the decision to allocate €126 million [to Eesti Energia] was made a while ago and there was no way for us to reverse that call,” said Mailis Reps for the Center Party.

In the field of social security, the negotiating parties want to concentrate on improving public mental health and reforming the healthcare system. The first thing will be amending the Mental Health Act to give minors the right to seek psychiatric help without consent from parents. “We cannot allow 14 children to take their lives every year if we can help them,” Kallas said.

Center drops plan to liquidate ERJK

The Center Party, currently suspected of new corruption offenses, told the Riigikogu Constitutional Committee on Tuesday that it will withdraw its signature from a bill that seeks to liquidate the Political Parties Financing Surveillance Committee (ERJK).

“The Center Party, based on section 95, subsection 3 of the Riigikogu Rules and Procedures Act, will withdraw from the introduction of draft act 193 to amend the National Audit Office Act, Political Parties Act and other associated acts,” the party’s announcement read.

Mailis Reps said that the situation has changed considerably since June. “Facing such serious suspicions of corruption, actions aimed at party financing or corruption need to be opposite in the interests of greater transparency and organization,” Reps said.

The bill to dissolve the ERJK was introduce by the outgoing coalition of Center, the Conservative People’s Party (EKRE) and Isamaa in May of last year. The bill was said to seek more professional control over party financing. “For that purpose, the recent financing oversight committee will be replaced with a new control organ that is the National Audit Office,” the bill’s explanatory memo read.

Chairman of the Riigikogu Isamaa faction Priit Sibul told Postimees that the bill to dissolve the ERJK was a Center initiative from the start. “It was a plan cooked up and pursued by Center,” Sibul said, adding that coalition partners eventually agreed to it. Isamaa chair Helir-Valdor Seeder also said that Center has spent months explaining to its partners why the bill was needed. “I am very glad it will be withdrawn as it will mean one fewer conflict in the Riigikogu. It received tens of thousands of motions to amend [from the opposition], which is why it was shelved,” Seeder said.