Coalition talks sides clash on citizenship

Henry-Laur Allik
The parties discussed regional policy, rural affairs, agriculture and population topics on Wednesday.
The parties discussed regional policy, rural affairs, agriculture and population topics on Wednesday. Photo: Eero Vabamägi

The Reform Party and Center Party failed to find consensus regarding citizenship topics on Wednesday and decided to continue without changes. Amendments to the Aliens Act will not be taken forward, while the recently controversial concept of marriage will not be touched.

The parties discussed regional policy, rural affairs, agriculture and population topics on Wednesday.

Fiscal debates still ahead

Reform and Center clashed on citizenship topics and it was ultimately decided to leave matters as they are. Reform Party chair Kaja Kallas said that while both parties agree Estonia needs more citizens, views on how that should be achieved differ. Mailis Reps, head negotiator for Center, said that parties merely got a feel for one another’s attitudes should the topic come up again in the future.

The incoming government will also stay the course regarding seasonal foreign labor, shortages of which caused a major headache for farmers last year. Kaja Kallas said that how much additional labor will be involved will depend on the local labor market situation. “Agreements regarding additional labor should depend on the actual situation,” she said.

The Reform Party leader added that the state promises to be more flexible when it comes to foreign labor but did not specify whether more Ukrainians would be allowed to help tend to Estonian fields this year. “If there is unemployment in the field, it makes sense for entrepreneurs to find local labor as there are too many qualified people, while bringing in additional labor remains a possibility in the conditions of labor shortage,” she explained.

Amendments to the Aliens Act that would have limited foreigners’ working and stay in Estonia will be scrapped.

The sides postponed regional development funding discussions but promised that the new coalition will fight for equal EU agricultural support for Estonian farmers. The only things agreed on in terms of regional policy were high-speed internet infrastructure investments and better loan options for remote regions.

“These steps will be aimed at making it possible to work and operate companies everywhere in Estonia and for high-speed internet that is needed to do everything these days to be available,” Kallas said.

The sides also discussed the concept of marriage that has fueled passions in recent months. Kaja Kallas said that the parties will try to find a working peace and reach supraparty consensus while giving all family models legal protection. The concept of marriage will not be altered.

Finish line to be crossed next week

Coalition talks are currently on track, while Kallas said that is only because the parties have postponed more complicated and time-consuming topics. The sides are not sure whether talks will be concluded inside the planned time.

“We have filed a lot of things where we expect heated debate under miscellaneous. Those things will come up sooner or later and could take quite some time to work through,” Kallas explained. One such topic is money.

Mailis Reps said that the parties could get as far as ministerial positions over the weekend once all other topics have been covered. “The constitutional process requires the Riigikogu to vote [on Kallas’ government] next week,” Reps said.