EKRE energy prices protest meeting draws thousands

Nele Kullerkupp
, reporter-editor
EKRE energy prices protest meeting in Freedom Square.
EKRE energy prices protest meeting in Freedom Square. Photo: Eero Vabamägi

The opposition Conservative People’s Party (EKRE) held a protest meeting in Tallinn’s Freedom Square on Saturday to lament the government’s economic policy and demand lower energy prices.

Braving freezing temperatures, a crowd of a few thousand people had gathered in the square by noon. While people had different reasons for showing up, most protesters agreed that the coalition is not working in the interests of the people in Estonia who are simply being steamrolled.

“I have carried the Estonian flag at a Defense Forces parade in this square in the 1990s. I never thought I would one day have to turn up to protest against my own country,” Verdon (60) said, carrying a placard urging the Riigikogu to put an end to dictatorship. “It hurts, but looking at where this country is headed, I am here out of a sense of duty to help common sense prevail again.” The man said that neither common sense nor the government caring for its people can be seen today. “None of these symbolic gestures constitute looking our for the people” the protester said.

Marko (51) admitted that his reason for turning up has to do with the price of electricity after his power bill doubled in December compared to last year. “It is contrary to reason what is happening in Estonia. Nord Pool prices are downright criminal in a situation where Estonia could power itself at a reasonable price,” he said.

Reena (37) believes in personal freedom and the right to make one’s own decisions, which she believes the situation does not currently facilitate. “Limiting people’s choices completely without justification is one reason I turn out to protest. I do not like discrimination, putting labels on people, injustice toward the ordinary person,” she explained, adding that soaring energy prices are nevertheless the reason she is protesting on Saturday. “Many people received astronomical power bills for last month and do not know what to do in a situation where everyday coping has become a luxury. People are desperate and do not understand why they are being punished,” she said.

Looming crisis

EKRE leader Martin Helme said that the main focus of the protest was on demanding government action for lower electricity and heating prices that are well in the cabinet’s power if only resolve could be mustered. “We see very clearly that if left unaddressed, these developments will lead Estonia into a stark economic crisis. Companies will go bankrupt, people will be reduced to poverty and unemployment will skyrocket,” Helme said. “The temporary solution and so-called automatic compensation we saw this week might help people for a few months, while it will not ward off general fuel and energy price advance. Instead of a fivefold hike, we will still have prices double or triple of what they used to be, which will come as a very bad surprise for people in February,” Helme said. Asked what he thinks about the Reform Party and Center Party’s recent electricity price compromise, Helme suggested fear of the EKRE protest meeting was likely what facilitated the agreement.