Reform Party expels Center Party ministers from government

Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas, leader of the Reform Party, announced on Friday afternoon that she has made a proposal to the president to dismiss Center Party ministers.
Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas, leader of the Reform Party, announced on Friday afternoon that she has made a proposal to the president to dismiss Center Party ministers. Photo: Madis Veltman

Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas, leader of the Reform Party, announced on Friday afternoon that she has made a proposal to the president to dismiss Center Party ministers Jaak Aab, Tanel Kiik, Eva-Maria Liimets, Taavi Aas, Kristian Jaani, Erki Savisaar and Tiit Terik, and has made a proposal to opposition parties Isamaa and the Social Democratic Party to start coalition talks.

"At the present moment, more than ever, Estonia needs a functioning government based on common values. The security situation in Europe does not give me any opportunity as prime minister to continue cooperation with the Center Party, which, against the backdrop of its internal division, is unable to put Estonia's interests above the interests of the party and its various wings," Kallas said.

Kallas said that for her, the last and decisive moment was when the bill on preschool education in the Estonian language, approved by the government by consensus, was rejected by the votes of the Center Party and the Estonian Conservative People's Party (EKRE) on Wednesday.

"I believed that February 24 and the genocide being perpetrated by Russia in Ukraine have opened the eyes of all the political parties in the Riigikogu to the importance for Estonia's independence of our common understanding of the dangers that we face as a country neighboring Russia. Unfortunately, it turned out the day before yesterday that there are two parties in the Riigikogu that, even in the current situation, are unable to pull themselves together and stand up for the protection of our independence and constitutional values," she said.

Kallas said that when she became prime minister, she vowed to devote her strength to securing the future of the Estonian people.

"We will secure this future not only by increasing military spending, but first and foremost by the unity of our people and the unwavering will to defend our independence. The prerequisite and mainstay of this is command of the Estonian language. In a situation where the Center Party is actively working in the government against the fundamental values that are most important to Estonia, we cannot continue to cooperate with them anymore," she said.

"If we add to this the fact that no minister of the Center Party other than Kristian Jaani and Eva-Maria Liimets has permission to access NATO secrets, then it is not possible to rule the country with such a composition of the ministerial corps in time of war. That is why I formalized the state of affairs that has actually been in place for a long time and took proposals for the dismissal of the Center Party ministers to Kadriorg," Kallas said.

"I have made a proposal to Isamaa and the Social Democrats start talks on a new coalition. As long as there is no new coalition, the remaining ministers will continue in accordance with the procedure for the substitution of ministers. Estonia needs a stable government that can address the major challenges facing the country," the premier added.

President releases Center Party ministers from office

President Alar Karis met in Kadriorg on Friday with Prime Minister Kaja Kallas, leader of the Reform Party, who handed to the head of state a proposal to dismiss all Center Party ministers belonging to the two-party coalition Cabinet.

The president signed the decision to release Erki Savisaar from the post of minister of the environment, Tiit Terik from the post of minister of culture, Taavi Aas from the post of minister of economic affairs and infrastructure, Jaak Aab from the post of minister of public administration, Kristian Jaani from the post of minister of the interior, Tanel Kiik from the post of minister of health and labor and Eva-Maria Liimets from the post of minister of foreign affairs.

Reform formally decides to invite Isamaa, SDE to coalition talks

The governing board of the Reform Party decided on Friday to propose to the Isamaa party and the Estonian Social Democratic Party (SDE) to start negotiations with a view to forming a coalition government.

The board also appointed a negotiating delegation made up of Kaja Kallas, Keit Pentus-Rosimannus, Jurgen Ligi, Timo Suslov, Mart Vorklaev, Gerrit Maesalu, Valdo Randpere and Erkki Keldo, spokespeople for the party said.

"It was the unanimous decision of the board that in the current tense security situation, Estonia cannot afford a dysfunctional government. Therefore, we wish to form a new government coalition with Isamaa and the Social Democrats, with whom we see common ground in a faster transition to Estonian-language education, a pro-European foreign policy and support for people's livelihoods in turbulent economic conditions," said the leader of the party, Prime Minister Kaja Kallas.

Isamaa leader says has informed Kaja Kallas they are ready for talks

Chairman of the Isamaa party Helir-Valdor Seeder told Postimees on Friday that Prime Minister Kaja Kallas, leader of the Reform Party, made him an offer for coalition negotiations to be opened between the Reform Party, Isamaa and Social Democrats.

Seeder, who is currently in hospital recovering from a scheduled surgery, told Postimees that Kaja Kallas informed him a few minutes before the official announcement that she was going to propose to the president to dismiss the Center Party ministers of her Cabinet and that she would offer to Isamaa and the Social Democratic Party to start negotiations to form a new coalition.

"I replied that we are ready to negotiate. Isamaa wants to participate in the process," Seeder said.

The MP added that this, of course, is not a promise to enter into a new coalition, just a first step, and that they did not yet agree with Kallas on any specific times or meeting places for negotiations. Isamaa's parliamentary group and the governing board will meet on Monday to discuss topics related to the government and Kallas' proposal.

"I'm not going to draw any red lines at this point, but you really don't have to do a lot of guessing to know what are the important issues for Isamaa. Family benefits. Education in Estonian. We have to deal with price increases," the leader of the second smallest party in the Estonian parliament said.

Speaking of inflation, Seeder said that he understands very well that in many ways it is a trend caused by external factors and there can be no quick miracle cure to it.

"But we have some options," he added.

As a fourth important point, Seeder named defense spending and security.

"But I don't even think there is much dispute on that and there is quite a large consensus between the parties in the Riigikogu," he said.

The Isamaa leader, however, was critical of Kallas' move to dismiss the ministers from the Center Party but not to resign as head of government herself, describing it as not the right way to form governments and coalitions in accordance with the spirit of the Constitution.

"It's not against the law, but by doing it the Riigikogu is bypassed altogether, and this is not good," he said.

SDE leader hails PM's decision to kick Centrists out of government

Lauri Laanemets, chairman of the opposition Estonian Social Democratic Party (SDE), said on Friday he understands the decision of Prime Minister Kaja Kallas to disband the incapacitated government coalition.

According to Laanemets, the harsh reality is that with a coalition unable to work together, the country has been lacking in governance already for weeks -- in the midst of the biggest security crisis since Estonia regained its independence and in the face of a looming livelihood crisis due to record inflation.

The SDE leader described the prime minister's decision to end the non-functioning cooperation with the Center Party as important because it finally brings clarity and allows the deadlock that has arisen in recent weeks to begin to be untied.

"Estonia has effectively been in a government crisis for three weeks now and the country is lacking in governance. For the Social Democrats, it is important that in the current security situation we would have an Estonia-centered and pro-European government. I am of the opinion that Estonia must quickly get a functioning government that is not a government of doubters or a government of hesitators," he said.

"On this issue, we are on the same page as the leader of the Reform Party. The Social Democrats will definitely discuss the proposal of the board of the Reform Party to start negotiations when it is officially made to us," Laanemets added.

According to the SDE leader, the aim of the Center Party still is to form a coalition with Isamaa and the Estonian Conservative People's Party (EKRE), and preparations for this have been made actively over the past week.

Laanemets added that his feeling today is that Isamaa, as an experienced partner in government, also understands that the restoration of the Center-Isamaa-EKRE government that used to be in power from the last general elections in spring 2019 until January 2021, especially in the current security situation, is a "real security threat to the Estonian state, its allied relations and also the economy."

Ratas says doesn't understand Kallas' decision to kick his party out of govt

Juri Ratas, the chairman of the Center Party, on Friday described the decision of Prime Minister Kaja Kallas to dismiss Center Party ministers of her Cabinet as incomprehensible to him, saying he believes that with said move, the Reform Party wants to divert attention from the problems affecting Estonian society.

Ratas, speaker of the Estonian parliament, said in a Facebook post that the prime minister's decision to dismiss the Center Party ministers of her Cabinet remains incomprehensible to him.

"It is quite possible that with this move, the Reform Party is trying to distract attention from the problems that plague Estonian society," he said.

"If Kaja Kallas finds raising family allowances, lowering fuel excise duties and offering residents of Estonia relief from record high inflation not to her liking, she should say so publicly or even resign," Ratas said. "That would have been a fair and statesmanlike step, given the fact that the prime minister has herself repeatedly indicated that she would resign."