Kaja Kallas’ Viljandi interim government adopts the structure known from the cabinet of Jüri Ratas

Henry-Laur Allik
, ajakirjanik
Kaja Kallas.
Kaja Kallas. Photo: Taavi Sepp
  • Each political party gets five ministerial posts.
  • The names of the ministers will be announced on Thursday.
  • The chairman of Isamaa, Helir-Valdor Seeder, rejected a ministerial post.

The ministerial portfolios of the second government of Kaja Kallas (RE) are divided equally between the Reform Party, Isamaa and the Social Democrats, i.e. according to the 5:5:5 principle known from the governments of Jüri Ratas. The names of the new government’s ministers will be announced on Thursday.

Since the chairmen of the three parties divided the ministerial portfolios over the weekend in Viljandi, where Isamaa chairman Helir-Valdor Seeder is recovering from surgery, the government has already been nicknamed as the Viljandi government. The composition of the government as to fields of responsibility will remain the same as before; therefore no new ministerial positions will be added and none will be abolished. The government should take office already this Friday, when an extraordinary session of the Riigikogu will probably be held.

The Reform Party retains the positions of Prime Minister, Minister of Defense (currently Kalle Laanet), Minister of Rural Affairs (Urmas Kruuse), Minister of Finance (Keit Pentus-Rosimannus) and Minister of Social Protection (Signe Riisalo) in the government. Kaja Kallas made it clear yesterday that the current holders of these portfolios will continue to bear their burden.

Minister of Justice Maris Lauri, Minister of Entrepreneurship and Information Technology Andres Sutt and Minister of Education and Science Liina Kersna (who has already submitted her resignation due to investigation) will lose their jobs. According to Kallas, the decision was based on the most important domains for the parties or the spheres some party was unwilling to give up.

“All in all, it was in no way carved in the stone that such ministerial places would remain, but we actually discussed it very, very many hours,” said the Reform Party leader, adding that the only thing certain was that she would continue as the prime minister, which no one had challenged.

The Reform Party will also hold the posts of chairmen of the Riigikogu Culture Committee, Economic Affairs Committee, Foreign Affairs Committee, Security Authorities Supervision Select Committee and the Study Committee of Estonian-language Education.

The Social Democratic Party received a portfolio of the Minister of the Environment, the Minister of the Interior, the Minister of Culture, the Minister of Economic Affairs and Communications and the Minister of Health and Labor. In the Riigikogu committees, they will take over the chairmanship of the Social Affairs Committee, the National Defense Committee, the Legal Committee and the Constitutional Committee; in addition, the party will have the post of vice-chairman position of the State Budget Control Select Committee.

Lauri Läänemets, Chairman of the Social Democrats, said that they simply chose the ministerial portfolios which are important for them and related to the Social Democrats’ promises. “This is a pretty good choice for us, influential ministerial posts and important matters,” Läänemets briefly confirmed that the Social Democrats’ wishes had been fulfilled.

Läänemets himself intends to go to the government and hinted that he favors the subjects of labor and energy; in other words, the role of the Minister of Economic Affairs and Communications or the Minister of Health and Labor could suit him.

Seeder still does not want a minister’s post

Isamaa will take in the government the portfolios of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Minister of Education and Research, the Minister of Justice, the Minister of Entrepreneurship and Information Technology and the Minister of Public Administration. The parties also agreed that Isamaa will have the positions of the first Vice-President of the Riigikogu and the chairmen of the European Union affairs Committee, the Finance Committee and the Rural Affairs Committee.

Isamaa Chairman Helir-Valdor Seeder said that the distribution of ministerial positions is well balanced: everyone received influential portfolios which also match their profile.

“No one should feel abandoned and offended. I do find that this distribution has succeeded as a complete solution. We got some of what we wanted, and some others were agreed upon as a compromise. If we had a completely free choice, we would have chosen somewhat different options,” Seeder said.

The ministerial candidates of Isamaa and the Social Democrats will be announced on Thursday. However, one thing is certain: Helir-Valdor Seeder, Chairman of Isamaa, will not become a minister and will continue as Vice-President of the Riigikogu.

Kallas hinted that this is not the best option and she would like to see Seeder as a member of the government, but admitted that he has considerable earlier experience – since the period when Center Party Chairman Jüri Ratas was the President of the Riigikogu, which resulted in increasing mutual tension due to limited opportunities for communication.

Läänemets also estimated that Seeder’s choice of position would leave him out of the loop. “There is nothing else there, just less information than in the government. On the other hand, assuming that Seeder remains the chairman of the faction, the faction chairmen are usually members of the Coalition Council, so that he will certainly take part in making all important decisions,” said Läänemets.

In Seeder’s opinion, it is actually quite good if one of the parties’ chairmen is in the Riigikogu. “It helps to maintain communication between the parliament and the government. Everything depends on the people’s willingness and ability to cooperate. If the government wishes, it is always possible to call the party chairman who does not belong to the cabinet, to a meeting or a government sitting,” Seeder said.

Lauri and Sutt who lost their posts: we are sorry to leave

Several top politicians of the reform party will have to give up their accustomed positions as the new coalition is formed.

Vice-President of the Riigikogu Hanno Pevkur will step down at the next sitting of the parliament to make room for Chairman of Isamaa Helir-Valdor Seeder. This extraordinary sitting is expected to be held on Friday, when Kaja Kallas' second government would be approved.

As there are now three coalition partners instead of two, the number of ministers of the Reform Party will accordingly decrease.

The portfolios of the Minister of Education and Research, the Minister of Justice and the Minister of Entrepreneurship and Information Technology will be taken over by Isamaa; therefore Liina Kersna, Maris Lauri and Andres Sutt will lose their jobs. Kersna's resignation had already been known in advance because she decided to step down after the Prosecutor General's office started to investigate the rapid test kits’ procurement.

The others heard the sad news Monday morning.

“It was known that these posts would be redistributed. In that sense it was no surprise, I had been reckoning with this outcome. I am a bit sorry. There was some work left to do and I would have liked to do it,” Lauri said.

The sphere of justice was new for Lauri with her background as an economic analyst. “It required quite diligent acquisition of knowledge and learning. But it was personally interesting and useful, and I had to deal with legislation in the Riigikogu and in my earlier work experience,” she noted.

“Politics is dynamic,” Andres Sutt said. “In any case, one has to be prepared for such situations. Of course it is a pity, but it was a thrilling ride and it still goes on. I am not lost for Estonia’s entrepreneurship. I shall just perform a different role and the marketing of Estonia will continue,” said Sutt.

Sutt had felt comfortable in his field. “It was definitely a superb portfolio and I have never had such a good overview and understanding of how many fine companies there are in Estonia, how well we can understand the world. Our tourism was able to manage despite all the difficulties.”

Different opinions of the cost of the agreement

The final version of the Reform Party, Isamaa and SDE coalition agreement should be completed in the near future, but it is certain that the future government will implement the electricity market reform, adopt amendments to the family benefits act, start the transition to Estonian-language education and strengthen Estonia’s security. But all this adds millions of fixed costs to the state budget.

According to Prime Minister Kaja Kallas, additional income is expected to be earned from the sale of the CO2 quota and the surplus of tax receipts. According to her, the taxes would not be raised. “As far as protecting the taxpayer’s wallet goes we of the Reform Party are quite alone; everyone else wants to spend. In the end, it comes from the wallets of all of us, we have therefore tried to keep these costs as controlled as possible so that we need not pay a high price for it,” Kallas said.

But how high is the cost of the coalition agreement? As the agreement is still being finished, politicians give radically different estimates.

For example, according to the Minister of Finance Pentus-Rosimannus, the coalition agreement means an additional cost of EUR 270 million for the state budget, while former minister of public administration Jaak Aab (KE) considers the cost three to four times higher, or nearly a billion euros. According to Aab, the agreement underestimates some costs.