Former MEP calls African refugees a “threat to white race”

Kristiina Ojuland, a former Foreign Minister of Estonia and former member of the European Parliament, voiced her disapproval of the European Commission’s migrant quota plan on her official Facebook page, by calling for a pan-European campaign against admitting any refugees in the EU.

In a post that was more reminiscent of a far-right extremist, than a former Vice President of the European Liberal Democrat and Reform Party (ALDE), Ojuland said that the “white race is threatened” by dark-skinned immigrants (Ojuland actually used an Estonian word “neeger” which is not officially considered offensive in Estonia, but nevertheless becoming socially unacceptable).

“Today yet again I see a fully able young Negro begging for money in Italy, from people who have worked hard to earn a lunch. I think that we should start a pan-European campaign to collect signatures to ensure that not a single so-called refugee gets across the Mediterranean. Enough of this nonsense!” Ojuland, the former high-ranking politician who for years campaigned Estonia to join the EU.

Read more from ERR News

Estonian new coalition has agreed its platform

Estonian Reform Party (classical liberalism) won Parliamentary elections on 1st March and got the right to establish new government for the period in 2015-2019. The new coalition has been formed between Estonian Reform Party (ESP), Social Democratic Party (SDE, social democracy) and Pro Patria and Respublica Union (IRL, Christian Democracy, national liberalism). ESP gets 7 ministerial positions (including PM), SDE and IRL both 4 positions. President T.H. Ilves appointed the new government yesterday (on 08.04).

Yesterday, PM Rõivas said in Parliament, that the new government will not change the basic principles of economic policy in Estonia, will continue with the simple tax system with few exceptions and with conservative fiscal policy. The new government has promised to keep state budget in structural balance and require that other EU member states would fulfil the Union fiscal rules as well.

The new coalition has agreed to raise households’ income and to improve financial situation of low-paid.Minimum salary will be increased to 45% of average salary (currently 39%) in four years and income tax exemption to 205 euros/month (currently 154 euros). To be precise, the government will support the raising of minimum salary, whereas in practice, representative of employees is behind this proposal. In addition, income support for deprived families will be increased and repayment system for low-paid people will be established by 1 January 2016. Special attention will be paid to the families or single parents with children. Children allowances will be increased.

The new coalition has promised to ensure that pensions will be increased in accordance with wage growth, whereas average pension is exempt of income tax. In addition, they have planned to introduce parental pension by 2018.

Social security contributions will be reduced by 1 pp (currently 33%). Although the government moves on the right direction, this has considerable pressure on state budget, but has minor effect on enterprises. Reduction of social security contributions will be, at least partly, compensated by “consistent“ increase in excise taxes on alcohol and tobacco. The new coalition has promised not to tax investments.

Special ministerial position will be established for conducting state reform. The objective is to increase efficiency of public administration. Therefore, government sector employment will be reduced in accordance with the decrease in working-age population and public sector salaries are increased in accordance with the increase in productivity. However, salaries of several jobs, e.g. teachers, police, tax and customs officers, etc. will be increased faster. Interestingly, these jobs form substantial part of public sector employees. In order to improve labour mobility across Estonia, the program of rental housing will be developed, including development of the market for rental apartments. The new coalition has planned to finalise the protracted reform of local governments: voluntary consolidation of local governments is planned to be finalised before 2017 local elections. Last, but not least, management and ownership of state enterprises will be reviewed thoroughly.

The new government will start with or at least support the development of several large scale infrastructure projects, e.g. Rail Baltic, multimodality transport hub in Tallinn, highways, etc,.

Estonia has been planned to reshape from (net) importer of energy to (net) exporter by 2030 (in 2013, energy dependency in Estonia was 11.9%). Estonian electricity market will be fully untied from Russia and connected it to the continental Europe by 2025. Baltic regional gas infrastructure (connection between Finland and the Baltics, including Baltic Connector) will be developed. The new coalition will analyse the possibilities, whether Estonia could be a competitive place for energy intensive industry. Unfortunately, this idea can encounter to the insufficiency of labour force.

Immigration quota for ICT employees has been planned to expand in order to promote immigration of ICT specialists and their families to Estonia. Actually, the need for imported qualified labour force is wider than only in ICT sector.

State military expenses will remain at least 2% of GDP. In addition to that Estonia finances military activities and expenses as a receiving country for NATO alliance troops. The new government will support development of national defence industry, including access of defence industry to export markets. More attention will be paid on R&D in defence industry. In addition, the objective is to raise total R&D expenditures to 3%, including in private sector to 2%, of GDP.

Coalition is on the position that EU Common Agricultural policy has to remain common and financed from common budget in order to exclude excessive and distorting state subsidies.

The new platform has clearly more social democratic influence compared to the programme of previous governments. According to the very preliminary information the cost of the promises is around 300 million euros. Unfortunately, it’s unclear yet how the government is going to finance this ambitious program as they have the objective to keep the state budget in structural balance.

 

Source: Swedbank

Reform Party won Parliamentary elections in Estonia

Parliamentary elections on 1st March won Reform Party who got 30 seats (27.7% of all votes) out of 101 in Estonian Parliament (Riigikogu). Second position got Centre Party, who got 27 seats. Although Centre Party got around 25% votes, the win was quite narrow, as three persons won 1/3 and Edgar Savisaar, leader of the Party, alone 18% of all votes of the Party.

What is different this time, is that two additional political parties (Estonian Free Party and Conservative People’s Party of Estonia) got into the Parliament as well. Thus, instead of four political parties from 2011 elections, Riigikogu will have six parties this time.

Estonian Reform Party (classical liberalism)      30 seats

Estonian Centre Party (centrism, social liberalism)    27

Social Democratic Party (social democracy)       15

Pro Patria and Res Publica Union (Christian democracy, national conservatism)   14

Estonian Free Party (national conservatism)    8

Conservative People’s Party of Estonia (national conservatism)    7

Participation rate was 64.2% (63.5% in 2011), whereas 19.6% voted through internet (15.4% in 2011).

President has promised to make a proposal to form government to the party who wins the elections. Previous coalition (since March 2014) consisted of Reform Party (PM is from Reform Party) and Social Democrats. Political platforms of all parties before elections were full on populism, but the real policy will be established through coalition negotiations. It’s too early to say how much Estonian economic policy will change and evaluate its impact. Reform Party and Social Democrats apparently will continue their cooperation, but there have to be a third party as well to form a coalition. I do not expect that this party can be a substantial game changer and will bring about principle changes in current economic policy.

It is important to note that all political parties have declared that they will not form a coalition with Centre Party, primarily due to its leader’s, Edgar Savisaar, unacceptable views on Russia and the Party’s alleged agreement with United Russia (in Russian, Edinaja Rossija), the party in power.

Edgar Savisaar unveils his plan to restart Estonian economy

Edgar Savisaar, chairman of Estonia’s largest opposition party, writes in Äripäev that he has an economic plan that will make Estonia’s economy to grow 2 to 3 times faster than the EU average.

If we want to show that we are not a dying-out, sad and angry small country, but a terrific country that has open society, dynamic business climate and is innovative, the first step is to remove the Reform Party from power, he writes.

Read more from BBN

ex-PM proposes a radical reform plan

Mart Laar, ex-PM and current supervisory board chairman of Estonian central bank, has come up with his own ideas of what kind of reforms Estonia needs, writes Äripäev.

Laar who said at the end of last year that he was going to unveil his reform proposals at the start of 2015 and that it was time for radical changes.

Read the key points of Mart Laar’s economic reform plan from BBN.

980,000 citizens have right to vote in parliament elections

According to the population register as on Nov. 1 there were 979,910 citizens with a right to vote in Estonia’s 2015 parliamentary elections which is about 15,000 people more than the number of people that had voting rights during the 2011 parliamentary elections.

The Interior Ministry forwarded data of the population register to the National Electoral Committee for the division of mandates for the parliamentary elections taking place on March 1, 2015, spokespeople for the ministry said.

The biggest number of citizens with the right to vote live in Tallinn — a total of 264,844 individuals. Of counties, the biggest number of citizens with voting rights are registered in Harju County, 101,291, without taking into account Tallinn residents.

In addition, Estonian citizens living permanently abroad who have the right to vote total 76,488.

During the 2011 parliamentary elections before the division of mandates citizens with the right to vote totalled 964,095, including 49,650 living abroad.

Mandates in Estonian elections are divided in accordance with the number of eligible voters in the district on the first day of the month when the elections were called. The president formally announced the parliamentary election of March 1, 2015 on Wednesday.

Source: BNS / Estonian Review

Reform Party names Maris Lauri as new finance minister

The Reform Party has put forward their new candidate for the position of the finance minister to replace Jürgen Ligi, who resigned on Saturday following a Facebook rant last week at Minister of Education Jevgeni Ossinovski. The position will be filled by the financial analyst Maris Lauri, currently the economic adviser to Prime Minister Taavi Rõivas.

“The first things I will have to do as a Finance Minister are the to see that the 2015 budget passes the readings at the Parliament, take the necessary steps to make sure that the EU structural funds are deployed as soon as possible, and bring in regulations for payday loans,” Lauri said.

She added that the finance ministers of the EU member states will meet next week in Brussels, so she does not have much time to settle in but has to tackle the job head-on.

Lauri is known to the Estonian public as a the head economist of Swedbank. She has been working as the adviser for the Prime Minister since last spring and as such has been involved in the budgeting process. She has previously also worked for the Bank of Estonia and lectured at the universities.

Lauri is the member of Enterprise Estonia and the head of its internal audit unit. She holds a MSc in Economics from the University of Tartu.

Lauri joined the Reform Party last week but announced her decision only on Monday, saying that she wishes to run for the parliament as it needs to include more specialists.

Lauri was chosen over several other potential candidates, including previous Finance Minister Aivar Sõerd, but the Prime Minister said the decision was consensual.

“In a situation where the new finance minister won’t have time to settle in, it has to be someone who is already at home in the field. As the head economist of Swedbank, Lauri has exceptional inside knowledge of the area and for the past seven months as my economic adviser, she has gained first hand experience in the processes of state financing,” Rõivas said.

Lauri said she has more private sector experience that previous minister Jürgen Ligi and she will be much more subtle in her manners. But her financial principles are much the same as her predecessor’s – a balanced state budget, reduction of the tax burden and a simple taxation system.

Lauri’s candidacy has been welcomed by other parliamentary parties, who hold her in high regard as an economic specialist.

Jüri Ratas of the Center Party faction said that Lauri’s experience in the private sector is a good asset. “I think that a candidate who comes from outside the circle of politicians and politics, who has previously been an analyst in the private sector and is now working for the Prime Minister, can bring new outlooks to the state financing as well,” he said.

IRL’s Urmas Reinsalu said Lauri was a logical choice for the Reform Party. “I think it was reasonable, considering the tensions they have, to bring in a specialist instead of another politician and Maris Lauri is no doubt an eligible person,” he said, adding that the opposition will not work against her.

If the president approves Lauri’s candidacy for the position, the current government will have six female ministers in office. This would be a new record for Estonia.

Source: ERR News

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