Local press digest

  • 2004-08-12

Argument in the wrong place
Attempts by Agriculture Minister Ester Tuiksoo and Interior Minister Margus Leivo to conduct budget negotiations via the press not only denote a lack of political culture but also negligence toward government colleagues.
By demanding more money for their ministries through the mass media, the ministers are instigating the general public against their colleagues and, indirectly, against the entire government. The public is being given the impression that there is a heap of cash lying on the ground and that the evil finance minister does not want to give it to anyone.
As the Cabinet had already agreed on the budget limits at the end of May, and the budget revenue forecast has not changed since then, extra money can only come at the expense of other budgeted items. So if some minister demands money, he or she has to say from whose pocket it will be taken.
Journalists know well that every autumn Tartu University suddenly starts to crack, the fire department does not have a ladder long enough, the hospitals are about to stop treating patients and a number of people working in the public sector prepare for a strike to demand higher wages. The fact that many interest groups and departments earn their budget in such a manner is annoying yet understandable because they often do not have any other way to make themselves heard by the government.
However, when ministers start to act like pensioners' clubs it means they have largely misunderstood their official duties. Ministers have the opportunity of talking to their colleagues in private. They are the decision makers; their job is to distribute funds together as a single team - or to quit if that is not possible. Squeezing money from colleagues by using the public simply shows that the minister has failed to cope with the job in the right time and the right place.
The reticence of People's Union Chairman Villu Reiljan suggests that Tuiksoo and Leivo did not represent their party's line when they climbed onto the media soapbox. Apparently they became pawns in the game, where [People's Union] faction head Jaak Allik is provoking a coalition quarrel, while Reiljan wants to keep the party in the government.
This is why one can expect fierce battle over the budget in Parliament this autumn between coalition parties. And if Reiljan is not able to prevent a government crisis, Allik may get what he wants. The People's Union will be dismissed from the government, as Res Publica and the Reform Party carry on with the help of the so-called "social liberals" who recently left the Center Party.
Aug. 10

Zhdanok party's Emsis
The struggle for Latvia's representative on the European Commission is beggining to look like [Prime Minister Indulis] Emsis' Stalingrad - not to leave Sandra Kalniete in her post at all costs and if possible to send to Brussels the Euroskeptic and Russian market admirer Ingrida Udre, who was finally named as a candidate for this post by the "oil-pipe farmers" on Aug. 2. (Slesers' "priests," who are holding out for the prospects of Lujans, are letting people know that they won't support Kalniete either.) Besides, the first assignment is even more important than the second one. Since it is obvious that Udre is not fit for this post, it seems impossible to persuade the People's Party to support her, yet Emsis is neither trying to explain why Kalniete can't continue her work in the EC, nor clearly state that he himself supports Udre.
If Udre is an unacceptable candidate for Latvia, than Kalniete is totally unacceptable for Russia. Because for the few months while she was working in the EC, Kalniete was too active on issues that affect Russia's interests and also because her biography is a story about the occupation of Latvia and its independence regained.
Tatyana Zhdanok, who in the European Parliament is working against Latvia within the Greens and other European leftist groups, is Russia's most obvious achievement so far - using Latvia to represent its own interests in European structures.
Ainars Ozolins, Aug. 3