Res Publica to review coalition priorities

  • 2005-01-19
  • By Aleksei Gunter
TALLINN - Res Publica, the main force in the country's government, has called for a review of the coalition agreement put together almost two years ago to ensure its successful implementation.

The party wants to highlight points that have so far earned little attention from the government, according to MPs. Among those are the state audit office's right to control local governments, direct presidential elections and a higher level of tax-free income for families with two or more children. At a scheduled three-party coalition meeting on Jan. 17, Res Publica proposed taking a close look at the coalition agreement and set priorities straight for the year 2005.

Res Publica's allies, the Reform Party, seemed to accept the idea of a review. "We do not want to open the coalition agreement for revisal, but we agree to the idea that certain goals slated in the agreement need to be arranged according to their importance," said Peep Aru, chairman of the Reform Party parliament faction.

Analysts said the move boiled down to a publicity grab for Res Publica, which wants a jump-start on the autumn 2005 local elections. But Siim Mannik, party faction advisor, said the party is "interested in fulfilling the deals once agreed on."

Aru took this statement further, saying that his party was optimistic about solidifying agreement goals. He added, however, that the review was purely Res Publica's initiative and that the Reformists were merely consenting to their partner's initiative.

Jaanus Mannik, head of the People's Union parliament faction, claimed that analyzing and, if necessary, updating the agreement was a natural and ongoing process. "First we need to analyze the realization of agreement plans. We can't say the government did not do a good job, but we need to make sure all the promises are important and that there is no discrimination," he said.

Signed in spring 2003, the coalition agreement became a major bone of contention between the three parties when the People's Union demanded that it be amended six months later. "It was a tough moment, and one can't rule out any scenario in politics, but we hope this time nothing like that [2003 crisis] will happen," said Aru.

The three parties met this week to establish their 2005 priorities. Aru said that parental allowance preservation and tax reform continuation topped the Reformists' to-do list.

Mannik of the People's Union said strengthening local governments' income base and equal treatment of rural schools under the vast school repair program as priorities for 2005. He added that the three parties would have to find a compromise regarding tax reform issues just like they did in autumn 2003.

"We would like to remind our partners that the additional protocol for the coalition agreement signed in November 2003 includes the parties' pledge for a balanced state budget. The budget should contain enough funds to realize all the coalition goals," Jaanus Mannik said.

In autumn 2003 the People's Party stated that, in case of a simultaneous tax-rate cut and the increase of a tax-free minimum, the state would not have enough revenues to fund other coalition goals.