Pro Patria lashes out at Centrists' agreement with Russia's pro-Kremlin party

  • 2005-08-24
  • By Ksenia Repson
TALLINN - Leaders of the right-wing Pro Patria Union have demanded the immediate cancellation of a political accord signed at the end of 2004 by Estonia's Center Party and Russia's pro-Kremlin United Russia.

Dubbed the Savisaar-Putin pact by conservatives, the agreement has placed an indelible stamp on government politics.

Since coming to power as economy minister, Center Party Chief Edgar Savisaar has not been shy about regulating industry, particularly the Port of Tallinn and Estonian Railways.

The board of Pro Patria adopted its statement one night before the anniversary of the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact. It said that the Putin-friendly United Russia was not an ideological union, but more resembled an administrative power center based on former KGB structures and loyalists to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Pro Patria ended its statement by declaring that Estonian parties should neither cooperate nor maintain close relations with such an organization.

Tonis Lukas, chairman of Pro Patria, was quoted by the Baltic News Service as saying that part of Estonia's political elite - particularly top Center Party politicians - were nostalgic for the Soviet period.

Edgar Savisaar, writing last December in the daily Postimees, defended his party by saying that the Centrists had not initiated the accord. In his words, it had been Res Publica's idea, after the 2002 visit of Boris Nemtsov, a liberal critic of the Kremlin.

But Res Publica failed, Savisaar added. Rather than keeping silent with Moscow, the minister said it was important to carry on a dialogue with the neighbor.

As a case in point, the former Tallinn mayor said that after Estonia regained independence in 1991, businessmen lost hundreds of million of dollars due to a freezing in economic relations with Russia.

All of this served as fodder for Pro Patria members. Centrists and Reformists 's two of the three coalition powers 's are euro-liberals, Pro Patria wrote in its statement. "We don't believe in the possibility of euro-liberals supporting violations of human rights, the war in Chechnya, rights infringement of the Maris (see story on Page 1), suppression of free journalism and support of reactionary politics in neighbor countries," the party wrote in its statement.

As far as Prime Minister Andrus Ansip's denial that the Center Party-United Russia accord had an impact on government policy, it was too little too late for Pro Patria. The party called on the Cabinet leader to annul the two-party agreement.

What's more, the Estonian state suffered additional pains as a result of Educational Minister Centrist Mailis Reps' behavior in Mari El.

Pro Patria also accused Savisaar of poorly managing Estonian Railways, the privately held cargo carrier, and the Port of Tallinn. As a result of the economy minister's actions, shady Russian transit businesses have benefited most.

The PR representative of the Pro Patria Union, Margus Tsahkna, said that, although the opposition is not aware exactly what the Center Party-United Russia treaty includes, the party wants it abolished.

Toomar Raag, a Centrist faction advisor, was quoted by the Baltic News Service as saying that Aug. 23 was a tragic day in Estonian history and that it was regretful that the Pro Patria Union was trying to derive political benefit from the sufferings of Estonian people. He said Pro Partia Union was weak in the polls and was trying to ratchet up support by disseminating hysterical and abusive statements about rival parties.