Estonian government 'least bad' - Economist

  • 2007-04-09
  • From Wire Reports
Estonia's new government may well be the least bad in eastern Europe, and that's something the Baltic state should boast about, according to an April 5 article in the British news and international affairs magazine The Economist.

Even the previous Estonian government was adequate, the magazine says: it was stable and reasonably efficient thanks to the canniness of the prime minister, Andrus Ansip. The economy rocketed ahead but stability came at the cost of progress.

"Estonia's famed innovative edge was blunted. Corruption started creeping up, especially in some ministries and municipalities controlled by his coalition partners. On vital issues such as education and e-government, reform largely stalled," The Economist said.

Ansip's new coalition should be a boost, not a brake, the magazine said.

Talks to form the coalition, following an election last month, proved surprisingly difficult, the weekly observes.

It also criticizes Ansip for keeping former prime minster Mart Laar out of the Foreign Ministry post Laar had been aiming for within the coalition.

"Mr Ansip is a likeable fellow with a pleasantly sardonic turn of phrase. He was a decent mayor of Tartu and he is still an impressive athlete. But he is no Mart Laar," The Economist says.

The new coalition has good prospects, having a parliamentary majority, clean and effective ministers, and a largely sensible program.

"Mr Ansip has no excuse now: he should aim to have the best government not merely in eastern Europe, but on the whole continent," The Economist says. However, the Ansip-led government faces some big tests, it notes.

One is to clean up the mess left in the ministries (notably interior and environment) run by the previous coalition partners. Tallinn's municipal finances and management need a stable-clean.

"Letting Estonia's boom cool safely will be tricky too, especially if promised tax cuts make the red-hot economy even hotter," the magazine points out.

The government's most immediate challenge, though, will be defusing a pre-election row that Ansip started over a Soviet-era war memorial in Tallinn, The Economist says.

It criticized the government for bungled diplomacy over the Bronze Soldier affair which, it said, Russia was able to use to paint as a resurgence of Nazism in Estonia.