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Parts in the firing line

  • 2007-11-22
  • In cooperation with BNS

TEARING IT APART: By criticising Ansip, Parts has incensed his coalition partners (Photo Estonian Minsitry of Economics and Communications)

TALLINN -- Pressure is building on Estonia'sEconomics Minister Juhan Parts, with some politicians calling for him to bereplaced, according to press reports.

Parts looks like he may be caught in thecrossfire as tensions rise between coalition partners from his own Pro Patriaand Res Publica Union (IRL) and the Reform Party.

Parts and prime minister Andrus Ansip havea long-standing rivalry but in recent months they have been able to worktogether for the sake of economic and political stability. Both have occupiedthe positions of prime minister and economics minister in coalitiongovernments. However, their relationship now appears to be crumbling.

In remarks made to the AFP news agency onNov. 21, Parts broke ranks with Ansip,blaming Ansip's previous government for failing to pave the way for euroadoption.

"Estonia had a chance to speed up joining the eurozone under the lastgovernment, which led the country when inflation was much lower than now,"Parts said.

Ansip's coalition had been "too worried about itsreputation and instead of making accession to the eurozone its priority, tookmisplaced steps such as too rapid an increase in state sector salaries,"he claimed.

"Now, when inflation has racked up, accession to theeurozone is postponed for years," Parts said.

"With the current decrease of GDP and increase ofinflation it is impossible to predict when Estonia will be ready again to join the eurozone," Parts said, addinghe was nonetheless an "optimist" regarding eventual accession.

Estonia initially hoped to make the switch from its national currency, thekroon, to the euro, at the start of 2007. But in April 2006 the governmentshifted the target to 2008 and has now put the move on ice until 2011 at theearliest.

The delays were mainly caused by Estonia's failure to control rising inflation,which needs to be strictly regulated in order to meet the EU's convergencecriteria.

Parts' thinly-veiled attack on his bossseems to have been the last straw for some Reform Party politicians who arecalling for him to be replaced, according to reports in the Eesti Paevaleht newspaper.

The reasons cited by the unnamed politicians are Parts' 2.56meuro plan to increase state subsidies for public transport and his proposalthat the renovation of the Tallinn-Tartu road be financed with money from thestate's treasury reserve.

Both ideas are viewed by the Reform Party as unacceptableuses of the state budget and according to EestiPaevaleht, PM Ansip is among those willing to block Parts' proposals.

The rift has become so serious that another former primeminister and current leader of IRL, Mart Laar, has reportedly sent a letter toAnsip in which he attempts to defuse tensions by warning of overeating tointernal bickering.