Pensioners march on Parliament

  • 2000-12-14
  • Andrei Titov
TALLINN - Nearly 5,000 pensioners marched in front of the Estonian Parliament building on Dec. 6 demanding an increase in pensions beginning next year and expressing indignation with Mart Laar's government.

The pensioners were carrying posters and banners bearing such slogans as "The people are not for sale!"

"We demand to get as much as Mart Laar and his company!"

The pensioners argue that it is impossible to live on the present pension.

According to MP Janno Reiljan, European tradition requires pensioners make 60 percent of the average wage. MP Tiit Toomsalu from the Estonian Social Democratic Party filed questions with the government to test whether it was ready to meet demonstrators' demands.

"I alone collected 1,871 signatures in support of the demonstration in the southern Valga county in two weeks," he said.

The meeting was organized by the People's Union.

It issued a statement demanding a pension increase to at least 40 percent of the average wage from January and not less than forty-five percent by 2002. They also want subsistence levels to be at least 800 kroons ($44.50) a month. Two weeks ago Prime Minister Mart Laar said 500 kroons a month is enough for one person to live on.

About 5.7 million kroons ($317,000) should be earmarked from the state budget to fulfill all pensioners' requirements, the estimates show.

A day before the demonstration Estonian police promised to punish the organizers. According to aTallinn police spokesperson the demonstration was illegal.

"The meeting had the permission of the police, but it had no endorsement from the central Tallinn borough government. So the organizers can expect to be punished," the police spokesperson said.

"Organizers of mass events must bring the necessary endorsements to us for registration," said central Tallinn borough governor Siim Kiisler.