Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 54

The three election-winning conservative parties (see the Monitor, March 8) signed yesterday an agreement on the formation of Estonia’s new government and on its program. The parties are: the Pro Patria Union, the Reform Party and the Moderates, holding eighteen, eighteen and seventeen seats, respectively, for a total of fifty-three in the 101-seat parliament. The alliance anticipates support on many issues from the “centrist” Coalition Party and Country People’s Party, the partners in the predecessor government, which are now down to seven seats each.

The three conservative parties will hold carefully apportioned equal shares of power in the cabinet of ministers and parliament leadership. The main posts will go to Pro Patria’s Mart Laar as prime minister and Juri Luik as defense minister, Reform Party’s Siim Kallas as finance minister and the Moderates’ Toomas Ilves as foreign minister. Laar and Ilves had held those posts earlier; Kallas is also familiar to Estonia’s foreign partners as a former foreign minister and National Bank governor. Reform Party’s Toomas Savi is likely to retain his current post as chairman of parliament.

The program stresses continuity in the government’s makeup and policy for the entire four-year span of this legislature. It identifies three outstanding priorities. First, advancement toward NATO membership by upgrading the military and raising defense spending to 2 percent of the gross national product within this government’s term of office. Attainment of this target would bring Estonia to the level of frontrunner Lithuania with respect to defense spending, leaving Latvia well behind. Second, continuation of free market policies, tax incentives for capital gains and investment, and anti-inflationary monetary policies. And third, higher spending on education and incentives to increase the national birth rate, whose low level provides reason for concern. President Lennart Meri is on record as sharing these concerns and these priorities (BNS, March 15-18).