As part of its party platform ahead of the 2019 Riigikogu elections, the Pro Patria Party plans to promise increasing defence spending in Estonia from 2.16% to 2.5% of the GDP. Other parties, however, are skeptical of the idea.
One key issue on which Pro Patria is to focus ahead of the next elections is defence spending, and Minister of Defence Jüri Luik (Pro Patria) has stated the party’s position that defence spending should be increased to 2.5% of the GDP, reported ETV’s Aktuaalne kaamera news broadcast.
Aivar Riisalu, who is compiling the national defence chapter of the Centre Party’s platform, found that this topic is not worth involving in the election battle.
“There is a whole slew of other issues in society that all require money — first and foremost social ones,” Riisalu said. “As a result, I believe that introducing this debate is somewhat populistic and ultimately cannot be approved. As we currently are not actually under the direct threat of war. I believe that we are currently in a situation where we should stick with the tradition of 2% plus host nation expenses. This is a social agreement strongly backed by all parties; let’s not take this to the elections.”
Minister of Foreign Affairs and Social Democratic Party (SDE) board member Sven Mikser believes that this proposed increase would mean an increase in tax burden.
“If defence spending is increased by half a percent without touching the wallets of other spheres of life, this must inevitably mean increasing the general tax burden by half a percent of the GDP,” Mikser said. “This in turn must be translated into concrete tax changes. Surely the one introducing the proposal must be required to formuate the proposal as regards to which type of taxes should be increased to what degree in order to increase budget revenue.”
The Reform Party currently does not a have a firm stance on the matter, but National Defence Committee of the Riigikogu member Ants Laaneots said that they are not outright against the idea.
“We have discussed this matter,” Laaneots said. “There have been no objections. This isn’t a matter for next year; this will come up on the agenda in the new Riigikogu following the Riigikogu elections. In any case, the Reform Party has not buried or criticised the idea; we understand the current security situation very well.”
The Conservative People’s Party of Estonia (EKRE) is more skeptical of the idea, finding that there are bigger priorities in the budget, such as pensions, infrastructure and waiting lists for medical care.