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Estonia forges pro-West coalition amid Russia jitters

 Estonia`s pro-NATO Prime Minister Taavi Roivas on Wednesday completed formation of a ruling coalition after a March re-election overshadowed by tensions with neighbouring Russia.

Tallinn: Estonia`s pro-NATO Prime Minister Taavi Roivas on Wednesday completed formation of a ruling coalition after a March re-election overshadowed by tensions with neighbouring Russia.

Roivas`s centre-right Reform party renewed its partnership with leftist Social Democrats and roped-in the conservative IRL party to command 59 seats in the 101-member parliament, the Baltic New Service (BNS) reported Wednesday.

The arrangement was widely forecast by analysts in Tallinn, who also insist it means Estonia`s pro-Western orientation, its commitment to the EU, eurozone and NATO will remain intact and possibly become even more pronounced.

At 35, Roivas is the EU`s youngest prime minister and will lead one of the bloc`s most youthful cabinets with the oldest of his 14 ministers being 55 while eight are under 40.

Amid military exercises in the region by Soviet-era master Russia, he has vowed to make economic growth and national security priorities in the Baltic nation of 1.3 million.

"There`s no more room for wavering. From now on difficult decisions have to be made," Roivas said Wednesday in Tallinn, quoted by BNS.

Social Democrat chief Sven Mikser, whose party holds 15 seats, will continue as defence minister and Reform politician Keit Pentus-Rosimannus will stay on as foreign minister.

Roivas is due to ask President Toomas Hendrik Ilves to give his formal seal of approval before parliament does the same on Thursday. 

The opposition pro-Russian Centre party has been plagued by the ill health of its leader Edgar Savisaar. The 64-year-old had part of his leg amputated last month after being hospitalised in critical condition with a severe infection. 

Commanding 27 seats in parliament, his party is supported mainly by Estonia`s ethnic Russian minority, accounting for one quarter of the country`s population. 

Tensions between NATO members and Russia have spiked to Cold War-era levels since Moscow`s March 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine and the ongoing conflict in eastern Ukraine between pro-Russia rebels and the government.

Russian military manoeuvres on Estonia`s border have further stoked deep concerns in Europe that the Kremlin could attempt to destabilise countries that were in its orbit during Soviet times.

NATO is countering those moves by boosting defences on Europe`s eastern flank with a spearhead force of 5,000 troops and command centres in six formerly communist members of the alliance, including one in Estonia.

Long a paragon of fiscal responsibility in the EU, which it joined in 2004, Estonia posted 1.8 percent economic growth in 2014, with 2.5 percent expansion expected this year. Joblessness hovered around seven percent last year.

Deep reforms and years of painful austerity paved the way to Estonia`s 2011 eurozone entry.