Centre Party's Toom announces ethics code, wishes to maintain party unity


Estonian MEP and Centre Party (Keskerakond) member Yana Toom has unveiled a Code of Ethics at a recent meeting of the party's board, which addresses issues like corruption, and which she believes is applicable to all sectors of Estonian society. (Original: ERR.)

The Code of Ethics, which directly addresses the Centre Party itself, is however still in a draft form and is awaiting approval by the party on 2 June.

Speaking to ERR, Yana Toom outlined the need for such a code of conduct.

''The political culture in Estonia leaves a lot to be desired. We have a habit of attacking opponents with personal slurs, and things which are not at all politically related.I would want to avoid this in the future,'' Ms. Toom explained.

Code of ethics not needed solely for Centre Party

The 12-point Code addresses such issues, and is something which Ms. Toom believes is needed by every Estonian political party and not just the Centre Party and its supporters: ''I would not wish to criticize my own party,'' she stated.

''But essentially I think the same ideas would suit everyone equally well,'' she went on.

''It is not, of course, my place to make decisions for others. But in principle there are no aspects of the code which are peculiar to the Centre Party alone,'' she added.

Toom's four year experience with the European Parliament have served as a model for what is possible in political life in Estonia, she related.

''Activities like making promises we cannot keep is something which should be ruled out of our political life,'' she added. ''But for some reason we simply haven't been able to import a 'European' standard into Estonia just yet,'' she claimed.

When being asked about the timing of the new Code of Ethics and if it had a campaigning dimension in the light of the forthcoming general elections in 2019, Ms. Toom was unequivocal in her denial.

''If I really wanted to score electoral points, I'd wait until after the election to issue a Code of Ethics like this, rather than bring out a document which contains very clear dos and don't in connection with election campaigns,'' she said.

Corrpution the elephant in the room

The other main thrust of the code championed by Ms. Toom was in its intention to address corruption issues.

''Corruption is a long-standing problem, there's no doubt about it,'' she averred.

''Of course it needs addressing. We do not yet have things like whistleblowers as they do elewhere in the world, for instance. Take this Vink character for example [Jaanus Vink, assistant manager of a´the bus repair section of of City of Tallinn City Transport company who was arrested in April on corruption charges – ed.]. I simply don't get how it's possible for someone in that position to own 10 apartments, 20 cars etc. and not be spotted,'' Toom noted.

''I don't have all the solutions, but corruption is clearly an issue that needs addressing,'' she went on.

She also noted that corrpution was a deep rooted problem with very complex causes and not simply a case of unbridled theft or misappropriation. She sees it more as an institutional phenomenon which often arises when the same faces hold the same postions for long periods without being held accountable, a complex web of relations develops, and familiar scapegoats can be used and reused.

Toom keen that Centre Party read from same hymn sheet

However, Yana Toom seemed to stop short of making any radical or blanket statements, and was keen to maintain unity in the Centre Party. Referring to another specific individual, Ms. Toom commented on the words of North Tallinn district elder Raimond Kaljulaid, who said last week that there needed to be a clean sweep in Tallinn's state agencies just as much as with national state enterprises and bodies.

''I think Raimond Kaljulaid is precisely the kind of person who would need to read the code of ethics,'' she said.

''He talks about the right things, but if you are a member of a party, it might be wise to be a team player and not foment division,'' she added

''I think if you have a good idea, then talk to people, talk with us. This divisive style does not suit me,'' Toom concluded.