Estonia’s Prime Minister

Austerity Zeal from the Baltics

Taavi Roivas dpa
He's the youngest head of government in the E.U.: Estonia's Taavi Rõivas.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    Increasingly confident euro members such as Estonia could re-shape some of the long-held alliances in Europe as they throw their weight behind Germany’s more austerity-minded way of thinking.

  • Facts

    Facts

    • Estonia, located in eastern Europe and bordering Russia, joined the euro in 2011.
    • The country went through a tough phase of austerity, shrinking its economy and budgets in order to join the common currency.
    • Taavi Rõivas, 35, is head of Estonia’s pro-business party and has led the government in left-right coalition since March 2014.
  • Audio

    Audio

  • Pdf

Taavi Rõivas had hoped to take a two-week vacation in July. Like many other European leaders, the Estonian prime minister found himself held back by Greece, a crisis that sparked another round of countless meetings in Brussels to hammer out the details of a third bailout package that would allow Athens to avoid bankruptcy and Greece to remain part of the euro currency. Estonia is one of the leading new voices from the Baltics, advocating a tough approach towards Greece that mirrors the tough reforms Estonia itself took to join the euro in 2011.

Mr. Rõivas sat down for an interview with Handelsblatt at the government’s headquarters in Estonia’s capital, Tallinn.

Handelsblatt: Mr. Rõivas, what’s your view on the compromise the European Union found last Monday to solve Greece’s problems?

Taavi Rõivas: Just a couple of weeks ago the situation was very pessimistic. The referendum, the acts by the Greek government didn’t help at all to reach the agreement. The situation by last Tuesday (July 7), when we first met, was very, very critical. But I’m very glad that by the early morning hours of Monday we reached an agreement, that the Greek government and prime minister (Alexis) Tsipras committed to fulfill the criteria, or, let’s not use criteria, to go further with the reform program. This is very much needed, not only for the creditors but it is needed for Greece itself.

Please explain.

It is quite clear that without those reforms it is impossible to be sustainable as an economy. It’s quite clear that at this level of expenditures in many fields it would be impossible to be sustainable as an economy. It is not a question of demands by creditors even though creditors have their worries and rights and so on. This is more about Greece becoming a country that can grow again and service its debts. I believe that these things need to be done. There is nothing in the agreement – most probably, there won’t be anything in it that other European countries haven’t done as well.

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