The Estonian Reform Party was founded on November 13, 1994. On that day, two important political meetings took place: the meeting of an initiative group for a new party headed by then President of the Bank of Estonia Siim Kallas and the extraordinary congress of the Estonian Liberal Democrat Party (ELDP) founded in 1990. The initiative group decided to merge with ELDP, form a new party named the Estonian Reform Party, and start preparing for the parliamentary elections of 1995. ELDP having in previous meetings decided upon the necessity of persistently uniting innovative forces to continue the course of Estonian reforms approved the merger with the initiators of the Reform Party at their congress. The leadership of the two structures was merged and Siim Kallas was elected as Chairman. The Ministry of Internal Affairs registered the Estonian Reform Party on December 9, 1994.
The first elections for the Reform Party were the parliamentary elections of 1995 where we received 87 531 votes which constituted for 16.19% of votes which gave us 19 seats in the Riigikogu. From that point on the Reform Party has successfully presented its candidates in all following elections. Since 1999 the Reform Party has continually been a member of the government making us the party that has carried the responsibilities of government the longest in Estonia. Our party has provided two Prime Ministers - Siim Kallas from 2002 to 2003 and the current Prime Minister Andrus Ansip who started as the head of government in spring 2005 and still holds that position today, having done so longer than anyone else before him.
Since May 2004 the Chairman of the Reform Party Siim Kallas assumed the position of Estonia's representative in the European Commission. In the new composition of the European Commission that started work in autumn 2004, Siim Kallas became a vice president of the Commission. As Siim Kallas started working in Brussels, Andrus Ansip was by the decision of the Board the first Vice Chairman of the Reform Party since summer of 2004 and in November 2004, in a General Meeting dedicated to the Party's tenth anniversary, Andrus Ansip was elected the Party's new Chairman. Siim Kallas became the Party's Honorary Chairman.
The Reform Party has set up candidates for the two European Parliament elections held so far in Estonia. In June 2004, the Reform Party's candidate Toomas Savi was elected as one of Estonia's representatives. On June 7, 2009 as a member of the Reform Party, Kristiina Ojuland was elected to the European Parliament.
Victories at Elections
With the initiative of the Reform Party, corporate income tax on reinvested profits has been abolished since January 1, 2000. This was one of the Party's principal promises in the 1999 parliamentary elections, which was ferociously criticised by our opponents but by now it has proven to be an undeniably important factor in Estonia's rapid economic growth and has garnered attention in Europe and all over the world.
In November and December 2002 Estonia received invitations to join the EU and NATO. A significant contribution to the successful conclusion of accession negotiations was made by Foreign Minister Kristiina Ojuland and Prime Minister Siim Kallas who led Estonia's delegations.
In September 2003, the people of Estonia gave their approval to Estonia joining the European Union. The Reform Party played a great part in Estonia's accomplishment of fulfilling the accession criteria in a short time - in only 12 months. As members of the government during 1995-1996 and 1999-2004 we managed to actualise the decisions that enabled the replacement of a socialist plan economy with a successful and globally competitive liberal free market economy. It is because of these decisions that Estonia is considered to be the world's most successful transition country.
The Parental Benefit Act which enables the mother of an infant to spend a year at home with the child without losing her income entered into force on January 1, 2004. This one of the principle campaign promises of the Reform Party at the 2003 Riigikogu elections, which is meant to stop the slow disappearance of the Estonian people and help in the preservation of our language, culture and nationhood. A significant increase in births was already evident in the statistics of the first half of 2004.
The 2 per cent reduction in individual's income tax entered into force on January 1, 2005. The positive effect of the idea presented by the Reform Party prior to the elections is felt by all working people in Estonia on their paydays through the extra income they receive.
On January 1, 2006 the income tax rate was further reduced to 23%. The parental benefit eligibility period was lengthened to 15 months. In 2006 39% of families who had procured a child said that the parental benefit played some sort of role on their decision to have a child. In increase in birth rate was so remarkable that Estonia's population growth was actually positive in July and August - this had not happened for a long time. Estonia's economic growth in the 2nd quarter was the fastest in Europe and the world and unemployment was at a record low. Andrus Ansip becoming the most popular Prime Minister in Estonia with 62% and the Reform Party the most popular party with 21% support after regaining independence was obviously a result of these actions.
On January 1, 2007 the tax reform led by the Reform Party continued and the income tax rate was reduced by another per cent, leaving up to 800 million in the pockets of Estonia's work force.
On December 17, 2008 the Riigikogu passes the long awaited new Labour Contract Act which has an actual beneficial effect on Estonia's labour market. Thanks to the new Labour Contract Act, employment relationships became more flexible meaning that the bottleneck of Estonia's economy - rigid employment relations - was removed. The new Labour Contract Act entered into force on July 1, 2009.
At the local council elections held on October 18, 2009, the Reform Party with its campaign "We love Estonia" attained its all-time best result in local elections winning the elections in many larger towns and counties with the 110 275 votes received all over Estonia. Also, the Reform Party won the e-elections by a great margin.
In the end of October Estonia was visited by an International Monetary Fund (IMF) mission to assess Estonia's economic situation and perspectives. The final report of IMF published in 2009 with its assessments concerning Estonia provides confidence that the difficult budgetary decisions made by the government have been made for good reason and the transition to the euro is within our reach. /---Following recent budget measures and assuming continued fiscal consolidation efforts, Estonia could meet all Maastricht criteria, while the policy record to date provides assurances for continued stability-oriented policies. This is remarkable, as it is being achieved against the background of severe dislocations due to the crisis. ---/