Reform Party names Maris Lauri as new finance minister

The Reform Party has put forward their new candidate for the position of the finance minister to replace Jürgen Ligi, who resigned on Saturday following a Facebook rant last week at Minister of Education Jevgeni Ossinovski. The position will be filled by the financial analyst Maris Lauri, currently the economic adviser to Prime Minister Taavi Rõivas.

“The first things I will have to do as a Finance Minister are the to see that the 2015 budget passes the readings at the Parliament, take the necessary steps to make sure that the EU structural funds are deployed as soon as possible, and bring in regulations for payday loans,” Lauri said.

She added that the finance ministers of the EU member states will meet next week in Brussels, so she does not have much time to settle in but has to tackle the job head-on.

Lauri is known to the Estonian public as a the head economist of Swedbank. She has been working as the adviser for the Prime Minister since last spring and as such has been involved in the budgeting process. She has previously also worked for the Bank of Estonia and lectured at the universities.

Lauri is the member of Enterprise Estonia and the head of its internal audit unit. She holds a MSc in Economics from the University of Tartu.

Lauri joined the Reform Party last week but announced her decision only on Monday, saying that she wishes to run for the parliament as it needs to include more specialists.

Lauri was chosen over several other potential candidates, including previous Finance Minister Aivar Sõerd, but the Prime Minister said the decision was consensual.

“In a situation where the new finance minister won’t have time to settle in, it has to be someone who is already at home in the field. As the head economist of Swedbank, Lauri has exceptional inside knowledge of the area and for the past seven months as my economic adviser, she has gained first hand experience in the processes of state financing,” Rõivas said.

Lauri said she has more private sector experience that previous minister Jürgen Ligi and she will be much more subtle in her manners. But her financial principles are much the same as her predecessor’s – a balanced state budget, reduction of the tax burden and a simple taxation system.

Lauri’s candidacy has been welcomed by other parliamentary parties, who hold her in high regard as an economic specialist.

Jüri Ratas of the Center Party faction said that Lauri’s experience in the private sector is a good asset. “I think that a candidate who comes from outside the circle of politicians and politics, who has previously been an analyst in the private sector and is now working for the Prime Minister, can bring new outlooks to the state financing as well,” he said.

IRL’s Urmas Reinsalu said Lauri was a logical choice for the Reform Party. “I think it was reasonable, considering the tensions they have, to bring in a specialist instead of another politician and Maris Lauri is no doubt an eligible person,” he said, adding that the opposition will not work against her.

If the president approves Lauri’s candidacy for the position, the current government will have six female ministers in office. This would be a new record for Estonia.

Source: ERR News

Estonia’s president about Russia’s threat

Raised in New Jersey, Estonia’s President Toomas Hendrik Ilves does not mince words when it comes to the situation in Ukraine and the threat Russia poses to his country and the region. He took time last week to speak with The Post’s Lally Weymouth. Excerpts:

Q. What do you think of the situation in Ukraine?

A. The issue is not just Ukraine — it is the entire post-World War II order, which is under question. The Helsinki Final Act forbade border changes through aggression and says explicitly that no such change in borders would be recognized.

[This] was already annulled by the [Russian] attack on Georgia in 2008. Prime Minister [Vladimir] Putin and President [Dmitry] Medvedev said they did it because Georgia wanted to join NATO. No one heard the alarm.

Now it is Ukraine, where even more egregiously, the casus belli is that Ukraine wanted to have an association agreement with the European Union. [Such an agreement] really doesn’t give you very much.

Read more from The Washington Post

Study of politician’s bank account shows close ties to businesses

A study of a bank account owned by convicted former Environment Minister Villu Reiljan and his wife Anne Reiljan shows how important business is in politics in Estonia, writes Äripäev in its investigative journalism report.

Proof of this is Villu Reiljan’s 50th birthday that he celebrated in May 2003. The total amount of money paid to his special-purpose birthday bank account by well-wishers was 220,000 kroons or over 14,000 euros. Cash donations may have amounted to as similar amount.

Read more from BBN

President: We are in a Post- WWII environment

Due to steps taken by Russia in Crimea and eastern Ukraine, the world is back in the immediate post-Second World War years, President Toomas Hendrik Ilves said in an interview ahead of Estonian Victory Day.

Speaking on Vikerraadio, President Ilves said there were plenty of people who still look at Russia through rose-colored glasses and hope it is a bad dream that will pass.

“We are in around 1946. The understanding that used to hold true is no longer valid. We can no longer believe in these rules when one party has violated them all. The question now is what next? I say that if there is no significant withdrawal, if the situation persists, we will see a reaction from the West,” Ilves said.

According to him, a slow reaction is characteristic of democracies, as only authoritarian states can act without consulting the people.

The president said that the Ukrainian crisis has resulted in an increase in the willingness of Estonians to defend their country, alluding to a rise of volunteers for the Defense League.

Source: ERR News

Ansip replaces Kaja Kallas as Europarliament’s No. 1 candidate

The general convention of the Reform Party decided over the weekend that the party’s Europarliament candidate list will be topped by former Prime Minister Andrus Ansip, writes Eesti Päevaleht.

In the initial list of candidates that was submitted to the convention on February 26 the list was topped by MP Kaja Kallas, daughter of European Commissioner Siim Kallas.

Read more from BBN

Andrus Ansip’s last day as Europe’s longest-serving PM

March 26, 2014 was the final day of Andrus Ansip (57) as Prime Minister of Estonia. He was PM just short of nine years, specifically 8 years, 11 months and two weeks, wrote Postimees.

In an interview to Postimees, Ansip said that he was very grateful to the Estonian people for their confidence in him.

“Last week Turu-uuringute AS published its survey of public confidence in institutions. It showed that the government is trusted by 46% of the population. This is very high, especially compared to the rest of Europe where governments are usually supported by around 25% of the population,” he added.

Read more from BBN

Eiki Nestor was elected the President of the Riigikogu

At the elections of the Board of the Riigikogu, Eiki Nestor was elected the President today. 54 members of the Riigikogu voted in his favour.

45 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of Ene Ergma.

100 members of the Riigikogu took part in the elections. 1 ballot paper was invalid.

Eiki Nestor had been nominated by the Chairman of the Social Democratic Party Faction Sven Mikser. Ene Ergma had been nominated by the Chairman of the Pro Patria and Res Publica Union Faction Kaia Iva.

Eiki Nestor thanked the members of the Riigikogu for their support.

“I wish that the Riigikogu would be close to the people. If closeness on a first name basis seems inappropriate to some, a more polite form of address could be used, but I certainly don’t want the Riigikogu to be called ‘them’,” Nestor said.

The Riigikogu will now move on to electing its Vice-Presidents.

Source: The Riigikogu Press Service via Estonian Review

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