Rural affairs minister resigns after less than two weeks on job

On Monday night, the leadership of the Center Party had begun discussing the matter of Minister of Rural Affairs Martin Repinski continuing in his position as minister following the surfacing of two scandals involving him. Unable to reach a final decision on the matter, they planned to continue discussing the matter on Tuesday evening. Repinski preempted the final decision, however, when he handed in his letter of resignation to Prime Minister Jüri Ratas on Tuesday.

Investigative weekly Eesti Ekspress published an article the day that Ratas’ government was sworn into office alleging that the Repinski-owned Konju Organic Farm had sold goat cheese labeled as an Estonian product despite part of it being ordered from Dutch company De Molkerei. Repinski responded to the allegations by denying any fraud, claiming that no Konju Farm products sold in Estonian stores contained cheese sourced from the Netherlands.

It was then reported on Friday that the Ida-Viru County Court had found Repinski guilty of attempted fraud as a minor. According to the court judgment to which ERR had access, on Aug. 12, 2002, the Ida-Viru County Court found Repinski guilty of attempted fraud in the course of a settlement in a simplified proceeding, sentencing him to a conditional three months in prison and one year of probation. According to Repinski, he was very sorry for what he did.

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Kersti Kaljulaid elected next President of Estonia

The Riigikogu has elected Estonian representative to the European Court of Auditors Kersti Kaljulaid as the next President of the Republic of Estonia. Kaljulaid, who will also be Estonia’s first woman president, is scheduled to be sworn into office on Monday, Oct. 10.

Prior to the official roll call which precedes each round of voting, MP Kadri Simson (Center), on behalf of 31 MPs, presented President of the Riigikogu Eiki Nestor with a draft amendment to the Constitution for the implementation of direct elections for the President of the Republic.

MP Laine Randjärv (Reform) also posed a question to the Riigikogu regarding whether the current elections were following democratic procedure if the media was already reporting about presidential candidate Kersti Kaljulaid and the press scheduling an interview with Kaljulaid for Monday evening, for which Nestor apologized.

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Estonia’s gender gap narrows

Estonia has placed 21st among 145 states in the latest Global Gender Gap Report of the World Economic Forum, while last year Estonia placed 62nd among 142 countries surveyed.

According to the report Estonia climbed the most in the ranking and mainly due to improving its political empowerment index.

In the parliament the share of women MPs rose from 19 percent to 24 percent, while in the government the share rose from 17 percent to 46 percent as a result of Estonia having six female ministers at a time for a period of a few months at the end of 2014 and the start of 2015.

Iceland, Norway, Finland, Sweden and Ireland made up the top five, while Syria, Pakistan and Yemen were the bottom three countries.

Source: Baltic News Service via Estonian Review

Estonia rocked by corruption scandal

The Internal Security Service KAPO on Sept.22, 2015 detained Tallinn Mayor Edgar Savisaar as a suspect for repeatedly accepting bribes.

The Center Party chairman is suspected of repeatedly accepting bribes in 2014 and 2015 in assets and favors for himself as well as for a third party with a total value of several hundred thousand euros.

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Estonia’s new Minister of Foreign Affairs is Marina Kaljurand

Minister of Foreign Affairs Marina Kaljurand took office on July 16, 2015 by by taking the oath of office before the Riigikogu.

“In assuming the duties of a member of the Government of the Republic, I am aware that I am responsible in that office to the Government of the Republic and to my conscience. I solemnly swear to remain faithful to the constitutional order of the Government of the Republic and to dedicate my energy to ensuring the well-being and future of the Estonian people,” the Minister of Foreign Affairs Marina Kaljurand said, in reading out the oath of office of a member of the Government.

President Toomas Hendrik Ilves appointed Marina Kaljurand as Minister of Foreign Affairs yesterday on the basis of the proposal of Prime Minister Taavi Rõivas. According to law, the Minister can start the performance of her duties upon taking the oath of office before the Riigikogu.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs Keit Pentus-Rosimannus submitted her resignation to Prime Minister Taavi Rõivas on Sunday, 1 July. Yesterday, the President of the Republic relieved Pentus-Rosimannus from the office of Minister of foreign affairs.

Before taking the office of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Kaljurand was the Undersecretary on Political Affairs of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 2014–2015. During the same period, she was also an Estonian Expert of the UN Group of Governmental Experts on Cybersecurity.

In 2011–2014, Kaljurand was the Ambassador of Estonia to the U.S.A. and Mexico and in 2011–2013 also to Canada. In 2008–2011, Kaljurand was the Undersecretary on Economic and Development Affairs of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In 2007–2011, Kaljurand was the Estonian Ambassador to   Kazakhstan, in 2005–2008 to the Russian Federation and in 2004–2006 to Israel. In 2002–2005, Kaljurand was the Undersecretary on Legal and Consular Affairs and Legal Counsellor of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Marina Kaljurand has also held the post of Director General of the Legal Department, Director of the International Agreements Department and Third Secretary of the Press and Information Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Counsellor at the Estonian Embassy in Helsinki and Lecturer of Law of the School of Economics of the Tallinn University of Technology.

Marina Kaljurand holds a master’s degree in law from the University of Tartu (cum laude), and she has also graduated from the Estonian School of Diplomacy and acquired a master’s degree in international law and diplomacy from Tufts University in the USA.


Estonian foreign minister resigns

keit_pentus_rosimannusEstonian Foreign Minister Keit Pentus-Rosimannus on Wednesday tendered her resignation to Prime Minister Taavi Rõivas, BNS has learned.

The minister’s resignation comes in the wake of Tuesday’s court ruling which found her to be connected with the bankruptcy of her father’s road haulage company Autorollo and ordered her to pay the bankruptcy claim solitarily with other respondents.

“Upon returning from a working visit to Sweden yesterday, I unexpectedly found myself faced with the task of turning to the Supreme Court to defend my rights,” Pentus-Rosimannus said in a statement.

“The ruling that reversed the previous decision of the first-tier court obliged me to participate in the payment of the debts which the company once owned by my father incurred during the economic crisis. I do not agree with the court’s interpretations according to which family members have to be punished for father’s business failure, I regard the ruling as extremely unjust towards me and I intend to contest it in the Supreme Court,” she said.

“Respect for the Estonian state and its institutions and my understanding of European political culture do not allow me to act in the emerged situation in any other way than to ask the prime minister to release me from the position of foreign minister. I did this around noon today,” she added.

Pentus-Rosimannus said she can continue to deal with matters that are of importance to Estonia and Europe just as well in parliament and that’s what she’s going to do.

While the first-tier Harju County Court found last summer that Pentus-Rosimannus was not connected with the bankruptcy of her father Vaino Pentus’ transport company Autorollo, the Tallinn Circuit Court on Tuesday turned the bankruptcy claim partly against the minister.

Pentus-Rosimannus became foreign minister in November 2014 after Urmas Paet decided to take up his seat in the European Parliament.

Source: Baltic News Service via Estonian Review

Former MEP calls African refugees a “threat to white race”

Kristiina Ojuland, a former Foreign Minister of Estonia and former member of the European Parliament, voiced her disapproval of the European Commission’s migrant quota plan on her official Facebook page, by calling for a pan-European campaign against admitting any refugees in the EU.

In a post that was more reminiscent of a far-right extremist, than a former Vice President of the European Liberal Democrat and Reform Party (ALDE), Ojuland said that the “white race is threatened” by dark-skinned immigrants (Ojuland actually used an Estonian word “neeger” which is not officially considered offensive in Estonia, but nevertheless becoming socially unacceptable).

“Today yet again I see a fully able young Negro begging for money in Italy, from people who have worked hard to earn a lunch. I think that we should start a pan-European campaign to collect signatures to ensure that not a single so-called refugee gets across the Mediterranean. Enough of this nonsense!” Ojuland, the former high-ranking politician who for years campaigned Estonia to join the EU.

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Estonian new coalition has agreed its platform

Estonian Reform Party (classical liberalism) won Parliamentary elections on 1st March and got the right to establish new government for the period in 2015-2019. The new coalition has been formed between Estonian Reform Party (ESP), Social Democratic Party (SDE, social democracy) and Pro Patria and Respublica Union (IRL, Christian Democracy, national liberalism). ESP gets 7 ministerial positions (including PM), SDE and IRL both 4 positions. President T.H. Ilves appointed the new government yesterday (on 08.04).

Yesterday, PM Rõivas said in Parliament, that the new government will not change the basic principles of economic policy in Estonia, will continue with the simple tax system with few exceptions and with conservative fiscal policy. The new government has promised to keep state budget in structural balance and require that other EU member states would fulfil the Union fiscal rules as well.

The new coalition has agreed to raise households’ income and to improve financial situation of low-paid.Minimum salary will be increased to 45% of average salary (currently 39%) in four years and income tax exemption to 205 euros/month (currently 154 euros). To be precise, the government will support the raising of minimum salary, whereas in practice, representative of employees is behind this proposal. In addition, income support for deprived families will be increased and repayment system for low-paid people will be established by 1 January 2016. Special attention will be paid to the families or single parents with children. Children allowances will be increased.

The new coalition has promised to ensure that pensions will be increased in accordance with wage growth, whereas average pension is exempt of income tax. In addition, they have planned to introduce parental pension by 2018.

Social security contributions will be reduced by 1 pp (currently 33%). Although the government moves on the right direction, this has considerable pressure on state budget, but has minor effect on enterprises. Reduction of social security contributions will be, at least partly, compensated by “consistent“ increase in excise taxes on alcohol and tobacco. The new coalition has promised not to tax investments.

Special ministerial position will be established for conducting state reform. The objective is to increase efficiency of public administration. Therefore, government sector employment will be reduced in accordance with the decrease in working-age population and public sector salaries are increased in accordance with the increase in productivity. However, salaries of several jobs, e.g. teachers, police, tax and customs officers, etc. will be increased faster. Interestingly, these jobs form substantial part of public sector employees. In order to improve labour mobility across Estonia, the program of rental housing will be developed, including development of the market for rental apartments. The new coalition has planned to finalise the protracted reform of local governments: voluntary consolidation of local governments is planned to be finalised before 2017 local elections. Last, but not least, management and ownership of state enterprises will be reviewed thoroughly.

The new government will start with or at least support the development of several large scale infrastructure projects, e.g. Rail Baltic, multimodality transport hub in Tallinn, highways, etc,.

Estonia has been planned to reshape from (net) importer of energy to (net) exporter by 2030 (in 2013, energy dependency in Estonia was 11.9%). Estonian electricity market will be fully untied from Russia and connected it to the continental Europe by 2025. Baltic regional gas infrastructure (connection between Finland and the Baltics, including Baltic Connector) will be developed. The new coalition will analyse the possibilities, whether Estonia could be a competitive place for energy intensive industry. Unfortunately, this idea can encounter to the insufficiency of labour force.

Immigration quota for ICT employees has been planned to expand in order to promote immigration of ICT specialists and their families to Estonia. Actually, the need for imported qualified labour force is wider than only in ICT sector.

State military expenses will remain at least 2% of GDP. In addition to that Estonia finances military activities and expenses as a receiving country for NATO alliance troops. The new government will support development of national defence industry, including access of defence industry to export markets. More attention will be paid on R&D in defence industry. In addition, the objective is to raise total R&D expenditures to 3%, including in private sector to 2%, of GDP.

Coalition is on the position that EU Common Agricultural policy has to remain common and financed from common budget in order to exclude excessive and distorting state subsidies.

The new platform has clearly more social democratic influence compared to the programme of previous governments. According to the very preliminary information the cost of the promises is around 300 million euros. Unfortunately, it’s unclear yet how the government is going to finance this ambitious program as they have the objective to keep the state budget in structural balance.


Source: Swedbank

Reform Party won Parliamentary elections in Estonia

Parliamentary elections on 1st March won Reform Party who got 30 seats (27.7% of all votes) out of 101 in Estonian Parliament (Riigikogu). Second position got Centre Party, who got 27 seats. Although Centre Party got around 25% votes, the win was quite narrow, as three persons won 1/3 and Edgar Savisaar, leader of the Party, alone 18% of all votes of the Party.

What is different this time, is that two additional political parties (Estonian Free Party and Conservative People’s Party of Estonia) got into the Parliament as well. Thus, instead of four political parties from 2011 elections, Riigikogu will have six parties this time.

Estonian Reform Party (classical liberalism)      30 seats

Estonian Centre Party (centrism, social liberalism)    27

Social Democratic Party (social democracy)       15

Pro Patria and Res Publica Union (Christian democracy, national conservatism)   14

Estonian Free Party (national conservatism)    8

Conservative People’s Party of Estonia (national conservatism)    7

Participation rate was 64.2% (63.5% in 2011), whereas 19.6% voted through internet (15.4% in 2011).

President has promised to make a proposal to form government to the party who wins the elections. Previous coalition (since March 2014) consisted of Reform Party (PM is from Reform Party) and Social Democrats. Political platforms of all parties before elections were full on populism, but the real policy will be established through coalition negotiations. It’s too early to say how much Estonian economic policy will change and evaluate its impact. Reform Party and Social Democrats apparently will continue their cooperation, but there have to be a third party as well to form a coalition. I do not expect that this party can be a substantial game changer and will bring about principle changes in current economic policy.

It is important to note that all political parties have declared that they will not form a coalition with Centre Party, primarily due to its leader’s, Edgar Savisaar, unacceptable views on Russia and the Party’s alleged agreement with United Russia (in Russian, Edinaja Rossija), the party in power.

Edgar Savisaar unveils his plan to restart Estonian economy

Edgar Savisaar, chairman of Estonia’s largest opposition party, writes in Äripäev that he has an economic plan that will make Estonia’s economy to grow 2 to 3 times faster than the EU average.

If we want to show that we are not a dying-out, sad and angry small country, but a terrific country that has open society, dynamic business climate and is innovative, the first step is to remove the Reform Party from power, he writes.

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