Fresh foreign minister casts Rõivas as long term top squirrel

Välisministri ametivande allkirjastas Keit Pentus-Rosimannus 17. novembril Riigikogu saalis, paremal peaminister Taavi Rõivas.

PHOTO: Sander Ilvest

After two weeks as foreign minister, Keit Pentus-Rosimannus (Reform Party) promises to keep reminding her Western colleagues about the security police officer Eston Kohver case and hopes the Estonian ship guards held in India will be back home pretty soon.

Having been in office a couple of weeks and the turmoil over your nomination dying down, what do you think – why such a painful public reception?

There’s always the critics whatever you do or don’t do. I have learned not to order my steps after the prejudices of others. I’m not afraid to work and will not run from difficult situations.

It was a bit hard to understand why return to the limelight with the Autorollo weight on your back. Did you consider the risk, feel hesitant?

Frankly, I don’t feel I was less under scrutiny with the environmental policy options – be it oil shale debate in Europe, the Nabala battles or environmental fees and the enormous pressure campaign. The main hesitancy was that I was just getting over the hill with the long-prepared environmental issues and I did not want to leave these unfinished. In the end, thanks to the super team at environmental ministry, we had such a finishing spurt that the ten top things were finalised in ten days. Then, I had more peace in my heart to pass the domain to the new minister. When it comes to my father’s business from years ago, I have been feeling for and getting over the whole sad story since 2010. I am so sorry it went the way it did for him. I’m my father’s daughter but I cannot and have not been able to assume responsibility for my father’s deeds or to live his life. I am me.

After the elections, are you interested in continuing as foreign minister?

Whatever the job, my interest and aim has been increase of the security, influence and wellbeing of Estonia. If the voters appreciate that, all is possible.

Much has been speculated over this actually being just a step on your way towards becoming Reform Party chief. That, for instance, at the general party assembly in a couple of years, your candidacy will be up next to Taavi Rõivas. And, from there, in four years the prime ministerial spot opens up. Could that be?

Taavi Rõivas is a hardworking, bright, and very good for Estonia prime minister of the new generation, and there is no need anytime soon to think about his successor. I hope the voters will appreciate his youthful energy and that, come spring, he gets a strong mandate to lead Estonia onwards. In this, I support him in every way. When it comes to me, it is my habit to dedicate myself totally to what I’m currently doing. That’s what I did as environment minister and thus it will be as foreign minister.

In mid-November, Russia’s president Vladimir Putin fled from the G20 summit with other global leaders in Australia. What levers, in addition to the economic ones, can the world use against Mr Putin?

Next to seeking a political solution, economic sanctions surely are a most effective lever. But it is important to remember the aim and the cause of the sanctions – these have been imposed for the protection of the sovereignty and integrity of a European state. Ukraine needs to regain control over its territory and borders. Russia needs to take its armed forces out of Ukraine.

Over these past years, Western influence over Russia has nothing but increased while, considering the various facets of Russia-Europe relations, Russia is definitely not immune regarding the West. The impact has several aspects: firstly the overall cultural impact which continues to be there; secondly, the economic impact most strongly felt by Russia at the moment due to the sanctions. Thirdly, the military deterrence of NATO collective defence which is militarily keeping Putin’s Russia in check. In the current low point of West-Russia relations, all three need to be utilised.

Recently, NATO secretary-general said the amassing of Russian troops at Ukrainian border was very troublesome. Should the situation grow even worse, what new thing can the Western states do?

It is vital for Europe and other Western countries to act in unity. The main thing is ensuring that Ukraine is free to make its own choices and carry out reforms. Should the situation change, the Western countries need to be ready to act accordingly. If needed, to review and broaden the sanctions. By now, of course, Ukraine is also in need of economic support; also, the humanitarian situation is very difficult – close to half a million people have been forced to forsake their homes. That means they really lack everything just to live. To alleviate the humanitarian situation, Estonia has done its part to help.

How weighty do you consider the future role of BRICS (the emerging economies of Brazil, Russia, India, China and LAV) to be?

These are major nations, all belonging to G20, representing 40 percent of world population and 20 percent of the global GDP. Whether it makes sense to always and in everything consider them all of them as a unified group, time will tell. A lot depends on the goals and roles these nations set themselves internationally, what will be the principles these countries – rather loosely linked, up to now – decide to go by.

Looks like bringing the security police officer Eston Kohver back home has by today settled to the international small talk level. Is it really possible to alter and affect anything in conversation in the lobbies, or what are you telling your colleagues regarding Mr Kohver?

Any such talk and meeting may help. I have asked my colleagues to raise the Eston Kohver issue at bilateral meetings with Russia, which several countries already do. The kidnapping of an Estonian citizen from Estonian territory, taking him into Russia by force and illegally keeping him there is a topic that needs to be kept up internationally as long as the situation is solved and Eston Kohver is back in Estonia. And that’s what I also will do.

Why the continued delay with bringing the Estonian ship guards back from India? What are your definite steps planned right now to rescue them? 

14 men are parties to a court case proceeded at India’s Supreme Court. Inside of India, the men are not under arrest any longer, but thus far the Supreme Court has not issued permission to leave the country and one cannot leave without permission. On the political level, at meetings with members and officials of Indian government, and in written form, we have repeatedly requested that the case be solved swiftly. We have underlined that the court procedures must be in line with international law and human rights. And, naturally, we are keeping up the political pressure until the men return home. I hope this will happen as soon as possible.

What will this year’s end and the new year’s start be like, in foreign policy?

Intense. In foreign policy, the main short-term topics will continually be the changed security situation, the application of decisions at NATO summit in Wales. The Russia-Ukraine crisis. The situation in Iraq and the fight with Islamic extremists. Iran. Libya, Syria, Afghanistan. And also the fight against Ebola.

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