Minister of Foreign Affairs steps down

Tuuli Koch
, reporter
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Photo: Jaanus Lensment / Postimees

By her unexpected yet anticipated resignation as Estonia’s foreign minister yesterday, Keit Pentus-Rosimannus (Reform) chose the path providing some slight chance of future comeback to top politics – on this post, she would have found no peace.

Easing the tensions somewhat from herself, the party and government, Ms Pentus-Rosimannus may harbour hopes that should Supreme Court acquit her, serving as minister or leading the party someday will remain an option.

Showing up to see Prime Minister Taavi Rõivas yesterday morning, Ms Pentus-Rosimannus brought a clear message: in order to protect herself and her family, and based on the European political culture, she considered it impossible to continue as foreign minister.

Doubtless, for Mr Rõivas the announcement was uncomfortable and rather unexpected for all in the party (none had considered a summertime judgement regarding Autorollo, and a U-turn at that). Even so, opting not to defend his minister, Mr Rõivas was somewhat able to assert himself and at take some slight distance to the mythical puppeteer influence of Family Rosimannus. As leader of party and government, in this situation of popularity in steep decline, he just could not afford another awkward burden.

Even while the government was in the making, two current MEPs were mentioned as candidates for foreign minister: Kaja Kallas and Urmas Paet. By his state of confusion this fall – «going ... not going ... to Europe» – the latter triggered condemnation by party and will hardly be welcomed by Mr Rõivas in the team. Neither is Kaja Kallas thinking about governmental job at the moment.

Also, both would be in dire straits should the government and Reform tumble – the MEP place would be lost (the salary is four-five times that of an Estonian minister’s) and to get to Riigikogu would not work either as both opted not to run in March.

As for former foreign trade minister Anne Sulling, right after the elections she told Mr Rõivas she ruled out being a minister and desired parliamentary function.

Who might be the next foreign minister? Current Riigikogu foreign affairs committee Valdo Randpere and Imre Sooäär of legal affairs committee come to mind. And why not former Pärnu County governor Toomas Kivimägi who did excellent at the elections and said he’d prefer to begin by sitting in Riigikogu while not excluding being minister. The chances are high for former finance minister Maris Lauri, as Estonia’s foreign policy is clear: keep in line with allies and be prudent in finances.

Mr Rõivas is not in too terrible of a hurry, but it would not be polite in the current foreign policy situation to keep sending a substitute to meetings – be it Mr Rõivas himself, defence minister Sven Mikser or administrative reform minister Arto Aas.

Last night, 24 hours after Circuit Court announced its decision, Ms Pentus-Rosimannus said she would pursue her rights in Supreme Court. «The judgement, totally the opposite to the one by court of first instance, laid on me the obligation to participate in paying up the debts of my father’s former company dating back to the times of economic crisis. I do not agree with the interpretation prescribing that my father’s business failure must fall as punishment on family members; I regard the judgement extremely unjust regarding me and intend to contest it in Supreme Court,» she said.

Ms Pentus-Rosimannus said Estonian state, the government, and the foreign minister have topics more important on their hands right now than the fate of her fines and the issue of whether her decision to support father during his illness was right or wrong in other people’s eyes.

«I know that justice is on my side in this business of supporting my father and I have done nothing wrong nor any harm to anybody, no matter how hard it has been attempted to prove the opposite by manipulating the public. However, explaining that after this judgement and the continuing dispute to annul the fines appointed to me will take a share of my attention,» announced Ms Pentus-Rosimannus, adding that in this situation she deems it right and honest to spare the government and Estonian foreign service from all that is related to this.

She underlined that she’d be able to successfully deal with issues important to Estonia and Europe in Riigikogu and would definitely be doing that.

As observed by Prime Minister Mr Rõivas, Ms Pentus-Rosimannus has acted a statesman. «I have worked together with Keit for a longer period of time and seen close up her ability to dig into things, and how hardworking she is. I know she has a right hart. She is an esteemed team member not to me only – regarding her, words of praise abound from my colleagues abroad,» said Mr Rõivas. «The harder for me to receive her request to step down. The application equals a desire to spare the team, spare the government. It’s a statesmanlike step. Therefore, I do understand.»