On my honour – ain’t done it!

Tuuli Koch
, reporter
Please note that the article is more than five years old and belongs to our archive. We do not update the content of the archives, so it may be necessary to consult newer sources.
Photo: Eero Vabamägi

With foreign policy allegedly deep under her skin after these past eight months, Keit Pentus-Rosimannus (Reform) hopes to stay on the subject in parliament and believes the Taavi Rõivas government is still in office come fall.

As you leave the post of foreign minister, the fate of Greece is in the balance.

If you’d ask about the weather on Midsummer Day next year, the prediction would be just as sure: it may rain cats and dogs, or it may be hot. All told, better be ready for both.

The time for good and fast solutions is over, no-one has these to offer any linger and it would have been honest for the Greek government to explain that to their people before the referendum. At the moment, I think no-one ought to point fingers towards the Greek people. At the referendum, they decided with the information that they had and what their politicians offered them.

The eurozone won’t break apart?

At the moment, all eurozone finance and prime ministers are working hard for eurozone’s stability. Furthermore, if one state’s government kinks against the eurozone rules, this will not necessarily mean the eurozone breaking apart or that state coming loose. The Greek referendum, probably aiming for the Guinness book of world records with the most complex question of the ages, will not automatically bring exit of Greece from the eurozone; thus, a lot depends upon how serious the Greek government is about seeking a solution at the negotiations.

What will be your emotions as you close the foreign ministry door behind you, in a few days? Will you leave a note with advice, in the drawer, for the new minister?

I believe I will have a continuous and good contact with the new foreign minister, so I’ll probably never write the note.

I have been trying to keep my emotions under control this past week as in a situation like this they are not good counsellors, but in my heart I have been deeply touched by all these expressions of support and good wishes which have been abundant indeed during this past week. 

You know who will be the new foreign minister?

No-one can really know until Reform Party leadership has first approved the candidate proposed by prime minister, and the other procedures have been performed.

But you do have your favourite?

Well I do, I have told so to the prime minister and the person concerned, but I don’t think it good practice to proclaim it in a newspaper.

Is it true that your suggestion to the prime minister is to nominate a lady diplomat – your current colleague at foreign ministry Marina Kaljurand whom you proposed as next Presidential a year ago?

My respect towards your persistence, but do wait until Friday. The proposal will be by the prime minister, and no-one else.

Your conviction at Circuit Court and the following resignation came rather unexpectedly, for the public. How unexpected were such developments to yourself?

These past two and a half years, I have lived in this rather surreal world in that sense. Till today I find myself thinking, now and again, that this must be some strange human experiment: how much can a woman take. 

The court judgement last week lays on me responsibility for things I have not done. On Tuesday night, the feeling was quite Kafkaesque. But the decision to step down and to spare the foreign ministry from things related to my personal crusade came quickly, for me. And the decision will hardly harm Estonian political culture as such.

By many, your resignation has also been called a step pragmatic; but there are those that are surprised as no-one was demanding that you resign and there were no posters in the streets. Perhaps you overreacted?

Well with politics the rule seems to be that whatever you do there are always those who find a way to point the finger. I think I did what was right and that not necessarily in the personal, but in the broader meaning. I think the decision was also correct towards the prime minister, the government and Reform party who will not have an added defence battle, the essence of which is difficult for the public to grasp. Perhaps, thus the Estonian public will be able to focus much better on what is more important – the currently sharp issues of European security, finances and future demographics.

And as for me, it is better for me to be explaining my stands in this story without facing the accusations of clinging to my chair. I am not, and I did what I considered right in this situation.

Is it right, in this situation, to return to Riigikogu?

See! I just finished saying how it’s never all that are satisfied. Some say it was too much to step down from the government, others say I should not even remain in Riigikogu ...

In the parliament, and probably among the fourth power also, there has been and will be those with civil disputes underway, as well as such as have lost a civil dispute. Like also in the society. With the executive work of a member of the government, extra disputes will surely infringe more that with a parliament member whose job it is to dispute about all kinds of subjects.

You are appealing to Supreme Court. Would it not be easier to pay the money?

No, I refuse to see justice in me having to participate in paying the debt of my father’s one time failed business, or in that pursuant to some interpretation, unconstitutional in my opinion, they are desiring to apply in Estonia some collective, family liability and make people responsible for other people’s actions based on assumptions.

What will become of your career as politician if the Supreme Court will not accept the case or retains the Circuit Court judgement?

Till today, I have lived in the knowledge that in this miserable case I have done nothing wrong. In my mind, I have played the spring of 2010 back and forth many times and will not hesitate to say I would do the same today even while knowing they would try to twist it afterwards and use it against me. I could not have faced myself in the mirror had I turned my back on my father in that situation, telling him see to it yourself.

This may all be humanly understood, but did you really fail to think as a politician about consequences to your career?

Let me assure you that «politician» and «human being» are not mutually exclusive terms.

Five years back my main concern was my father’s health and that he, after having failed in his own eyes, would return to normal life. I really did not think about the career at the time. When I needed to help him, I did. When there was a need to drive him away from the depressive environment, I did.

Having been vice speaker at the parliament at the time, I could not only deal with my father, but I tried to find as much time as possible at the side.

Many are bothered by the transfers from your computers at Riigikogu. Did you make these or not, then?

On my honour – ain’t done it. I have not done a single bank transfer of my father’s company, I have not made any big or small plans with my father’s company, nor have I in any manner made any decisions in my father’s company. For that, I had no powers, no interest, nor any preparedness.

How can I prove that? For instance, with some payments it is provable black on white that I have led Riigikogu sessions at the same time. Does anybody really believe I have supernatural abilities so as to be at two places the same time?

Looking back to your nearly eight months as foreign minister, ending tomorrow, what did you manage to accomplish and what not?

I have no delusion of grandeur to claim that foreign policy is deductible to one person – the foreign minister.

The seven months contained quite a lot. How long will you give me to reply?

Please list the main three tings.

Firstly – endeavours that the European Union would retain a united single position against the aggressive Putinist regime. That, despite the crises pressing at it from very many corners, the EU would not lose its focus, that fatigue would not set in. In 2008, after the Georgia war, a mistake was made and business as usual was restored with the Kremlin very quickly. That mistake must not be allowed again, because the business pursued by Putin’s regime honours not the sovereignty of other nations nor the integrity of their borders, and it would be the doom of Western nations to agree to that.  To ensure the mistake is never repeated is also a task for Estonia.

The second very important topic is related to Estonia’s primary security, the presence of the allies, to have other capitals realise the situation in our region and its background. And that they might know how much we value everything that USA, Germany, Denmark, Italy, Spain and other allies have accomplished to ensure our security.

The third topic is, naturally, the most pressuring problem of the southernmost members of the EU – the boat refugees. On this topic, Estonia must have a serious say, seeking to alleviate the problem and participate in its solution, being an ally to our allies. This debate and the seeking of solutions is at its very beginning, but in the long term I deem it very important.

Last week, The President said the foreign ministry has become much more alive lately. Do you take it as praise to your work?

I am just the kind of leader who likes it when there are discussions, debates, questions asked even of those outside the house. Indeed, I took every opportunity to enhance that. I hope the trend will continue.

With the President, we have always had a very good, mutually considerate, and supportive working relationship.

You mentioned the Russia-Ukraine conflict. Which developments should we stand ready for, before winter?

Firstly – there is no Ukraine-Russia conflict; there is the aggression of Putin’s regime in Ukraine. Russia is continuing to transport armaments to Ukrainian border and is arming the separatists.

The winter is still far off. Even now, a very careful eye ought to be kept on what’s happening in Eastern Ukraine. Historically, we have seen the ability of Mr Putin to use the moments when the West has their attention on other things. In the fall, Ukraine will have local elections and their results will definitely have an effect on the entire Ukrainian situation.

As I interviewed you in December, you said military determent as NATO collective defence is keeping Russia in check. Till today, Russia has not altered its behaviour. Perhaps the West should alter its behaviour?

Would anybody dare or desire to predict how Putin’s regime would have acted had there been neither sanctions nor the added NATO determent?

For Mr Putin, the continued and extended economic sanctions have been an unpleasant surprise, one which he probably did not consider. The effect of the sanctions will not be fully felt immediately, but long-term, meaning that holding a steadfast course is especially important. Meanwhile, it cannot be claimed that sanctions have had no effect on the Russian economy. Whether the sanctions will work for long-term impact – we’ll see. International law does not provide the international community with too many other options to «enforce order».

In Riigikogu, will you continue with foreign policy or will you join the environmental affairs committee which is also familiar to you and where Ivi Eenmaa will vacate a place for you?

In one way or another, I will surely continue with foreign policy, it has so crept under my skin that it can’t be gotten out. Too early to say which committee I will be in. For starters, I will need to become a member of the parliament again.

How long will the government hold? The grapevine says that Soc Dem and Centre leaders have agreed that in August the government will be scattered, or turned into a minority government after the soc dems depart. One also hears that IRL and the new soc dems chief have drawn closer to each other and Reform has been sidelined somewhat. Your sudden departure – isn’t it related to these rumours, perhaps? How probably, do you think, is the government collapsing before the state budget is approved?

(Laughs.) I have heard rumours that Postimees will take over Delfi, near term. Might our interview today be related to that?  

Well okay, let’s get serious – I did explain the background to my decision, already.

It is absolutely natural for Margus Tsahkna and Jevgeni Ossinovski to communicate and I think it would be problematic if they did not. Taavi Rõivas also has separately talked with both Margus Tsahkna and Jevgeni Ossinovski. The only conclusion possible is that there are no artificial or formal obstacles between the people in the government.

As a rule, governments last as long as all parties feel they are carrying out the mandate they received at the elections. In 2015, to topple a government just for the sake of gambling would hardly seem a good idea to anybody.

How is the atmosphere in Reform Party, at the moment? Should the government fall, will Taavi Rõivas proudly leave Reform in opposition, or will you find a new leader who is willing to form a new majority government with Centre?

Despite the pressure, the atmosphere is busy in the party and I will not even speculate on topics like this. With a clear mandate, Taavi Rõivas has been elected to lead Reform; he is showing himself to be a capable leader who will swiftly suggest a new foreign minister, he is ready for open talks for the coalition treaty to be complemented.

So I suspect this is rather a little information operation by the opposition, such as are organised from time to time.

At the moment, very serious issues of European future and out security are on the agenda – an instable government would be the last thing we need.

The intense work as minister will now be replaced with the «intense» summertime work of a parliament member. What are your plans for the summer?

A slight culture shock due to the altered tempo can’t be excluded, but I have already managed to fill my Riigikogu member’s calendar with meetings to an extent that I am not worried for too much leisure. The plans will take me to various corners of Estonia; turns out there are unexpectedly vast numbers of people who want to discuss ways to make the world better, in summer.  

No denying, I will want to take a little time out to recharge myself. To read the books piled up over these past seven months, to digest my thoughts.

How have people close to you managed the past week?

For over a hundred times I have now been able to repeat what I have not done. Honestly, this is quite difficult, because one is never an expert in what one is not. It has always seemed easier for me to prove and focus on who I am, in what I believe. Among other things, I believe in people and being human; I have tried to bring more of that into politics and by these past times this has not been changed.

In where I have arrived and who I am today, there’s a tremendous impact by both my parents who ten days ago celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary. For me, they have been most important in this life and without them my success would never have been possible – I want them to always know that.