Another drunken driving case cost Indrek Tarand his job

Police caught Indrek Tarand at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He lost his job at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs at the end of the next day.
Police caught Indrek Tarand at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He lost his job at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs at the end of the next day. Photo: Taavi Sepp
  • The police took Tarand to the detention center from which he was released the next day.
  • The Ministry of Foreign Affairs immediately announced that Tarand’s employment cannot continue.
  • Former MEP told the journalists that he had had no intention to drive.

Indrek Tarand, former member of the European Parliament (MEP), who was supposed to start working as the deputy head of the Estonian embassy in Minsk and was driving under the influence of alcohol on Wednesday night, submitted his resignation after being released from the detention center, and now the ministry has to start looking for a new diplomat to be sent to Belarus.

The police had received a call to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, where there was a drunk driver according to an informant. The former MEP Tarand (58) allegedly tried to drive out of the ministry parking lot at 1:30 a.m., but the security guard apparently did not open the barrier for him. The arriving police found Tarand to be intoxicated; he was removed from vehicle and detained.

Tarand was supposed to start working in August as the deputy head of the Estonian Embassy in Minsk, the capital of Belarus. Sarah Adamson, the media adviser of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told Postimees yesterday that the ministry will start internal disciplinary proceedings based on the Public Service Act, and that Tarand will not be performing his official duties during this time.

According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, any violation of the law, including drunk driving, is unacceptable and inappropriate. The exact circumstances of the incident will be clarified during the procedure.

“An employee of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs must abide by the law and behave with dignity both while on duty and outside of duty, including refraining from activities which would discredit him as an official or harm the reputation of the institution. Otherwise, the employment of the official cannot be continued,” Adamson added.

Yesterday afternoon, information came from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that Tarand had submitted a resignation letter to the ministry and it has also been accepted – his employment has been terminated.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Urmas Reinsalu said that he had learned of the incident with his subordinate Wednesday morning when he was informed by the ministry secretary general. “I have the single answer and a clear one: of course, the perpetrator of such act cannot continue in the service of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, instead of Tarand, a diplomat currently assigned to the embassy will have to perform the duties of the chargé d’affaires,” the minister said. Reinsalu stated that now it is necessary to find a new candidate quickly and submit the official to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Belarus for approval in accordance with the rules of diplomatic relations.

A lengthy dinner

When asked why Tarand would be in the ministry at all at that time, the media advisor answered that the annual conference of heads of representations of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is held from August 22 to 26. On Tuesday evening, a dinner-discussion was planned, which lasted from 6:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. After the end of the official part, the participants of the discussion could continue their conversations. Thus, Tarand must have roamed around the ministry building for hours after the end of the event. The Elu24 photographer who photographed him at night said that when he arrived, the police car was already there and Tarand was talking to someone on the phone. The Dacia of the deputy head of the Minsk embassy was already in the parking lot by the ministry building; according to the photographer, no other cars could be seen in the parking lot.

Tarand, who was released from detention yesterday afternoon, was welcomed by photographers and journalists. However, seeing the photographers, the man in a bright orange jacket hid behind the corner and let the journalists standing behind the gate wait for him.

“I was taking some things from the car [Wednesday night] and never sat behind the steering wheel,” Tarand told the journalist and added that he had had no intention to drive the car at all. “I did not even plan to drive, I just needed to move it away from the wall,” Tarand said, lighting a cigarette. “I wasn't at the ministry, I came from Radisson, I had a meeting there, but I needed to take a few things with me from work at night. Now there is a procedure and... These things could have actually waited until the morning. But one wants to get it done immediately."

No one had driven to the detention center to pick Tarand up. “You came to pick me up, you will take me away,” he told the journalists with a smile.

Tarand admitted that apart from the drinks of the previous evening, he could have left omitted some other things in his life. However, he had only good memories of the night spent in the detention center. “Polite, clean, correct...” he mentioned and at the same time added that he would not go back there. “Are you kidding? Have you ever been arrested? I recommend avoiding it.”

Having smoked a few puffs, Tarand said that he did not want to comment on the termination of his employment with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs: “The phone is full, but I haven't had time to check."

Not the first time

This was not the first time for Tarand to drive while under the influence. In 2002, he was caught driving the employer’s car in Endla Street, and the then secretary general of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was found to have an alcohol level of 1.07 per million. A few years later, he declared in Õhtulehi that he would never again drive after drinking alcohol. In 2017, several publications wrote how, according to those present, an obviously drunk Tarand spoke at a dinner for Estonians working in European Union institutions in Strasbourg. In his lengthy speech he called Estonia's presidency of the European Union a failure and began arguing with the politicians present. When asked how Indrek Tarand could be employed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs this time after his previous alcohol-related scandals, the ministry’s media adviser Adamson replied that it had been done in August 2021 through a public competition, and that in the meantime he had not had any problems related to alcohol while performing his duties.