Rõivas evades tough questions in end of year interview, critics say
Prime Minister Taavi Rõivas took on a harsh stance against the Center Party in his end of the year interview on ETV. However, the interview was characterized by critics as no news and hollow.
Asked whether becoming a prime minister was a bit of a benji-jump for him, Rõivas disagreed, citing his previous experience as a government minister. "I must be the first prime minister who has worked in the [Stenbock] house in another role before and seen a previous PM up close: seen his every working day, all the most difficult moments. So what this job entails was all but a surprise to me," he added.
However, he did concede that becoming a PM was in itself a surprise. The Reform Party was unanimously backing Siim Kallas as the next PM after Andrus Ansip resigned in March, and his departure was a loss to all, he said. Yet, he added that he sees no reason for anyone to bear a grudge on how things played out. "I understand that it was hard for Siim. But today he is back in Estonia with new energy and I believe that all is well. In the end, Estonia got a very good prime minister."
Rõivas also contested talks of the Reform Party's rumored grey cardinal Rain Rosimannus, claiming that the alleged backroom decision-making powers are a thing of the past, and that Keit Pentus-Rosimannus becoming the foreign minister had nothing to do with the fact that she is married to Rain Rosimannus. He added that he did consider bringing in a new person from outside like he did with Economic Affairs Minister Anne Sulling and the recently appointed Finance Minister Maris Lauri, but it was clearly important for the party that the new foreign minister was an inside candidate and Pentus-Rosimannus was the most logical choice.
Asked about the decision to change the coalition partner a year before the next general election, Rõivas said that it was not his own and the talks with the social democrats were underway when he became a PM candidate. He cited IRL leader Urmas Reinsalu's call for extraordinary elections after Andrus Ansip's resignation as the main reason behind Reform's decision to ditch their long-term coalition partner.
The Prime Minister also restated his support for former finance minister Jürgen Ligi, who resigned earlier in the year after making comments on the Education Minister Jevgeni Ossinovski in Facebook. Rõivas said that he continues to value Ligi, who he found acted as a team player by resigning, and hopes that he will get a strong mandate in the next elections. "We need people who have the kind of passion for finance that Ligi does. Even if he sometimes...let's say, puts things bluntly...we can be sure that his heart is in the right place," he told the interviewer.
He added that the hopes that the parties won't align themselves diametrically based on ethnicity and history, but are rather differentiated by their approach to security issues. "The fact that the Center Party continues to merrily sing the songs that the Kremlin puts in front of them... it doesn't give me peace and the thought of the Center Party being part of the next government makes me rather anxious," he said. "I don't believe that the party's stance on security questions will change for as long as Edgar Savisaar is the party's leader, that the party would become more pro-Estonia or carry the same values that last governments have held. I, therefore, think that having the Center Party in the government wouldn't be good for the country," he said, ruling out any potential cooperation in the foreseeable future.
However, critics characterized the interview as well rehearsed poem that lacked any new content: everything the Prime Minister said had been said before, wrote Urmo Soonvald in Delfi.
MEP Indrek Tarand and PR expert Ivo Rull criticized reporter Andres Kuusk and ERR for not asking tougher questions and allowing Rõivas to give cliche answers, while sliding over real issues, including the role of Rosimannus in the Reform Party, the defection of Eerik-Niiles Kross from IRL to Reform, and the cohabitation act.
Estonian commercial TV-channel TV3 meanwhile reported today that Rõivas cancelled his end of the year interview with them after their questions were found unsuitable. Helin Vaher, press officer to the government, told Delfi that what TV3 proposed was too emotionally charged for an end of the year interview, so the interview was postponed until January 5, not cancelled.