Opinion digest: Ärma is more than just numbers
Ärma Farm’s funding scandal was overshadowing the achievements of Toomas Hendrik Ilves’ presidency, including the fact that Estonia had benefited from state visits that Ilves hosted in Ärma, Prime Minister Taavi Rõivas (Reform) said to ERR on Thursday.
“As a citizen, I find it unfortunate that our focus has shifted from all the important things Toomas Hendrik Ilves did in the past ten years to this particular question,” Rõivas said at the government’s press conference on Thursday. Rõivas noted that while he understood the criticism directed at the former president, everything should not be reduced to bookkeeping.
“Yes, the payers of structural assistance and the Ministry of Finance have to follow every dot and comma. However, we as citizens have the luxury to also consider substance. We look beyond these numbers and actions. Measures and regulations can be followed very strictly and this is probably what the organizations in question have to do, they should not be criticized for it, but as a citizen, I have to say that the hosting of numerous state visits in Ärma under the presidency of Toomas Hendrik Ilves has been very beneficial to Estonia,” Rõivas opined. He added that it was hard to find a better place than Ärma Farm to promote Abja Parish as a tourist destination.
According to Rõivas, the president could not be expected to have a grand residence suitable for hosting state visits, but that at the same time there were certain instances where personal hosting could have a bigger effect than years of diplomatic efforts. The prime minister proposed that the official residence used for such instances could be Liberty Manor in Tallinn’s Rocca al Mare, which the government has agreed to renovate.
Rõivas also said that he would not intervene in the decision-making process regarding Ärma’s funding. “This matter is in the competency of [Minister of Entrepreneurship] Liisa Oviir. I will let her decide independently and do not plan to intervene, unless she happens to need my help in this question,” Rõivas said.