Oudekki Loone (Centre) has been appointed as the head of the Estonian delegation to the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, replacing Kadri Simson.
The debate to name Simson's replacement was a heated one, ERR reported, with 33 members voting against Loone becoming the head of the delegation. Fifty members voted in favor. Loone was previously a member of the delegation.
Social Democrats Helmen Kütt, Heljo Pikhof and Kalvi Kõva, Isamaa's Viktoria Ladõnskaja-Kubits and Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) member Henn Põlluaas abstained from the vote. Isamaa member Mihhail Lotman voted against Loone's candidacy.
Several members questioned Loone's suitability for the role, recalling comments she made several years ago which they said are against Estonia's foreign policy stance.
Lotman said: "What we heard in the committee from Oudekki Loone was essentially a repetition of Putin's propaganda. There is a civil war in Ukraine, Russia is not involved — and this all coincides with what we knew before about Oudekki Loone, this night of the Bronze Soldier, the war in Georgia, now the crisis in Ukraine. Is this the Centre Party's best choice for the position?"
Several Reform Party members also expressed distrust about the change in Loone's views.
Reform member Erkki Keldo recalled Loone's previous statements made by Loone. Keldo said: "Oudekki Loone believes no more NATO troops should come to Estonia, Estonia should not increase defense spending above 2 percent before others [members] have done it, we should 'force' Russia to lift sanctions. Is it that I have somehow misunderstood or has this government dramatically changed Estonia's foreign policy stance?"
Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee Enn Eesmaa (Centre) replied that people's views have changed and that he was basing his views on answers Loone had given recently, which prompted laughter in the hall from members.
He said: "Oudekki Loone has repeatedly mentioned that she intends to follow Estonia's foreign policy direction, she has not expressed any negative views on NATO, except for certain NATO decisions and certain maybe policies."
Loone: A global NATO umbrella is not in Estonia's interest
Speaking about NATO's future, Loone said strengthening NATO's members' cooperation, learning from each other's technologies, and sharing information is crucial.
However, she is not in favor of NATO enlargement. "The tendencies that so many members have expressed that NATO's umbrella should somehow be global, I am certainly critical of it, I think it is not in Estonia's interest either. NATO is designed to defend Europe and should, above all, remain in the European dimension and this is also what is primarily in Estonia 's interest," Loone said.
Several other members of the delegation were also replaced on Thursday. Sven Sester (Isamaa) was replaced by Andres Metsoja, and Social Democrat Jevgeni Ossinovski took over from Sven Mikser. Ants Laaneots (Reform), and Leo Kunnas (EKRE) are alternative members.
The Riigikogu delegation to the NATO Parliamentary Assembly defends Estonia's security and foreign policy positions at parliamentary assembly sessions and committees.
Editor: Helen Wright