Prime Minister Jüri Ratas said on Tuesday evening an investigation into the activities of the Minister of Rural Affairs will be launched and will determine whether Mart Järvik can continue in office.
Ratas (Centre) said a 10-day investigation will be carried out into Järvik's (EKRE) legal activities and will be commissioned by Secretary of State Taimar Peterkop. The decision was taken after a meeting of coalition parties on Tuesday evening. The composition of the commission is likely be confirmed on Wednesday.
"If the investigation reveals that Järvik is wrong or there are doubts, I do not see that he can continue in office," Ratas said shortly after the meeting. "There is no (other) solution to this difficult situation right now. I came up with the idea and it was accepted," he added.
A scandal has engulfed Järvik after a conflict of interest was revealed which saw his former advisor, Urmas Arumäe, representing defendants in an EU subsidy fraud case against the agricultural registers and information board (PRIA), a body which falls under the rural affairs ministry's remit.
Arumäe stepped down on Friday, but opposition parties are maintaining pressure for Järvik, already embroiled in a Listeria controversy at a fish-packing plant, to resign.
Ratas said committee will look into the issue of the powers granted and refused to the agricultural registers and information board (PRIA) and the alleged conflict of interest with Arumäe. The listeria controversy is being investigated where Järvik made contradictory statements and came into conflict with the Veterinary and Food Board.
Speaking to ERR during a brief working visit to Rakvere, Ratas said: "I believe everyone is working today to find a solution. I'm trying, because for me, this coalition serves the aspirations and goals of what to do in Estonia, what to change in Estonia, what to contribute in Estonia, and it is a broad coalition of two conservative parties and a left of center party."
When asked by a journalist how he assesses the current situation in the coalition, Ratas replied that it was "complicated." The goal is to restore peace in the government as soon as possible and move forward with daily activities, he added.
"All parties, those who have been in government for a long time or a short time, make mistakes. Estonia is a parliamentary state and the word of a member of the Riigikogu has a lot of weight, but, of course, the minister's word has a great deal of weight too, and within the coalition, the weight of that word can only increase," he said.
Ratas met with Minister of Rural Affairs Mart Järvik on Monday night and said after the meeting that the conversation did not give him any clear answers.
Järvik wrote about the meeting on social media that Ratas received very specific answers to all the questions, but the Prime Minister did not care about the evidence he provided.
Isamaa chairman Helir-Valdor Seeder said a quick solution was in the interest of all three coalition parties.
Opposition leader Kaja Kallas, chairman of the Reform Party, said it is difficult to assess whether the government coalition will fall apart, though she believes there is distrust between the three coalition parties.
Both Kallas and Social Democratic Chairman Indrek Saar said that party chairmen are talking about possible government alliances should the current government collapse.
"We have been saying this ever since this government was formed, that this government is not a good government for Estonia, and we are always ready to consider alternatives and, of course, we also communicate with other parties and political forces whenever possible," Saar said.
Kallas said he has not been in contact with Ratas and does not intend to enter a Ratas-led government.
"I'm not prepared to be in a government if Jüri Ratas is the prime minister. Looking at everything he has accomplished in his time as prime minister, Jüri Ratas as prime minister would sell Estonia as soon as he could to continue as the prime minister, and I do not think it's in Estonia's interest," said Kallas.
Editor: Helen Wright