Speaking to ETV news broadcast Aktuaalne kaamera after reviewing the Government Office report, Minister of Rural Affairs Mart Järvik (EKRE) said that he has done nothing wrong and sees no reason to resign as minister.
Aktuaalne kaamera: Minister of Rural Affairs Mart Järvik, it can be concluded based on the secretary of state's committee's report that you have in fact repeatedly lied to the public. How do you comment?
Mart Järvik: I quickly read through the entire report. I didn't find, at least in a quick read-through, the word "lied" used once.
AK: Have you misled the public?
MJ: I have certainly not misled the public. I have tried to get the food safety field to work in our ministry's subsidiary body.
AK: It's also said in the report that the minister of rural affairs and his adviser have attempted to interfere in the conducting of oversight by the Veterinary and Food Board (VTA). What have you done that has exceeded your powers? Do you admit that you have exceeded your powers?
MJ: I will be fairly categorical in this regard — not once have I exceeded my powers. The fact that we have questioned the VTA together with our advisers does not constitute exceeding one's power. I cannot interfere in their decisions with my activities. I have not once done this, nor have I intended to, nor do I intend to.
AK: Many think that the conclusions drawn in the report give you sufficient reason to step down from your position. Will you?
MJ: Certainly not. Because both now as minister and previously, I have done everything in such a way that my conscience is clean, and I see no reason whatsoever to resign, especially voluntarily.
AK: Have EKRE chairman Mart Helme and Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Centre) spoken with you today about possibly resigning? Or what have they said?
MJ: I have not spoken with either of them today, and no such proposal has come from either one or the other of them.
I'll say it once again: I have done my work as I best see fit, and done everything to ensure that the ministry's subsidiary bodies work in cooperation with their areas of domain — both the VTA and the Agricultural Registers and Information Board (PRIA).
When [VTA Deputy Director General] made an appearance on TV [Wednesday] night, then he claimed that he knew about this listeria bacteria in March already. I took office in April. And the VTA sent ERR a press release on June 5 stating that there is absolutely no connection between this bacteria and the [M.V.Wool] plant. This was on June 5, and this was up on ERR's online portal and I think on Eesti Ekspress as well. And you can draw your own conclusions from there. Right now, the new bacteria is ST87. You won't discover this bacteria just sitting in an office, the way the VTA works. The VTA clearly needs to be restructured.
[Secretary General Illar Lemetti] is working against being able to restructure things. The secretary general was also against doing a food safety audit in this field in the first place. We did one, we got answers, and we're going to restructure things. And the current state of things is that officials want to govern the state themselves, and that the government may not.
AK: Tensions are currently up in your ministry, and you are not on good terms with your immediate subordinates. How do you find your way out of this situation?
MJ: I am on very good terms with all of my subordinates. Even the secretary general says hello. I am not satisfied with his actions, that he was against the food safety audit being conducted. When I brought up this idea at a leadership meeting — many will attest to this; I wasn't alone there with the secretary general — then he sprang up and said that I cannot traumatize officials with such decisions.
AK: How will you get out of this situation? You claim that you have done nothing wrong, and yet there is no peace within the ministry.
MJ: I have proposed two things to the Government of the Republic. One is to replace the secretary general. I am going to propose someone who is a very good specialist for this. For another, as food safety is such an important field, then I and my advisers find it is clear that the food safety field needs to be directed by the secretary general personally; there can be no long chains of command or links.
That ST87 is a good example — it's allegedly being addressed; it's more dangerous than that 1247. But they only shrug and say that there are no results.
AK: You have been a municipal politician with a great deal of experience, and in higher-level politics with relatively little experience. Do you find that you yourself have made any mistakes or should have done something differently?
MJ: If I think back to the past nearly seven years, then perhaps I have worded something wrong, if that can be counted as a mistake. But I definitely haven't lied or spread any disinformation. I am doing everything I can to make sure that food safety is ensured.
Another field is PRIA — that that whole distribution of support takes places in cooperation with the field. I haven't demanded a prohibition on going to court anywhere. What is being claimed is completely absurd.
I demanded that it be clear to me whether I even need to provide authorization to PRIA or not. And I got an answer. I got it as things tend to go in agencies, within a couple of weeks, but I got it. And it turned out that it wasn't necessary at all to provide authorization.
Editor: Aili Vahtla