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Mart Helme recalls foreign trade, IT minister from government

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Kaimar Karu at the president's Independence Day 102 reception.
Kaimar Karu at the president's Independence Day 102 reception. Source: Raigo Pajula/ Office of the President

Minister of Foreign Trade and Information Technology Kaimar Karu announced on social media on Friday the chairman of the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) Mart Helme is planning to recall him from the government. Helme said EKRE expects all ministers to act in accordance with the values ​​and views of the party's supporters.

"This morning (Friday - ed.) Mart Helme, the chairman of the Conservative People's Party of Estonia, called me and announced that he would recall me from ministerial office, because "the cooperation is not going well and the party is not satisfied either," Karu wrote.

Karu added that "in the light of the support and willingness of active members of the EKRE group, both this statement and the irresponsible decision in the context of the emergency situation are confusing, but of course the party leader has the right to act according to his beliefs and discretion".

Karu added he had tried to get in touch with Prime Minister Jüri Ratas, but had not been able to.

"If this week really should be my last week in the role of the Minister of Foreign Trade and Information Technology assigned to EKRE, then at least I hope that the support measures that have been the main focus of the last days and evenings will reach Estonian entrepreneurs in need without delay," Karu said and cited the loans and grants of KredEx and Enterprise Estonia as examples.

EKRE chairman Mart Helme said Karu's activities have caused misunderstandings and questions among the party's members.

"Kaimar Karu is a good specialist, but unfortunately he did not develop a good working relationship with the party. We didn't have a good team. His activities have caused misunderstandings and questions among the members of the party," said Helme, Postimees reported. 

"We expect all our party ministers to act in accordance with the values ​​and views of party supporters, including on issues such as immigration, migrant labor, e-elections and the provision of postal services in rural areas," said Helme.

On Friday afternoon, Prime Minister Jüri Ratas announced he would propose Karu's dismissal to President Kersti Kaljulaid.

"I spoke to Kaimar today and thanked him for his dedicated and professional work in the government. I also wish him every success in his next challenges, be they in politics or beyond," Ratas wrote on social media.

Karu, an IT specialist, was a minister for EKRE but he is not a member of the party. He stepped into the role on November 2, replacing former minister Kert Kingo.

The position of Minister of Foreign Trade and Information Technology belongs to EKRE according to the coalition agreement and the party can choose who fills the position.

EKRE will announce the name of their new ministerial candidate later today.

Former foreign trade and IT minister Kaimar Karu taking the oath of office in November 2019. Source: Government Office

Relationship strained after speaking out against Aliens Act changes

EKRE sources confirmed to ERR relations with Karu started to come under strain when said he did not support changes being made to the Aliens Act, which regulates migration. These concerns were also voiced by Minister of Economic Affairs and Infrastructure Taavi Aas (Center).

The Ministry of the Interior, which is run by Mart Helme, wants to limit the opportunities of foreigners studying in Estonia and short-term employees to bring their children with them to Estonia. The change would mean that a university student's children could visit them under a regular visa, but could not live with them for the duration of their studies.

The ministry also wants to ban foreign students from working more than 16 hours per week, justifying the limit with concerns that a residence permit issued for the purposes of education may be used as a cover for labor migration.

It also only wants foreign students with sufficient funds for their studies to come to study in Estonia, due to which it wants to do away with need-based financial aid for students in Estonia on a fixed-term residence permit.

Karu was also accused of weakness in the management of Eesti Post and of leaving too much decision-making power to the company's executive management.

Põlluaas: The proposal to replace the Karu did not occur overnight

EKRE deputy chairman Henn Põlluaas told ERR that Karu has been told several times about the importance of teamwork and adherence to the party's goals.

"This proposal to replace him has not arisen overnight, nor is it due to the current crisis," said Põlluaas.

"The party and all the ministers of the party must work as a team and discuss all the issues among themselves and move forward together. If this work of the whole team does not work and is stuck behind someone, then the issues of personnel must be looked at," he added.

"Karu has been told about this problem several times and unfortunately there have been no changes," Põlluaas said.

Martin Helme, the second vice-chairman of EKRE and the Minister of Finance, said there was a lack of trust in Karu within the party.

"Party voters, members and leaders expect party ministers to implement coalition and party policies. At present, however, it tended to be the case that the portfolio of the Minister of IT and Foreign Trade was not in the hands of EKRE but in the hands of a Party of Officials," Helme wrote on social media.

Party of Officials a metaphor for the alleged officials' mafia or the deep state.


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Editor: Helen Wright

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