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National opera chairman: Aivar Mäe resigns as director

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Aivar Mäe will resign as the director of the Estonian National Opera, the chairman of the opera's council Ivari Ilja said after a meeting on Thursday. Mäe will leave his position, receiving a severance package of €39,600.

"At the beginning of the meeting, Director General Aivar Mäe came and announced his wish to resign. The Supervisory Board agreed with his wish and terminated the employment contract by agreement of the parties," Ilja told ERR.

The Council of the Estonian National Opera met on Thursday to discuss the report made by an external trustee on the working environment at the National Opera. The report focuses on Mäe's behavior and accusations made by the employees.

Ilja said the report did not contain any judgements on Mäe's character, rather descriptions of his actions. He did not want to specify the exact content of the report, but did note that it is extensive.

The trustee, lawyer Thea Rohtla, also did not comment on the specifics, but did tell ETV's daily affairs show "Aktuaalne kaamera" on Thursday that more than 20 people turned to her, speaking about Aivar Mäe and other workplace-related issues.

Mäe said in a press release: "The National Opera employs almost 500 people, who do their best every day to create art in this building. I find it extremely unfair to force them to focus on what is going on around administrative issues instead of creative work. I don't know what the trustee's summary contains, but I know what Estonians need on a daily basis, and that is peace of mind. I resign at my own request so that the theater can move forward and focus on building both the new season and the distant future."

According to Paul Keres, Mäe's lawyer, the now-former director of the national opera does not wish to give comments to the media. Keres also says that court cases against the media might be pending.

On June 26, police initiated proceedings after allegations of sexual harassment were made about Mäe in the media.

PPA will keep investigating case

On Friday, Marianne Ubaleht, senior press representative of the Police and Border Guard Board (PPA), told ERR the investigation into sexual harassment complaints made against Mäe will continue.

Ubaleht said that they would also ask the police for an overview compiled by Estonia's Thea Rohtla.

Ubaleht said at this point the PPA would not be commenting further on the case due to its sensitive nature. "We do not publish more information at the moment to protect the victims and in the interests of the results of the proceedings," she said.

Minister of Culture: Council behaved in a balanced way

Minister of Culture Tõnis Lukas (Isamaa) told ERR on Friday: "I think the council has been very balanced in this situation. And Aivar Mäe, in order for the Estonian theater to move forward and so that theater activities would not be significantly affected by this confusion, behaved correctly when making the resignation."

Lukas said that if additional circumstances became known regarding Mäe's behavior, the Supervisory Board could reassess its decision to pay compensation to Mäe.

A competition will be announced to find a new director for the national opera in the near future, Lukas said, and should not be delayed.


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Editor: Helen Wright, Kristjan Kallaste

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