Former Prime Minister Taavi Rõivas to leave politics, move into business

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Former prime minister, Taavi Rõivas (Reform).
Former prime minister, Taavi Rõivas (Reform). Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

Member of the Riigikogu and former Prime Minister Taavi Rõivas (Reform) will resign from this position at the end of the year and move into the private sector. Rõivas announced he was stepping down on Thursday in a letter sent to his party.

Rõivas said his new line of business will be helping Estonian companies to the international arena and bringing foreign investments to Estonia.

At the beginning of 2021, Rõivas will join the Auve Tech team which produces self-driving vehicles and autonomous transportation systems. Cooperation with several international consulting companies and investment funds is also planned. 

"I am deeply grateful to the people of Estonia for having been able to serve the country in three governments and as MP in four compositions of the Riigikogu," said Rõivas, who was prime minister between 2014 and 2016. "I feel that at the age of 41 it is too early to repeat oneself or write a biography, and it is better to put oneself to the test in another role."

He said the final push for moving away from politics and into business was provided by the changes in the economy and society at large due to the coronavirus pandemic.

"In addition to the dark clouds, I see a lot of opportunities in the crisis and the potential to accelerate positive developments. Great things are being done in Estonian companies, even world-changing things, and I want to contribute to their success," he said.

As prime minister, Rõivas led two consecutive governments for almost three years, the first in 2014-2015 with the Social Democrats (SDE) and second between 2015-2016 with SDE and Isamaa.

Rõivas has been elected as a member to four consecutive parliaments from the constituencies of Haabersti, Kristiine and Põhja-Tallinn (2007 and 2011), Harju and Raplamaa (2015) and Lääne-Virumaa (2019) and to the Tallinn City Council from Haabersti (2005) and Kesklinna (2017) districts.

The priorities of the governments led by Rõivas were strengthening Estonia's security, lowering labor taxes and implementing administrative and work capacity reform. Several strategic infrastructure investments were also launched, such as Rail Baltic, four-lane roads, the construction of Balticconnector and the e-residency program, which has brought Estonia much international recognition. In 2014, for the first time, defense expenditure grew above 2 percent of GDP, and since the same year, Estonia has been hosting NATO allied units, the Reform Party said.

Rõivas has been a member of the Reform Party since 1998 and the chairman of the party between 2014-2017. He became Europe's youngest prime minister when he was sworn in in 2014 at the age of 34.

According to party spokespeople, Rõivas' alternate member in the Riigikogu is Marko Torm, who has not yet decided whether he will take up his seat. Should Torm decide to not take up his seat in the parliament, the next alternate member is Katrin Kuusemäe.

Ossinovski, Tsahkna: Rõivas' resignation not a surprise

Margus Tsahkna and Jevgeni Ossinovski. Source: ERR

Rõivas' resignation did not come as a surprise to either Jevgeni Ossinovski (SDE) or Margus Tsahkna (formerly IRL, now Estonia 200) who were both ministers in Rõivas' governments.

Ossinovski told ERR that, in his opinion, such a move was completely expected. He said Rõivas had undergone a political crisis since leaving prime ministerial office, running as a candidate for the European Parliament but not gaining a seat in 2019, and as a young person, it is a logical desire to want to make changes in his life.

Tsahkna told ERR that he has survived a similar stage and welcomes Rõivas' move to the private sector.

Tsahkna said: "It is definitely an interesting and exciting experience for him and we hope that he will do very well. It will also give him personal experience about where money and taxes come from, which the government redistributes."

Ossinovski was Minister of Education and Research in the first government of Rõivas and Minister of Health and Labor in the second. Tsahkna was a member of Rõivas' second government as Minister of Social Security.

Kallas: Being in politics is not a matter of life and death

Kaja Kallas. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

Chairman of the Reform Party told ERR that Rõivas' decision to leave politics after 20 years was a timely decision.

"The Reform Party's strength is that it is not a matter of life and death for our people to be in politics, we have a healthy rotation between the private and public sectors. When Taavi has been in politics for over 20 years, this is a great time to try life in business. Of course, as a group, we regret that such a good member is going to the private sector, but we wish him strength and all the best," Kallas told ERR.

Rõivas is another well-known member of the Reform Party who has announced his resignation from politics in recent years. The same decision has previously been announced by Remo Holsmer, Arto Aas and Kalle Palling.

Kallas said they all have something in common - they all held high positions in politics at a young age. "I was in the private sector for 14 years before I got into politics. I think people who have been in politics for 20 years should try their hand at the private sector," she said.


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Editor: Helen Wright

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