Environment minister Rene Kokk to step down

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Environment minister Rene Kokk (EKRE) is to submit his resignation to Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Center) on Thursday, the ministry has announced, citing health reasons.

"I am saddened to be leaving unfinished what I started as minister, but I have to think about my health and family," Kokk, 40, said, via a ministry press release.

"The doctors have given me a very clear message that I have to change my lifestyle, and slow down its tempo somewhat," he added.

Kokk will revert to the Riigikogu after stepping down, ERR's online news in Estonian reports, meaning Tiit Kala will have to make way for him (government ministers do not sit in the Riigikogu – ed.) , under standard practice.

ERR also obtained confirmation from EKRE MP and leader of its Riigikogu grouping that Kokk was leaving his post, adding that discussions are now underway for a suitable replacement, who will be announced when known.

ERR reports that Kokk had encountered obstacles to getting his forestry development plan implemented, though this was not cited as a reason for the move, either by the ministry, the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE), the prime minister, or Kokk himself.

Rene Kokk won a Riigikogu seat in the March 2019 elections running on EKRE's Harju and Rapla counties list, polling 1,458 votes.

Ratas: Kokk's choice is a personal affair

Jüri Ratas later confirmed that he had spoken to Kokk on the matter.

"He's a good man," Ratas said, speaking on ERR's Vikerraadio show "Stuudios on peaminister".

"He has done good work as minister, and we enjoy shared visions in the environmental field, such as on Europe's climate neutrality policies," he went on, listing initiatives on the circular economy and biodiversity as other successes.

The choice for replacement is EKRE's, who Ratas said he hoped would be successful in finding a suitable candidate.

Asked about speculation on the forestry plan, Ratas reiterated that Kokk was stepping down for health reasons.

EKRE leader Martin Helme echoed the prime minister's words by saying that Kokk had done a very good job and that he would have preferred Kokk to have stayed put.

"However, we reached a common understanding that health is more important than work," Helme wrote on his social media page Wednesday.

Rene Kokk's resignation is the fifth by a minister since the current Center-EKRE-Isamaa coalition entered office in April 2019.

All previous resignations have come from EKRE ministers or ministers picked by the party – three of them from the same post, IT and foreign trade, which saw Marti Kuusik step down after one day, followed by his replacement, Kert Kingo, who resigned in October last year. Kingo's replacement, Kaimar Karu, also resigned, in April this year, and was replaced by Raul Siem.

Former rural affairs minister Mart Järvik resigned in November last year, and was replaced the following month by Arvo Aller.

Please note an earlier version of this story stated that EKRE MP Kai Rimmel had to vacate her seat on Rene Kokk moving to the Riigikogu. The National Electoral Committee (Vabariigi Valimiskomisjon) has since informed ERR that Tiit Kala, as the last on the party's national list to gain a seat, will have to vacate).


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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