The Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) has confirmed businessman Rain Epler as new environment minister, replacing Rene Kokk, whose last day in office also happens to be Saturday.
Epler was confirmed at an EKRE board meeting session on Saturday.
Epler's name first appeared in the media towards the end of the week, after incumbent Rene Kokk announced he was stepping down from the post, citing health factors.
The new appointment does not come from EKRE's cadre of 19 MPs, but from the private sector – a practice followed already with the IT and foreign trade ministerial post, which the party also holds.
While media speculation that Kokk's departure was due to obstacles in the path of his own plan for forest management was not confirmed, Epler noted at Saturday's meeting that he saw moving forward with the forest management plan as a priority.
Epler said: "Several stakeholders, holding different views on the correct management of our forests, have been involved in drawing up the forestry development plan. I will be working to reach a mutually satisfactory agreement on this, despite the differences."
Epler also said that providing opportunities for entrepreneuers and cutting bureaucratic tape was important, as was the discussion on a possible nuclear power station in Estonia.
"It is important in the interests of our country's energy security to actively seek alternatives to oil shale and renewable energy. Issues related to new types of energy must be thoroughly discussed within society," he said.
Rain Epler was previously an adviser to finance minister Martin Helme, and had already been working on green issues and forest management policy, in conjunction with the environment ministry, prior to his appointment, for around 18 months.
He also owns a brewery company, a car sales outfit and an IT consultancy, and sits on the supervisory boards of the state forestry commission's (RMK) management center, state credit body KredEx, and Enterprise Estonia.
As the body with several state agencies dealing in land deals, renewable energy contracts and other big business under its remit, the environment ministry is seen as a key post despite its somewhat lower public profile than some other ministries.
Rene Kokk, whose release from office was formally signed by President Kersti Kaljulaid Saturday, is to reclaim the Riigikogu seat he won at the March 2019 election (government ministers do not sit in the Riigikogu – ed.).
Editor: Andrew Whyte