Jüri Luik leaving Riigikogu for foreign service post

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Jüri Luik. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

Former defense minister Jüri Luik (Isamaa) is to leave the Riigikogu and rejoin the foreign service next month, and is reportedly likely to be Estonia's next permanent representative to NATO, in Brussels.

The foreign ministry told ERR Tuesday that it was: "Delighted that Jüri Luik, who has long-term diplomatic experience, decided to accept our offer and return to the ministry to help shape Estonia's security policy."

This means that while Luik will be working for the foreign ministry, his experience as defense minister will be relevant too.

"He will work as an advisor to the foreign ministry 's management, whose subject area is related to the development of NATO' s Strategic Concept," the foreign ministry spokesperson added.

Luik polled more than any other Isamaa candidate at the March 2019 general election. He then switched his Riigikogu seat for a ministerial post – government ministers do not sit at the Riigikogu – upon, ERR reports, the urging of many insiders, in preference to the far-right Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE), in office with Isamaa and Center at the time, getting the defense ministerial post.

Towards the end of the 2016 presidential election, he was also touted as a potential candidate ahead of Kersti Kaljulaid being chosen. His name has also been mentioned ahead of this autumn's presidential elections as well.

ERR's online news in Estonian reports that Luik is most likely to replace Kyllike Sillaste-Elling as Estonia's Permanent Representative to NATO.

Sillaste-Elling's term ends this summer.

Luik himself remained cautious about his near future when asked.

"For me, it is a matter of returning to the 'alma mater' , the domestic Ministry of Foreign Affairs, where I enteed domestic politics in the summer of 2017. The current step, of course, means leaving both the Riigikogu and domestic politics," he said.

At the end of last month, Luik said that he was not bored of life as an opposition MP – which he had been since mid-January when the Center/EKRE/Isamaa coalition collapsed.

"Politics is actually quite exciting," he said, though qualified this by saying: "For me personally, the rough and tumble of domestic politics does not sit well."

He also said he would remain a member of Isamaa and would keep his fingers crossed for the party.

Luik has ambassadorial experience at NATO Headquarters in Brussels under his belt already, as well as in both Washington and Moscow.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs proposes its ambassadorial candidates to the government. If approved, the President presents credentials to the ambassador-in-waiting, whose name in the role will then me made official.

Luik's 30-year political career started when Lennart Meri was foreign minister, a year before becoming Estonia's first president following the restoration of independence, in 1992.

When Luik leaves the Riigikogu, Heiki Epner as substitute member will take his place. Epner occupied the seat while Luik was defense minister, April 2019-January 2021. This period followed consecutively on from Luik's term as defense minister in the Center/Isamaa/SDE coalition, which he started in June 2017. In addition, he was defense minister 1999-2001, and in 1993-1994.

ERR News conducted this interview with Jüri Luik late last year.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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