Defense minister: Merger with interior ministry not out of question

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Defense minister Kalle Laane (Reform). Source: ERR

Defense minister Kalle Laanet (Reform) has not ruled out as a concept the merger of his ministry with the interior ministry. The move would pool potential crisis response personnel as well as military personnel, he said, and would also lead to efficiency gains.

"I think we are quite close today to making this a reality. That is why I would say: 'Never say never'," Laanet told Raadio Kuku.

Appearing on commercial radio channel Raadio Kuku Friday, Laanet, a former interior minister also, said: "It would be possible to see how we can use people in different situations. If we try to create a voluntary crisis reserve or first responder reserve of at each ministry or agency;  unfortunately, we do not have the human resources in Estonia. We would have to share it [the pool of volunteers]."

Laanet made his remarks following recent discussions on reducing defense operating costs to the tune of about €10 million, in line with the current Reform/Center coalition's vision on wider state budget strategy.

The merger would also deal with two separate maritime forces – the Police and Border Guard's (PPA) unit, under the interior ministry's remit, and the Estonian Navy (Merevägi), part of the Estonian Defense Forces (EDF).

While Laanet cautioned against a scenario where both ministry's would want to create rival armed forces, a reserve of volunteer PPA or similar personnel would be trained for potential domestic crises and at the same time be exempt from military conscription, or reservist service if they had already undergone conscription in the past.

A merger of the two ministries would presumably remove this perceived danger.

Laanet said that the concept of a single maritime force was touted in the mid-2000s, when he was interior minister.

He said: "When I was minister of the interior in 2005-2007, we discussed with the then minister of defense (Jürgen Ligi – ed.) and their ministry, how it may be possible to merge the two fleets.

That this did not materialize at the time was the result of the legislative landscape, which has changed since then, he said.

"At that time they said that the legal framework, the Schengen framework, did not allow it. Today, the legal framework supposedly allows it. A lot of time has passed since then, it has been discussed at various levels and all the time people have said 'not possible,' not desirable,' 'cannot be done'," Laanet continued, as quoted by BNS.

The suggestion is also backed by Ministry of Defense official, and theater critic, Meelis Oidsalu, who recently resurrected the idea, Laanet added.

"Meelis has long-term experience in the field of national defense and security, and I am of the opinion that no idea is so stupid that it should not be discussed," Laanet said.

Oidsalu had also said that the two ministries functions tend to overlap.

Current interior minister is Kristian Jaani, a former police chief appointed by the Center Party to the role in January, but not a party member.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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