Liimets: I am concentrating on successfully performing professional tasks

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Minister of Foreign Affairs Eva-Maria Liimets. Source: Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Minister of Foreign Affairs Eva-Maria Liimets, who joined the Center Party last week, says that she prioritizes her foreign policy tasks above party politics for the time being.

Please describe how you decided to join the Center Party?

Thank you for that question. Indeed, I accepted the Center Party's offer to join the coalition government as foreign minister back in January.

I said straight away that it is a political position that clearly aligned me with the Center Party. The matter was not of critical importance in the meantime as I have worked very closely with Center from my first day as minister. And I was glad to officially join the party in early June.

Did you doubt the necessity of joining at any point?

No, I have had no such doubts.

Was the decision complicated by various criminal proceedings and investigations involving the Center Party?

I definitely agree that corruption can have no place in public administration and there is no justification. However, I have not been forced to concentrate on these matters in my office as I have instead dedicated myself to Estonia's foreign and security policy.

How do you plan to tie your future to the Center Party in the future?

By continuing to work for the party and concentrating on the best possible performance of my professional tasks.

Do you plan to run in the local elections?

I will return to this matter in the party once election day draws nearer and it is decided who will run where and with what kind of a mission.

Center's secretary general suggested you will likely run in Tallinn.

I am a fifth-generation Tallinner. Should I decide to run in the local elections and have a say in local matters, it will certainly be in the capital.

Are you also considering running in Riigikogu elections?

I will consider it once the elections are nearer. However, as I have said, I will be concentrating on representing Estonia in foreign and security policy matters and the performance of relevant goals.

How would you describe your worldview?

My worldview is first and foremost liberal, and I attach great value to free trade. Also, the principle that all people have been born into this world with dignity, in other words, defending human rights, as well as observing the principles of democracy and rule of law on the state level.

For example, do you believe the implementing provisions of the Registered Partnership Act should be passed?

Yes, definitely.

What about one of Center's core political goals – progressive income tax?

I believe Estonia has currently opted for a very good tax system that is simple and transparent and taxes everyone with the same rate. I believe this simplicity has definitely benefited our small economy.

Are additional taxes completely out of the question in Estonia or could we discuss a real estate or vehicle tax?

It is important to keep an eye on developments and debate how to ensure tax collection in a way that would see society develop, that people would feel the tax system and burden are fair and help the state grow in the best possible way.

Estonians tend to love their cars and one would be hard-pressed to sell the idea of a vehicle tax here, making it an extremely unpopular topic for parties. Do you see any realistic grounds for something like that in the future?

I believe that different processes need to be kept in mind talking about a vehicle tax, including the fact that society has chosen a green future. This will see the car industry become greener and people think in a more eco-friendly manner.

Therefore, I believe there will be entirely new aspects to consider, talking about taxing vehicles in the future.

Where do you stand concerning government cutbacks that have caused a lot of bad blood in society, especially in a situation where growth figures are encouraging?

The initial principle we followed during state fiscal strategy (RES) talks and that necessitated this attempt to balance the budget is, of course, entirely appropriate.

Fiscal balance is definitely good for Estonia, whereas the public sector should consider how to contain red tape, how to be more effective as a digital state in a rapidly changing world.

As concerns more specific problems covered in the press, it is important for the debate to be heeded and ways found to cut costs so as not to clash with public opinion as sharply as in these recent examples.

Once the strategy is reviewed in fall and concrete inputs for the state budget provided, should ministries avoid layoffs and find other ways of cutting back?

Agreeing on the state's fiscal strategy is a compromise and we have agreed that every ministry will find places in its administrative area where costs can be reduced. I believe all ministries will make the most practical choices for Estonia.

Should people be let go to hit that target or not? Where do you stand?

Prioritizing layoffs is not justified.

The foreign ministry is expected to save €2 million. What will you dial back?

Our plan is to discuss these matters in fall, when mapping out the activities of the next fiscal year.

I cannot support saving on people. On the contrary, we will try to find ways to streamline our processes of which I shall now give a few examples. For instance, issuing personal identification documents by mail will help us reduce consular workload and free these people up for other tasks.

We are also discussing how to render business diplomacy as a whole more effective in which cooperation with Enterprise Estonia (EAS) will help us find saving.

We are looking for ways to work more closely with other countries regarding our embassies, for example, by sharing premises.

These are the places where we are hunting for efficiency, while no embassy closures are on the agenda.

What is your opinion of borrowing in the current situation?

Estonia is about to receive additional sums from the recovery fund. The new cohesion policy budget framework is about to be launched, so there are many ways for Estonia to find additional financing and we need to capitalize on them to exit the economic slump caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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