No major overhaul of the cabinet will follow Tuesday's resignation of Anneli Ott as culture minister, Jaak Aab (Center) public administration minister says.
Inter-party relations in the Reform/Center coalition are good, and the government is hard-working, Aab, who is effectively minister for the regions, said.
"I would say that the government is hard-working and able to function. /.../ Internally, it is very hard-working. The coronavirus crisis stands out, but in fact, the substantive issues which we are constantly developing and wanting to improve; this stands out most of all. The issue of the coronavirus has been the most problematic of all matters. When even experts do not agree, that makes it difficult for a government to make decisions," Aab said.
While a new minister of culture to replace Anneli Ott, who announced her resignation Tuesday morning, should be announced later in the week, Aab said, the current crop of Center ministers has seen some unfair criticism.
Foreign minister Eva-Maria Liimets does her work in a balanced and quiet way, but efficiently, Aab said, perhaps explaining why she has been criticized over a lack of action.
Aab also singled out health minister Tanel Kiik for praise, saying he had performed well in the crisis.
"When there is criticism and attacks, which is always the case, but we are all in a new situation, as is the whole world, and no one can make ideal decisions, meaning the government should look at things by itself when things are not working," he said, adding that Kiik's resignation has never been discussed directly.
Kiik has been health minister throughout the coronavirus crisis and was social affairs minister in the Center/EKRE/Isamaa coalition when the pandemic first started.
The entire government has to be held responsible, given it discusses things collectively at cabinet level, Aab added, rather than singling out specific ministers or personalities.
"There has been speculation, it has been asked who is responsible. I think the whole government is more responsible, as we have to balance these decisions," he said.
As to Anneli Ott, Aab echoed the line given by party leader Jüri Ratas, that she had fought for the sector.
He said: "From the outside, it may seem that every minister is lacking in something. I know that as a member of the government, and I can recall the previous wave, Anneli fought like a full-on lioness for the same support for the sector she is accused of missing out," Aab went on, saying she battled for about 50 percent more than her predecessor, Tõnis Lukas (Isamaa) had done.
Aab said that no one had pressured her to leave office and that she left due to differences of opinion with the government line on coronavirus restrictions and vaccinations, in particular, denying talk of a government rift.
"This 'legend' has been amplified. /.../ On all issues, ministers, regardless of which party they are from, have different opinions. Both the charm and the pain of being government is that we have to come to a consensus. This is an unwritten law. If someone starts voting against it, the government is no more," he continued.
The current coronavirus wave has been hard on the cultural sector – organized sport also falls under the culture ministry's remit – and if it continues, support for the sector will be likely, Aab added.
Editor: Andrew Whyte