Tõnis Mölder has formally announced his resignation Wednesday morning, citing family and health reasons. Center MP Erki Savisaar has already been appointed Mölder's replacement.
Mölder, who became minister in January when the Reform/Center coalition took office, said Wednesday morning that: "Sometimes one has to take a step back in order to move on. The decision to resign concerns my health and my family."
"The ministry, as well as my previous positions, have needed a lot of attention and commitment on my part, and I have come to realize the necessity to take time out for the family and pay more attention to their well-being," Mölder continued, via a Center Party press release.
Mölder reiterated the statement at an official press conference at Center's headquarters in Tallinn Wednesday morning, and also on his own social media page.
Media reports of Mölder's decision to step down, the second ministerial resignation in as many weeks, first appeared Tuesday evening, and while Savisaar remained tight-lipped on whether he was taking on the position in an interview with ETV Wednesday morning, he also talked at length in response to questions about a range of different environmental issues facing Estonia.
Center's leader, Jüri Ratas, said Wednesday that: "I am very grateful to Tõnis for his contribution, but I understand his decision - health and family must come first."
Center's board met Wednesday morning also, passing the resolution to nominate Savisaar as next environment minister.
Ratas said that: "Erki has the competence and the instinct vigorously to lead a field that affects us all as.
"He chaired the Riigikogu's environment committee in 2019-2021 and the Baltic Assembly Environment Committee last year. In addition, Erki was one of the initiators of the Estonian hydrogen strategy, and in the previous Tallinn city government, he also worked for the environment committee," the Center leader went on.
"I am certain he will prove able to implement the ongoing projects and ideas and continue to stand for the principles that value the environment. I wish him success in his new, responsible position," Ratas said.
Tõnis Mölder expresed his thanks to Jüri Ratas and to Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) for their trust and cooperation and for the opportunity, and said that had helped many key decisions to get made more easily, while Ratas pointed to the conclusion of the stalemate of the national forestry development plan as one of the highlights of his time as minister, along with waste management organization, reducing felling and the compensation package for low-income families during the soaring electricity prices seen in recent months.
Mölder represented Estonia at the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow, Scotland just over a week ago, meeting with U.S. special presidential envoy for climate and former secretary of state John Kerry while there.
Before taking up the post, Savisaar's candidacy must be approved by the head of state, President Alar Karis, followed by the swearing-in ceremony at the Riigikogu. Since government ministers do not sit at the Riigikogu, an alternate member will be appointed from the 2019 Riigikogu electoral lists and will be announced in due course. This is likely to be a Center MP – but there are some scenarios where another party could gain an MP instead.
Mölder's resignation is the second for the government, and for Center, this month. Anneli Ott stepped down as culture minister on November 2, citing differences of opinion with the cabinet on the handling of the pandemic, and was replaced by Tiit Terik two days later. No government minister from the Reform/Center coalition which entered in office in January had resigned prior to that.
Editor: Andrew Whyte