The date for the verbal hearing of former Finance Minister Keit Pentus-Rosimannus' candidacy as new European Court of Auditors (ECA) representative from Estonia has been set for November 8.
Pentus-Rosimannus, who formally resigned as minister on Tuesday, had already sent off her written answers to 19 questions, a standard format, on her past experience, activities, background and achievements, and will now face on-the-spot questioning from the European Parliament's Committee on Budgetary Control.
While both the committee and a plenary session of the European Parliament will vote on Pentus-Rosimannus' suitability, the result is non-binding and her appointment ultimately depends on the executive, the 27-Member State Council of the EU.
A European Parliament spokesperson confirmed the date of November 8 for the hearing to ERR.
Pentus-Rosimannus stresses work as environment minister a highlight of her career
The European Parliament Budgetary Committee written questions, and Pentus-Rosimannus' answers to them, are now publicly available.
Pentus-Rosimannus written answers stress her period as Minister of the Environment (2011-2014, under the premiership of Andrus Ansip (Reform), now an MEP) as well as her work as finance minister, with Estonia's accession to the Paris Climate Agreement in 2016 as one of the most important decisions she said she had taken part in.
Pentus-Rosimannus headed up Ansip's office from 2005 until the 2007 general election, at which she won a Riigikogu seat.
In answer to question 6: "What are the three most important decisions to which you have been party in your professional life?" the ex-minister answered: "The most heart-warming task was helping to prepare and negotiate the Paris Agreement, the binding international treaty to limit global warming to well below 2C preferably to 1.5C, compared to pre-industrial levels. The agreement in Paris brought a wider international consensus on the urgency of the climate crisis and the need to act."
Financial crisis from 2008, joining the euro and Covid recovery also referred to
In second place came: "The most critical decisions where related with helping to lead my country through 2008-2009 financial crisis while preserving the prudent budgetary policy line that made possible for Estonia to join the eurozone in 2011."
Pentus-Rosimannus was a member of the Riigikogu finance committee during some of this period.
The third part of Pentus-Rosimannus' answer to question 6 was: "The most resilience demanding decisions were related to being at the forefront of successful crisis management in 2021-2022. It has been my role in the last two years to provide solutions to the COVID, economic and security crises. I spearheaded policies that offered relief to the households and companies, as well as guaranteed the functioning of the medical system that had become under enormous stress, without sacrificing the sustainability of the public finances.
"As a result, Estonia's economy recovered quickly, and the unemployment level remained relatively low. After getting over the worst with COVID, 2022 has turned out to be the year of the worst security crisis in the region. We reacted fast to the security threats and time will tell if the rapid decisions to increase our defense budget from 2.2 percent of the GDP to 3.2 percent of the GDP by 2024, to invest heavily into conventional defense as well as to the cyber domain and to reinforce our energy security were quick enough. I find those decisions existentially important."
Questions 8 to 10 related to financial and business interest questions, which Pentus-Rosimannus answered as follows:
Committee on Budgetary Control: "8. Do you or your close relatives (parents, brothers and sisters, legal partner and children) have any business or financial holdings or any other commitments, which might conflict with your prospective duties?"
Pentus-Rosimannus: "I do not have any business or financial holdings or any other commitments, which might conflict with my prospective duties. Nor am I aware of any possible conflict of interest connected with my relatives. Shall there arise the potential of the latter I will immediately inform the President of the Court as well as abstain from participating in any auditing work related to the decision.
Committee: "9. Are you prepared to disclose all your financial interests and other commitments to the President of the Court and to make them public?"
Pentus-Rosimannus: "Yes, without any hesitation. All my financial interests and commitments have been public since 2003 and I will disclose those also in the future."
Committee: "10. Are you involved in any current legal proceedings? If so, please provide us with details."
Pentus-Rosimannus: "I am not."
Also significant is Pentus-Rosimannus' answer to question12: "Will you step down from any elected office or give up any active function with responsibilities in a political party if you are appointed as a Member of the Court?", to which she answered (inter alia): "Becoming a member of ECA means that I will conclude my political career."
Finally, as to the last question, 19: "Will you withdraw your candidacy if parliament's opinion on your appointment as Member of the Court is unfavourable?", Pentus-Rosimannus responded: "Yes, I will," meaning that although the parliament's vote is non-binding and only advisory, she would in any case withdraw if the vote went against her – the Council of the EU would not be able to compel Pentus-Rosimannus to take up the post if she opted not to.
The full text of Pentus-Rosimannus' answers to the committee's questionnaire is here.
Pentus-Rosimannus if she is appointed will replace Juhan Parts, whose term ends on December 31. Her nomination was not without controversy, mostly over the manner in which it was conducted and the extent to which she may have played a part in her own candidacy proposal – while the finance minister is responsible for nominating the ECA candidate, legislation also prevents an official from nominating themselves; in the event Rural Affairs Minister Urmas Kruuse (Reform) nominated Pentus-Rosimannus while she was out of the country at an EU-level meeting. Kruuse's deputizing for the finance minister while she was away was in and of itself standard practice.
Former MEP Indrek Tarand, who once sat on the same committee which will question Pentus-Rosimannus, said he thought it unlikely that she would meet any opposition, given the circle of favors which he said exists within EU structures and the tendency towards consensus.
Pentus-Rosimannus' replacement as finance minister, Annely Akkerman (Reform), took her oath of office at the Riigikogu on Wednesday.
This article was updated to include written answers from Keit Pentus-Rosimannus to the European Parliament's Budgetary Committee.
Editor: Andrew Whyte