Former ESTDEV chief accused of neglecting Ukraine, EaP states

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Tallinn.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Tallinn. Source: Ministry of Foreign Affairs

A former director of ex-president Kersti Kaljulaid's office has taken on the reins at a state agency focused on international development, amid criticism from some quarters that his predecessor had paid too little attention to Ukraine, in relation to other countries in focus.

Tiit Riisalo took over management of the Estonian International Development Cooperation Center (ESTDEV), which falls under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs' remit, after sitting CEO Kadri Maasik faced criticism over a perceived neglect of Eastern Partnership (EaP) countries and a greater focus on African nations.

In mid-2021, the Estonian EaP center was merged into ESTDEV, which took on all EaP projects and staff.

However, former EaP staff numbers and also foreign donations evaporated after that, Postimees writes (link in Estonian).

Maasik told Postimees said that several international donors had opted to halt or terminate the projects they were funding or involved in following the invasion of Ukraine by Russia from February last year – one example of these is a project relating to the Ukrainian prosecutor's office.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs Secretary General Jonatan Vseviov had not, however, himself highlighted Maasik's reported prioritization of African affairs during her tenure as head of ESTDEV, telling Postimees that in actual fact, the ministry did not have any substantive political differences with Maasik, though closer communication with the relevant parties, including the ministry, was expected from the center.

On Monday, ERR also asked the new CEO, Tiit Riisalo, director of Kersti Kaljulaid's presidential office, about ESTDEV's future plans, but by the end of the working day, the answers had not yet been received.  

ERR on Monday also asked Riisalo, a former director of President Kersti Kaljulaid's office, when she was head of state, about future plans for ESTDEV, but as of Monday evening no response had been received.

ESTDEV organizes and coordinates Estonian development cooperation and humanitarian aid projects in EaP countries and in Africa, principally in the south and east of that vast continent, according to the center's website.

As noted it was established in mid-2021 and is under the auspices of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

In 2021, Estonia allocated €47.6 million for development cooperation plus €3.25 million towards humanitarian aid, which is a total of approx. 0.17 percent of Estonia's GDP, ERR reports. 

Estonia has undertaken to up the amount of development cooperation to 0.33 percent of GDP, by 2030.

The EaP is an EU initiative focused on Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia and Moldova, as well as Ukraine, which attempts provide a forum for discussions regarding trade, economic strategy, travel agreements, and other issues between the EU and these states, as well as to build a common area of shared values of democracy, prosperity, stability, and increased cooperation.

The four African nations listed on ESTDEV's site as target states are Botswana, Kenya, Namibia and Uganda.

Editor: Andrew Whyte, Mirjam Mäekivi

Source: Postimees

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