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State Secretary: Ida-Viru representative role viable, needs clarifying

Taimar Peterkop.
Taimar Peterkop. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

While the creation of a special representative for Estonia's northeastern-most region, Ida-Viru County, as expressed by coalition negotiators this week, is viable – if the political will is there – it needs to be more precisely defined, State Secretary Taimar Peterkop says.

Peterkop told ERR Friday that: "I think the most important thing is that first and foremost, understanding exactly what the desired tasks are that would be assigned to this proposed special representative; what they need to achieve, after which you can observe what the most appropriate manifestation of this might be."

"In other words, either legislative amendments are required, or it can be handled in the existing framework," Peterkop added.

The post and its creation really comes down to a matter of political will, Peterkop said.

"Naturally. When the political will is there, then anything is possible, at least within the confines of the Constitution," Peterkop added.

At the moment, definitive metrics on what needs doing are lacking or at least imprecise, he said.

There is no actual provision for a special representative of this kind in the Government of the Republic Act, the principle piece of legislation which governs an administration's activities, Peterkop added.

Depending on what exactly the role entails, the existing legislation may need amending or supplementing, he said.

One area the representative would be linked to is coordinating the transition to Estonian-only education. This, however, falls under the Ministry of Education's remit, Peterkop noted.

Similarly, while the proposed representative may also be tasked by the government with overseeing support funding and other spending in Ida-Viru County, in fact this falls under the Finance Ministry's competence, Peterkop said.

Eesti 200 leader Lauri Hussar, one of the key figures in the current, ongoing coalition negotiations involving his party, Reform and the Social Democrats, said earlier this week that the three parties had agreed in principle on appointing a special representative to Ida-Viru County, and also for the setting up of a special investment fund.

Ida-Viru County is, in many ways, unlike the rest of Estonia. Its larger towns are mostly Russian-speaking, and the recent Riigikogu elections gave an insight, such as not really been seen since the Russian invasion of Ukraine began over a year ago in its current phase, exactly what many Ida-Viru County residents think of the war, even as they are Estonian citizens.

Two of the highest-performing candidates, though they did not win seats, had expressed avowedly pro-Kremlin views.

The region is also significant economically, as the seat of the Estonian oil shale industry. While this sector is under heavy pressure relating to EU climate goals, the soaring energy prices seen even before the current war started have led to somewhat of a reverse in the trend for moving away from reliance on oil shale-fired power stations.

The shale is mined and refined in Ida-Viru County, while the shale oil itself has other uses, such as in the chemicals industry, than just as a fuel for power stations.

Other issues pertinent to the region include higher rates of unemployment as a whole and the planned transition to Estonian-only education.

The State Secretary of Estonia heads up the Government Office, whose main purpose is to oversee political decisions enacted by the executive.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Aleksander Krjukov

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