Zuzu Izmailova replaces Tarmo Tamm as Riigikogu environment committee chair

Züleyxa Izmailova
Züleyxa Izmailova Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

Eesti 200 is replacing MP Tarmo Tamm with Züleyxa Izmailova in the post of Riigikogu environment committee chair. Izmailova only recently became an MP.

Tamm's nomination to the post was followed by controversy over the two misdemeanor proceedings logged against him in respect of timber felling activities in the village of Käsmu, Lääne-Viru County.

Tamm's business interests are primarily in timber, and this also prompted speculation over potential conflicts of interest in the environment committee chair post.

Additionally, business daily Äripäev reported Friday that Tamm is also the subject of Environmental Board (Keskkonnaamet) administrative proceeding in respected of a floating sauna he had installed in a restricted zone.

The zone is in Lahemaa national park, which encompasses the area around Käsmu.

On Thursday, Eesti 200 leader and Riigikogu speaker Lauri Hussar told ERR that the party was awaiting the results of the misdemeanor investigations before deciding whether Tamm would continue as environmental committee chair.

However, the party notified the media Friday morning that Izmailova would replace Tamm on the committee.

Marek Reinaas, Eesti 200's Riigikogu whip, said that Tamm needs to get on top of his own affairs, while Izmailova, a former Green Party leader and author of Eesti 200's climate change policy, would make an excellent leader on environmental issues.

Reinaas said: "Züleyxa Izmailova is a politician from a new generation, and is perfectly suited to ensure that the goals formulated in the coalition agreement, such as the implementation of the green transition, the promotion of the circular economy and of the green economy, get achieved."

Züleyxa "Zuzu" Izmailova recently replaced Johanna-Maria Lehtme at the Riigikogu, after Lehtme stepped down in the wake of embezzlement allegations connected to an NGO set up to aid Ukraine.

Tarmo Tamm himself says that the decision to step down as chair of the environmental committee was his own decision, and also referred to the Environmental Board's procedures as "misunderstandings".

"I would say this was largely my own decision. It transpired that we have a number of misunderstandings with the Environmental Agency which need to be cleared up, but whose significance I could not appreciate. So I thought that maybe it would for the best if I deal with these things, and then we'll see what happens next," Tamm said.

The arrival of Izmailova into Eesti 200's Riigikogu ranks was also a factor, he added.

"On the other hand, our great party did not have such a great specialist as Zuzu Izmailova before this. Since she has now arrived, it is perfectly appropriate to give her this opportunity," he added.

Tarmo Tamm at the signing of the Reform-Eesti 200-SDE coalition agreement in April 2023. Source: Siim Lõvi/Priit Mürk/ERR

His reasoning also suggested that the conflict of interest claim was not wholly without merit.

"Things build up. One thing arrives, then there's something else, so finally you come to wonder what the point of it all might be. Today, Äripäev penned another story about the sauna situation, which again needs to be clarified. Again, I would say that in my opinion that this is reasonable and right, but again, we have a somewhat of a disagreement with the Environmental Board, and it would be uncomfortable for me to discuss these issues at a time when I was, at the same time, as it were, indirectly the boss of the Environmental Board. It is reasonable not to combine these roles in this format, when there can be someone else instead."

The misdemeanor proceedings reportedly relate to the felling of forest and selling of the timber to residents of Käsmu, a picturesque fishing village, for firewood.

As to what he might do next, Tamm said that he may put himself forward for the Riigikogu's Rural Affairs Committee.

Eesti 200 has, according to one polling firm, seen its rating with the public tank in recent weeks, and while the Lehtme saga is seen as the major factor, along with the Reform-Eesti 200-SDE coalition's tax hikes, family benefits cuts, and handling of the opposition's related filibuster, the Tamm situation is likely a contributory factor too.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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