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Estonia's former culture minister running for Council of Europe top job

Indrek Saar.
Indrek Saar. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

Indrek Saar, former chairman of the Social Democratic Party (SDE) and minister of culture, will run for the secretary general role at the Council of Europe, which deals with human rights and democracy issues.

"It's true. The government decided to nominate me for the position and I have already started campaigning," Saar told ERR on Thursday from Strasbourg, France where the organization's headquarters are located.

Saar said the decision to enter the competition was made after he left politics in November 2022. After assessing his suitability for the role, he agreed to run.

"The idea is pretty much based on the fact that I was a member of the Estonian delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe from 2007 until 2023. I have quite a long history of working in this organization, and I know this organization," he said.

Asked if he is ready to move to Strasbourg if elected, Saar said he has already started studying French and is very motivated to do so.

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE). Source: Vincent Kessler

The Council of Europe announced the secretary general candidates on Thursday. The European Union's Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders and former Swiss President Alain Berset have also applied for the role, Politico Europe reported.

The election for the role of secretary-general is planned in June. In March, candidates will face an interview by the committee of ministers and decide on the final list of candidates which will be transmitted to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.

The new secretary general's mandate starts on September 18.

The Council of Europe promotes democracy, protects human rights, and the rule of law in Europe. It is not part of the EU institutions.

Russia was expelled from the organization in March 2023.

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Editor: Mait Ots, Helen Wright

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