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MEP attacks interior minister over EU meeting non-attendance

Bar chart showing Estonian domestic ministers' attendance rate at EU ministerial meetings.
Bar chart showing Estonian domestic ministers' attendance rate at EU ministerial meetings. Source: ERR

Urmas Paet MEP (Reform) says Minster of the Interior Andres Anvelt's (SDE) non-attendance at formal meetings of EU interior ministers through 2018 is unacceptable.

As reported by on ETV's ''Aktuaalne kaamera'', Mr Anvelt missed all three EU interior ministers' meetings held in Brussels this year, though he was present at two informal meetings.

"Each EU ministerial meeting that the Estonian minister is absent from is a missed opportunity for Estonia to influence various EU policies in the way that Estonia considers best," Mr Paet stated on his social media account.

Missed opportunities

"It is also a missed opportunity for developing contacts with the ministers of other EU member states,'' he continued.

Mr Paet stressed the importance of personal contacts and being on cordial terms with peers, especially in ''difficult'' situations, so it is particularly important for Estonian ministers to attend such EU meetings, noting that these happen infrequently.

"Aside from everything else, participating in EU ministerial meetings is part of a minister's work, plain and simple. I haven't noticed too many ministers from the other member states considering this part of their work, connected with policy development, pointless," Mr Paet added.

Ministers a phone call away

"Hence a participation rate of zero, or even 50-60% at these meetings is not satisfactory. Estonia must take part actively and substantively in the processes and preparation of EU decisions; an important part of this is our ministers just doing their job,'' he continued.

When reached for comment, Mr Anvelt said that all key persons who need to be contacted within the EU are just a phone call away.

"When it is evident that in fact there will be no serious political discussion at a meeting, but rather a stating of positions, my opinion is that it's pointless for a minister to fly there and waste their time," Mr Anvelt told ''Aktuaalne kaamera''.

Keeping an eye on developments

"I'm keeping an eye on it. The experience of the EU presidency is so vast. When I see that there could be a political discussion next time, I will be there too,'' Mr Anvelt continued.

"I certainly do not think that just being there at the table schoolboy-style will somehow benefit the Estonian state," he added.

Andres Anvelt, a former police chief, has been interior minister since November 2016. Urmas Paet is a former foreign minister. SDE is a minority coalition partner; Reform is not only the largest opposition party, but the largest party overall, in terms of Riigikogu seats.

Although the worst ''offender'', Mr Anvelt is not the only one arguably shirking meetings. Of the 13 domestic ministers eligible or expected at EU ministerial meetings in 2018, only four had a 100% attendance record, two from Mr Anvelt's party: Justice minister Urmas Reinsalu (Pro Patria), finance minister Toomas Tõniste (Pro Patria), culture minister Indrek Saar (SDE) and health minister Riina Sikkut (SDE). Ms Sikkut only became a minister in May 2018. Mailis Reps (education) and Kadri Simson (economic affairs and infrastructure), both of the Centre Party and both required at two different ministerial meetings, each had a 50% attendance rate.

Estonia currently has six MEPs, to rise to seven at the next European parliamentary elections in May 2019 after the redistribution of some of the UK's MEP seats to other member states after that country's withdrawal from the EU.

The original report (in Estonian) is here.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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