Other EKRE ministers will travel, mostly speak Estonian

Martin Helme on his first day at work as finance minister.
Martin Helme on his first day at work as finance minister. Source: Anna Aurelia Minev/ERR

Ministers from the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) seem to be mostly open to foreign travel in relation to their work, though several of them have said they would be using Estonian as a working language, even at international meetings outside Estonia.

Following reports last week that Minister for Foreign Trade and IT Kert Kingo intended only to travel in exceptional cases, delegating foreign visits to others where possible, ERR's online Estonian news canvassed all four remaining EKRE ministers on the matter.

The ministers, who have been in office for a month now, were also asked whether they would use Estonian or English when travelling abroad for work reasons. Kingo, whose role includes forging trade links between Estonia and the outside world, said last week that she would speak Estonian in such situations, using an interpreter.

The other four ministries with EKRE appointees are: The Ministry of the Interios, The Ministry of Finance, The Ministry of the Environment, and the Ministry of Rural Affairs.

Finance minister likely to travel, use Estonian

Finance minister Martin Helme said Friday that each minister has to decide for themselves how to organize work, within their own fields.

"Kert Kingo has taken the decision to keep herself informed on the topics within her ministry's purview, then to prioritize them," Helme said in response to ERR's questions.

"I support her in this decision. I am fully certain that Kert understands very well the importance of her role for businesses and the economy, and will disburse her duties fully," Helme continued.

On the question whether Helme was going to set things up along similar lines, meaning he would travel outside of Estonia, on work-related duties, as little as possible, Helme answered in the negative.

Helme uses both Estonian and English as working languages, primarily Estonian in an official capacity, he says.

"In a recent meeting of European economic and finance ministers in Brussels, I spoke Estonian at all the official meetings, since I believe that this is a fully correct and justifiable protocol," Helme continued.

"Naturally, I speak in English with colleagues between meetings, since for a small country like ours, it is important to maintain good international relations," he added, noting that in addition to Estonia and English, he also speaks Finnish and Russian.

Environment minister also uses Estonian as working language

Minister for the Environment Rene Kokk (EKRE) told ERR Friday that he did not have any foreign travel plans.

"I'm ready to participate at a ministerial level in work meetings outside the country, but I hold Estonian important when conducting work in my field here in Estonia," he explained.

Kokk said that he studied German and Russian at school, and can also understand English, which he said he picked up via everyday life experience.

However, Kokk said that he would also use Estonian at international meetings.

"In order to put forward our national stance on issues, I need to use my mother tongue, together with professional translators, in official foreign relations," said Kokk.

In relation to Kert Kingo's attitude to foreign travel, Kokk said that: "The Minister of Foreign Trade and IT will draw up her work plans with specialists from the ministry, who have long-term experience in the field. I am sure that the minister will make the right choices, in cooperation with her people, on which meetings are necessary to be involved in."

Minister for Rural Affairs has already been on two foreign work trips

The Ministry of Rural Affairs echoed the stance of the other EKRE ministers/ministries, in saying that work organization is down to each minister.

"[Rural affairs minister] Mart Järvik has already in his short time as a minister been on two work trips, to Belgium and China, and next week he's going to Romania," said ministry communications adviser Indrek Hirs.

Mart Järvik's resume, as it appears on the ministry website, states he is conversant in English, Russian and Finnish, obviously as well as Estonian.

Interior minister refused to speak to ERR

ERR also approached interior minister (and EKRE leader) Mart Helme, but his ministry's communications officer Erki Helemäe said that Helme did not want to answer the question. Helemäe was unable to provide an explanation why the interior minister would not respond.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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