Former economic affairs minister Kadri Simson (Centre) has the backing of her party's board as Estonia's next European Commissioner.
Simson, a close ally of Prime Minister and party leader Jüri Ratas, is currently leader of Centre's parliamentary group at the Riigikogu.
The current commissioner, Andrus Ansip (Reform), was set to remain in the role until October. However, since Ansip won a European Parliament seat at the May 26 elections, he must choose between the two roles, meaning he is almost certain to step down as commissioner soon.
Simson would likely be put forward not just as an interim commissioner, but for the full five-year term, ERR's online news in Estonian reports. As Centre is in office, together with the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) and Isamaa, and commissioners are generally appointed by the ruling government, this gives added impetus to her candidacy.
Simson ticks further boxes since EU gender balance requirements mean the next commissioner from Estonia should be a woman – the last two commissioners, in fact the only two since Estonia joined the EU in 2004, Andrus Ansip, and before him Siim Kallas, are both men.
Centre Party board chair Kersti Sarapuu endorsed Simson's candidacy, citing: "First of all, her accuracy, then her specificity, her thoroughness, her empathy, her willingness always to search for a solution, her firm and concrete positions," as strengths.
Kadri Simson CV
No other possible candidate has been reported from the Centre Party, which is the largest in the coalition with 25 seats (out of 55).
Kadri Simson, 42, joined Centre in 1995 and was secretary-general 2003-2007, and vice-chair 2007-2015, and again from November 2016. She ran against Edgar Savisaar as party chair in November 2015, receiving 486 votes against Savisaar's 541. She was an MP at the XI, XII and XIII Riigikogu sessions, and was returned to the XIV Riigikogu at the March 3 general election. She also studied for a masters at University College London, it is reported.
What the role does and does not entail
What her potential portfolio as European Commissioner might be, and who would enter her cabinet there, is not yet known. One commissioner is appointed from each EU member state and given a specific portfolio; Andrus Ansip's portfolio was the Digital Single Market, and he is also a commission vice-president under Jean-Claude Juncker.
Head of the commission's Estonian representation Keit Kasemets told ERR two weeks ago that the vice-presidency role is off the table for Simson, however.
"European Commission vice-presidents ... coordinate the activities of other commissioners. In the current commission, they are all former prime ministers, highly respected people. If a vice-president steps down, his or her cabinet will also leave," Kasemets explained.
Andrus Ansip was prime minister of Estonia 2005-2014.
"Member states and the specific commissioner designation are not linked to any particular portfolio. It is up to the President of the Commission, depending on the outcome of the European Parliament elections and the movements of other commissioners, to identify which portfolio that a new Estonian Commissioner would receive, within a six-month period," Kasemets added.
Editor: Andrew Whyte