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Kadri Simson on commisioner role: I'd like to take a developmental leap

Kadri Simson on an ETV
Kadri Simson on an ETV "Valimisstuudio" pre-election broadcast. Source: Kairit Leibold/ERR

Kadri Simson (Centre) sees the European Commissioner role, to which she was nominated by the coalition government Thursday morning, as a great opportunity. She would prefer a portfolio related to her earlier work as a government minister in Estonia, she told ERR.

"I want to take a developmental leap. I've been away from Estonia before (Simson studied for a master's at University College London-ed.), and I'm well aware that being away for a while can bring a new perspective to work which you might not get at home," Simson told ERR's online news in Estonian, on Thursday morning.

But does Simson have some pretty big boots to fill from the predecessor, Andrus Ansip (Reform)?

"These are a different thing altogether. They are 'mens' shoes' which don't fit me, traces of former prime ministers," Simson said. Both Ansip and the previous European Commissioner from Estonia, Siim Kallas (Reform) have been prime minister in the past.

Simson said she did not know whether the new role, as created by the next President of the European Commission, will be similar to Ansip's.

"Whereas Siim Kallas was a vice-president at the Commission, and also had on directorate-general to his name, Ansip has been coordinating other commissioners under those directorates," she said.

A directorate-general is a branch of an administration dedicated to a specific field of expertise. Andrus Ansip was also a commission vice-president, in addition to being a commissioner.

"What the next commision president will distrbute and how it would mean all commissioners have some meaningful tasks is as yet unknown, as the next president is not yet known," she said.

Current incumbent Jean-Claude Juncker will also stand down at the end of October.

Simson noted that some areas covered during Estonia's Presidency of the Council of the EU, in the latter half of 2017, when she was Minister of Economic Affairs and Infrastructure, are appealing in the new commissioner role.

These were first, economic development, entrepreneurship and industry, second, energy and third, transport.

Simson was sanguine about the prospect of an alternative chain of events which would see the current coalition in Estonia out of office in the autumn, to be replaced by a Reform-led one, which might pitch that party's leader, Kaja Kallas, into the commissioner role instead.

"That would happen for good reasons Hence why you don't need to worry about it, although Estonians tend to worry about everything, when most of those bad things don't come to pass," she said.

The current European Commission, headed by Juncker, stays in office until the end of October, so Simson would initially go to Brussels with a transitional team, and does not as yet have an office manager.

"I have been involved in pre-negotiations, and in fact drowning in the Cvs of some attractive people, all who are ready to work in my office. This is an important choice to make. I believe I have made good choices so far and my co-laborers have always added value for me, making me more resilient. So I am not going to make this choice any more lightly," she said.

In the first instance, two people would travel with Simson to Brussels, and the rest of the team would be found from those with Brussels experience.

"My long term advisers, Peeter Kadarik and Jaan Männik, have been with me both before and during my stint as economic affairs and infrastrucure minister ... naturally there are clear rules in place: The numebr of Estonians in the office [at the commission] is stricly limited in order to allow advisers with other EU citizenship to be hired, and there must be a minimum of one person in the cabinet's makeup who is not an Estonian citizen," she said.

Since Simson is currently chair of Centre's party group at the Riigikogu, if she goes to Brussels that will produce another vacancy. Vice-chari Kersti Sarapuu, and MP Siret Kotka-Repinksi would take on the duties, Simson said.

Kadri Simson's candidacy as commissioner would first have to be presented before the Riigikogu. The Centre-led coalition has already requested the Riigikogu board arrange this.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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