Foreign trade minister reiterates overseas travel to be minimal

Prime Minister Jüri Ratas is to stand in for IT minister Kert Kingo (left) at the G20 meeting.
Prime Minister Jüri Ratas is to stand in for IT minister Kert Kingo (left) at the G20 meeting. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

Minister of Foreign Trade and IT Kert Kingo (EKRE) has said that she wants her role to focus primarily on a domestic level, though she is ready to engage in the most important foreign trips.

Kingo had previously received criticism for keeping foreign travel to a minimum in her ministerial work, as well as a desire to use Estonian as a working language, even at international meetings, using an interpreter. Part of her ministerial role involves promoting trade between Estonia and other countries.

Kingo met with the Riigikogu's foreign affairs committee to discuss the matter, ERR current affairs show "Aktuaalne kaamera" reported Thursday evening. The committee's chair, Enn Eesmaa (Centre) said that it seemed Kingo was still settling into the role, and things would become clearer in Autumn.

However, vice-chair (and former chair) Marko Mihkelson (Reform) was more unequivocal, saying that Kingo seemed to have no idea what she will be doing in the next four years.

"If we have a minister in this sphere who says they'd like to go abroad as little as possible and stay at home, they won't be able to perform the tasks we would actually expect from this minister," Mihkelson said.

Whereas Kingo said that she had no recollection of being asked either about her language skills or her willingness to travel when being offered the role, Mihkelson said: "Be that as it may, the minister has quite a combative style. Instead of answering the essence of a question, she launches diversionary attacks, leaving questions unanswered," he said.

Kingo response

"One of the tasks is to help Estonian companies in foreign markets. To do this, we have our own officials at work in the target countries. As soon as we need to mediate, the minister can start to take the lead here, for example," said Kingo.

As to the question of whether she thinks there is no need travel very much, Kingo replied that he had not said that.

"It is never enough," Kingo said, when asked whether more could be done in that direction.

"Things can always be done better, but my current direction is to help our national life," she said.

"So far, when have I said that I didn't want to go abroad?" Kingo said, in response to Mihkelson's criticisms.

"And, frankly, listening to how the media takes hearsay sentences then amplifies them everywhere, well this doesn't look very professional, I'll say that right out," said Kingo.

"I have not said that I do not want to go abroad. I have said that I will definitely go abroad if it is completely necessary and very comprehensive and meaningful, and is part of my work," the Minister added.

Nonetheless, according to daily Postimees, Kingo did indeed previously say that she would only travel in extreme cases.

"I will be using an interpreter. This a rule for us – to speak in Estonian. I have decided on this Many countries communicate in their own language and it fits with the views of our party to speak in Estonian," she said then, adding that "I plan to travel only in extreme cases and, whenever possible, delegate foreign visits to others."

Most other EKRE ministers also agreed that Estonian would generally be their working language internationally, though English could be used informally.

Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Centre) is to stand in for Kingo at a G20 meeting in Tsukuba, Japan in September, it is reported.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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