What the Papers Say: What happened with M.V.Wool and who is Kaimar Karu?

Estonian newspapers (picture is illustrative).
Estonian newspapers (picture is illustrative). Source: Andrew Whyte/ERR News

The appointment of a new Minister for Foreign Trade and IT to replace Kert Kingo, ongoing data from the M.V.Wool listeria case, and Postimees Grupp getting a new CEO were in the papers on Friday, Nov. 1. All links in Estonian.

Museum and concert center wins wooden buildings award

The new Tulivee "secret spirits" museum and concert center has been nominated Estonian wooden building of the year, according to northeastern Estonian regional daily Põhjarannik.

The center, at Liimala beach in Lüganuse rural municipality, was the brainchild of brothers Hannes and Heigo Sprits and bagged the award, from the Estonian Forest and Wood Industries Association  (Eesti Metsa- ja Puidutööstuse Liit), from a shortlist of 26 entries.

Riigikogu MP Yoko Alender (Reform) was on the jury, saying that the center, which cost nearly €1.3 million: "Stood out for its holistic approach. The various buildings in the complex have used wood throughout and in very different forms. In this way, the Tulivee Center forms a dignified whole in a beautiful natural location, in both its content and form."

The architect was Kalju Kisand of AS Resand.

Henrik Välja head of the Estonian Forest and Wood Industries Association, noted the significance of the award as pointing the way to the future use of timber in building, often in innovative ways.

Listeria found in several of M.V.Wool samples taken in summer

According to agricultural weekly Maaleht, several cases of Listeria bacteria were found in samples taken from fish producer M.V.Wool.

Strains of listeria were traced back to the factory, based in Harku just west of Tallinn (the company operates other sites too) as reported by ETV investigative show Pealtnägija in September, and several deaths across Europe are reported to have been linked with the contamination, including two in Estonia.

The Veterinary and Food Board (VTA) took just under 100 samples, and found listeria bacteria in eight of them, according to Maaleht, between late June and mid-August, at several locations including Maxima and Prisma supermarkets in Tallinn, and the M.V.Wool warehouse itself.

The contamination affected uncooked salmon and trout products, primarily, and a letter with the findings was sent to rural affairs minister Mart Järvik (EKRE) on Oct. 9, Maaleht says.

Järvik says that M.V.Wool products are safe to buy, however: "To my knowledge, they (i.e. contaminated batches-ed.) are not for sale. This is guaranteed by our VTA checks...The factory does not dispatch any batches without taking samples," Järvik said.

Järvik had earlier said that he was first aware of the listeria issue at M.V.Wool in August, but a letter to the VTA from Järvik's office on the matter dates from July.

M.V.Wool carried out a full sterilization of its plant in mid-October.

Former agricultural minister Ivari Padar, who was formerly an MEP from the opposition Social Democratic Party (SDE), put the potential date by which Järvik was aware of listeria issues at M.V.Wool even earlier, in June.

Writing in daily Eesti Päevaleht (EPL), Padar said that Järvik attended a meeting at the company in mid-June, making a mockery of Järvik's claims he was not aware of the problems until August – and even then only via the media.

Padari also said there were inconsistencies in the official stance of both Järvik and his party, including leader Mart Helme, in their claims that he had been kept in the dark about the problems then and now, and the official record, which shows that Järvik's advisor Urmas Arumäe had also been participating in discussions related to the listeria problem since June, as well as more recent minutes from an Oct. 7 Riigikogu Committee or Rural Affairs meeting which suggest that Järvik has been very much in the loop.

Kaimar Karu appointment welcomed by IT fraternity

The appointment of Kaimar Karu as new IT and foreign trade minister by the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) has been welcomed by the IT community and experts, perhaps unsurprisingly since Karu is from among their number, according to news portal Geenius.

Karu's appointment was announced Friday, replacing Kert Kingo, who resigned last week after allegations she had misled the Riigikogu on the hiring of an advisor.

Noted tech guru Sten Tamkivi said he was happy with the new candidate, saying that: "I am very pleased that the new ministerial candidate presented has a strong international technology business background, not just an ideological party warrior."

The other half of Karu's role involves foreign trade, perhaps the part of the job Kingo received most criticism for after rebuffing both foreign travel and using English as a working language in a role which would require both.

Karu's English skills can be checked out here.

Daily Õhtuleht shed a little more light on who Karu is, as a relative unknown, since he has not come from the world of politics, and is not a member of EKRE or any other party.

Karu has been living in London, and plans to relocate full-time; judging by the photo in the Õhtuleht piece he has already met the prime minister, Jüri Ratas, the latter just off the plane from New York where he has been most of the week.

"The Prime Minister was trying to figure out who I am," joked Karu.

"He asked about my background and wanted to know about my activities and views. He asked if I really knew what I was getting into. His goal was to understand who I was and whether the person presented to him would still be fit for the job," Karu went on, while not being drawn on the issue of who his advisor(s) would be, the very last straw that broke the camel's back of Kert Kingo's stint in the role.

Karu noted that other countries take an interest in Estonia's tech reputation, which should be maintained, without being too self-critical, adding that the export of services was an area which should be developed – perhaps part of the "foreign trade" aspect of his new role.

Postimees Grupp gets new CEO

Finally, Postimees Grupp, formerly Eesti Meedia, is getting a new CEO, its flagship daily newspaper announces.

Andrus Raudsalu, the new chief, had already been acting in the role following his predecessor's resignation in September, and has worked at Postimees since 2014.

Postimees Group supervisory board chair Margus Linnamäe stressed the strengths Raudsalu had in coming from inside the organization, as well as being a good person for the group as it develops its digital subscription basis.

Raudsalu himself said he was looking forward to maintaining good quality, independent journalism across the Baltics.

Postimees own editor-in-chief Peeter Helme stepped down from his post late on Friday afternoon.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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