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Former MEP Kaja Kallas to become Estonia’s first female prime minister

EU Reporter Correspondent



Kaja Kallas, who leads the centre-right Reform Party, will become the country’s premier after forming a coalition government with the centre-left Centre Party. Kallas, who was a deputy for the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe from 2014 until 2018, subsequently became the first female chair of the Reform Party, of which her father, former European Commissioner and Estonian Prime Minister Siim Kallas, was one of the founding members, writes Lorna Hutchinson.

The new coalition government was formed after Estonia’s previous prime minister Juri Ratas and his cabinet resigned on January 13 in the wake of a corruption scandal involving a key party official.

Kallas’ appointment will not only make history by giving the country its first female prime minister, but it will also make Estonia the only country in the world where both the prime minister and the president (Kersti Kaljulaid) are women.

Danish Renew Europe MEP Karen Melchior also pointed out the gender balance of the new government, saying, “Congratulations on the equality reach of the new Estonian government, there are 7 women ministers out of 15, and Prime Minister is Kaja Kallas.”

Many other former colleagues at the European Parliament extended their congratulations and best wishes to Kallas on hearing the news.

Renew Europe leader Dacian Cioloș said, “Congratulations and best wishes to Kaja Kallas, the new Renew Europe and first ever female Prime Minister of Estonia. I look forward to working with you for a strong Estonia at the heart of a stronger European Union.”

Hungarian member Katalin Cseh said, “Congratulations to Kaja Kallas, the trailblazing first female Prime Minister of Estonia, leader of a new gender-balanced government and a key ally in our quest to Renew Europe.”

Parliament Vice-President and EPP member Roberta Metsola said, “In Kaja Kallas Estonia gets not only its first female Prime Minister and a committed European leader, but one of the very best people I've ever had the pleasure of working with. Well done Estonia. Good luck Kaja!”

Estonian S&D MEP Marina Kaljurand said that Kaja Kallas’ government has not yet taken office and is already making history, not only with Kallas becoming the country’s first female prime minister, “but even more important than one position is that half of the members of the government are women.”

Dutch deputy Sophie in 't Veld said, “Congratulations to the new Prime Minister of Estonia, Kaja Kallas, adding, “Best wishes to the new, gender-balanced, pro-European, reform-minded government!”

Finnish member Nils Torvalds said, “Congratulations Kaja Kallas, my good friend, on forming a government in Estonia! I knew this would happen the day you left the European Parliament.”

Czech MEP Dita Charanzová said, “Congratulations to my former colleague and IMCO ally in the EP Kaja Kallas - the first female Prime Minister of Estonia! All my best wishes to you in your new role.

Former Dutch MEP Marietje Schaake said, “Great news from Estonia! Incredibly proud of my friend and former colleague Kaja Kallas - first female Prime Minister, assembled a coalition under very challenging circumstances.”

Romanian member Nicu Ștefănuță said, “I worked with Kaja Kallas when she was an active member of the EP US Delegation. Happy she will now lead Estonia. Trust her leadership.”

EPP MEP Eva Maydell said, “Congratulations to my former colleague and dear friend Kaja Kallas on becoming the first female PM of Estonia and on the formation of the cabinet! Wishing you the best of success!”

Adrián Vázquez Lázara said, “Congratulations to the new Prime Minister of Estonia, our colleague Kaja Kallas,” adding, “A new young European leader for the liberal family to bring reform and foster the idea a of a stronger Europe. Best of luck!”

Belgian member Hilde Vautmans celebrated the “historic moment,” adding, “Kaja Kallas, a former colleague, will be the first woman to make it to prime minister in Estonia. Congratulations and all the best for the future. Renew Europe is proud of you.”

German Greens MEP Terry Reintke said, “Congratulations Kaja Kallas. I wish you success - especially in the fight for rule of law and equality.”


Commission proposes to provide €230 million to Estonia under SURE

EU Reporter Correspondent



The European Commission has presented a proposal to the Council for a decision to grant €230 million in financial support to Estonia under the SURE instrument. The proposal brings overall financial support proposed under SURE to a total of €90.6 billion and covering 19 member states. Once the Council approves this proposal, the financial support will be provided in the form of loans granted on favourable terms. These loans will assist Estonia in covering the costs related to its short-time work scheme and other similar measures that have been introduced in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

SURE is a crucial element of the EU's comprehensive strategy to protect jobs and workers, and mitigate the severely negative socio-economic consequences of the coronavirus pandemic. The Commission has already disbursed €53.5 billion to 15 member states under SURE, and it expects to undertake most of the remaining borrowing operations in the first half of 2021. Member states can still submit formal requests, including for top-ups in response to the second wave of the pandemic, for support under SURE, which has an overall firepower of up to €100 billion.

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Lithuania is seriously concerned about the nuclear power plant in Belarus

Alex Ivanov. Moscow Correspondent



Vilnius and Minsk have been in conflict for a long time over the launch of a new nuclear power plant in Belarus in Ostrovets. According to Lithuania: "The Belarusian nuclear power plant poses a threat to EU citizens. Therefore, it is necessary to stop such an irresponsible launch. In addition, the EU should not allow third-country producers who do not comply with the highest standards of nuclear safety and environmental protection to enter the electricity market," writes Alexi Ivanov, Moscow correspondent.

Since the time of the Soviet Union, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Russia and Belarus have been linked in a single energy space and so far this remains a reality. The Baltic States still buy electricity from Russia. Lithuania is confident that Belarus has a share in the supply of Russian electricity, which produces it at the new nuclear power plant.

The news that the Belarusian nuclear power plant started operating in a test mode caused a state-organized panic in Lithuania. The authorities authorized sending SMS messages to the population and messages on social networks about the potential radiation hazard. Recently for preventive purposes they began to distribute free potassium iodide tablets. In total, the Ministry of health of Lithuania purchased and transferred four million pills to sixteen municipalities of the Republic located at a distance of up to 100 kilometres from Ostrovets. The medicine can be obtained at the pharmacy with an identity card.

Currently, Lithuania has agreed with Latvia and Estonia to boycott the Belarusian nuclear power plant. Moreover, Vilnius has launched a high-profile campaign regarding the threat of a power plant for the entire EU.

The three Baltic States are trying to establish a connection with the energy systems of the Nordic countries, primarily Finland. However, this connection is not working properly yet.

Energy operators in Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia and Poland have signed an agreement with the European Commission's Executive Agency for innovation and networks to finance the second phase of the exit from the Russian-Belarusian energy supply system. €720 million was allocated for this.

A few months ago Latvia and Estonia said they were ready to support Lithuania and refuse to purchase electricity from the"unsafe" Belarusian nuclear power plant. But how to implement this in practice is unclear.

After all, since the Soviet times, the power lines of the five countries have been United in a single energy ring Belarus-Russia-Estonia-Lithuania-Latvia. In 2018, the Baltic States announced their intention to withdraw from this system and synchronize the electricity grid with the EU countries. However, this is only possible by 2025.

So far, the Baltic States continue to buy Russian and Belarusian electricity.


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Commission approves €5.5 million Estonian scheme to support companies active in tourism sector affected by coronavirus outbreak





The European Commission has approved a €5.5 million Estonian scheme to support companies active in the tourism sector affected by the coronavirus outbreak. The measure was approved under the State aid Temporary Framework. The public support will take the form of direct grants and will be open to accommodation providers, travel agencies, tourism attraction operators, tourism service providers, international coach service providers, conference organizers and tourist guides.

The purpose of the measure is to mitigate the sudden liquidity shortages that these companies are facing because of the restrictive measures imposed by the government to limit the spread of the virus. The Commission found that the Estonian measure is in line with the conditions set out in the Temporary Framework. In particular, the support (i) will not exceed €800,000 per company; and (ii) will be granted no later than 30 June 2021.

The Commission concluded that the measure is necessary, appropriate and proportionate to remedy a serious disturbance in the economy of a member state, in line with Article 107(3)(b) TFEU and the conditions of the Temporary Framework. On this basis, the Commission approved the measure under EU state aid rules. More information on the Temporary Framework and other actions taken by the Commission to address the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic can be found here.

The non-confidential version of the decision will be made available under the case number SA.59338 in the state aid register on the Commission's competition website once any confidentiality issues have been resolved. 

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