DEBATES & PROCEEDINGS OF THE 11th [ESTONIAN] PARLIAMENT (1)
Archived Articles 27 Nov 2008  EWR
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4th SITTING
Monday, 17th of November 2008, 15:00 o’clock


TRANSCRIPT

Editor: Unedited

15:00 Opening
1. 15:06 Question regarding activities in Georgia (No. 94)
15:31 Debate ends

15:00 Speaker of the House, Ene Ergma

Good day honoured Members of Parliament. Good day Mr Prime Minister. Let us begin the 4th Sitting of the Full House; the 9th workweek’s Monday’s sitting. […]
[…]

1. 15:06 Questions regarding activities in Georgia (No. 94)
The Speaker


Let us now proceed with the government’s response to this [written] query. It was initiated by Members of Parliament Vladimir Velman, Olga Sõtnik, Nelli Privalova, Kalev Kallo, Eldar Efendijei, Enn Eesmaa, Inara Luigas, Tiit Kuusmik, Heimar Lenk, Marika Tuus, Lauri Laas and Valeri Korb in October of this year. The question concerned activities in Georgia (No. 94). Vladimir Velman has the floor.

Vladimir Velman

Honourable Madame Speaker! Honourable Members of the House, Mr. Prime Minister! My colleagues and I presented a question regarding activities in Georgia, wherein is written inter alia, “It is known that Mart Laar and many other former and current Estonian Government Officials are acting as advisers in Georgia, whereby the Estonian press has identified Mart Laar as being president Saakašvili’s political adviser.” The Estonian public lacks broader information, how many former and current [Estonian] Government Officials are working as consultants in Georgia and what is their mandate, do they represent Estonia, [only] themselves or some other country or organisation and how or by whom are their travel and other expenses compensated. In this regard, we have four questions.

In what capacity is Mart Laar acting in Georgia, what is his mandate, who is paying for his work and travel expenses? Does Mart Laar have a permanent representative in Georgia? Who is it and who is pay-rolling him? Or are Mart Laar and his representatives and assistants using the services of the Estonian Embassy in Georgia?

Is it known how many other Estonian Government Officials and specialists are working as consultants in Georgia? According to [the newspaper] Estonian Express, August 4, 2008, the Estonian war kitchen’s team includes Kross, Kont, Heinsalu, Raidma, Matsulevitš. What are their responsibilities and who is paying for their services?

What advice did Mart Laar give president Saakašvili as his political adviser? Did it include the recommendation to initiate combat activities, “since there is no other choice?”

And the final question: are these recommendations and Mart Laar’s activities in any way agreed with Estonia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and how are they co-ordinated with our MFA?

Thank you!

Speaker

Thank you, my colleague, Vladimir Velman! Please, Mr. Prime Minister, the floor is yours!

Prime Minister Andrus Ansip

Honourable Madame Speaker! Kind members of parliament and authors of the question!

I speak to answer your enquiries.

The first question! “In what capacity is Mart Laar acting in Georgia, what is his mandate, who is paying for his work and travel expenses? Does Mart Laar have a permanent representative in Georgia? Who is it and who is paying for him? Or are Mart Laar and his representatives and assistants using the services of the Estonian Embassy in Georgia?”

According to the information I have at hand, Member of Parliament, Mart Laar is an adviser to Georgia’s president in the field of economic reform and his work, travel and living expenses are covered by the office of Georgia’s president. At the start of the project, Mart Laar’s activities were also partially financed by the UN Development Programme [UNDP]. However, according to my knowledge, Mart Laar has no permanent representatives in Georgia. For more detailed information, I recommend going directly to Mart Laar, because neither I nor the Foreign Ministry are tied to his activities in Georgia. It is beyond me why you don’t direct your questions to Mart Laar himself.

Perhaps Parliament’s work should be rearranged in such a way that Members of Parliament have some official format for communicating with each other.

In my opinion it would be fairly simple to present these questions directly to Mart Laar and I am quite convinced that the most comprehensive answers to your questions would come from Mart Laar himself.

But let us return to the question of our embassy. Our Embassy in Tbilisi will lend a helping hand to any Estonian citizen, whenever necessary.

The second question: “Is it known how many other Estonian Government Officials and specialists are working as consultants in Georgia? According to [the newspaper] Estonian Express August 4, 2008, the Estonian war kitchen’s team includes Kross, Kont, Heinsalu, Raidma, Matsulevitš. What are their responsibilities and who is paying for their services?”

The MFA requests that every Estonian Governmental Official, who is in the given country on business, contact the Estonian mission there, or at the very least inform it of their presence. Since Georgia is one of Estonia’s four target countries for cooperation in [economic] development — besides Afghanistan, Moldova, and Ukraine — at any given time we have various Estonian experts, including officials, university instructors, business employees, members of NGO’s, and so on, in Georgia under the auspices of various projects. In 2008, up to November 1, according to information available to the MFA, 29 Estonian experts have worked as advisors or instructors in Georgia within the framework of various development projects.

Estonian public broadcasting. Reform of Georgia’s public open sector TV and Radio networks – one expert. This project has now been completed.

InventBaltics. To familiarize Georgian officials with Estonia’s experience in innovation in support structure creation and technology transfer – four experts.

Border security agency. Capacity building within Georgia’s Interior Ministry to hinder the illegal export of and trafficking in stolen vehicles in the Caucuses. Three Estonian experts have been involved.

Open Society Institute. Capacity building in Georgia’s administrative structures, specifically in the areas of reducing family violence and assisting victims. Four experts.

Chancellery. Upgrading the capabilities of the Public sector in Georgia in the Human Resources field – three experts.

Enterprise and Development Centre of Harju. Transfer of the Estonian experience in reform with the objective of fostering Georgia’s [economic] development and formulating an economic development strategic plan – 7 experts.

E-government Academy. Support of the “Deer Leap” programme in 2007-2008 – six experts.
Homeland Security Academy. Penal reform support in Georgia – one expert. This project has now concluded.

In addition to the ongoing and concluded projects involving cooperation and development in 2008, in which there weren’t any visits to Georgia, because all work took place in Estonia, the MFA has information regarding the following cooperative projects.

Homeland Security Academy. Police Academy programme development. University of Tartu. Social sector public services and non-profit institute specialist competency education.

Estonian Diplomacy Academy. Sharing of Estonia’s experience in EU and NATO integration with young diplomats, from Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, and Armenia. Short-term schooling for government officials and educators from those regions. ENP [European Neighbourhood Policy] conference.

Estonian Diplomacy Academy. Scholarships for young diplomats and officials from Moldova and Georgia. This programme takes place for the school years 2008-2009 and 2009-2010.

Tartu Trade School Centre. Support in the field of education in the Trades, modern-day schooling in the Trades, and school administration.

University of Tartu Europe College. Connecting universities in Georgian, Moldova, and Ukraine into the transition studies network.

In addition, in connection with ameliorating the consequences of the war in august, Estonia has made the following contributions. Crisis advisor mission at the UNICEF legation in Tbilisi – four experts, specifically, 3 experts August-September, one long term expert August- December.

Demining mission in Georgia – three weeks in September, 5 experts.

Estonian officials in Georgia also work in international missions within the framework of the EU and the OSCE, altogether 6 experts.

EU Observer mission in Georgia – 3 experts, one for the OSCE and two for the EU Special Representative.

As for those individuals, who are acting and working in Georgia on their own initiative, I am unable to shed any light on their comings and goings or on their backgrounds.

The third question: “What advice did Mart Laar give president Saakašvili as his political adviser? Did it include the recommendation to initiate combat activities, “since there is no other choice?”

I have no knowledge of what Mart Laar’s advice, if any, to the authorities in Georgia might have been. The answer to this question must come from Mart Laar.

The fourth question: “are these recommendations and Mart Laar’s activities in any way agreed with Estonia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and how are they co-ordinated with our MFA?”

The MFA does not in any way reconcile or coordinate Mart Laar’s activities in Georgia. Thank you!

Speaker

Thank you, honourable Prime Minister! There are questions addressed to you. Please, dear colleague Ain Seppik!

Ain Seppik

Thank you honourable Madame Speaker! Honourable Prime Minister! I have to admit that every query gets stale with time and that this one has been around for quite a while.

But my question would be as follows. At this time circumstances have, without a doubt, changed a little and you have, I must give you credit, accomplished an enormous task, since Mart Laar has apparently, as one of the coalitions top leaders, modified his position, since Estonia’s standpoint is, of course, that we must reopen talks with Russia.

You have even said that it would be better to talk. Could you tell me if this is so and how you brought about [the situation] that the adviser to the president of Georgia advised the government of Estonia in regard to this standpoint?

Prime Minister Andrus Ansip

If I may be so bold, exactly what talks are you referring to?

Speaker

My colleague Ain Seppik, can you please clarify?

Ain Seppik

I was referring to that, which was broken off between the EU and Russia, as a result of the Georgia incident.

Prime Minister Andrus Ansip

We are, apparently, talking about the PC negotiations or, in other words, the Partnership and Cooperation discussions. To reopen the dialogue does not require that the presiding parties get a mandate from the other member countries. He has had this mandate from the start of the discussions. So nobody has provided any kind of a supplementary mandate and one has not been asked for either.

Speaker

Please, colleague Heimar Lenk!

Heimar Lenk

Thank you! Honourable Madame Speaker! Mr. Prime Minister! We have addressed the question of Georgia previously. I recall that at the end of summer – after August 8 – the Estonian understanding was that Russia started the war with Georgia. Now we read even here in the Estonian news media, last weekend, that Georgia attacked South Ossetia. What is the current position of your government?

Prime Minister Andrus Ansip

I dare to remind you that every civilised person and country holds the principle of territorial integrity holy and unassailable and that Ossetia is Georgia.

Speaker

Please, colleague Igor Gräzin!

Igor Gräzin

Firstly, I would like to correct the preceding speakers just a little. To be precise, some referred to the matter as an incident and I have no idea why. I believe that by [referring to] the August incident one was referring to Russia’s armed aggression against independent Georgia. So let’s call a spade a spade. But I had a more intriguing type of question in mind, one a little more from the intelligence angle. Please tell us, whether the [written] query is somehow tied to the fact that the flow of information [to the authors of this query] from [the spy] Hermann Simm has ceased and that they now have to come to parliament to get it, because Simm [who is in jail] isn’t accessible any more? (Laughter erupts in the chamber)

Prime Minister Andrus Ansip

I nonetheless believe that this hypothesis is incorrect. But who knows?

Speaker

Please, colleague Lembit Kaljuvee!

Lembit Kaljuvee

Thank you! Madame Speaker! Mr. Prime Minister! I don’t understand why you became annoyed at those MP’s who originated the [written] query, [and said] that they should ask Laar. MP’s get information from a variety of sources. For instance, we read from the [Estonian] newspaper Business Day, that Mart Laar brings wine, etc. [from Georgia] but we wanted to have your official position as Prime Minister. I don’t believe there was anything untoward in this or what?

Prime Minister Andrus Ansip

Not at all, there’s nothing wrong with asking the Prime Minister. But if it is wine that you want, then it would make more sense to request it from a person who has wine. And perhaps then you might as well have asked Mart Laar directly for some wine and not the Prime Minister.

Speaker

Please, colleague Aleksei Lotman!

Aleksei Lotman

Thank you! Madame Speaker! Mr. Prime Minister! My question is on the exact same topic as the [written] query, but it is in a different key. In your estimation, has Estonia done everything in her power to help the victims of Russian aggression in Georgia?

Prime Minister Andrus Ansip

It is always possible to do more and complacency is surely not one’s best companion here.

Speaker

Please, colleague Marika Tuus!

Marika Tuus

Thank you! Honourable Prime Minister! Our question did indeed get presented in August, but your answer has nevertheless remained on the same level though viewpoints have changed. Western intelligence agencies still have not been able to verify that Georgia initiated her action because a Russian invasion was already underway. And it’s been said that Tskhinvali was assaulted with totally indiscriminate means and it has also been said that we are dealing with war crimes by Georgia. And if at the beginning we thought that this was a war between America and Russia, then by now America has changed her position, Hillary Clinton presented this point of view in the Senate. How long will Estonia stubbornly continue to support but one side?

Prime Minister Andrus Ansip

Your rhetoric is suspiciously close to that of the Kremlin. The conflict escalated over the longer term and this conflict did not stem from August or even the few preceding months; this conflict has been brewing in the area for years. Has Georgia not attempted to get impartial, independent international assessments of how the conflict was escalated?

It is unimportant to me, who shot the first shot, who the second, who the 37th and who the 659th. What’s important is that Russia [militarily] attacked a sovereign country. And that underscores the fact that the substantially peaceful post-Cold-War period has ended.

Speaker

Please, colleague Vilja Savisaar!

Vilja Savisaar

Thank you! Madame Speaker! Mr. Prime Minister! My question is based directly on your answer to a previous question. Namely, you spoke very nicely about Ossetia being part of Georgia and that it isn’t quite right to take a piece out of another country. Consequently, I ask how Serbia differs from Georgia. Since I am an Estonian patriot, I would support the integrity and independence of all nations. As I recall, Estonia was amongst the first of nations recognising the independence of Kosovo. What difference does that make? Or is Estonia even capable of pursuing a consistent policy?

Prime Minister Andrus Ansip

Thank you! Obviously I assume that politically experienced individuals are capable of very clearly distinguishing the difference between the example of Kosovo and that of Abkhazia/South-Ossetia. I would be ashamed to simply shrug my shoulders at this time. In the case of Kosovo, very lengthy international negotiations have transpired. A resolution has been sought at the international level and in the case of Kosovo, no country has militarily attacked another, but a people have [simply] asserted their right to self determination.

In the case of South Ossetia and Georgia, the same cannot be claimed. The right of return for those, who in the last 10-15 years have been forced to flee their homes, is utterly disregarded. Naturally it is impossible to speak of the right to vote for the remainder when the question involves matters of significance to [Georgia’s] regional development. As such, the differences are exceedingly large and, in my mind, very difficult not to notice.

Speaker

Please, colleague Olga Sõtnik!

Olga Sõtnik

Thank you! Madame Speaker! Mr. Prime Minister! I will quote from the Law on the Status of Members of Parliament: “An MP’s principal place of work is Parliament. An MP may not, during his tenure, be employed or accept assignments that conflict with the principle of the Separation of Powers or in some other way produce a Conflict of Interest.” In your opinion, do Mr. Laar’s actions, in advising another country’s president, not represent a
conflict of interest?

Prime Minister Andrus Ansip

I am quite convinced that there is no conflict of interest here, though Mart Laar, who knows exactly what the nature of his relations with Georgia and its president are, can provide the most direct answer. If there are other MPs [among you who] have good advice to give, [advice] that they should share with others, then it would be a sin to keep it to themselves.

Speaker

Please, colleague Lauri Laasi!

Lauri Laasi

Thank you! Mr. Prime Minister! Taking into account your overflowing wisdom and your desire to share your words of enlightenment, especially with the opposition, I ask whether you have chosen a country, which you will advise after your career as Prime Minister is over.

Prime Minister Andrus Ansip

Thank you! My wisdom is required in Estonia. (Laughter erupts in the chamber)

Speaker

There are no further questions. Thank you Mr. Prime Minister!
 
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