TALLINN - Prime Minister Juhan Parts said after a Cabinet meeting on Thursday that he would accept Minister of Economy and Communications Meelis Atonen's resignation, adding that leaving was the minister's only option.
Atonen, a member of the Reform Party, handed in his resignation after his fellow ministers failed to back his plan for continuing ferry service to Estonia's western island."Atonen failed to present to the Cabinet a plan that would have ensured continuation of ferry traffic in a manner acceptable to the state," Parts said. "Atonen did not present an unambiguous and clear-cut solution."In the prime minister's estimation, problems with the subsidized ferry system began a year ago when tenders to find a new operator failed. Admitting some progress had been made on the issue over the past month, Parts said it was not the kind of progress the government had expected. "It is the minister's task to find solutions, not shift the problem to the Cabinet or somebody else," he said. Reform Party leader Andrus Ansip agreed that Atonen's resignation was the only solution. He promised that the party would immediately start looking for a new minister.For his part, Atonen said that he did everything he could to resolve the ferry issue. The current ferry-service contract expires on Sept. 30."I have all the time defended the state's interests, which is why I considered it important to make the monopolistic ferry traffic system of almost ten years more transparent and the use of taxpayers' money more efficient. I may have made mistakes in moving towards this goal, but I feel I stood up for the right thing," he was quoted as saying by the Ministry of Economy and Communications."Complicated situations can be solved only with the cooperation of all government institutions. I sensed that there was no unity in the government in settling this question, which makes it difficult for me to successfully perform my ministerial duties," Atonen said.Parts said the Reform Party would name its candidate for economy minister by Monday, when the Parliament is scheduled to gather again after the summer recess.