Young Cabinet hires even younger advisers

  • 2002-03-07
  • Aleksei Gunter
TALLINN - Estonia's ministers of education and defense, the youngest in the Cabinet, have hired advisers young enough to draw concern from the national press.

Christian-Marc Liflander, 27, was hired as the staff and management adviser to Defense Minister Sven Mikser, who was named to that post on Feb. 25.

Liflander, a graduate of a Finnish high school and the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, previously served in an Estonian National Guard battalion.

Ramon Loik, 24, who had previously worked in the Defense Academy was hired March 4 to advise Mikser on political issues. Loik, a graduate of the Tallinn Pedagogical University's sport education faculty, was also schooled in Denmark from 1997 to 1998.

Maria Savisaar, 20, daughter of Edgar Savisaar, the Center Party chair and Tallinn mayor, was named youth policy adviser to Minister of Education Mailis Rand Feb. 21.

Maria Savisaar, who is currently studying political science and public administration at Tartu University, has been a member of the Center Party since she was 15.

Rand, who is also a member of the Center Party, has raised the salary of Maria Savisaar to 9,000 kroons ($480) per month, about two average monthly salaries, within a week of hiring her.

According to the regulations governing government salaries, Maria Savisaar should receive 3,200 kroons as a junior official with no experience.

According to the Education Ministry press office, her salary was increased because her duties were increased.

"The duties of the minister's adviser are very versatile, and they have to be performed almost all day long," said ministry spokeswoman Liina-Jaanika Seisler.

Maria Savisaar accompanies Rand throughout her working day, which sometimes lasts until 11 p.m.

"I help organize her schedule, settle problems between her and other Cabinet members and MPs, write speeches, explain the her statements to the press, etc.," Savisaar told The Baltic Times.

Maria Savisaar's experience includes serving as chairwoman of the Estonian School Student Councils Union, a member of the Estonian University Student Councils Union, and coordinator of several international projects related to student councils.

She said she knew there would be press criticism when she took the job.

"It would be naive to think there wouldn't be any," said Savisaar.

Marju Lauristin, an MP with the Moderates party and a journalism professor at Tartu University, said the problem is not the age of just the ministry's advisers.

"If we take into account the age of the minister herself, then the following question arises: Just who really runs the ministry?" said Lauristin.

But Daniel Vaarik, director of the government's press office, said it is normal in Estonia for a young person to become an adviser.

"The work of an adviser can include many functions that simply do not fit the structure of a certain institution," he said.

Vaarik himself previously worked as information adviser to then Finance Minister Siim Kallas, who is now prime minister.

"While in Scandinavia and, let's say, Great Britain, advisers are usually older and more experienced people, in many other countries the position of adviser is a starting point for the career of a young person," he said.