Education minister quits twilight government for 6 months in Brussels

Education Minister Karlis Šadurskis (Unity) announced November 27 he is resigning as Latvian education and science minister with immediate effect, swapping the high-pressure post for the less stressful pace of life as a member of the European Parliament.

Journalists were told about the move at the Cabinet of Ministers, immediately after the cabinet approved changes to the educational curriculum, as previously reported.

Already on Wednesday, Šadurskis is on his way to Brussels to take up the MEP position vacated by Artis Pabriks. Pabriks was elected to the European Parliament on the Unity ticket and upon returning to Saeima in recent elections on the For Development/For! ticket passed his mandate on to the next Unity candidate.

The next candidate to take up the Brussels mandate was supposed to be the long-serving former chair of the Foreign Policy committee, Ojars Eriks Kalninš. However, the popular Kalninš also managed to get elected to Saeima despite a generally poor showing by Unity at the polls.

Šadurskis, in contrast, failed to win a Saeima seat, and now finds himself catapulted to the European Parliament, despite the fact the government of Prime Minister Māris Kučinskis likely has just a few weeks left in power in a caretaker capacity while talks about a new coalition continue.

A move to Brussels is much coveted by many Latvian politicians coming as it does with far more generous pay packets and social guarantees than anything in domestic politics. For comparison purposes, an MEP receives a basic monthly salary of more than 8,000 euros, plus extremely generous expenses while a Saeima deputy receives a little under 2,800 euros. Šadurskis has already enjoyed a stint as an MEP from 2011-14. 

There are just over six months until the next European elections. 

Šadurskis explained that he had received a notice from the European Parliament’s Secretariat General about a European Parliament mandate which he had to either accept or reject. “I believe that in this uncertain situation I have to fulfil the existing mandate – the European Parliament mandate,” the outgoing minister said.

Šadurskis noted, however, that his New Unity party has expressed interest in taking charge of the Education and Science Ministry also in Latvia’s next government. He said that if New Unity secures the portfolio of education science minster, the portfolio “will be considered”. As for the possibility of taking a so-called “soft mandate” in the 13th Saeima if and when another parliamentarian becomes a minister, Sadurskis said he had not yet considered such an option.

Sadurskis said that an “extraordinary job” was done on Tuesday as the government approved the new basic education standard and enrollment rules for Latvia’s higher education institutions.

However he also admitted that he leaves one “unresolved issue" behind him - the government regulation for licensing and accreditation” of education institutions, which he said might be adopted in two weeks’ time.

“So, one can say that everything that has been written in the government declaration in regard to the Education and Science Ministry has been completed. This government will not come up with new initiatives, including in the sphere of education, as the new government is expected to be formed. I therefore have to fulfil the mandate given to me by the voters - the European Parliament mandate,” Sadurskis said.

Nevertheless, with low levels of teachers' pay one of the issues that has been a constant issue under his tenure, the eleventh-hour move to Brussels is unlikely to endear Šadurskis with education workers.

Finance Minister Dana Reizniece-Ozola (Greens/Farmers), who is currently standing in for Prime Minster Māris Kučinskis (Greens/Farmers), said that Welfare Minister Janis Reirs (Unity) would take over the education and science minister’s duties in addition to his own.

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