The Riigikogu’s Constitutional Committee discussed the issue of the president’s holiday entitlement in its Monday meeting and spoke out in favor of abolishing it altogether, as the president was in office 365 days a year and her status couldn’t change in that time.
The Office of the President turned to parliament in February with the request to specify and modify the current regulations, as they were ambiguous.
Despite her spending the week following Independence Day on a family vacation that she had planned already before she assumed office, President Kaljulaid and her staff are trying to avoid formal vacation days. As her public relations advisor, Taavi Linnamäe, explained last month, they wanted to try and avoid Kaljulaid having to accept statutory compensation for the officially unused paid vacation days at the end of her term of office.
Kaljulaid’s issue is with just that statutory compensation. As the president can never really be on holiday, i.e. as she couldn’t simply disconnect from her work for a set amount of time, there is always an excuse to declare all holidays as unclaimed for any given year, and receive financial compensation for those days anyway.
While they didn’t claim their official holidays, Kaljulaid’s predecessors were compensated. Still, they were able to spend time away from work, if within certain limits. Given President Kaljulaid’s attitude towards the use of public money, it is understandable that she takes issue with the fact that she can spend time on vacation, but should still receive compensation for not officially having done so.
Regulation in place too ambiguous
There is plenty of legal ambiguousness as well. If the president were to completely disconnect from her work for, say, a week, then her duties would fall to President of the Riigikogu Eiki Nestor (SDE) for that time period. At the same time, Nestor is a member of the Social Democratic Party, which does not go well with the non-partisan role of the president.
Chairman of the Constitutional Committee, MP Ken-Marti Vaher (IRL), agrees that the current regulation was never based on practical considerations. Vaher said that the request of the Office of the President, then, was to make the according regulation clearer and easier to implement.
In its Monday meeting, the committee found that paid holidays should no longer be part of the president’s compensation entitlement, as the status of office applied 365 days a year. The committee has the authority to initiate an according bill.
The director of the Office of the President, Tiit Riisalo, sent a request to the effect to the Riigikogu in February, where he pointed out the problems connected with the president’s holiday entitlement.
Riisalo asked parliament to analyze and, where necessary, to specify the current regulation in such a way that legal clarity could be guaranteed, that it could be implemented practically, and that it wouldn’t go against the public perception of fairness.
Riisalo along with the president’s legal advisor, Paloma Krõõt Tupay, and deputy director of the office’s internal department, Mall Gramberg, took part in the committee meeting.
Editor: Dario Cavegn