President-elect Kaljulaid says goodbye in Luxembourg

President-elect Kersti Kaljulaid gave ERR journalist Johannes Tralla a personal tour of Luxembourg as she knew it. (ERR)
10/10/2016 9:18 AM
Category: News

Wednesday was Kersti Kaljulaid's last day of work at the European Court of Auditors. Kaljulaid, who will be sworn into office as President of the Republic on Monday afternoon, gave a heartfelt speech to her colleagues before giving a tour of what had been her home for the past twelve years to ERR correspondent Johannes Tralla.

On a sunny Wednesday afternoon, a plane touched down at the airport of one of Europe's tiniest and richest countries; on board was the future president of Estonia. Kaljulaid had come to turn in her final documents and say goodbye to her colleagues, reported ETV's weekly Sunday night edition of news broadcast "Aktuaalne kaamera."

Senior officials at the European Court of Auditors (ECA) were visibly excited; this was a highly unusual situation. For one thing, journalists and photographs rarely visited their building. For another, not a single other employee from this building had ever been promoted to head of state before.

"It's true, this is something unique," said ECA president Klaus-Heiner Lehne.

"You all know that I have been anxious to leave, but nobody expected that I would have to use such a difficult way out," Kaljulaid said in her speech to her coworkers, who had kind things to say about Estonia's president-elect.

According to British colleague Peter Welch, Kaljulaid was not afraid of disputes, always developed her own understanding of things and remained friendly in defending it. "She is quick-witted and has a very good understanding of the big picture and detail," he added.

"She is one of the most experienced members in this house and when someone like her leaves, a hole is always left behind," admitted Lehne.

Kaljulaid, who had worked in the same office in Luxembourg since 2004, has audited the use of the EU's research funds, agricultural subsidies and cohesion funds.

For four years, she was also responsible for the court of auditors' most important public document — for the preparation of the annual report, which she also had to defend in the European Parliament. It was her experiences speaking in Brussels and Strasbourg that has honed Kaljulaid's precise and laconic style of speaking.

"You are given 3-5 minutes for an introductory speech in the European Parliament," she explained. "For answering questions, nobody will say it exactly, but if you take over a minute, then it is no longer polite. You have to be able to explain your thought in one minute."

Estonia's future president, who prefers taking the stairs to the elevator, has logged hundreds of kilometers running in the local mountainous terrain during her years spent living in Luxembourg. Her family, however, had packed up their things over the summer already, as they had agreed that their children's coming school year would begin in Estonia regardless of whether or not the Estonian government had yet found Kaljulaid's replacement in the ECA.

While the coalition continued to argue on the subject, the future president continued to commute to Luxembourg by plane for work, spending nights on local friends' couches. Before this summer, Kaljulaid had lived in Luxembourg with her family for six years.

"This is an area where plenty of regular people live who work on the railroad and in construction," said Kaljulaid about neighborhood where she and her family had lived. "When we first move here with our two small, noisy sons, I was somewhat worried, as it was still older people [living here]. But there wasn't a single instance of trouble."

Kaljulaid's tour of Luxembourg continued in the city center, near its art museum and opera house. "This is one of Europe's most beautiful cityscapes in my opinion," she admitted.

Asked what it was from the ECA that she would be bringing with her to Kadriorg, Kaljulaid replied, "Twelve years of instruction on how to honestly run a country! This was a very effective school."

Editor: Aili Vahtla

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