President: Former minister misused state resources with car school run

President Kersti Kaljulaid (right) with Mailis Reps, while she was education minister.
President Kersti Kaljulaid (right) with Mailis Reps, while she was education minister. Source: Siim Lõvi/ERR

President Kersti Kaljulaid has criticized former education minister Mailis Reps' (Center) use of an official ministry car for unofficial purposes, principally the school run.

Speaking to ETV politics discussion show "Esimene stuudio" Tuesday night, the president said: "You can't make use of state property like that," he said.

Reps resigned last month after media reports revealed her ministry car had been used for ferrying some of her six children to and from school or kindergarten, with sources saying the practice was a long-standing one.

Reps divorced from the children's father, a Latvian lawyer, early in 2019.

While the paper that broke the story, Õhtuhleht, faced criticism for publishing photos of some of Reps' children and other children on the scene, albeit with their faces obscured, mounting pressure led to Reps stepping down from the post, which she had held for several years.

Kersti Kaljulaid, herself the mother of four and also a grandmother, said that Reps' use of the education ministry vehicle, a people carrier-type model, would have been understandable if it had been occasional, for instance with ministry staff chaperoning the younger children or at times when she was particularly busy, but the mistakes had been too frequent.

"Õhtuleht didn't do anything wrong, Reps did something wrong," she said.

President: Glass ceiling still needs smashing

Nonetheless, the president said that organization of employer support, including in the government ministries themselves, for mothers, particularly with larger numbers of offspring, could be better than it is now, with the situation currently constituting a "glass ceiling" in terms of equal opportunities.

She said: "This is the embodiment of the glass ceiling. We should talk about how to smash that ceiling."

Neither single parenthood putting a brake on a career, nor women being faced with a choice between career or kids, were appropriate for Estonia in the 21st century, she added.

Mailis Reps has returned to the Riigikogu. Jaak Aab (Center) is the new education minister.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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