Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) says that she will not refute claims she made last week in respect of donations from a major opposition parties donor, as she does not consider the rumors to be unfounded.
At the start of the week, sworn advocate Paul Keres sent Kallas a request to refute information (link in Estonian) which his client, BigBank majority owner Parvel Pruunsild, says is false, and damaging to his reputation.
At a government press conference on Thursday, July 6, Kallas had said that while she was unaware of Pruunsild's six-figure donations to all three opposition parties in Estonia, she had heard talk of Pruunsild having made donations to opposition parties, with the intention of putting in place a hike in family allowances, and in breaking up the previous administration.
The current opposition parties are Isamaa, the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) and the Center Party, though the first of these had been in office with Reform and the Social Democrats (SDE) to April this year.
Prior to that administration, Center was in office with Reform (January 2021 to June 2022).
Appearing at this week's regular Thursday government press conference, Kallas said: "A few days ago, I received a letter from lawyer Paul Keres, who demanded that I issue an apology to Parvel Pruunsild and inform him that everything I had said on the topic had been false and ill-considered.
"I could almost agree with the latter claim, since I had indeed come directly from a government meeting was not familiar with the details of the news at that time. However, I would stating a falsehood if I responded that I did not know anything at all about this. Exactly a year ago, this was a hot discussion topic, both in political circles and among journalists. It was talked about - as I said - at the level of rumor, and there were various of these," the prime minister went on.
"Some claimed that the Center Party, which was in office at the time , had been given money to table a family benefits bill in conjunction with the opposition, in order to bring down the then government. Another version of events had it that the Center Party was pledged money once they had initiated such a bill. Take whichever you think is closer to the truth; against the backdrop of current developments, then, yes, it seems that something was promised, and that this was all clearly associated with Parvel Pruunsild's name.
"Among other factors, if only for the reason that the first version of the draft, nominally initiated by the Center Party, whereas the metadata from this version reveals that this draft was actually drawn up by an advisor to the Isamaa faction," Kallas went on.
According to Kallas, Pruunsild was also behind an €800,000 donation to political parties which supported raising family benefits, back in 2016.
"Also on that occasion, Jüri Ratas stated that he was not aware that the donation was in respect of the [family benefits] law," Kallas went on.
The prime minister pointed out earlier donations to the Center Party which had been declared illicit donations, as a result taking the party into debt, adding that this makes it difficult to claim that rumors about an imminent "money ship" have been wholly without merit.
"My recommendation to Parvel Pruunsild would be, do not try to silence the messengers that I and the media have become at this point in time, but rather convince everyone, including me and the majority of the Center Party board, that this was not a donation that came with strings attached. For as long as that is not done , these questions will remain in the air," the prime minister concluded.
The issue of family benefits was nominally behind a rift between Reform and Center, when they were in office together, in the weeks leading up to Kallas' dismissal of the seven Center Party ministers from her government, which happened in early June 2022.
The Reform-SDE-Isamaa coalition followed in July last year, with the third of these parties behind large family benefit hikes which came into force at the start of this year.
However, after the March 5 Riigikogu election, Reform and SDE reentered office, this time in coalition with Eesti 200, while Isamaa returned to the opposition. Part of the current coalition agreement included rolling back the family benefits hike.
Editor: Andrew Whyte, Barbara Oja