Riigikogu committee to meet on Tuesday to discuss presidential finances

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Kadriorg, official residence of the President of the Republic of Estonia.
Kadriorg, official residence of the President of the Republic of Estonia. Source: President's office.

The Riigikogu State Budget Control Select Committee is to meet on an extraordinary basis Tuesday, in order to address controversy over alleged political horse trading in relation to the financing of the president's office.

Committee chair Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa) says the questions raised by the media in recent times, concerning an alleged connection between financing the institution of the head of state and the promulgation of laws by that head of state, are "very serious."

Reinsalu said: "We need to get clear answers. The institution of the president must be wholly [politically] independent, while the financing of the president's office must be transparent. There is no leeway for any doubt there."

Invited to Tuesday's committee meeting are: Finance Minister Mart Võrklaev (Reform), Sven Kirsipuu, Ministry of Finance undersecretary with the responsibility for fiscal policy, Director of the President's Office Peep Jahilo, Auditor General Janar Holm and an additional representative from the National Audit Office (Riigikontroll).

Presidential advisor Toomas Sildam at the weekend denied the allegations, calling them "very sad," adding that those who made the allegations, to daily Postimees, which broke the story, were most likely "mistaken," rather than acting out of malice.

The spring deadlock at the Riigikogu, which saw an extensive filibuster on the part of the opposition parties, mostly over planned tax hikes and cutting of family benefits, was unrelated to discussions about additional funding the president's office needs for this year, Sildam added.

"The only thing that unites them is the time period," he said.

Opposition wants to get to bottom of the matter

Appearing on Vikerraadio show "Välistunnis" Monday, Urmas Reinsalu said his aim is to get to the bottom of the matter of whether the Postimees allegations are true or not, plus also the question of the timing – since the article appeared within 24 hours of the president's criticism of the coalition's car tax plans.

Reinsalu also said that the president will not give his assent so readily to legislation which the coalition ties to a vote of confidence in itself, a tactic which Chancellor of Justice Ülle Madise had counselled against.

Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) MP Anti Poolamets meanwhile said that the Reform Party most likely did not anticipate the reaction to the allegations, said to have come from a Reform Party source, and that it was thought that it would be a means of humbling the head of state, qualifying his words by noting it is not clear how much substance there is behind the allegations.

Center MEP Yana Toom said had such charges, which she says undermine the authority of the head of state, been made in another EU nation, a major scandal would ensue

The Riigikogu should get tot he bottom of the matter, she went on – MEPs do not sit at the Riigikogu .

"It's staggering that they threw an accusation like that into the air then kept silent, spewing a little bile in passing and thinking that would be alright," Toom said.

This article was updated to include comments from Urmas Reinsalu, Anti Poolamets and Yana Toom.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Marko Tooming, Indrek Kiisler

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