Allegations of influence peddling which has connected additional funding of the president's office with the head of state giving assent to legislation, or giving that assent in an expedited manner, has put the credibility of the Estonian state at risk, Isamaa MP and chair of a Riigikogu committee investigating the case Urmas Reinsalu says.
What is happening is undermining the credibility of the state, Reinsalu adds.
Speaking to ETV current affairs show "Ringvaade Suvel" on Tuesday, Reinsalu said: "My question is, are these statements being too dramatically attributed to Sildam, or did things actually happen in this context."
"We really can't know this for sure. This is why these statements have to be taken down. If this does turn out to be some kind of attempt at political spin, then that would be highly unacceptable. In reality, the country's credibility has been hit," Reinsalu, a former foreign minister, went on.
"Let's imagine that this accusation is true, that legislation and the promulgation of that legislation is being horse traded in the Republic of Estonia, while the leverage comes from state budget funds; in that case, the functioning of the separation of [legislative, executive and judicial] powers, and the rule of law, somewhat loses its meaning. That in reality could lead to similar actions being applied to court decisions, etc. This is surely against the spirit of the constitution, the provision of the constitution, such an initiative, if it took place," Reinsalu said.
"On the other hand, if it is attributed [to Sildam] and then the spin aspect gets highlighted, then without a doubt this would come at the expense of the country's credibility and reputation. The people would, rightly, see that the while the state expects them to follow the legislation and regulations, at the level of the state's management, some kind of back room dealings or political operation via the media to discredit the head of state is going on," he added.
The fact that the president's office apparently lacks funds – the office receives an annual grant as a part of the state budget but, due to inflationary pressures, a request was made for a top-up for this year – demonstrates that there is something wrong with the culture and the style with which Estonia is currently run, Reinsalu continued.
Reinsalu said that there are two aspects to the case.
First, whether actual influence peddling took place and, given the Minister of Finance indicated there had been some "influential persons" involved but whose identities he could not reveal.
"Who these people may be is very interesting. I am certainly going to be making efforts to investigate this, and to question these individuals."
Second is the question of whether there had been any political spin, made in an attempt to neutralize or even damage in some way the institution of the head of state of Estonia, Reinsalu added.
Speaking to "Ringvaade suvel", the Isamaa MP said that the committee is set to continue its deliberations, while both Sildam and Merike Saks, the Ministry of Finance Secretary General, with whom Sildam on June 9 had the conversation at the heart of the controversy, will appear before the committee, Reinsalu said.
That the charges against Sildam are quite serious, these should not have been swept under the rug for almost two months – the story came to light via a Postimees article last Friday – and should have been investigated right away, Reinsalu added.
At the same time, the timing of the charge needs also to be seen in the light of the criticism President Alar Karis had voiced of a planned car tax, being developed by the finance ministry.
The Riigikogu State Budget Control Select Committee convened on Tuesday to examine the controversy. No witnesses are reported to have been party to the June 9 conversation between Sildam and Saks, which took place on the sidelines of a social function.
Editor: Andrew Whyte, Merili Nael
Source: "Ringvaade suvel", interviewer Jüri Muttika