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Riigikogu committee chair calls for prime minister to give evidence

Prime Minister Kaja Kallas.
Prime Minister Kaja Kallas. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) has been invited to appear before a Riigikogu committee looking into allegations of horse trading involving the president's office.

The Riigikogu's State Budget Control Select Committee is looking into claims that President Alar Karis' internal affairs advisor Toomas Sildam suggested a top-up fund for the president's office could be a quid pro quo for the signing into assent by the head of state of a backlog of legislation, or for expediting that signing, shortly before parliament broke up for its summer recess.

Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa), chair of the Riigikogu committee, wrote on his social media account that: "Yesterday (Thursday – ed.) the Prime Minister made a very serious accusation to "Aktuaalne kaamera" that in the past it could have been seen as normal to deal in legislation promulgation for cash, whereas nowadays this is not acceptable.

"The Prime Minister must take responsibility for her words and give an explanation of this. Who is it that tried to engage in horse trading of that kind in the past? Had this trading been successful, and in respect of which laws? From whom did she obtain this information?" Reinsalu continued.

Reinsalu added that statements discrediting the past functioning of the Estonian state such as these, coming from the mouth of the prime minister, cannot simply be left hanging in the air.

"Second, the prime minister indicated that she in turn has in hand some evidence of what transpired," Reinsalu went on, referring to a conversation on June 9 this year between Sildam and Ministry of Finance Secretary General Merike Saks, during which the quid pro quo was allegedly mentioned.

"According to [Kallas'] words, she found out about the incident around Jaanipäev (June 24 – ed.), i.e. some weeks after an alleged conversation with the Minister of Finance," Reinsalu went on.

Saks said she informed Minister of Finance and Kallas' party-mate Mart Võrklaev, shortly after the conversation with Sildam, which took place on the sidelines of a social function and to which there are no other reported witnesses.

"What did [the prime minister] do with this information? I consider it important that, in the light of these statements, the prime minister come to the State Budget Control Select Committee on Monday and give an account," Reinsalu went on.

The committee discussed the allegations on Tuesday this week, after they had come to light in an article which daily Postimees published, last Friday, August, 4.

Reinsalu had previously stated that both Sildam and Saks should appear before the same committee.

Sildam has said that the incident has been a misunderstanding.

The president, in his constitutional role, signs into assent all legislation passed at the Riigikogu.

The Riigikogu session which ended in mid-June had been particularly fraught, due to a lengthy filibuster of legislation from the opposition parties, primarily over the issues of controversial tax hikes and family benefits cuts.

The president's office recently had to cancel a planned official trip to Australia this year, citing funding issues.

The president's office obtains a yearly grant contained within the state budget; the soaring cost of living has put pressure on these finances, it is reported.

Suspicions also were raised about the timing of the Postimees piece, coming as it did just days after President Karis had criticized the planned car tax, though this is not at draft bill stage yet.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Marko Tooming

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