Hosting Emmanuel Macron one reason president office requested more funds

President Alar Karis at July's XIII Youth Song and Dance Festival.
President Alar Karis at July's XIII Youth Song and Dance Festival. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

A planned visit by French President Emmanuel Macron was one of the reasons for a request by the Office of the President of the Republic of Estonia, made to the government.

The office receives a lump sum annually from the state budget, but this year's figure has apparently been found wanting if President Macron, and also Bartholomew I of Constantinople, the head of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, were to be hosted in Estonia on official visits.

A state visit is the highest level of diplomatic communication, and is meant to confirm strong bilateral relations.

It usually involves a head of state, accompanied by a substantial retinue.

Emmanuel Macron will not now be visiting Estonia in the near future, president's office spokesperson Mariann Sudakov told ERR Tuesday.

Sudakov said: "Our closest friends and allies are always welcome in Estonia at the invitation of the head of state, whether, for example, for a bilateral visit or as part of a major international event organized by Estonia."

"Visits related to international relations are generally not made public until immediately before they take place. As of now, there are no plans for a visit by the head of state of France, in the near future," she went on – given that additional funding for this year has not been forthcoming.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs says Estonia has good and close relations with France, given the presence of French troops as part of the NATO battlegroup based in Estonia, cooperation within NATO and also past bilateral cooperation in French-led military missions in Mali, cooperation at EU-level and via other international organizations.

Defense and security, including cyber security, as well as cultural links remain the most important components of Franco-Estonian relations, the ministry says.

In 2020, the foundation was laid for a strategic partnership between the two countries, which includes the promotion of cooperation in the EU, international cooperation, and ties in security and defense, business, the digital economy, cyber security, climate and environment, education and science, culture and development.

In a communique to Minister of Finance Mart Võrklaev (Reform), Director of the President's Office Peep Jahilo wrote: "Last year, when submitting an additional request for the current budget year (ie. 2022 – ed.) as part of the budgetary process, it was not known at that time that this year would see an official visit by the King of Sweden, an upcoming state visit from the President of France and a visit by Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, which in terms of its elements (i.e. in terms of cost) will be equal to a state visit."

The president's office later confirmed the Macron visit would not go ahead.

Sweden's King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia paid a state visit to Estonia at the beginning of May this year.

The president's office also recently announced that it had canceled or postponed a planned official visit by the Estonian head of state, President Alar Karis, to Australia.

Emmanuel Macron last visited Estonia in September 2017, when a digital summit was held in Tallinn as part of Estonia's presidency of the EU, which it held in the latter half of that year.

Patriarch Bartholomew last visited Estonia a decade ago. The Estonian Apostolic Orthodox Church is organizationally a part of the Constantinople Patriarchate.

The issue of funding for the president's office has been at the heart of controversy over an alleged quid pro quo offer, whereby were this top-up funding to materialize, the signing into assent of legislation by the president would be expedited, at a time when the Riigikogu was wrapping up for summer and had a backlog due in part to a filibuster by opposition MPs.

The alleged conversation on June 9 in which a joking reference was apparently made to such a deal, between the finance ministry's secretary general and the president's chief internal adviser, had no other witnesses and is now subject to a Riigikogu committee investigation.


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Editor: Mait Ots, Andrew Whyte

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