Gerrit Mäesalu: Conversation about presidential funds 'inappropriate'

Gerrit Mäesalu.
Gerrit Mäesalu. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

A conversation allegedly linking the signing into assent of legislation with top-up funds for the Estonian president's office contained "inappropriate" aspects, prime minister's chef de cabinet Gerrit Mäesalu says.

It is not currently known if the prime minister, Kaja Kallas (Reform), will be appearing before a Riigikogu special committee over the matter, however.

"The simultaneous handling of these two topics during our conversations seemed inappropriate to me," Mäesalu (pictured) said Wednesday.

Those conversations are talks he had had with presidential adviser Toomas Sildam, who denies any complaint from Mäesalu and any linking of the two themes.

Sildam told ERR Wednesday that: "In no conversation has Gerrit Mäesalu ever told me that our conversation as a whole, or any part thereof, had seemed inappropriate to him. In all our conversations, we talked about many topics, without connecting them to one another."

Mäesalu also told ERR on Wednesday that he did not advise a Postimees journalist to call Minister of Finance Mart Võrklaev (Reform) – it was Postimees who first broke the story, on Friday, August 4.

Mäesalu told ERR that he had spoken to Toomas Sildam on the phone in the month of June, about various political issues, including the signing into assent of bills passed by the Riigikogu at a time when parliament had been held up by an opposition filibuster and was heading into the summer recess.

"During these conversations, Toomas Sildam also raised the issue related to the president's office budget," Mäesalu added, noting that he, Sildam, grasped the importance of bills coming into effect in a timely manner – this cannot be done without head of state Alar Karis promulgating a law – while at the same time, calling for the president's office funding issues to be resolved in the near future.

Mäesalu said that he was aware Sildam had " talked about the same issues with the Minister of Finance and a representative of the Ministry of Finance."

This prompted Mäesalu to then inform the minister about the conversation with Sildam, he added.

Sildam told the Riigikogu's State Budget Control Select Committee that he had talked with Mäesalu on both of these topics, but with no stated or implied connection between the two, and among several other topics.

The committee, headed by opposition MP Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa), says it wishes to take statements from Mäesalu, as well as from Prime Minister Kaja Kallas herself.

Mäesalu could not comment to ERR as to whether the prime minister will in fact appear before the committee.

The president's office has been requesting more funding for this year above that already allocated by the state budget, citing rising costs and the need to fulfil one of the head of state's most important functions, maintaining good, high-level foreign relations.

A planned trip to Australia has been canceled; this year's state visit by the king and queen of Sweden was not known about at the time the 2023 budget was drafted, it is reported.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Aleksander Krjukov

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