Helme: Law obliges prime minister to appear before committees

The Riigikogu biilding in Tallinn.
The Riigikogu biilding in Tallinn. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

Chair of the Riigikogu's Anti-Corruption Select Committee Mart Helme (EKRE) said that Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) has a legal obligation to attend committee meetings to which she has been summoned. According to Maris Lauri (Reform), deputy chair of the Riigikogu's State Budget Control Committee, the scandal could be discussed in other committees.

"According to point 22 of the Riigikogu's Rules of Procedure and Internal Rules Act, a Riigikogu committee has the right to request information, which is necessary for its work, from the government, and to request the attendance of a minister, including the prime minister, at a committee meeting in order to obtain information on matters within that government member's areas of responsibility. The person invited is obliged to appear,  provide explanations and answer questions," Helme said.

"The law does not give the prime minister the right to start arbitrarily assessing whether or not the commission can still call him or her to attend. In other words, Kaja Kallas has nothing to dispute or bargain with here," Helme said.

"The state budget is the state budget, but this matter is still directly linked to corruption. The question is whether the spouse of the incumbent prime minister has been granted any concessions. Has she been turning a blind eye to his business dealings with Russia? Have the Internal Security Service (ISS or KAPO), Foreign Intelligence Services and Tax and Customs Board acted as they should? This is only the beginning of a long list of questions that require answers," Helme told ERR.

Helme said it was possible that the session scheduled for Tuesday could be boycotted by members of the coalition parties. If so, that would mean that the necessary number of attendees required would not be reached.

"I'm not making any accusations at this point, I'm just asking hypothetical questions to which we want answers," Helme added.

"We can, of course, hold this meeting in another format. Obviously we will adopt some positions and make some statements there. If representatives of the Tax and Customs Board and the National Audit Office attend, I will still be able to ask them questions," Helme said.

According to Helme, it is essential for the chancellor of justice, the president and the chairs of the other Riigikogu groups and committees to adopt a clear position regarding Kallas' behavior.

"Otherwise, we will no longer be talking about the separation of powers, but about the fact that we are governed by a regime that blatantly tramples on Estonia's constitutional principles," Helme said.

Maris Lauri, deputy chair of the Riigikogu's State Budget Control Committee, told ERR that as far as she is aware, the coalition deputies have no plans to boycott the sitting.

Lauri: Economic activity in Russia could be discussed in another committee

"This is really not a matter for the State Budget Control Committee. If we look at what the task of the State Budget Control Committee is, it is to deal with the state budget. That is, to look at how state assets and financial resources are used. It has no connection to the issue of the trading of goods," said Lauri.

On Tuesday, the state budget committee and the Riigikogu Anti-Corruption Select Committee are set to convene for an extraordinary joint sitting. The purpose is to discuss business activities in Russia during the war.

Prime Minister Kaja Kallas, Estonian Tax and Customs Board Director Raigo Uukkivi, executive manager of Metaprint AS Martti Lemendik, executive manager of Stark Logistics Kristjan Kraag and a representative of the National Audit Office have all been invited to attend.

On Wednesday, ERR wrote that Stark Logistics, a transport company partly owned by Prime Minister Kaja Kallas' (Reform) husband Arvo Hallik, has continued to do business in Russia during the war in Ukraine, despite government criticism of companies that do so.

Kaja Kallas and Kristjan Kraag have both said they will not attend the meeting.

According to Lauri, the Kallas scandal and the economic activities of a number of Estonian companies in Russia more generally, could be discussed in the Riigikogu's Foreign Affairs Committee, Economic Affairs Committee, National Defense Committee or Security Authorities Surveillance Select Committee.

"This has caused controversy and discussion, and would also be a necessary and important topic for the Riigikogu to understand things and take a position on," Lauri said.

At the same time, Lauri added that as things stand, she has received answers to her questions from Kallas.

Riigikogu Speaker Lauri Hussar (Eesti 200) told ERR that a member of the government is obliged to attend a committee meeting upon invitation. However, at the same time, the prime minister's other obligations also need to be taken into account when considering reasons why she may be unable to the committee meeting at the desired time.

"It is the duty of the committee to ensure that the matter under consideration is within its remit," Hussar said.


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Editor: Michael Cole

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