Responding to criticism from the opposition, Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) said that by not attending Tuesday's extraordinary joint sitting of the Riigikogu State Budget Control Select Committee and Anti-Corruption Select Committee, she did not break the law, was not disrespectful to the Riigikogu and did not behave in an unprecedented manner. Kallas also expressed the desire for the expectations on her to be the same as those applied to EKRE leader Martin Helme.
"There was a huge amount of controversy this week over my non-attendance at the Riigikogu joint select committee meeting organized by Mart Helme (EKRE) and Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa). I was told that I was breaking the law, behaving in an unprecedented way and showing unprecedented levels of disrespect for the Riigikogu," Kallas said at a government press conference.
"First of all, the Riigikogu committees have been formed to carry out specific tasks. They are formed on the basis of the law and everyone can see what their tasks are. For example, on the Riigikogu's website it states that the State Budget Control Select Committee is a Riigikogu committee, which in cooperation with the National Audit Office, oversees the government of the republic to ensure that the state budget is implemented and that state assets and budgetary funds are used economically, expediently and lawfully.
Therefore, the State Budget Control Select Committee does not have any remit to hold any sessions regarding this (Kallas was referring to the scandal which she is currently embroiled in - ed.) issue, and not obeying its summons [to attend] is in no way a violation of the law," Kallas said.
"As for my behavior being somehow unprecedented, I console myself with the knowledge that I'm not in no way a trailblazer in this respect. Quite a number of ministers have failed to attend select committees and I think the record is held by Martin Helme (EKRE). Although, on that occasion, the press did not make a big deal out of it. But then again, I have higher standards," the prime minister said.
Kallas later told ERR that she would like the expectations placed on her to be no different to those on EKRE chair Martin Helme. "That means that the expectations should be the same for everyone. It's not really fair to have higher expectations for one person than for another," Kallas said.
"It is basic courtesy on the part of the committee, of course to find a common time together with the ministers, that also fits in with the ministers' schedule," the prime minister said.
Kallas said she had in no way acted disrespectfully toward the Riigikogu, but on the contrary, holds it in extremely high regard. "I have always respected it, but this respect is based, first and foremost on the conviction that the Riigikogu itself also complies with the law," Kallas said.
On Tuesday, an extraordinary joint sitting of the State Budget Control Select Committee and the Anti-Corruption Select Committee took place. Prime Minister Kaja Kallas, Stark Logistic executive manager Kristjan Kraag and CEO of Metaprint chief Martti Lemendik were all summoned to the sitting, though declined to attend.
Kallas said she had been unable to do so due to her busy schedule. The prime minister also added that main subject on the agenda during the extraordinary sitting had nothing to do with the state budget.
Editor: Michael Cole