Comparing her own stepping down from the board of Alexela, which imports fuel from the Russian Federation, with business activities connected to Russia which the prime minister's husband has been linked to, is inappropriate, former president Kersti Kaljulaid says, as she currently holds no elected office.
Appearing on Delfi's "Vilja küsib" series, with interviewer Vilja Kiisler, Kaljulaid, president 2016-2021, said that leaving the Alexela board was still a necessary move, as she still holds the title of president (former Estonian heads of state continue to be referred to in Estonia as president, after leaving office – ed.).
On Wednesday last week, Kaljulaid told ERR she had resigned from her position on Alexela's board due to the its sourcing liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) from Russia.
As for the controversy which erupted in August after revelations that Stark Logistics, a company which Prime Minister Kaja Kallas' spouse had held a 24.9 percent stake in, had continued to export aerosol can components – the assembled cans themselves are subject to sanction – to the Russian Federation on behalf of a related Estonian company, Kaljulaid noted that this had had ramifications outside Estonia.
When she was most recently in Kyiv, for instance, Kaljulaid said she had been asked about the saga, and the same had applied when talking to representatives of Washington-based think-tanks.
"It's been impactful," Kajlulaid told Delfi.
Beyond that, Kaljulaid did not want to comment on Kallas' recent advice to the media to press the former president harder on the Alexela issue, in comparison with the media treatment she, Kallas, had received in the wake of the Stark Logistics revelations.
Kaljulaid said she would deploy the recommendation of her successor, President Alar Karis, in remaining in a mode of respectful disagreement on the issue. She would not be drawn on the extent to which Kallas knew about the business activities of her husband, Arvo Hallik, who paid off the final installment of a €350,000 loan the wife had made to the husband at the time the Stark story was emerging, adding that she, Kaljulaid, could not speculate.
Kaljulaid also repeatedly affirmed, in the Delfi interview, that she has no designs on running for a political position, and will continue with her current activities – these include managing a foundation, together with Taavi Linnamäe, her PR chief when she was president.
As to her current relationship with the prime minister – a relationship which on the surface had seemed quite warm when both were in office – Kaljulaid said that she is not involved in politics any more, and so she does not come into contact with the head of government at any time.
With regard to her own role with Alexela, Kaljulaid said this began in April this year, at a time when imports from Russia had stopped. LPG was supplied from Kazakhstan, she added (Kiisler noted that the Estonian media had started reporting on LPG supplies coming from Russia – ed.)
LPG makes up approximately 2 percent of Alexela's overall portfolio, while the company has a 40 percent LPG domestic market share, the former president said.
She also would not divulge her remuneration while she was an Alexela board member, adding that she could not recall the precise figure, and in any case did not consider making that public to be a necessary step.
Kaljulaid said she had found Alexela's approach to climate neutrality to be refreshing, when the opportunity to join the board had appeared.
As for her recent admission that the Reform Party itself had, in addition to Eesti 200, sounded her out for a Rigiikogu elections bid, Kaljulaid said that she had in fact been so approached at that time by virtually all the political parties, including, via a minor party member, the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE).
While the Constitution does not state one way or another if former presidents may belong to any political party, to do so would run against the spirit of the Constitution, the former president added.
She also reiterated statements she had made to ERR that she found it disturbing that behind-doors discussions she had had with Reform had been made public – just as she would not approve of off-the-record governmental discussions being made public, even years later, either.
Finally, as to recent criticisms of Karis' alleged interference in politics, Kaljulaid said that her successor has chosen his battle grounds wisely, adding the president's job is to intervene when constitutional values may be threatened – something which she did not shy away from during her term either.
Editor: Andrew Whyte, Barbara Oja