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Prime minister declines to answer opposition MPs' questions on loan to spouse

Kaja Kallas appearing at the Riigikogu in an undated photo.
Kaja Kallas appearing at the Riigikogu in an undated photo. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

During Wednesday's question time at the Riiigkogu, Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) refused to answer two opposition MPs' questions relating to her husband's business interests, and more specifically her position in relation to those interests.

Government ministers, including the prime minister, do not sit at the Riigikogu, but appear there regularly, for instance as here, to answer questions.

Wednesday's question time, or "info hour" (infotund) as it is known in Estonian, saw the premier grilled on the details of a loan she granted to a company her husband has owned a stake in and which hit the headlines in late summer over continued business dealings in Russia, involving that company.

ERR is publishing the full exchange as follows.

Isamaa chief whip Priit Sibul: The Riigikogu speaker, sitting in front of us, has just made the decision that it is not viable to run a political party and the Riigikogu concurrently (referring to Lauri Hussar's decision to step down as Eesti 200 leader – ed.) Examining yesterday's news (that Kallas will run unopposed at the next Reform Party leadership election later this month – ed.), it became clear that there will be no competition for you as leader of the Reform Party. 

You still manage the government of the Republic via a firm hand, but you also have a third family business to the East, which you are connected with, one way or another. So my question relates to that. On August 24, 2023, you said to Delfi: "For transparency's sake, it should also be mentioned that in July I also gave Novaria Consult (the company in question – ed.) another loan, of €20,000, which is intended for investment purposes."

My question: What "investment" was this loan intended for?

Kaja Kallas: Openness tends to get punished. In this sense, the relationship between myself and my husband has nothing to do with the Riigikogu. The Riigikogu's question time is a measure relating to parliamentary oversight, and if you look at the legislation, you can ask questions relating to its area of ​​government, or a to problem in the public domain. The prime minister, too, has the right to privacy, and my relationship with my husband is for sure not a topic for a Riigikogu information session.

Priit Sibul: I happen to think what concerns the prime minister, an eastward-facing business at a time when there is a full-scale war with Russia, is important, while what happens surrounding the prime minister and her family is also important. I have a clarifying question, on how you yourself said at the public hearing on September 4t that repayment instalments of the €350,000 loan (a previous loan to Novaria – ed.) took place on June 15, July 20 and August 21, if I remember correctly, at the same time as this additional granting of a €20,000-euro loan; what exactly was this intended for, when at one point the loan is extended but the loan repayments take place at the same time?

Tõnis Mölder (standing) together with Isamaa's chief whip Priit Sibul, at a Riigikogu anti-corruption select committee session earlier this month. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

Kaja Kallas: The prime minister also has the right to privacy in relation to her personal life, and my relationship with my husband is not a topic for a Riigikogu information session. The rationale for my granting my spouse a loan is not a topic of the Riigikogu information session either, and please do not issue false statements - we do not have any kind of Russia-oriented family business. 

Isamaa MP Tõnis Mölder: As a public figure and also [with us] as Riigikogu MPs and as members of the government, you have an obligation to fill out the declaration of interests and provide the correct information therein.

As you are aware, we know that in that declaration of interests, you failed to reference the loan issued to your husband's company, Novaria Consult, to a total of €350,000. 

This is what you have admitted publicly, that this is the error you have made. But you have pledged to put right this error, also. Now I come to another and more specific question, namely, that in June of this year – on June 9 – there is one sentence in the interview provided to ERR (uttered by Arvo Hallik, the prime minister's spouse – ed.): "We hold investments in various companies, some of which are closed [information], though some of it is also public – for instance we are shareholders in BaltCap, though the stake is not a very large one."

And this also concerns you, that you should be, as it were, a partner in Baltcap. If we deconstruct your declaration of interests, we can find no indication that you are a shareholder, or own any shares, in this company. My question to you is, do you have an interest in this company, and if so, via which company?

Kaja Kallas: I understand your interest in keeping this topic on the boil, but I hold no stake in this company.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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