In Estonian business as well as politics, there is a standard excuse for all manner of sins — it's "But look, everyone else is doing it too!" One can't help but wonder if this also applies to the Riigikogu's most senior administrative officer effectively ordering the destruction of evidence in an ongoing court case.
Is everybody in the EU as crooked? Are Western European countries as twisted? There certainly are plenty of people, including businessmen and politicians, who bend the law to the maximum extent in countries like the UK, France, and Germany as well.
But jokkimine?* Openly doing something that you know will meet with the disapproval of the public, something that you know is going directly against the spirit of the law? That's the stuff that usually has consequences.
Well, not here. Estonia might want to be Nordic or Western European, but in terms of its politics and the attitude of its officials, it is far from it.
This latest cover-up involves the top echelons of the leading opposition party, the then-Secretary General of the Riigikogu, and, with her, the national parliament itself. It's the sort of thing that is guaranteed to make headlines in a European country, yet something tells me it will pass like a ship in the night this time around as well.
The director of the parliament's chancellery gets rid of potentially incriminating evidence for a sitting MP, and with it might decidedly influence the outcome of a court case.
In a Western European country, Maria Alajõe would face criminal charges for this, and the MP in question could consider herself lucky if parliament was the only thing from which she would find herself forced to resign.
The court demanded to see former Minister of Foreign Affairs Keit Pentus-Rosimannus' correspondence on Riigikogu servers in connection with the Autorollo bankruptcy case. The Chancellery of the Riigikogu refused, and submitted an objection. While the case continued, Secretary General of the Riigikogu Maria Alajõe issued a directive that effectively limited the period of time for which MPs' emails are kept to one year.
Alajõe issued that directive knowing full well that the Chancellery's objection was still pending the court's decision. By the time the court overruled the Chancellery's objection, Keit Pentus-Rosimannus' email correspondence from the time period specified by the judge was gone.
This is a clear case of contempt of official orders. The Chancellery failed to comply with an order it received from an authority that is competent to issue it. Where I'm from, Article 292 of the Swiss Penal Code would have Alajõe facing criminal charges.
Whether or not anyone will so much as submit a complaint remains to be seen.
As then-CEO of Enterprise Estonia, Maria Alajõe was instrumental in another cover-up, namely in the case of Ermamaa OÜ, a company owned by former President Toomas Hendrik Ilves (ERR News reported). Her actions make Alajõe the Igor to the Frankenstein that is Estonian clientele politics. Do you have a dark spot on your past? Leave it to Alajõe, she'll fix it fast.
One can't help but wonder where she'll work next. Though one thing is perfectly clear: in a Western European country, this would have consequences. That may mean very little to locals, but the very fact that it doesn't surprise anyone and that even the local media will see it as no great scandal — that alone goes to show how far away Estonia still is from old EU members' understanding of what the rule of law should be.
* From JOKK, meaning Juriidiliselt on kõik korrektne, or "Legally speaking, everything is proper." In Estonian, the word has become synonymous for actions that strictly speaking are legal, but go against the spirit of the law and in a lot of cases against a certain sense of decency as well. Jokkimine is a derivative term.
Editor: Aili Vahtla