The Estonian president, Alar Karis, on 4 September met with the leaders of all political parties represented in the parliament and said that the country’s prime minister, Kaja Kallas, should have resigned right at the beginning of the crisis, in the wake of the scandal involving her loan to her husband’s company that has business interests in Russia.
“My personal preference would’ve been that the head of the government had resigned right when the chain of events that brought the crisis into the focus had started. That would have saved her integrity, the ability of the government and the credibility of Estonia. But everyone makes their own decisions in a situation like this, evaluating the seriousness of the moral problem themselves,” Karis said, according to the Estonian Public Broadcasting.
In the public broadcasting’s programme, “Eyewitness” (“Pealtnägija”) that will be aired on 6 September, the president also points out that Kallas should have resigned.
“It’s a regrettable case, of course. I don’t want to put myself in the prime minister’s shoes, but if I were prime minister, I would’ve probably reacted quicker and made a clear decision,” Karis noted.
“My advice to the prime minister is – she will make that decision herself – but I would recommend, honestly, come to Kadriorg (the president’s residence – editor). With or without the piece of paper (resignation – editor), but to discuss the issue.”
Karis previously made a public statement on 28 August in connection with the scandal, saying that when it comes to certain companies, this calls into question the credibility of the Estonian state in its interaction with its allies; the president also said the government politicians have to answer questions when they arise.
Kallas lent €370,000 to the company that has business interests in Russia
The Estonian Public Broadcasting reported on 23 August that Stark Logistics, a transport company partly owned by Kallas’s husband Arvo Hallik, has not ceased operations with Russia.
The company had continued shipments to Russia throughout the war in Ukraine that started on 24 February 2022. Ever since the war started, Kallas has told the Estonian as well as the international media that “there must be no business with Russia”.
The Estonian prime minister had a clear link to her husband’s business interests, since her declaration of economic interests, made public in June, revealed that she had lent €350,000 to Arvo Hallik’s company Novaria Consult that owns 24.8 per cent of Stark Logistics.
According to a recent poll, 66 per cent, or two in three Estonian citizens are of the opinion that Kaja Kallas should step down as the prime minister of Estonia. Major Estonian newspapers have also called Kallas to resign and have said the prime minister undermines the country’s democracy.
Kallas has until now insisted no intention to resign and the party she leads – the Reform Party that has 37 seats in the 101-strong Estonian parliament – has so far largely stood behind her.
Kaja Kallas became Estonia’s first female prime minister in January 2021.
Alar Karis, a former molecular geneticist and biologist, was elected the Estonian president on 31 August 2021 by the country’s parliament. Karis has never belonged to any political party.