Estonian commissioner criticised for political campaign
A group of MEPs has written a letter to European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso asking for the resignation of the Estonian commissioner, Siim Kallas, who is leading political negotiations for the Prime Minister post back home.
According to the EU Treaty, "members of the commission shall neither seek nor take instructions from any government or other institution, body, office or entity. They shall refrain from any action incompatible with their duties or the performance of their tasks."
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Kallas may be in breach of this clause and also of the EU commission's internal Code of Conduct, which says commissioners have to resign or take a leave of absence if they get involved in election campaigns.
The Estonian commissioner on Monday (10 March) is expected to be appointed negotiator to form a new government - if he is successful he will become Prime Minister of Estonia until elections are held next year.
Barroso's spokeswoman told this website that Kallas has informed Barroso of his activities back home but not asked for a leave yet. She expects him to resign only if appointed Prime Minister.
To Indrek Tarand, a Green Estonian MEP who initiated the protest letter, this is a "too flexible interpretation of the Code of Conduct."
"It is clear he keeps the commissioner job as backup, because he is not sure the Estonian parliament will vote for him. But it would be ridiculous if he continued as commissioner after being voted down by the parliament," Tarand told EUobserver.
He also said Kallas is misleading the Estonian public when claiming that the caretaker Prime Minister, Andrus Ansip, who resigned last week to make room for a new leader of the party one year before elections, will automatically replace him as commissioner until the current Barroso commission ends, later this autumn.
"Kallas never mentioned the fact that the candidate for the commission will have to pass the vote of the European Parliament," Tarand said.
The arrangement with Ansip seems obvious, as the outgoing PM in an interview last week with Etv said Kallas would be a good choice for Prime Minister, especially since Estonia is due to take over the rotating EU presidency in 2018.
Ansip also shielded Kallas' against media reports that the commissioner signed over 100 million USD worth of guarantees for unknown purposes back in 1994 when he was governor of the Estonian central bank.
“In my opinion, the plan was to bring more money into Estonia, not vice versa,” Ansip said.