Estonian PM on Porto Franco loan: Business secret precludes disclosure of information

  • 2020-08-19
  • BNS/TBT Staff

TALLINN - Estonian Prime Minister Juri Ratas has said in his reply to an interpellation by opposition MP Raimond Kaljulaid concerning the terms of a loan provided by the government to the Porto Franco property development in Tallinn's city center that the information and documents concerning the loan cannot be made public as they are covered by business secret. 

Among other things, Kaljulaid, a Social Democrat, wanted to obtain from the prime minister the draft of the loan agreement or information about its principal terms and conditions that served as basis for the government in making the decision.

Commenting on the prime minister's response, Kaljulaid said that the terms and conditions of a loan provided using taxpayer money cannot be a secret for taxpayers but should be made public. 

"It can be understood that information related to national security may be declared a state secret and access to it may be restricted. Yet the Porto Franco investment definitely is not a matter of national security. It is about approximately 40 million euros that the government will place in one Tallinn real estate development on extremely favorable conditions. The recipient of the loan however has family ties to a large-scale financer of the prime minister's party," Kaljulaid said. 

The opposition MP said it must be possible for the taxpayer to learn how sensibly the government is using the money allocated for crisis aid.  

"The loan in question has raised very many questions and the suspicions can be understood. Local elections are nearing, in which the Center Party again wishes to get the majority in the city council," Kaljulaid said, describing Center's prospects of achieving a majority in the council again as less likely than ever before due to the coalition deal made with the Estonian Conservative People's Party (EKRE).

"The party has suffered several expensive losses in court and had to return a large donation with regard to which a criminal investigation has been opened," Kaljulaid said. 

"Only 100 percent openness and transparency would help disperse the suspicions. Hiding and spinning only deepen the impression that not everything is right with the Porto Franco transaction," he said.