Opposition MPs question former PM Kariņš' flying habits

The opposition of the Saeima has drawn attention to the fact that former Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš (New Unity) has used private jets 18 times to go on foreign visits, which has cost 613,000 euros from the state budget. The opposition's submission was examined by the responsible committee, but the matter will not be further raised, Latvian Radio reported Wednesday.

Between 2021 and 2023, Kariņš used a private jet for 18 flights to Belgium, Slovenia, Portugal, Poland, and other countries, but most flights were on scheduled flights with airBaltic or the Polish airline LOT.

The use of special flights was explained by the State Chancellery with the time of Covid-19, when there were many shortages in air transport. Private aircraft were used when the use of a regular flight was not possible, Jānis Citskovskis, Head of State Chancellery, explained.

"Often, just a couple of days before we visit, we get confirmation that it will happen. Destinations do not necessarily coincide with scheduled flights. The first step is always to find out if scheduled flights are available. If they are not possible, only then will these alternatives be considered. This is a universal principle used by governments of all democratic countries," Citskovskis explained.

The prime minister has not flown alone, but with advisers, Ministry of Foreign Affairs staff, State Security Service staff. The State Chancellery did not detail how many people had been in those delegations. Other prime ministers have occasionally used private aircraft transport, but this information has not been compiled, the head of the State Chancellery added.

One of the submission's authors and former Saeima speaker Edvards Smiltēns (United List) stated that the President of Latvia, the President of the Saeima, the Prime Minister, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, and the head of the Saeima Foreign Affairs Commission play an active role in foreign affairs but the approach to the use of air services is clearly different.

“The Saeima has never imagined using a business class without talking about renting private jets. Even the business class for the Speaker of the Saeima is actually taboo, because it cannot be justified economically. There may have been some kind of long-haul overflights or no other tickets at the moment that once in history the Saeima Speaker would have exercised such privilege, but there has never been a private plane,“ Smiltēns said.

During the current Prime Minister Evika Siliņa's office,, a private plane has not been used for visits, added her parliamentary secretary Jānis Patmalnieks.

Neither the former President of Latvia Egils Levits nor the current President of Latvia Edgars Rinkēvičs used private flights for their visits, the agency LETA found out.

Meanwhile, after hearing the answers of Patmalnieks and the Head of State Chancellery Jānis Citskovskis, the majority of the Saeima's submissions committee rejected the request of United List deputies to explain in more detail the spending on the use of special flights for the Prime Minister's visits.

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