MEP: Interior minister Finland comments damaging insult

Jüri Ratas sits next to new Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin at  meeting in Brussels last week.
Jüri Ratas sits next to new Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin at meeting in Brussels last week. Source: Government Office.

MEP Urmas Paet (Reform) were among those speaking out following interior minister Mart Helme's comments on a radio show Sunday morning that with the new Finnish prime minister Sanna Marin's administration, that country was now in the grip of 'reds' who wished to destroy the country, adding that new prime minister Sanna Marin was a 'cashier'. Leading members of the Centre Party, in coalition with Helme's Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) also criticised his remarks.

Urmas Paet: Long-range mental problems

Urmas Paet said that Helme's words damaged Estonia's relations with one of its closest allies, and that the person making the comments had "long-range mental problems".

"Today's speech by Mart Helme, a member of the Estonian Government, has seriously damaged Estonia's relations with one of our closest allies and friends, Finland," Paet said, according to ERR.

"Talking on the radio that the Finnish government is trying to destroy the Finnish state is a long-range mental problem," he added.

"However, a person who talks this way and harms relations with our significant neighbor sits in the Estonian government run by Ratas. While his recent words about brain-dead members of the Riigikogu and insulting people first and foremost undermine Estonian politics and government, this is a dangerous foolishness which weakens Estonia's relations with its closest allies," Paet finds.

"Imagine what sort of storm would have broken out here in Estonia if a member of the Finnish government, their interior minister, had declared that the Nazis had come to power in the form of the EKRE, who wanted to destroy the Estonian state. You simply would not expect that from a representative of the government of our nearest neighbor," he added.

"However, the Estonian Minister of the Interior, Helme does, this to our close friend and significant ally Finland."

Paet also called Helme's statement a serious international loss [of face].

"I no longer want to hear prime minister Ratas' obscure murmurings and justifications of Helme. I am ashamed that the Estonian government is behaving in this way towards Finland and the Finns. This isn't a joke any more," Paet continued.

Leading Centre members' own responses

Within the Centre Party's social media page appeared several top politicians' resentments, according to ERR.

Riigikogu member Enn Eesmaa wrote that: "The comment made by Minister of the Interior Mart Helme concerning the new Finnish government and prime minister was inappropriate. It is especially striking that the same man has been a successful diplomat, an ambassador of the Republic of Estonia," Eesmaa added (Helme was ambassador to Russia in the late 1990s-ed.).

Minister of Social Affairs Tanel Kiik wrote that: "Small countries never have too many friends. The Finnish state has been a friend and ally of Estonia in both good and bad times. We must know how to preserve and appreciate this, and in no way undermine it. There is and must be meaningful and respectful cooperation between our members. It is in the best interests of both our nations and our nations."

MP Jaanus Karilaid said that: "Mart Helme has to understand that for a plan B or C to exist, there already has to be a plan A, something which particularly requires the Finns. In addition, those who are expected to cooperate well must be treated with the utmost respect. The Finns have been our window to freedom, our brotherhood. Any arrogance in external relations must be ruled out.

Jüri Ratas, who met with the new Finnish prime minister last week in Brussels, said on Sunday evening that: "Finland is our close friend and companion, with whom all of Estonia's government has worked with good and close cooperation."

"This has not been affected by what kind of democratic parties belong to, or are run by, the coalitions in both countries," Ratas continued, on his social media page.

Mart Helme faced widespread criticism in late November after telling a Finnish daily that Estonia needed a 'plan B' as an alternative to NATO. Finland is not a NATO member.

Reform Party leader's comments

Opposition Reform Party leader Kaja Kallas also tweeted late night Sunday on the developments.

''It is so embarrassing for the Estonian government to act this way towards the Finnish people, the Finnish Prime Minister and women," Kallas wrote.

''Helme seems to think we have too many friends. This is Estonia [in] 2019," she added.

Sanna Marin's response

Sanna Marin herself tweeted late on Sunday night in response to the furore.

''I am extremely proud of Finland. Here, a child from a poor family can get educated and reach many things in their lives. The cashier of the shop can become prime minister," Marin wrote.

Media reports say Sanna Marin, who was born in Helsinki and grew up first in nearby Espoo, and then in Tampere, was raised in a "rainbow family", living in a rented apartment with her mother and her mother's female partner. 

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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