Paper: Helme gaffe not needed at Christmastime, says foreign minister

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Minister of Foreign Affairs Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa).
Minister of Foreign Affairs Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa). Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

Foreign minister Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa) says that interior minister Mart Helme's (EKRE) remarks on Sunday about new Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin and her government would have been better had they not been made, adding a hope that relations with Estonia's northern neighbor would not be undermined as a result.

"These comments, particularly at the personal level, are inappropriate," Reinsalu told daily Postimees (link in Estonian), adding that they were not the norm in relations between countries and have not been exhibited towards Estonia by democratic nations friendly towards the country.

Reinsalu added that it was one thing for a minister to criticize internal matters, such as the police service, but another to do so towards other nations, particularly as they can spread quickly – as they already had on Finnish public broadcaster YLE.

"Just as we [in Estonia] are sensitive about external coverage, it would certainly help if the interior minister would soften his words," Reinsalu said, when asked if Helme should apologize, reiterating the importance of maintaining good relations with Finland and the particular inappropriateness given the comments appeared close to Christmas.

Reinsalu comment to ERR

Reinsalu reiterated the line on Monday, speaking to ERR, and said that Estonian-Finnish relations were rock solid.

"I say the Estonian-Finnish bridge is rock solid, and certainly will not be smashed by one of these 'dinghies'. It is a bridge fortified by military support over so many decades, and a bridge solidified by all otther ordeals," Reinsalu told ERR.

Reinsalu said that the comments 100 per cent could have been left unsaid, and that so far as one member of the government is concerned, not all basic opinions could be uttered.

"We expect that our internal affairs as a democratic country will not be barracked in this way by other nations, and other democratic, well-meaning nations will expect the same. This naturally gives us a reason to explain ourselves," Reinsalu continued.

Reinsalu also said that it was important to avoid any bad image in international relations.

"The point is, after all, that all parties have their own political families in Europe. But in general, the way politicians go beyond national borders is to support a political force with a similar outlook, to make a visit or to offer support with their own words," the foreign minister continued.

"This line is generally respected in Europe. If we break it, our position would be worse if we embarked on such a political line. Im fact, that would make it harder to defend our own interests," Reinsalu added.

Speaking on TRE Raadio talk show Räägime asjast Sunday morning, Mart Helme derided Sanna Marin, who became Finnish prime minister early last week, as a "cashier", referring to her earlier employment, adding that the current five-party center-left coalition in Finland was ready to sell Finland out to the EU.

Helme also drew parallels with the Finnish Civil War of 1918, saying recent developments were almost the revenge of the reds, who lost that war, and claiming that the next government in Finland would be led by the Finns Party (Perussuomalaiset), a party Helme says is affiliated to his own, the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE).

Helme's comments were met with widespread criticism from leading members of both opposition parties, Reform and the Social Democratic Party (SDE) as well as from leading members of Centre, which EKRE is in coalition with.

Writing on his social media page on Sunday evening, Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Centre) said 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."

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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