Finance minister and deputy chair of the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) Martin Helme says that statements made by interior minister Mart about the new Finnish prime minister, Sanna Marin, and her government, should not be regarded as an insult, but on the contrary, as praise.
"As I said in the morning, it's a storm in a tea cup. In Finland, it caused some discussion, in Estonia a bit more. But still storm in a tea cup," Martin Helme told reporters on Monday as he left a coalition government session.
When asked whether Mart Helme was prepared to apologize to Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin, Martin Helme said there was no reason to do so. At the same time, as reported on ERR News Helme is in fact issued an apology to Marin, saying that his remarks had been misinterpreted in the Estonian media and amplified in Finland.
"As to what he said - that a sales girl could become a prime minister. That's a type of praise - so she can ... Reading context into things is in everyone's ears, but there was no insult. We live in an age where everyone likes to be offended, but nothing there was offensive," Helme added.
Asked whether Prime Minister Jüri Ratas would agree with his assessment, Helme said he would have to to ask Ratas.
Mart Helme appeared on private radio station TRE Raadio on Sunday morning, where he said that the Finnish prime minister was a cashier – referring to an earlier job the 34-year-old had held, that the five-party coalition she leads is stocked with "reds" intent on selling out Finland to the EU, and that an EKRE-affiliated party, the Finns (Perussuomalaiset) would win the next general election.
As well as a storm of criticism at home from parties in the same coalition as EKRE as well as opposition parties, President Kersti Kaljulaid also weighed in on the matter, calling it very sad and a potential threat to constitutional order in Estonia, and contacted her Finnish opposite number Sauli Niinistö to offer apologies to Marin on her behalf.
Members of the Finns party themselves have also hit out at the remarks.
Editor: Andrew Whyte