Differences between Estonia and Finland and the two countries' governments shouldn't affect relations after the meeting of prime ministers Jüri Ratas and Sanna Marin on Friday, foreign policy expert Kristi Raik said.
"I believe the make-up of the government does little to affect Estonia-Finland relations. If Finland has a PM today representing values that are alien and strange for Estonians, during their meeting, the prime ministers will be discussing topics that matter to both countries and political backgrounds should not play a role in that," Director of the Estonian Foreign Policy Institute Kristi Raik told ERR's Uudis+ program.
Marin belongs to the Social Democratic Party of Finland and represents its left-leaning wing, while Ratas is heading a coalition that includes two right-conservative parties.
Raik described relations between Estonia and Finland as good, adding that cooperation could be closer in some areas, and that the state of relations is not affected by a recent scandal caused by an utterance by Estonian Minister of the Interior Mart Helme (EKRE). "I do not believe it will affect relations down the line. But it also demonstrated the differences on Estonian and Finnish political landscapes, societies, and countries," she said.
Raik explained that studies show Estonia leans more to the right, and Estonian society sports more masculine, less tolerant values. While the utterances of the Conservative People's Party (EKRE) and its leader do not represent the whole of Estonia, society is clearly more conservative than in Finland, she said.
Responding to Host Arp Müller's remark, that the Finns Party which shares similarities with EKRE is the most popular in Finland, Raik said the split in Estonian society is much bigger than it is in Finland. "Many Western countries are experiencing this kind of polarization. But I would describe the split in Estonia as going much deeper. Looking at EKRE positions and style, one can see a more radical approach and greater confrontation between different sides. In Finland, the background includes a very strong consensual society and the welfare state model supported by all political forces," she explained.
Estonia and Finland share a similar view of security, even though there are some differences in national security choices. While Estonia is part of NATO and holds a different attitude toward Russia than Finland, the broader view of the region and the role of USA and NATO in its security is very similar, Raik said. The countries are also united in close digital and cyberdefense cooperation. There are also have similar interests regarding Brexit as the U.K. has been an important partner in the EU and regarding concerns about security cooperation.
Estonia and Finland have disagreements over the new EU budget that Finland, as a net contributor, would like to see reduced, while Estonia, together with other Central and Eastern European countries, would like boosted.
Marin is visiting Tallinn on Friday and will also meet with President Kersti Kaljulaid.
Editor: Marcus Turovski