Politicians react to MEP's calls to remove disloyal diplomats

MEP Jaak Madison (EKRE).
MEP Jaak Madison (EKRE). Source: Kairit Leibold/ERR

Coalition and opposition politicians have reacted to MEP Jaak Madison's (EKRE) call that ambassadors and diplomats who do not follow the official governmental line on issues be recalled to Estonia.

Madison's words followed reports that U.S. President Donald Trump has recalled U.S. Ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland. Sondland had reportedly sided against the president over the recent impeachment process, BNS reports.

"Estonia has something to learn from this, too — ambassadors and diplomats who are unable to professionally follow the political line of the country cannot serve the country," Madison wrote on his social media account Saturday.

Madison also gave a concrete example of where this might happen.

"It was only recently that I heard how the Estonian ambassador to Finland had cursed a particular coalition party at a meeting with a delegation of members of the Riigikogu, which would immediately give basis for recalling the person from the position of that ambassador," Madison said, according to BNS.

Foreign minister: Diplomatic service should be neutral

Foreign minister Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa), under whose remit the diplomatic service falls, said that the service would remain politically neutral, in response to Madison's words.

"The Estonian foreign service has been and will remain politically neutral, implementing the political course of the incumbent government," Reinsalu said, according to BNS.

"The greatest assets of our diplomacy are fine and dedicated people whose life's work is to protect the interests of Estonia. Any references with threatening undertones are completely unnecessary. On the contrary, under this government, many diplomats have been appointed and routinely dismissed without any party political context," Reinsalu added.

"All diplomats are citizens, who obviously have their own viewpoints, but during my term of office, I have not seen any ensuing conflicts in the diplomats' professional activity and representation of the country's foreign policy positions," he continued.

"What takes place in the U.S. when ambassadors are appointed is a completely different model of governance that we, as a small country, have no way of effectively implementing in terms of our human resources," he added.

MEP Urmas Paet (Reform): Politics and diplomacy should be kept separate

Reform MEP and former foreign minister Urmas Paet also said that the diplomatic service should not be a political body, though qualified that by saying diplomats could still have their own views.

"Part of Estonia's previous success in foreign policy has been linked to … [its] career diplomacy; diplomats have not been appointed in accordance with domestic policy preferences," Paet said.

"Trying to dismantle the system of non-political ambassadors and diplomats that has brought Estonia success would be a mistake. Estonia would gain nothing if every government change was followed by a change of ambassadors. Such a course of action would destroy the foreign service, based on professionalism, that has worked well so far," he continued.

Paet also noted that personal political or other viewpoints were not off-limits even for diplomats.

"It should also be understood that diplomats, too, may have personal stances that they can also express. They are people just like everyone else. And this right cannot be stripped from anyone in Estonia," the MEP added.

Foreign affairs committee deputy chair: Madison wants "era of silence"

Deputy chair of the Riigikogu's foreign affairs committee, MP Marko Mihkelson (Reform), said that Jaak Madison is, by his words, seeking an "era of silence", alluding to the period 1934-1938, when Estonian President Kontantin Päts declared a period of martial law following a preemptive coup Päts had headed up, to avoid the takeover of the state by the Vaps veteran movement.

"With this opinion, Madison indicates that he desires an era of silence and a party dictatorship. Estonia's success in the world has been ensured by a strong and committed career diplomacy, free from the pressure of party politics," Mihkelson wrote on his own social media account.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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