Opposition members criticized government's foreign policy

The multi-party Foreign Affairs Committee of the Riigikogu at a meeting last month. Source: Erik Peinar, riigikogu

Several opposition MPs from the Reform and the Social Democratic parties (SDE) on Tuesday questioned the government's current foreign policy in a meeting with foreign minister Urmas Reinsalu.

Reform member Marko Mihkelson, who is also vice-chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Riigikogu, said. "Our foreign policy has never been so broken, and if it is not a threat to our security, what it is. Games of government-politics with an internal political flavor make it increasingly difficult to find a common ground for a reasonable position. If we fail to overcome internal disagreements in the near future, it will be even more difficult for us to pursue a coherent policy in transatlantic or regional relations within the European Union."

He added: "The increasing turbulence in world politics and the proliferation of diverse challenges over the past decade have placed Estonia in a very complex international environment. It requires wise and politically cohesive diplomacy, which, however, has come under severe pressure, especially as a result of domestic policy developments in recent months."

Giving an example of the divide, Mihkelson referred to the views of some of the leading coalition politicians that the Estonian-Russian border agreement signed in 2014 should not be ratified and no new negotiations should be opened with Russia.

His fellow party member Hanno Pevkur asked Reinsalu about the speeches of his government colleagues, which suggest a desire to politicize the courts and the foreign service.

Reform Party member Urve Tiidus asked Reinsalu about the seemingly contradictory policy plans to appoint a special envoy to introduce Estonia's education system, but at the same time some government ministers want to restrict the licensing of international schools and admittance of foreign students to Estonian universities.

Social Democrat Raimond Kaljulaid criticized the foreign minister for not proactively consulting the Riigikogu and its Foreign Affairs Committee on either the US-submitted Middle East peace plan or joining the International Religious Freedom Alliance.

Kaljulaid said: "It would be much easier to survive difficult times if Estonia were internally united. But it is fair to admit that we are not. We have to realize that the less we value our internal policies, the more difficult it is to pursue a value-based foreign policy. I do not rule out that the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Prime Minister have done their best to ensure the unity and unambiguity of the foreign policy of the Republic of Estonia, but at the end of 2019 it had to be admitted that this task has not been satisfactorily fulfilled."

"The decision of the Center Party and Isamaa to include right-wing populists in the government was a huge blow to Estonia's national and especially our foreign policy interests. And all the fine words that have sounded today do not compensate for the damage. All too often allied heads of government who are important to us and NATO's defense cooperation is being questioned, and the European Union have been compared to the Soviet Union that occupied Estonia. Very questionable choices have been made regarding the composition of the Riigikogu delegations as well as their leadership. The negative information flow in the foreign media caused by the involvement of the right-wing populists in the government and their activities has affected Estonia's reputation. The study the "Impact and Image of Estonian Foreign Policy in the European Union" conducted by the Estonian Institute of Foreign Policy also showed this. I do not think we are fully aware yet of all the damage that these decisions have caused," added Kaljulaid, who spoke on behalf of the Social Democrats.

Reinsalu, however, rejected the criticism and asserted that the government's foreign policy was coherent and firm, but that it no longer reflected the views of the Social Democrats or the Reform Party as the foreign governments of previous governments. 


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Editor: Helen Wright

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