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Estonian ambassador to Finland resigns over worldview clash with government

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Harri Tiido in the ETV studios.
Harri Tiido in the ETV studios. Source: ERR

Harri Tiido has stepped down as Estonian ambassador to Finland, citing a difference of worldview with the current administration in Estonia, as well as his age. Tiido highlighted the presence of the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) in office as influencing his decision.

Speaking to Finnish public broadcaster YLE (link in English), Tiido, 66, who became ambassador to Finland in 2018, said that he would rather quit himself since the current coalition consisting of Center and Isamaa, together with EKRE, showed no signs of going anywhere.

EKRE's words and actions had undermined Estonia internationally, and harmed Estonian-Finnish relations, he said, giving the example of interior minister and former EKRE chair Mart Helme's remarks made in late 2019 about Finnish prime minister Sanna Marin as being a mere salesgirl.

"They may think they are saying it in Estonia, in the Estonian language, for domestic consumption. However, everyone gets to know everything nowadays, and if [Estonian] diplomats need to ask Finland for support, for example, after this type of statement, then it's going to be hard to approach them."

Tiido said that prior to EKRE entering office in late April 2019, but while Jüri Ratas (Center) was still prime minister, the latter had had good relations with Marin's predecessor, Juha Sipilä, adding relations would have cooled since then.

"Right now I do not think that it would be viable for the Estonian prime minister to call the Finnish prime minister and invite her to do something together so easily," said Tiido.

Tiido added that he hoped no permanent damage had been incurred in relations between the two countries, adding that the results of the 2019 general elections both in Estonian and Finland made a divergence somewhat inevitable, since Estonia had moved towards the right at a time when its northern neighbor moved to the left, so far as governmental make-up went.

Both governments have nonetheless been chosen democratically, he added, saying that his issue with the current Estonian coalition and that he did not want to represent it was his problem.

As reported by ERR News, President Kersti Kaljulaid had recalled Tiido in early June, at his request, though the reasons were not reported at the time. August is the traditional time for changes in Estonia's ambassadorial appointments.

YLE's Swedish-language page reports that one possible replacement for Tiido is think tank International Centre for Defence and Security (ICDS) director Sven Sakkov, according to their sources.

Prime minister: Tiido wrong, Estonian-Finnish relations remain strong

Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Center) rejects Tiido's assessment of Estonian-Finnish relations or that the current coalition make-up has harmed them.

"Ambassador Harri Tiido's statement that relations between the two countries have deteriorated or that the Estonian prime minister does not have options to communicate easily with his Finnish counterpart is untrue," Ratas wrote on his social media page Saturday.

"Finnish-Estonian relations are still strong and work well. At the same time, they are also friendly, as expressed at the 100th anniversary ceremony of Estonian-Finnish diplomatic relations, which took place in Tallinn on June 8 this year."

Foreign minister: Day-to-day activities show Tiido's remarks are incorrect

Foreign minister Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa) also rejects Tiido's claims, while upholding his right to have them.

"I do not agree with his estimation of Estonian-Finnish relations published in the Finnish media," Reinsalu wrote on his social media account Saturday.

"Our special relationship with Finland is greatly treasured, and some inappropriate statements from last year have not harmed it, though these could have been left unsaid," he added.

"The prime ministers of our countries communicated intensively both during the previous government, when a joint government meeting was held - a historical precedent, and now. The prime ministers call each other and communicate directly. The same goes for foreign ministers."

The foreign minister also said that in-country political alignments do not directly transfer in international relations.

Interior minister: Ugly end to a diplomatic career

Interior minister Mart Helme told ETV current affairs show "Aktutual kaamera" (AK) Saturday that Tiido had put his political career to an unseemly end, and concurred that Estonian-Finnish relations remain strong.

"I would say that Harri Tiido has brought very ugly and low point to his diplomatic career. It is certainly not appropriate for a diplomat to criticize his government and minister, and government parties, in this way. It just doesn't suit," Helme said.

Tiido had a background in radio and has worked at the foreign affairs ministry for 20 years, including stints as ambassador to NATO and to Poland.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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