Opposition leaders support resigned ambassador, say coalition security risk

Leaders of the two opposition parties, Kaja Kallas and Indrek Saar.
Leaders of the two opposition parties, Kaja Kallas and Indrek Saar. Source: Siim Lõvi / ERR

Opposition party leaders and parliamentarians have issued support for Estonia's ambassador to Finland Harri Tiido, whose resignation was broken in the Finnish media Saturday morning. The members of the Reform Party and the Social Democratic Party (SDE), both in opposition at the Riigikogu, said that the words and actions of the current coalition of the Center Party, the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) and Isamaa jeopardized Estonia's standing internationally, to the extent of this presenting a security threat, and that Tiido stepping down was a natural outcome of the state of affairs.

Reform Party leader Kaja Kallas noted Tiido's experience, and pointed to his actions being one of the results of the current administration pushing Estonia into perilous isolation, so far as values went.

"Ambassador Harri Tiido has represented the Estonian state for many years, and such an experienced person leaving the post of ambassador surely a thought-through decision," Kallas wrote on her social media account Saturday.

"Behind Harry's bold and honest words reflects a much deeper problem, one which I have pointed out before. The current Estonian government is gradually pushing us into values-based isolation, and this is a direct threat to our security," she added.

SDE leader: Coalition dismantling decades of diplomatic work

Indrek Saar, SDE leader, echoed these words.

"Unfortunately, it must be acknowledged that Tiido is not the first Estonian diplomat to acknowledge that Ratas' current government is constantly scattering our international relations into the wind. This is a telling assessment of the government. Today's administration dismantles all that our diplomats work for every day, what they have been builing for decades. "

Urmas Paet, one of Reform's two MEPs, said that Tiido's resignation was without precedent, and a serious issue.

"It is unprecedented in Estonian diplomacy for a long-termediplomat and experienced ambassador to leave both their current job as well as the foreign service because they do not want to represent the government and its policy internationally; because they feel and sense that such policies undermine Estonia's international position." Paet wrote on his social media account Saturday.

"Starting with hatred of minorities and ending with a public insult made against the prime minister of Finland by a member of the Estonian government," he added.

"Harri Tiido has always been a person of critical mind and has seen many a thing over the decades. Yet the undermining of Estonia's international positions by the present government was too much even for him. A person of independent thinking just was no longer able to play along and put on a positive face in matters that he knew were detrimental to Estonia in foreign policy."

Reform MP and chair of the Riigikogu's foreign affairs committee Marko Mihlkelson said similarly: "Harri's bold and frank remarks mirror a much deeper problem, to which I have drawn attention also earlier."

"The present Estonian government is pushing us, step by step, into value-based isolation, and this is a direct threat to our security," Mihkelson continued on his social media account.

"The foreign policy mantra of Estonia - never again alone - means foremost our belonging to the Western realm of values, central to which is the human being, with respect for and protection of their freedoms and rights. This is ensured by strong rule of law, not a rule of power that twists values as it pleases."

"I cannot remember of any of our ambassadors since 1991 having quit with the acknowledgment that it is difficult for them to represent their government due to the latter's actions," he added, though said that Tiido was not the only Estonian diplomat to have raised such issues recently, citing the example of Matti Maasikas, head of the EU's delegation to Ukraine, who expressed concerns finance minister and new EKRE leader Martin Helme made between the EU and the Soviet Union just over a year ago.

Tiido, 66, announced his resignation via Finland's public broadcaster YLE, saying that he could no longer go along with being the diplomatic representative of the current coalition lineup and referring to EKRE's presence in the government in particular, whose then-leader Mart Helme made disparaging remarks about Finnish premier Sanna Marin late last year. A summary of the interview can be read here in English.

Tiido, who said his age was also a factor in his decision to step down, also noted a divergence in the political alignment of both countries governments, both of which are ruled by coalition, with Estonia seeing a lurch towards the right at a time when Finland had seen one to the left.

Prime minister Jüri Ratas (Center) and foreign minister Urmas Resinasalu (Isamaa), Tiido's ultimate boss, rejected Tiido's claims and pointed to strong relations between the two countries, both in the day-to-day and in recent symbolic actions such as marking the centennial of diplomatic relations between the two states – who became independent in 1917 (Finland) and 1920 (Estonia) – earlier in the summer.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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