French President Emmanuel Macron said relations between France and Estonia are excellent, rebuffing rumors of a rift between the countries after visits to Latvia and Lithuania but not Estonia earlier this week.
Speaking at a press conference after the meeting of the Council of the European Union in Brussels on Friday, Macron said: "In recent days, we've had many exchanges of ideas between us, as I visited the Baltic countries. By the way, I would like to use this opportunity to convey a very clear message, because I saw what was reported in Estonian media."
Continuing: "I went to Lithuania and Latvia because I wanted to understand and to hold a strategic dialogue with those countries. I went to Estonia two years ago, therefore I didn't come back this time. I would like to say that I have extremely friendly relations with both the prime minister and the president of Estonia, and in addition, France is very much connected with Estonia in the field of defense in the framework of eFP. Also, we are setting out the strategic format of discussions between the three Baltic countries and France."
Good and close relations between the two countries are demonstrated by nearly 20 visits on the highest political level that have taken place since 2017, including meetings between the presidents, the prime ministers and the ministers of foreign affairs and defense of both countries, the French embassy in Tallinn said.
Earlier this week, it was reported by news portal Delfi that Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Center) did not sign an agreement proposed by Macron in order to placate coalition partner the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE).
Ratas: Delfi is wrong, Franco-Estonian relations strong
Ratas responded to the Delfi article on his social media account late on Thursday afternoon, writing: "Today, I also spoke to President of France Emmanuel Macron about this [situation] in Brussels. We acknowledged that Estonia and France are very close friends and our cooperation is close in many areas. For example, our defense forces stand together in a military operation in Mali."
Ratas said he is also due to visit France soon.
"We are currently preparing for my visit to France. Estonia plans to conclude a bilateral strategic partnership declaration with that country. It intends to address cooperation in the fields of defense, cyber, digital, culture, education and research," he added.
Ratas said the Delfi piece was wrong, in that the reasons for not signing the declaration were not political, but rather its content, particularly with regard to regulation of the domestic media, including social media, and artificial intelligence (AI).
Editor: Helen Wright