Foreign minister: Media bias and external pressure strengthening coalition

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Urmas Reinsalu on Sunday's "Samost ja Sildam". Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

External pressure, including media bias, is one factor in keeping the current coalition unified, foreign minister Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa) says, despite attempts in the media in particular to bring it down.

Appearing on Sunday's edition of Vikerraadio political talk show "Samost ja Sildam", Reinsalu said that: "The Estonian people are normal; it is the Estonian press which has become radicalized, and Estonian political discourse polarized."

The foreign minister, whose party, Isamaa, has 12 seats at the 101-seat Riigikogu, and is in office with the Center Party (25 seats) and the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE – 19 seats), went on to say that the media blows out of proportion statements made by politicians from the third of these parties in particular, with the aim of destabilizing the coalition.

"This is an organized echo chamber on the part of the media to shake and overthrow the government," Reinsalu said.

Nonetheless, the line-up has been strengthened by these attempts and not weakened, he said, and the continuation of the coalition with no government crisis taking place through the year represented a little Christmas present for the more agreeable Estonian society as a whole, he said.

He said: "I think the present cabinet should continue. One of the strengthening factors for this government has been [pressure] from outside, especially the application of heat on this government by the media. This has been an incredible agenda. Maybe there was a time when this government could have toppled under its own weight. But then the Estonian media came to the rescue, and laid a strong foundation underneath it."

Of concrete examples, Reinsalu was critical of the media as portraying a planned referendum on the definition of marriage as the work of radicals.

EKRE positions and remarks have not harmed Estonia internationally

On the other hand, remarks made by EKRE politicians disparaging the EU, NATO, the U.S. presidential elections, China and Germany's armed forces have not had any untoward affect on Estonia's foreign policy positions or standing, he said.

"The media amplifies this, as if it were the keystone of Estonian life, when it is not," he went on.

Estonia holds a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council (UNSC) for 2020-2021.

Reinsalu said that he could see two parallel realities at play; if such statements had a major impact internationally, the country's diplomatic activity could not have continued as it has, not only on the UNSC but also other supra-national organizations such as the Nordic-Baltic Eight (NB8), the Baltic Council, and the Three Seas Initiative (3SI).

"These statements have not had an impact on our foreign policy, though they can get used in domestic politics," he said.

Reinsalu: EKRE reminds me of my youth

As for coalition partner EKRE, Reinsalu said that its actions are due mainly to its relative youth (the party was founded in 2012 and entered into office nationally for the first time in April 2019 – ed.).

He said: "The fact that there has been such a high turnover of EKRE ministers shows that the party has been having a period of self-discovery. This is a sign of a young political organism. Experienced political organizations have a different, more mature fingerprint; I have to give them the time [to develop that]. When I look at EKRE, I recall my youth."

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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