'Olukorrast riigis' criticized Kallas' public letter to Finnish PM

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Indrek Lepik and Hindrek Riikoja. Source: Siiri Lubasoo/ERR

Hosts of the Raadio 2 "Olukorrast riigis" talk show found, when commenting on Prime Minister Kaja Kallas' official letter to her Finnish colleague, that it did nothing to help resolve the [labor commuting] issue between Estonia and Finland.

"Looking at this whole situation, Kallas' statements aimed at Finland from the past few weeks are quite baffling. First, she said on ETV that everything is connected to looming local elections [in Finland] and that the Finnish government won't dare decide anything before then. Next, Kallas took an unprecedented step to say the least when she summoned the Finnish ambassador, which is usually something done by the foreign ministry. Then, Kallas sent [her Finnish counterpart] Sanna Marin a so-called personal letter but not to her office or home address but instead to Finnish daily Helsingin Sanomat. To top everything off, Kallas said in the second half of the week that no matter what Marin might say, she will not believe her before she sees draft legislation," Hindrek Riikoja said.

Co-host Indrek Lepik found that the week has been spent discussing the meta level of the conversation: "We spend less time talking about whether Estonia and Finland should resolve this matter than we do discussing what Kallas meant and Marin wants. Because the Finnish PM also managed to say she perceives this as Estonian domestic politics where the government needs to demonstrate working for the people.

Riikoja found that Kallas has opted for the wrong approach as launching negotiations by trying to hurt the other side will lead nowhere.

"Let us consider how we would have reacted had the PM of Ukraine sent a similar letter to then PM Jüri Ratas and had it published in the newspaper last spring. I believe that Estonia's reaction would have been far sharper and more painful than what we've seen in Finland," Riikoja said. "Such letters are not used to conduct negotiations and reach compromises. More so when they come from the Reform Party that has always maintained that foreign policy needs to transcend parties and not proceed from domestic issues. Reform have been saying that for decades, while Kallas is doing just the opposite now – turning a foreign policy issue into a domestic one," he said.

Riikoja compared Kallas' conduct to that of the previous government's Interior Minister Mart Helme (EKRE) who said of Sanna Marin that a shop assistant has become the Finnish prime minister.

"Mart Helme's statement and his choice of words were inappropriate to say the least, while this latest move by Kallas is not far behind. It is just as inappropriate and does nothing to help Estonia-Finland relations. It also does not help move past this problem as it cannot be resolved in this manner. Kallas knows this full well. Sanna Marin was right to suggest that Kallas has taken these steps following domestic interests – to show that she is doing something. And without heed to the fact that her words cannot help resolve the impasse. It is regrettable," Riikoja found.

Lepik said he is conflicted about Kallas' letter because the situation really is abnormal for people whom it concerns. "In that sense, criticism is not misplaced, while I do agree that the letter failed to solve the problem," Lepik remarked.

He said that the average Finn might see the average Estonian as the latter see Ukrainians. "It is difficult to gauge how much sympathy Estonians' problems spark," the host admitted.

When Lepik suggested that perhaps Kallas felt she needed to take action because Minister of Foreign Affairs Eva-Maria Liimets had failed to solve the problem, Riikoja found that the foreign ministry cannot really be accused of inaction. "Do you really need to advertise it if your efforts are unsuccessful following objective reasons? Can that help us? Not in practical terms. What good would Liimets talking about her activities in a situation where we have gotten nowhere do? Perhaps things could have been handled differently, but we cannot say the ministry has overlooked the problem."

Riikoja also pointed to the style of former Foreign Minister Urmas Reinsalu. Let us think of the previous foreign minister who was the bride in every wedding and the departed in every funeral – but did Reinsalu talking about his activities really change anything? Did Finland react differently last year just because Reinsalu allegedly did something and then advertised it? It didn't. Nor did his statements affect Poland's decision to close borders to transit last spring."

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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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