Former President Toomas Hendrik Ilves made it clear yesterday that in his opinion, Andreas Lehmann, CEO of Trüb Baltic and local representative of ID card producer Gemalto, is a Nazi. And that in Lehmann's eyes, the Estonians are what President Ilves has called Ost-Untermenschen — "inferior beings." The businessman brought the wrath of the ex president unto himself by pointing to the somewhat slow pace of life during the Estonian summer.
Lehmann wrote in a post on LinkedIn a few days ago that contrary to what the Estonian authorities are saying, he informed them about the potential security risk regarding Estonia's ID cards months ahead of the time the government eventually addressed the issue in public. In the post, he speculated that the slow pace of life during summer may have contributed to the state's delayed response, which is what President Ilves decided merited a comment.
Lehmann has been in Estonia since 2003 and speaks the local language fluently. His ties to Estonia and his social standing were deemed good enough to make him honorary consul of Switzerland. A total of 14 years in the country, the language learned, a position of that standing... Yes, we are clearly looking at someone who hates Estonia and the Estonians, and has a deep sense of disrespect for the locals.
Either that, or President Ilves' post doesn't show too much thoughtful reflection.
Let's have a look at that infamous Estonian summer, then. One of the things about Estonian business that takes some getting used to for most foreign entrepreneurs is that customers won't pay their bills in the months between May and September.
Earlier this year, a British friend of mine couldn't believe that his business suddenly seemed on the verge of insolvency in spite of outstanding invoices worth tens of thousands of euros. He wasn't much consoled by the assurances offered by his friends that come September, things would be fine.
But the bills were all paid in the first week of September.
Lehmann has a point when he says that the summer holidays affect quite a lot going on in this country. Anyone interested in the state and public utilities' working speed in June, July, and August should try it for themselves.
And yes, things have improved recently, but it's still hit and miss. You may end up waiting a rather long time for a response. So much for the summer.
Whether or not Lehmann actually told the authorities about the flaw in June, that question became more interesting on Thursday when Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Center) was painfully specific confirming to the media that Gemalto had not sent them a "digitally signed document" as the conditions of the state and Gemalto's contract demand it.
A reporter for the Delfi.ee news portal then specifically asked Ratas in the early afternoon whether this meant that the authorities had already known about the security risk related to the ID cards' chips in June. Ratas avoided answering the question.
These statements are the first signs that the state is now backtracking, leaving the situation as follows: Lehmann told them in June, the authorities knew about the risk, but they elected not to act until after the summer, and kept the matter from becoming a substantial public issue until after the local elections on Oct. 15.
So was Lehmann really so far off the mark with his comment? Apparently so, at least in the eyes of the former president. In response to Lehmann, President Ilves chose to call him a racist and opined that in Silicon Valley, people would probably call him a Nazi as well, adding that he certainly would. President Ilves then doubled down, saying that Lehmann sees Eastern Europeans as Ost-Untermenschen, and demanded a public apology from his company.
Well, then. So in Silicon Valley they would call Lehmann a Nazi, or at least President Ilves would. This causes me to ask myself, all things considered, what the likes of Lehmann might call President Ilves in one of their own valleys in Switzerland. A pompous blowhard, perhaps.
But then again, I'm sure that in the president's eyes this whole comment of mine is moot, since he has several options to choose from — I am either a clueless foreigner, an arrogant and patronizing Westerner, or part of the Estonian media's community of hack writers, the infamous tintla. Anything the president may choose in this particular instance to distract from the fact that the Great Estonian Tiger came out of this summer with a bit of a limp.
Editor: Aili Vahtla