EKRE hand signal concerning, says former Swedish prime minister Carl Bildt

Carl Bildt, pictured in 2014 when still Swedish foreign minister.
Carl Bildt, pictured in 2014 when still Swedish foreign minister. Source: Reuters/Scanpix

Former Swedish prime minister Carl Bildt has weighed-in on the debate surrounding a hand signal made by leader of the Conservative people's Party of Estonia (EKRE), and incoming interior minister, Mart Helme, and his son, new finance minister Martin Helme, at the government's swearing-in ceremony at the Riigikogu on Monday afternoon.

''I get genuinely worried when I see this behavior by two members of the new government in Estonia,'' Bildt, who was prime minister of Sweden in the early 1990s, and later long-term foreign minister 2006-2014, wrote on his post, which pictured the two men making the gesture at the Riigikogu, a retweet of former Estonian president Toomas Hendrik Ilves' post on the same issue.

Ilves had called the signal a white power sign, in his original tweet.

This is not the first time that members of EKRE have made the signal in recent weeks. Martin Helme made the same gesture at the convening of the XIV Riigikogu on April 4. Some debate has ensued in the media and social media as to its true meaning, with explanations ranging from the gesture being an outright white supremacist/neo-Nazi ''dog whistle'', through to more anodyne interpretations such as aimed at provoking its users' political opponents, or simply the same ''OK'' gesture popular for several decades, and probably originating in divers' sign language.

Another proponent of the same hand gesture is Ruuben Kaalep, elected an EKRE MP after receving only a little over 500 votes in his own right, who, according to investigative weekly Eesti Ekspress, has a long history of involvement with far-right, white supremacist or neo-Nazi groups, online forums and personalities.

Editor: Andrew Whyte

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