French National Rally leader Marine Le Pen arrives in Estonia
Marine Le Pen, the leader of the French right-wing populist and nationalist National Rally, arrived in Estonia late Monday night, where she was welcomed by several Estonians, including Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) deputy chairman Jaak Madison, daily Postimees reported on Tuesday.
Asked by ERR's Tarmo Maiberg at Tallinn Airport about the reason for her visit, Le Pen replied, "I came here to meet with EKRE leaders, with whom we plan to form a joint group in the European Parliament — together with [Italy's] Matteo Salvini, the Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ), and our Flemish, Danish and Finnish friends."
She added that every country has the right to its own foreign policy, and that is what freedom means.
Asked about her expectations regarding Estonia and Europe, Le Pen said that her hope is a Europe of nations.
The French politician is scheduled to meet with EKRE leaders on Tuesday.
Le Pen's visit to Estonia was announced last Monday by Madison, one of EKRE's candidates for the European Parliament in the upcoming elections, in a social media post. It was established on Friday that EKRE will also be hosting several other European politicians in Tallinn, some of whom have also been to Russian-annexed Crimea and thus justified Russia's activity there, the paper highlighted.
Le Pen also considers Crimea a part of Russia.
A meeting will be held at the House of the Blackheads in Tallinn's Old Town on Tuesday, to be attended by Madison, Le Penn, Finns Party representative Olli Kotro, Danish People's Party representative Anders Vistisen, as well as Manuel Vescovi of Italy's Lega Nord.
Madison: Many of EKRE's views differ from Le Pen's
In 2015, Le Pen voted against a resolution in the European Parliament demanding the release of Estonian Internal Security Service (ISS) officer Eston Kohver from Russian prison after he was abucted from Estonian soil in September 2014.
According to Madison, why Le Pen voted against this resolution can be asked at a bilateral meeting.
The EKRE deputy chairman added that many of EKRE's views differ from those of Le Pen. "In foreign policy, direction is set first and foremost by geographic location, a sense of history and personal experience," he explained.
"We emphasize a strong need for cooperation with the U.S. and NATO in foreign policy; France had not had the concerns we historically have, and thus we definitely have different approaches," he continued.
Such meetings will allow for these issues to be discussed directly, Madison stressed, noting that security issues and Russia will definitely be touched upon during Le Pen's visit to Estonia.
"I think that Estonian politicians have also often been pro-Kremlin," the EKRE deputy chair said. "Even if we consider the behavior of President Kersti Kaljulaid, when she invites the Russian president —the president of an aggressive country that is currently occupying areas of Ukraine and Georgia as well as post-Treaty of Tartu areas on the other side of the Estonian border — to visit Estonia, we can ask whether that isn't also a pro-Kremlin mindset. So we can find this pro-Kremlin mindset in many cases. Le Pen's statements undoubtedly overlap with those of most German and French politicians, regardless of party or worldview, as this kind of friendliness toward Russia is very noticeable in all parties there," he added.
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Editor: Aili Vahtla