Le Pen visit reactions: Abhorrent and not in Estonia's interests

Keit Pentus-Rosimannus (Reform).
Keit Pentus-Rosimannus (Reform). Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

Leading members of the two opposition parties at the Riigikogu, Reform and the Social Democratic Party (SDE), have issued their reactions to the visit of Marine Le Pen, leader of the French right-wing populist and nationalist National Rally, who was invited by members of the coalition Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE).

Keit Pentus-Rosimannus (Reform), a former foreign minister, said on Tuesday that the meeting between EKRE and Le Pen is eating away at Estonia's foreign policy course, BNS reports, quoting daily Postimees.

"A year ago, France took over safeguarding Estonia's airspace. We highly appreciate the contributions of all our allies," Pentus-Rosimannus said, referring to French fighter jets participating in NATO's Baltic Air Policing duties.

She went on to state that the reasons and the situation which have prompted a more pronounced presence of NATO allies in Estonia are obvious: "When a governmental party hosts an opponent of the French government, who says that what occurred in Ukraine never happened, and defends the annexation of Crimea, then what message does Estonia intend to send to the French leadership? What message is it sending to Ukraine, which the new [Estonian] government has expressed its support for?"

Marine Le Pen came second in the 2017 French presidential election, behind Emmanuel Macron. EKRE leader Mart Helme has previously pointed out the divergence between Le Pen's views on the 2014 annexation of Crimea by the Russian Federation, and fighting in Eastern Ukraine, involving pro-Russian or Russian-backed insurgents, both of which he says his party opposes. 

Keit Pentus-Rosimannus also noted that a number of members of EKRE had previously tried to give the impression they had nothing to do with Le Pen's visit to Estonia.

"We saw today that those who met with the French member of the opposition and right-wing extremist Marine Le Pen also included leaders of an Estonian governmental party and members of that government. This eats away at our state's foreign policy course. Leaders of the government party and members of the government should not have met with a person who has ferociously taken to supporting Putin's actions in Ukraine, defended the annexation of Crimea, and in fact said the invasion of the Crimean Peninsula never happened," the Reform Party member said.

Marine Le Pen arrived in Tallinn on Monday night and was met by EKRE MP Jaak Madison, among others. She appeared at a press conference with members of EKRE, a party in office with Centre and Isamaa, and which has five government ministers, as well as having a meeting with members of several far right European parties.

Marko Mihkelson: Likely to isolate Estonia

Meanwhile, Marko Mihkelson (Reform), member and former chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Riigikogu, echoed Pentus-Rosimannus' comments, saying that the current coalition is likely to continue to dismantle Estonia's foreign policy and isolate the country from its western allies.

"Jüri Ratas' government will not hold together the foreign policy which has successfully served Estonia so far, and is attempting to isolate us from our Western allies and partners," Mihkelson wrote on his social media account Tuesday, as reported by ERR's online Estonian news.

"Inviting Marine Le Pen, an extremist politician destroying European unity in the interests of Russia, with her meeting deputy prime minister Mart Helme and President of the Riigikogu Henn Põlluaas, in a room at the Riigikogu named after Jaan Tõnisson, makes for a poignant impact on Estonia's national interests," Mihkelson continued.

MP Marko Mihkelson (Reform). Source: ERR.

Jaan Tõnisson was prime minister of the newly-independent Estonia twice in 1919 and 1920, as well as State Elder (head of state and government) in the late 1920s, and foreign minister in the early 1930s. After the 1940 Soviet occupation of Estonia, he was arrested and put on trial, and subsequently executed, though the exact details of his death and place of burial remain unknown.

"Did you see the French ambassador [to Estonia] appearing alongside Le Pen? Of course not. This is an obvious indication of how this visit is viewed by France. Naturally, Le Pen will not be visiting Tapa [Army Base], where French battalions are serving, because, after all, NATO is a 'red flag' for her," he continued.

"EKRE can talk about not sharing Le Pen's views on Russia, but they have a common understanding on the future of the European Union, which [the understanding] is worthless talk," he wrote.

"Le Pen does not get Russia's support for her 'Kremlin-mindedness' ... but it still provides aid in dismantling a united Europe and then, one by one, proud nation states come under its sphere of influence," he continued.

"All of this runs directly counter to the national interests of Estonia. If EU unity disappears, when sanctions against Russia fall by the wayside before aggression in Ukraine comes to an end, and if the same extremists are hesitant about the necessity of NATO's efforts, then Estonia will face a very serious security threat. Nevertheless, Prime Minister Ratas could then finally take the reins and decide whether the road to isolation is still what he would like to go down in Estonian history for," Mihkelson concluded in his post.

Mikser: Content is more appalling than rhetoric

Former foreign minister Sven Mikser (SDE), who left office when the current coalition was sworn-in in late April, also wrote in a similar vein about Marine Le Pen's visit, on his social media account.

"The visit of the leader of right-wing French extremists also gives a clear indication of the goals of the extremists here in Estona. And again, the content is even more horrific than the rhetoric," Mikser wrote.

Sven Mikser (SDE). Source: ERR.

"Le Pen, hosted by EKRE, has been saying that the dismantling of the EU takes a higher priority than opposing Putin's military policy in changing borders. In other words, breaking up Europe is a 'national conservative' policy more important than protecting Estonia's national security interests, and the fundamental principles of international law. This is not in Estonia's national interests," Mikser said.

"Plus the coalition partners from the prime minister and foreign ministers' parties are simply crying crocodile tears over the spectacle," he went on, referring to Centre and Isamaa, the other two parties in the current coalition.

"This latter development would be comical, were it not so tragic and abhorrent," he added.

Marine Le Pen took part in a press conference with leading EKRE members on Tuesday afternoon.

Editor: Andrew Whyte

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