Finance minister vows to oppose further EU integration

Minister of Finance Martin Helme (EKRE).
Minister of Finance Martin Helme (EKRE). Source: Anna Aurelia Minev/ERR

Minister of Finance Martin Helme (EKRE) told the Financial Times on Thursday that he will oppose greater integration of Estonia into the eurozone.

Helme, who is also deputy chairman of the coalition Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE), told the Financial Times on Thursday that his party would protect the country's national sovereignty against any moves from Brussels to strengthen monetary union policy or adopt a common immigration policy.

"I don't see a reason for an ever-closer union, and I don't support deeper integration in the EU in general," he said. "We should first do what we have agreed and not focus on finding new ways of integration or deepening integration."

An active campaigner against Estonia's accession to the EU in 2003, Helme said that his party no longer supports leaving the union or the EU's shared currency so long as the EU remains a "union of nation states."

"We do not contest Estonia's participation in the EU or the eurozone," the minister said ahead of his first meeting at the eurogroup of finance ministers in Brussels on Thursday.

FT highlights controversial gestures, statements

Helme and his father, Minister of the Interior and EKRE chairman Mart Helme, have attracted heavy criticism for their use of the controversial "OK" hand sign, criticized by many as a white nationalist dogwhistle, the Financial Times wrote.

The finance minister denied that the hand gesture was a "white power" symbol and said he would continue to make the gesture as a form of defiance of "left-wing radicals who want to hijack language."

He also stood by his 2013 comments on African immigration — including "If you're black, go back" —  claiming that they were "taken out of context."

"I am not a racist," Helme asserted. "People who refuse to participate in collective national suicide through immigration are labeled racist."

Borrow, not pay down deficit

The Financial Times noted that, as finance minister, Helme wants to slash Estonia's excise duties on alcohol and fuel, and has called the country's commitment to balanced budgets an "absurdity."

Although he wants to take advantage of the country's low public debt to increase government borrowing and stop paying down the deficit in good economic times, Helme insisted that Estonia would not breach EU spending rules.

"We have lots of leeway to relax our budget rules and stay within the [EU's] framework," he told the news outlet.


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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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