Martin Helme: Nothing scandalous about comparing EU to Soviet Union

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

In response to criticism by Undersecretary for European Affairs Matti Maasikas of a statement made by Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) chairman and Minister of the Interior Mart Helme, EKRE deputy chairman and Minister of Finance Martin Helme asserted that there is nothing scandalous about comparing the EU to the Soviet Union.

"Matti Maasikas, who for the past ten years has served the EU exclusively, is demanding answers from the government about foreign policy because our party chairman congratulated Boris Johnson, who rose to become the leader of another conservative party, and wished him strength and determination in implementing political guidelines received from the British in a referendum, i.e. Brexit," EKRE deputy chairman and Minister of Finance Martin Helme wrote on social media on Wednesday afternoon.

He noted that Maasikas currently works for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, but will soon return to serving the EU, this time in Ukraine.

"There is nothing scandalous in comparing the Soviet Union and the European Union," Helme continued. "In both cases, only one 'correct' (clearly leftist) ideology applies, and opponents of this ideology are considered enemies that must be repressed; the exit of both unions has been declared unthinkable; in both unions, elections may be held (even referendums!), but only supporters of the right ideology may be in power ([President] Kersti K[aljulaid] essentially just told us as much just recently; in both unions, nationalist powers have been declared the main enemy of the current order.

"What is scandalous, however, is how a civil servant presents questions to ministers in a demanding, downright threatening tone and from a superior position," the EKRE deputy chairman concluded. "Who do you think you are? We are in the government precisely to put an end to such governance!"

Following a congratulatory message sent to Tory leader Boris Johnson by Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) chairman and Minister of the Interior Mart Helme in which the latter compared the EU to the Soviet Union, Undersecretary for European Affairs Matti Maasikas asked in a social media post addressed at Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Centre) and Minister of Foreign Affairs Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa) on Wednesday whether Estonia's foreign policy course remained unchanged.

Ratas: Wrong to compare EU, Soviet Union

"Let me say this: we have absolutely no reason to seek historical comparisons to the EU," Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Centre) told ERR on Wednesday when asked what he thought of Mart Helme's statement directly comparing the EU to the Soviet Union.

In a post on social media posted minutes before Martin Helme's, Ratas also stressed that even EKRE has agreed to the principles of the government's policy and must adhere to them.

"There is not a single bigger party in Estonia that would have seriously doubted our belonging to the EU," the head of government wrote. "The current government's coalition agreement states that we will base our foreign and security policy on Estonia's national interests, our national sovereignty and international law, following international agreements and the principles of the United Nations. Likewise we will implement independent and consistent foreign and security policy, first and foremost via our membership in the EU and NATO. The unity and cooperation of the EU and NATO are crucial to Estonia. We consider the EU a union of states, not as a federation. All of our parliamentary parties would sign off without hesitation on these principles alone. The Conservative People's Party of Estonia has likewise signed off on them. As a result, EKRE politicians must also heed these principles in their statements and actions. We have absolutely no reason whatsoever to seek historical comparisons to the EU. These would be artificial, or lies altogether."

Brexit regrettable, says Ratas

The prime minister confirmed to ERR that the direction of Estonia's foreign policy has not changed, adding that the U.K.'s departure from the EU, popularly known as Brexit, is regrettable.

"The course of Estonia's foreign policy is the same as we have been building for years — that is certain membership in the EU and NATO, active membership in both — in both the EU and NATO — that is definitely maintaining the unity of the EU," Ratas said. "And if we're talking about the U.K.'s choice of new prime minister and Brexit, then for me at least, the U.K.'s departure from the EU is sad and regrettable. In my opinion it is very difficult to see a victory for any side here — be it the British, other member states or the EU as a whole. At the same time, we must all come to terms with the democratic decision that residents of the U.K. made three years ago."

Asked whether a change in Estonia's foreign policy doesn't demonstrate closer cooperation with Poland and Hungary, in connection with whom doubts have developed regarding whether or not they are following the norms of the rule of law, Ratas replied that Estonia wants to maintain EU unity and continues to communicate with all of its member states.

"On the subject of EU unity, we have to take all 27 members into account — whether they are Benelux states, Baltic states, Nordic states, or Visegrád states," the prime minister said. "This needs to be sought between and within all [member] states. Speaking of Visegrád states, we hold common positions with them on several topics — if we consider, for example, cooperation between the Baltic states and Poland on the construction of Rail Baltica, on ensuring [electricity grid] synchronization, more broadly on agricultural support, for example; if we consider, for example, military security aspects, then certainly [NATO's] enhanced Forward Presence (eFP), which is in four countries — Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. This certainly means strong allied relationships with the French and Danes as well, in air policing with very many EU member states, which naturally overlap with NATO member states. And so I also believe that our job must be to ensure that we within the EU ourselves don't say that there is one group of one kind of states and another group of another kind of states."


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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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