Digest: Domestic policy changes already affecting foreign relations

Former Minister of Foreign Affairs Urmas Paet (Reform).
Former Minister of Foreign Affairs Urmas Paet (Reform). Source: Sander Koit/ERR

Former Minister of Foreign Affairs Urmas Paet (Reform) writes in an opinion piece for daily Eesti Päevaleht that the current government's changes to domestic policy have been extensive enough to substantially affect Estonia's foreign policy as well.

In his piece for Päevaleht (link in Estonian), Paet writes that the fields of domestic and foreign policy can hardly be separated completely, and so all decisions, declarations and other measures taken by the current government that are intended for domestic consumption will eventually have an effect on Estonia's foreign policy as well—adding that current minister Urmas Reinsalu's "changed emphasis" (ERR News reported) on "certain policy issues" has already weakened Estonia's relations with its allies.

"Our allies and partners cannot be entirely sure about Estonia anymore," Part writes, going on to ask how they are supposed to deal with a country that made enormous efforts not 20 years ago to join those European countries that are governed by the rule of law in the EU, and that did so to get over the fallout of Soviet occupation for good—only to now hear from a leading government member that the Soviet Union and the European Union are basically the same, and that leaving the EU is the same as breaking free from the Soviet Union.

In his opinion piece, Paet also alludes to the solo run of finance minister Martin Helme (EKRE) at a meeting with his EU counterparts in Brussels in mid June, where Helme insisted on a veto of member states in matters of the European Stability Mechanism, but reportedly found himself a lone voice, increasing the impression of a new course in this issue.

If an Estonian minister is the only one to block the European Stability Mechanism, intended to strengthen Europe, if public statements of several government members go against cooperation with the EU and European countries and even demean that cooperation, and if the minister of foreign affairs takes the specific step to conclude an agreement on migration with Poland and Hungary, both of which are in violation of the principles of the rule of law, and all of this is done where Estonia should be investing in a common foreign and security policy, then this has a direct effect on Estonia, as it does harm to others' trust in the country, weakens Estonia's position internationally, and also its relations with NATO, seeing as most NATO members are also EU members, Paet writes.

Commenting on EKRE government members' reactions to Undersecretary for European Affairs Matti Maasikas, who, as one of Estonia's most experienced diplomats, stands at the pinnacle of a foreign service that for more than 20 years has done outstanding work, Paet says in his piece that the hatred and rage with which Maasikas' comment was met is nothing short of totalitarian—and fits in with other political train wrecks, such as an IT and trade minister who outright refuses to talk to foreigners, or Minister of Culture Tõnis Lukas (Isamaa), who has lectured the president through the media on her choice of state visits invitations.

Maasikas triggered an avalanche of statements and opinions about the state and perspectives of Estonia's foreign policy earlier this month when he wrote in a tweet, "A member of the Government of the Republic is comparing the EU to the Soviet Union. Our diplomats are finding it increasingly difficult to say that policy has not changed."

While Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Centre) defended Maasikas and his right to express his opinion and question government decisions, other politicians, more than anyone else EKRE leaders and ministers Mart and Martin Helme, reacted angrily, questioning Maasikas' qualification and his right to question government members.

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Editor: Dario Cavegn

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