Riigikogu foreign affairs committee chair Marko Mihkelson (Reform) said Wednesday that the coalition government is moving gradually towards a redefinition of the country's foreign policy approach, following an announcement by interior minister Mart Helme (EKRE) that he was investigating the possibility of revoking visa-free entry to the country for Ukrainian citizens.
Under the terms of a 2017 agreement, Ukrainian citizens can enter the EU without a visa as had previously been the case. Helme announced via a Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) site, echoing comments he had made to ERR's Russian-language channel ETV+, that this could constitute a "trojan horse" which would benefit the Russian Federation, as well as putting unacceptable pressure on the country's eastern border. Many construction companies in particular employ seasonal Ukrainian workers, a practice which Helme criticized.
"This is unfortunately yet another example of how the government of Jüri Ratas is moving step by step to change the foreign policy course of Estonia," Mihkelson said on his social media page, BNS reports.
"Even [Russian president Vladimir] Putin has not called Ukraine a trojan horse for Europe. Now a member of the Estonian government is doing it," Mihkelson added.
"Estonia always stands to gain more than it could lose from a visa-free system. Ukraine is not a problem country regarding illegal immigration. Let us not forget, Ukraine is fighting also for us when it fights to stop the Russian aggression. Over the past 24 hours, six Ukrainian soldiers were injured on the front line," Mihkelson added, referring to ongoing insurgent fighting in the eastern part of the country since 2014, between pro-Russian forces and Ukrainian government forces.
Earlier on Wednesday, foreign minister Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa) said lifting the visa-waiver for Ukrainians was neither possible nor in Estonia's interest, recommending better policing to prevent any possible abuse of the system.
Editor: Andrew Whyte