Estonia’s Interior Minister Mart Helme has launched an attack on the Finnish government, telling a radio programme “we see that the saleswoman has become a prime minister, while some other street activists and illiterate people have become members of the government.”
Helme is the founder of the far right ethno-nationalist Conservative People’s Party Ekre, which has close links with Finland’s Finns Party. His party is one of three that make up Estonia’s coalition government.
In his comments 70-year old Helme brought up Finland’s Civil War in reference to the new red-green government which was sworn in last week.
“Now we can see the revenge of the Reds on Whites, that is, the Red who wanted to liquidate Finland have come to power and are now trying to make Finland a kind of a Euro-province which might be called Suomi or Finland” he said on Sunday.
Helme “seriously damaged Estonia’s relations” with Finland
Paet explains that Helme is well-known in his homeland for outlandish public outbursts, and is calling for him to be removed from his post over the comments about Finland, and Prime Minister Marin.
“Here in Estonia we know that this gentlemen is is doing very strange statements every day, or at least once a week. The problem is it’s not just him. He’s the Minister of Interior, he is a member of Estonia’s government, and in this sense people in Finland or people in other countries don’t know who he is speaking for” Paet tells News Now Finland.
“He already influences badly Estonia’s image in Finland, and Estonia’s image abroad.”
Paet, from the opposition Reform Party, says that since Ekre became part of the Estonian government, the coalition has been hit by scandal after scandal.
“But now it’s not just Estonian internal business. With these kind of statements it damages Estonia’s image outside, and today in Finland” he adds.
Reaction from Estonia’s leadership
Estonian Prime Minister Jüri Ratas was forced to make an apology on Sunday evening for his minister’s comments, and try to repair the diplomatic incident between the Baltic neighbours.
Writing on Facebook, Ratas said that “Finland is a close ally and friend with whom all the governments of the Republic of Estonia have worked well and closely”.
“This has not been affected by what kind of democratic parties belong to or run the coalition governments of either country” he said.
“I personally had a very good cooperation with both the previous two prime ministers of Finland as well as already positive first contacts with their new government leader” says Ratas.
The Estonian and Finnish prime ministers met this week in Brussels at the European Council meeting, when Ratas gave Marin a bunch of flowers to congratulate her on becoming PM.
Finnish government’s diplomatic response
Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin (SDP) had a cool response on Twitter.
Writing late Sunday night, she said that she was “extremely proud” of Finland.
“Here, a child from a poor family can get educated and achieve many things in their lives. The cashier of a shop can become a prime minister.”