Estonia Apologizes After Official Calls New Finnish PM ‘Cashier’

December 17, 2019 0 By HearthstoneYarns

(Bloomberg) — Estonia apologized to its biggest trading partner after a nationalist official from the Baltic country’s ruling coalition insulted Finland’s new prime minister.

President Kersti Kaljulaid called her counterpart in Helsinki following weekend comments by EKRE party head Mart Helme calling Sanna Marin, who recently became the world’s youngest premier, a “cashier” — a reference to a previous job she held.

Helme said “other street activists and uneducated people have also become government members” in Finland, adding that Sanna’s government wanted to “desperately liquidate Finland.” He also blamed the media for misinterpreting him and said he’d apologize only through a message from the prime minister.

The U-turn is the latest embarrassment for European Union, euro and NATO member Estonia since the populist EKRE joined government in April. Helme and his son, Martin, who serves as finance minister, have said they want to keep their country racially pure and has used white-supremacist gestures. The coalition has repeatedly flirted with breakup and again averted a collapse on Monday.

Kaljulaid told the Postimees newspaper that she asked Prime Minister Juri Ratas to consider replacing Helme. Ratas’s government is “undermining the constitutional order” and represents a “national security risk,” she was cited as saying.

Ratas has so far refused to do that.

It’s unclear whether Helme’s remarks will do any lasting damage to ties with Finland, with which Estonia shares strong cultural and linguistic links and where about 100,000 of its citizens live and work. Marin brushed off Helme’s insult, saying she was proud of Finland.

“Here a poor family’s child can get an education and go places in life,” she said on Twitter. “A store clerk can become a prime minister. Finland wouldn’t manage without blue-collar workers. I highly appreciate the work every employee, tradesman and entrepreneur does!”

There have been high-level spats before. The two nations’ presidents fell out after the 2008 war between Russia and Georgia, with Finland’s leader accusing his Estonian counterpart of suffering from post-Soviet trauma. There were similar disagreements after Vladimir Putin annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.

In a show of support, Ratas congratulated Marin on her victory on Dec. 11 and gave her a bouquet of flowers at a meeting in Brussels the following day.

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To contact the reporters on this story: Ott Ummelas in Tallinn at oummelas@bloomberg.net;Kati Pohjanpalo in Helsinki at kpohjanpalo@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Andrea Dudik at adudik@bloomberg.net, Andrew Langley

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