The Estonian ambassador to Finland resigns in a protest against the government

The Estonian ambassador to Finland, Harri Tiido, resigned his post and is leaving the foreign service in a protest against the current government of Estonia.

Tiido told the Finnish national broadcasting, Yle, that his worldview is so different from the current Estonian government’s that he had to leave his post – because the government didn’t. He stated that one partner in the current coalition, the ultra-right-wing Estonian Conservative People’s Party (better known by the acronym, EKRE) has positions that have reduced Estonia’s international playing space and affected the relations between Finland and Estonia.

Tiido said in the interview that one example of that would be when the former chairman of EKRE, Mart Helme, called the Finnish prime minister, Sanna Marin, a “salesgirl”. “Yes, they may think that they’re saying this in Estonia and in Estonian, that it has a domestic political purpose,” he noted. “But everyone knows everything these days. And if diplomats have to ask for support from Finland, then after a statement like this it’s very difficult to turn to the Finns.”

Hopefully no lasting damage

The ambassador said he hoped that there won’t be any lasting damage in the relations between the two countries and the situation will be temporary. “And this is my problem, if I don’t like it (the current government – editor), I can’t represent it,” he added.

The Estonian foreign minister, Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa party) wrote on Facebook that he thanks Tiido for his long service, but he won’t agree with Tiido’s “diagnosis” of the Estonian-Finnish relations. “Our special relationship with Finland is a huge treasure and some inappropriate statement from the last year hasn’t ruined it, even though they shouldn’t have happened,” Reinsalu said.

Urmas Paet, an Estonian member of the European Parliament, posted on Facebook that it’s unprecedented in the Estonian diplomacy that an experienced diplomat and ambassador leaves the foreign service and resigns his post because he doesn’t want to represent the government and its policy.

A radio journalist turned into a diplomat

“Tiido’s leaving interview should be taken seriously because when diplomats are starting to resign because of the government’s actions in damaging Estonia’s international relations, then the situation is very serious,” Paet said. “Diplomats, too, have the right and the option to think with their own heads.”

Tiido, 66, told the Finnish broadcasting that he will now retire and he doesn’t have any plans, but he noted that his wife doesn’t believe he will stay home and read books. Ambassador Tiido used to be a radio journalist who started working at the foreign ministry in 2000. He was a vice secretary-general, specialising in security policy, and has held multiple ambassadorial posts, including with NATO, in Poland and in Finland.

Cover: Estonia’s former ambassador to Finland, Harri Tiido. Photo by Mauri Ratilainen, the Finnish parliament.

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