Populist Revolt Spreads: Estonia’s New Govt Ministers Will Oppose EU Integration

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RAIGO PAJULA/AFP/Getty Images
JACK MONTGOMERY

The leader of the Estonian Conservative People’s Party (EKRE), who recently joined a new coalition government in the Baltic country following a populist breakthrough in national elections, has vowed to oppose further centralisation in the European Union.

“I don’t see a reason for ‘ever closer union’ and I don’t support deeper integration in the EU in general,” said Martin Helme, who campaigned against Estonia’s accession to the bloc in the early 2000s.

“We should first do what we have agreed and not focus on finding new ways of integration or deepening integration,” added the 43-year-old, who serves as Minister of Finance in the new government, alongside EKRE chairman and founder Mart Helme — his father — as Minister of the Interior.

EKRE’s elevation to the Estonian government is another brick out of the wall for the so-called European project, aimed at gradually integrating the member-states of the European Union along federal lines, similar to the United States of America.

Left-neoliberal commentators experienced particular consternation when the Helmes threw up Trump-style “OK” hand signs when they were sworn into office — as much of the mainstream media have been successfully trolled into believing that it is a covert signal for “white power” by users of the 4chan image board.

Martin Helme told Britain’s Financial Times he would continue to use the gesture as a sign of defiance to “left-wing radicals who want to hijack language.”

He also defended a previous statement that “What is racist in Europe nowadays is the replacement of indigenous people. That is pure racism,” as well as negative comments on African immigration which he said had been  “taken out of context.”

“I am not a racist. People who refuse to participate in collective national suicide through immigration are labelled racist,” Helme insisted.

“We don’t want to be replaced in Estonia with foreigners,” he elaborated in another interview.

“[It] does not make any difference whether they are from Ukraine or from Nigeria… They are not Estonians.”

The EKRE leader’s past comments, while blunt to the point of insensitivity by the standards of Western Europe, might be better understood in the wider context of the Baltic states’ dire demographic situation.

Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania all have very small populations hovering around 1-3 million — including sizeable Russian minorities transplanted to their countries by Communist regimes while they were subsumed in the Soviet Union, to better erode their sense of national identity.

Since they joined the European Union and acceded to its Free Movement rules, all have experienced mass emigration crises — with Lithuania being literally decimated by the outflow of some 12 per cent of the population over just ten years, for example — threatening their very existence as viable nation-states over the long term.

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