After the decision of the council’s parliamentary assembly (PACE) on Tuesday to restore Russia’s voting rights, Minister of the Interior Mart Helme (EKRE) sees no reason why Estonia should spend taxpayer money on contributions to the Council of Europe.
Helme, who is also chairman of the Conservative People’s Party of Estonia (EKRE), told media on Thursday that the council has “clearly given defending the principles of the rule of law.”
“The Council of Europe and its parliamentary assembly are tasked with defending the principles of the rule of law. If a state that has mounted a military attack against two other members of the Council of Europe is invited to return to the table by virtue of the votes of politicians of Western Europe, then this organization has clearly given up defending the principles of the rule of law,” Helme said at Thursday’s government press conference.
Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Centre), though having condemned PACE’s decision, said that Estonia needs to find likeminded partners within the council rather than leaving it.
The minister added that the current situation also serves as an example of how European institutions would likely react in the case of Russian military aggression directed against the Baltic states.
According to Helme, the pattern is already there: the West would condemn Russia’s actions, look for token punishment, and then cancel the latter again within five years on the pretext that a “dialogue” is needed with the aggressor.
The implications of Tuesday’s vote are serious, and Estonia’s foreign policy must draw the appropriate conclusions, Helme said.
“First of all, the people shaping Estonia’s foreign policy need to give up the illusion that Old Europe will still open its eyes as a result of our raising awareness,” Helme insisted. “Their eyes have been open for a long time, and what’s behind them is a lack of principles.”
“Secondly, relations with our real allies for security in Eastern Europe need to be strengthened. And thirdly, Western Europe must be sent a clear signal that we consider constitutional nihilism to be unacceptable,” Helme said.
Steps to be taken immediately include Estonia suspending its membership in PACE, along with other Eastern European council members that voted against reinstating Russia’s voting rights, Helme added. That taxpayer money is spent on an organization so unreliable cannot be justified, he argued, though he conceded that foreign policy officials can’t be quite as hot-headed as party politicians.