The New Estonian PM Juri Ratas Doesn’t Bow to Russia and Aims to Increase Trade With Finland

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Jüri Ratas, the Estonian prime minister, meets with his Finnish counterpart, Juha Sipilä, at the prime minister's official residence, Kesäranta, in Helsinki, Finland on Wednesday December 7 2016. Picture: Tony Öhberg for Finland Today

Jüri Ratas, the Estonian prime minister, meets with his Finnish counterpart, Juha Sipilä, at the prime minister’s official residence, Kesäranta, in Helsinki, Finland on Wednesday, December 7, 2016. Picture: Tony Öhberg for Finland Today

Finland seems to be the first stop for the inaugurated Estonian heads of states.  President Kersti Kaljulaid visited Finland in October and now Jüri Ratas, 38, the new prime minister, shook hands with his counterpart, Juha Sipilä, on Wednesday evening at the prime minister’s official residence, Kesäranta. This kind of behavior can be interpreted in only one way: the relations between Finland and Estonia are going strong and, maybe, stronger than ever.

Ratas replaced the former Prime Minister Taavi Rõivas after the Estonian government, Riigikogu, fell in a no-confidence vote in November. Two Estonian government parties, the Social Democratic Party and the conservative Pro Patria and Res Publica Union IRL, were fed up with the Roivas-led Estonian Reform Party, which had been in power for 17 years straight. “There was a lack of fresh ideas,” analyzes Tonis Saarts, a political researcher at the Tallinn University.

Lack of fresh ideas caused friction in the Estonian government. The former Prime Minister Taavi Rõivas visited Finland in November 2014. Picture: Tony Öhberg for Finland Today

Lack of fresh ideas caused friction in the Estonian government. The former Prime Minister Taavi Rõivas visited Finland in November 2014. Picture: Tony Öhberg for Finland Today

The social democrats and IRL wanted to sit on the same side with the Centre Party, which was in the opposition, but refused to cooperate with the former Centre Party leader, Edgar Savisaar, who is viewed as a pro-Russian authoritarian. Ratas replaced Savisaar as the chair, the government folded and Ratas became prime minister.

In Estonia, the Centre Party is the most popular party among Estonian Russians. 75 percent of the Estonian-Russian population of about 320,000 (1.3 million Estonian population) support the party, which has links to Russian President Putin’s United Russia group, the country’s ruling political party. Ratas, however, made clear on Wednesday, that he doesn’t bow in front of its eastern neighbor. “The foreign and security policies of Estonia will follow the same line as it has for the past 25 years,” Ratas said with an aid of an interpreter. “We support the decisions made on EU level. As long as the international justice is not followed, the relations will surely remain problematic. On the other hand, Estonia and Russia are neighboring countries, and many companies see Russia as a possible big market. The government of Estonia, however, supports the sanctions against Russia placed by the EU.”

Ratas, however, made clear on Wednesday, that he doesn’t bow in front of its eastern neighbor. “The foreign and security policies of Estonia will continue with the same line as it has for the past 25 years,” Ratas said with an aid of an interpreter. “We support the decisions made on the EU level. As long as the international justice is not followed, the relations will surely remain problematic. On the other hand, Estonia and Russia are neighboring countries, and many companies see Russia as a possible big market. The government of Estonia, however, supports the sanctions against Russia placed by the EU.”

Prime Minister Jüri Ratas looks forward to enhancing the business relations between Finland and Estonia. Picture: Tony Öhberg for Finland Today

Prime Minister Jüri Ratas looks forward to enhancing the business relations between Finland and Estonia. Picture: Tony Öhberg for Finland Today

Ratas, like his predecessors, wants to enhance the good business relations between Finland and Estonia. “The Estonian and Finnish economies are tightly intertwined. Finland is one of the most important economic partners for Estonia. To ensure that the people and enterprises of both countries could experience economic growth, we must find even more options for cooperation,” Ratas said. “If one of us is doing great, so will the other and close cooperation can boost both economies.”