New ministers want fresh blood

Elo Mõttus-Leppik
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Photo: Sander Ilvest / Postimees

Minister of Finance Martin Helme says in an interview to the “Postimees Live” program that it is embarrassing Estonia even needs the European Court of Human Rights. “No court instance should stand above the Estonian judicial system,” the minister finds.

Minister of the Interior Mart Helme once again talked about judges’ heads rolling during an EKRE council meeting this weekend. Why are you threatening judges?

The context was very specific: we have yet another Supreme Court ruling that basically creates legislation to bring same-sex marriage into force. Estonian law states that a same-sex marriage entered into in a foreign country is not valid here. The Supreme Court has ruled that Estonia has the right to same-sex marriage. That is policymaking. By engaging in policymaking, judges are clearly venturing beyond their powers, taking for themselves the right to act as the parliament. It undermines separation of powers and rule of law. The question of “where can I vote against these men” cannot be answered in this situation.

What does it mean when the interior minister says heads will roll?

Judges need to remember they made this decision. They can make political decisions, and then politicians can decide not to uphold those decisions.

What will you do?

Supreme Court justice are approved by the Riigikogu. We have several of them incoming. We need to be more diligent in assessing the candidates’ legal philosophy. To what extent do they feel they have the right to make political choices as members of the Supreme Court. If we see that we have a group of people in the Supreme Court who have usurped power, we need to ask ourselves whether we need a courts reform.

EKRE has proposed appointing judges for a specified term, while it is not part of the coalition agreement.

We did not manage to convince our partners, but we’ll get there after the next elections.

Why do you want to ascertain political responsibility in the Danske Bank money laundering case?

Two organizations must take responsibility – the prosecution and the money laundering data bureau. To this day, they are saying how they didn’t have the laws or the manpower and how it was someone else’s territory. I’m not satisfied with that answer. It is either a management problem, one of incorrect priorities, or a desperate attempt to look away. In a situation where existing resources produce zero results, the million dollar question is why. What I asked the internal security service was whether it could have been a case of political or institutional corruption. Their answer was that they have not found anything to suggest that.

That is one reason you do not want Lavly Perling staying on as prosecutor general. What is your criticism of her?

While Lavly Perling can say she was not working when the money laundering scandals hit in 2012-2014, what has been done over the following five years? The answer: absolutely nothing. There are practically no punishments. There are pseudo-investigations going after tellers. Bank tellers do not orchestrate money laundering.

You have also accused Perling of politicization. What is there to suggest that?

The processing of the Savisaar trial is the best example. It was launched as a political spectacle and ended as such. If that is not political prosecution, I don’t know what is.

Critics are saying that perhaps you just want to see blood: first Perling, then [police chief] Elmar Vaher…

Elections have consequences, which is how it should be. I believe it is entirely understandable that new ministers want fresh blood and to have their own teams. The idea that we have a state of officials who do their thing irrespective of who rules the country is unacceptable.

Jürgen Ligi (Reform Party) said right here in this studio that it is unheard-of that next to the official money laundering investigation there is an EKRE investigation threatening to send predecessors to prison. What would you say to him?

I would suggest he perform seppuku. We have heard a lot about how EKRE’s participation in the government has hurt Estonia’s reputation. What allegations aimed against us have done pales in comparison to money laundering. If Estonia’s reputation has suffered, it is because of doping scandals and money laundering.

EKRE feels Estonia should leave the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) over the organization restoring Russia’s voting rights. How are you planning to put that to a vote?

We feel that a parliamentary vote is only natural as while we can discuss what is beneficial and what is not on the level of parties, MPs will have to look their constituents in the eye at the end of the day. The Council of Europe was created to defend human rights and European values. When it comes to Russia, all standards suddenly go out the window. It is appalling hypocrisy, failure to live up to one’s own standards and a mockery of human rights. We see no reason we should participate in such a farce. Does the organization defend our human rights in any way? It does not.

Mailis Reps (Center Party) said that even discussing leaving PACE is inappropriate. It would be a step back, and losing our vote there would equal losing a seat at the table.

I think it is inappropriate to say that debating something is inappropriate. Human rights are protected by the constitution, Estonian law enforcement organs and a number of international organizations. One group that is not defending them is PACE. It is of no use to anyone.

We will have no levers with which to affect the organization if we leave.

True, but are we having an effect today? Were we able to affect processes when Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Georgia and Ukraine protested the recent decision? We were not. It is where we need to say: beg your pardon, but the rules of this club are not for us.

Citizens of PACE members have access to the European Court of Human Rights. Estonians have often made use of it – EKRE would be robbing them of the chance.

No court instance should tower above the Estonian judicial system. If we are not happy with the latter, by all means – let’s reform it, replace people or amend legislation. But to say that we cannot defend human rights through our own courts is embarrassing.

Is it sensible to lead Estonia into isolation? To leave PACE, be the only one to disagree regarding the European Stability Mechanism reform and now also the climate issue?

We are not alone when it comes to climate. There are two camps in Europe: climate doomsayers and toxic greens who would effectively want to put an end to the economy, and then there are parties like us who say that while nature conservation and environmental protection are very important things, they cannot affect climate. To destroy our current standard of living and the modern world over climate – in no way can we agree to that.

We are also alone when it comes to oil shale. The price is so high that we will have to follow others’ example whether we like it or not.

It is up to people to decide what to do and when. I agree that oil shale is too valuable to just burn. But as long as we cannot answer the question of how to ensure the lights stay on, we cannot just shut down our production capacities. It would be criminal. This means that we should concentrate on what comes after oil shale. Our position is clear: a fourth generation nuclear power plant. The technology should be ready for a switch in 10-15 years’ time.

Mart Helme said during this weekend’s EKRE council meeting that Tallinn University is a propaganda establishment sporting a nonexistent scientific level and should not share in R&D funding at all. Will you take away their funding?

It’s not that simple. Higher education financing works differently. We can increasingly see general education institutions becoming a platform for political ideology where our young people are brainwashed. It is the task of politicians to direct attention to the problem and tackle it.

That brainwashed institution has given your twin sister her doctorate. What does she have to say about it?

She also says there are a lot of red professors there.

How is your singing and dancing? Will you attend the Song and Dance Festival?

I have done neither in my life, but I plan to attend.

How do you feel about songs by Alo Mattiisen being left out of the repertoire this time?

I believe we are seeing a systematic ideological assault on the cultural and national identity of Estonians where everything that is noble, beautiful, good and characteristically Estonian is diluted, turned upside down or painted as something to be ashamed of. It is criminal. Traditions, myths and our heroes form a part of our national identity. Attempts to dismantle it constitute an attack on Estonianness! I hope people will sing these songs themselves.