Estonia blasts BDS, calls Israel 'a friend and partner'

Estonian Foreign Minister Sven Misker told the 'Post' that his country was firmly supportive of Israel, but still did not accept settlement construction.

Attempts to isolate Israel or make it an international pariah state are unhelpful, Estonia’s Foreign Affairs Minister Sven Mikser told The Jerusalem Post in a wide-ranging interview at the ministry on Wednesday.

In line with the European Union and the majority of the international community, Estonia disapproves of Israel's settlement policy. “The international community deems that settlements are in contradiction to international law and an obstacle to peace and will not be approved as a legitimate way of advancing Israel's national interests,” he said.

But Mikser questioned the motives of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, saying "there is a subtle difference between understanding why people and groups act in a certain way and considering it appropriate and constructive. The way to go [forward] is [through] negotiations rather than making efforts to intimidate the other party."

Mikser also stressed that Estonia sees Israel "as a friend and partner."

The Estonian foreign minister said he was not deterred by US President Donald Trump's decision not to of mention the two-state solution during his visit to Israel and the West Bank. "When it comes to Trump's choice of words and rhetoric that he uses, we should probably not read too much into it. He's apparently not quite as careful in his choice of words as other presidents have been in past but I think he is sincere in the effort to be a constructive player," in finding a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he said.

Addressing the rise of the far right in Europe, Mikser says that while populism has always been present to a degree, he is more concerned about the polarization of politics caused by a perceived need to appeal to certain segments of voters. "Parties are trying to move away from the center, and that makes it increasingly more difficult to agree on anything and also it makes the political pendulum swing much more violently than would be desirable,” he said.

Brexit, he said, rang an alarm bell across much of the continent. “But while we do see movements with extreme ideologies doing relatively well in many European countries and here in Estonia, the rise in polls was stemmed by the shock of Brexit; after Brexit many believed victory for the Brexit camp could fuel an anti-European, anti-globalization trend on the continent, but that didn’t quite happen.”

In Estonia, the most populist party in parliament is the Estonian Conservative People's Party's (EKRE), which holds seven of the 101 parliament seats. Ahead of the elections in 2015, the party used slogans such as “Estonia for Estonians,” marginalizing the country’s minorities.

“EKRE is the most prominent of those groups that try to gain more traction by appealing to anti-immigrant sentiment,” Mikser noted, mentioning that it is the only party in parliament that has questioned Estonia’s EU membership. “They made it into parliament and got above 10% in the polls, so they are not to be totally disregarded as a marginal party but mainstream parties with much more liberal, open, pro-EU programs are still decisively ahead of the party,” he says.

Caution over becoming complacent is an underlying theme for Estonia, which has thus far avoided being targeted by the terror that has rocked other countries in Europe in recent years.

Mikser --a former Defense Minister who is privy to regular intelligence briefs-- tells the Post that the immediate threat of terror in Estonia is relatively low. “But we're not immune to the rising threat globally, and you can’t drop your guard because when they look for targets they go where they can act,” he hastens to add.

Mikser gives a number of reasons why Estonia is at low risk. The country’s tiny population (1.3 million) and its makeup are among these.

The largest ethnic groups in Estonia are Estonians, Russians, Ukrainians, Finns and Latvians. Immigration to the country is low, though in 2016 it saw the highest number of immigrants in 25 years.

“We monitor closely all activities that can be related to financing terror or any incitement of hatred, we keep an eye on potential radicalization,” Mikser says.

He notes that there have been a few individuals who have taken part, directly or indirectly, in Syria’s civil war and other conflicts. “But when we compare to other countries, the communities at risk of being radicalized are not that numerous either. It’s hard to act in Estonia undetected.” The country’s low profile is another factor. “When terrorists strike they want to have the maximum effect that will make CNN headlines, and Estonia is not that well-known,” he explains.

“But they look for targets of opportunity and we should not prove that,” he reiterates.

Read other news on the city site of Tallin.

jpost
Estonia BDS Israel
If you notice an error, highlight the text you want and press Ctrl + Enter to report it to the editor
I recommend
No recommendations yet

Comments

Post your comment to communicate and discuss this article.

Society
Political news portal Politico published its list of the most influential people in Europe next year last week, with fifth place going to Estonia’s cybersecurity ambassador Heli Tiirmaa-Klaar. Tiirmaa-Klaar takes her place in between well-known Europeans, after Secretary General of the European Commission Martin Selmayr and in front of Ukrainian presidential hopeful Yulia Tymoshenko. Politico believes Italy’s populist interior minister Matteo Salvini will...
Society
Representatives of the transport ministries of the Baltic states, Finland and Poland who met in Tallinn on Monday were of differing opinions regarding whether to remain in summer or winter time once the practice of changing the clocks twice per year comes to an end. A recent survey indicates that more than half of Estonians would prefer permanent summer time. Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Finland and Poland jointly acknowledged that the agreement to end the...
Society
Ida-Viru Central Hospital is having trouble with patients not showing up to scheduled specialist appointments. To combat this issue, beginning next year, the hospital will start charging visit fees for no-show appointments as well. Last year, patients at Ida-Viru Central Hospital failed to show up for scheduled appointments a total of nearly 9,500 times, accounting for some 5% of all hospital visits, reported ETV news broadcast Aktuaalne kaamera. "Patients...
Society
Tallinn city government finds that it is not reasonable to relocate the Tallinn Bus Station to the Ülemiste district near Tallinn Airport and that it should be left in its current location on Lastekodu Street. In connection with the preparation of an architectural idea competition and the drawing up of a detailed plan for the Ülemiste terminal in the framework of the Rail Baltic railway project, the city is drawing the attention of the Ministry of Economic...
Society
A criminal investigation has been launched into the Medita Clinic, one of the largest private sector bidders in public procurement tenders in the health sector in Estonia. The Northern District Prosecutor's Office initiated the investigation in accordance with the Penal Code section concerning the transmission of false information, according to ETV investigative show Pealtnägija. The Medita Clinic was the largest private provider of specialist medical care...
Society
The Tax and Customs Board (MTA) has signed an agreement with Online accommodation and hospitality marketplace Airbnb which enables hosts to automatically report earnings. The MTA and Airbnb held a joint press conference on Wednesday, announcing the agreement's signing as well as the new system and its rationale. The main premise, according to MTA deputy director Rivo Reitmann, is to keep things simple, meaning that Airbnb hosts who declare their income in...
Society
Luminor notified its clients that as of 1 January, the bank will be closing the accounts of Estonian e-residents that fail to fulfil due diligence. Hannes Oja, head of Anti-Money Laundering at Luminor Estonia, said that based on the Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing Prevention Act, banks are required to update the data of all of their customers, writes daily Eesti Päevaleht (EPL). As a result, all existing clients have to do so themselves on a regul...
Society
The Russian Embassy in Tallinn on Tuesday published a statement criticising the statement in support of Ukraine adopted by the Riigikogu on Monday. Commenting on the statement with which the Riigikogu on Monday condemned the attack on Ukrainian vessels in the Kerch Strait, the Russian Embassy referenced the famous quote by Roman statesman Cato the Elder, who used to conclude his speeches in the Senate by saying, "Furthermore, I consider that Carthage must...
Society
A widely-read travel magazine, Condé Nast Traveler, has declared the Christmas market in Tallinn as one of the most charming in Europe. “Why we love it: In addition to Estonian Christmas dishes like black pudding and sour cabbage (it’s better than it sounds, we swear), Tallinn’s market in the Town Hall Square also has a Santa who arrives by reindeer-pulled sleigh,” the magazine says. “The highlight, though, is its Christmas tree, which the city has been pu...