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Estonia apologizes to Lithuania after minister calls them ’fools’

Jan 20, 2014
From wire reports, TALLINN

Estonian Economy Minister Juhan Parts has apologized to Lithuania for his offensive comments over the Rail Baltica project, after calling them fools for delaying the project.

The Estonian ambassador to Lithuania will not be summoned to Lithuanian Foreign Ministry after formally apologizing.

"The Estonian minister contacted our embassy in Tallinn and apologized for the wrong interpretation of his words," said Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius in an interview with channel TV3.

In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, published on Friday, Parts said that the decision not to include Vilnius in "Rail Baltica" was made under Lithuania’s previous government, which was "constructive", but when a new government was sworn in a little more than a year ago things changed.

"There are fools in the Lithuanian government," Parts said.

"When the new government came, they allowed themselves to be influenced by "Lithuanian Railways". The Lithuanian government is wasting time.".

The initial version of the article quoted Parts as speaking of "idiots" in the Lithuanian government. He says a better translation of the Estonian word "jobud" (singular: jobu) is "fools".

Parts later explained that these words should be regarded through the prism of humor. This statement angered Lithuanian Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevicius, who then assigned Linkevicius to summon the Estonian ambassador in Lithuania to explain the situation. However, as the Estonian minister took the initiative to apologize on his own, it became unnecessary.
Saturday evening, the Lithuanian government announced that Parts' words contradicted all kind of diplomatic customs, expecting official explanations from the Estonian ambassador.

On Sunday, Parts said that he very much respects the Lithuanian colleagues and hopes to clear the misunderstanding. "For me the article of "The Wall Street Journal" journalist was an unpleasant surprise and I cannot remember right now in what context I used that word. Naturally that one word taken separately is completely undiplomatic. Our phone conversation with the journalist focused mainly on "Rail Baltic" problems," said Parts.

Parts said that he communicated to Lithuanian colleagues at the weekend. "I have not been able to talk to government members directly since it is the weekend but I have talked to government representatives and they have accepted my explanations," said Parts.

Estonian prime minister Andrus Ansip said that Parts' choice of words was inappropriate. "The use of words of Juhan Parts was inappropriate, the minister has promised to apologize to his Lithuanian colleague. I hope that the regrettable choice of words will not stall the development of the railway project that is very important for all Baltic states," Ansip said on Sunday.

Ansip said that the government is worried if "Rail Baltic's" financing conditions can be fulfilled by deadline but problems have to be solved at the negotiations desk, not by insulting a good neighbor and cooperation partner.

The Rail Baltica project intends to connect five countries via railway links in an effort to boost economies and travel times in the region. 

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