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Representatives of the Foreign Affairs, National Defence and European Union Affairs Committees of the Riigikogu met with Macedonian Foreign Minister Nikola Poposki during his visit to Estonia. The meetings revolved around Macedonia’s goal to join the European Union and NATO, but also touched on bilateral cooperation. The Foreign Affairs, National Defence and European Union Affairs Committees expressed their appreciation for Macedonia’s efforts and pledged their support.

The Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee Marko Mihkelson thinks that cooperation between the two countries should be intensified at the parliamentary level, which would make it easier to share experiences in preparation of Macedonia’s accession to the European Union. Poposki said that Macedonia has long kept an eye on Estonia’s activities in Europe and that our country and its achievements have served as an example for them. Mihkelson recommended that a greater attention be given to trade and economic relations as well. To quote Mihkelson, “The advantage of small nations and their key to success is flexibility; yet we must remember that drastic changes in the world also rapidly impact the economy of these nations”. Cooperation in information technology and planning of joint pilot projects were also discussed. Member of the Foreign Affairs Committee Imre Sooäär, who was present at the meeting, stressed the importance of an open economy that supports foreign investors. Speaking on the subject of foreign policy and the effect of the relations of the parliamentary coalition and opposition on national development, Mihkelson said that the success of the foreign policy of a small nation depends largely on achieving consensus between various political forces. Mihkelson introduced the visitors to the working process of the Foreign Affairs Committee and the topical Asian strategy currently under discussion.

The Chairman of the National Defence Committee Mati Raidma gave the visitor an overview of Estonia’s participation at NATO missions, particularly the work of the Estonian Armed Forces in Afghanistan. Raidma credits the deployment of the Estonian Defence Forces in one of the most important provinces of the crisis area – Helmand – as being a crucial foundation for the high credibility of the Estonian state among our allies. In his turn, Poposki talked about defence preparations by Macedonia for joining NATO. The two sides discussed possibilities for a better exchange of information and improved cooperation between the national defence committees of the parliaments. Volume of defence expenditure and impact of the economic crisis were also under discussion. Raidma talked about the role of the parliament in providing mandates for foreign missions. Poposki believes that the similar strategic ideas of the two small nations will help us to better understand and support one another.

The meeting in the European Union Affairs Committee included subjects such as the European debt crisis and its impact on the European countries, as well as parliamentary supervision over the activities of the government. The visitor was impressed by the excellent capacity for cooperation with the Government and the Prime Minister that the Committee manifests. The Chairman of the Committee Taavi Rõivas also explained that the parliamentary committee may present its proposals to the Government on the subject of Estonia’s positions. Poposki expressed his interest for the subjects discussed in the Committee, particularly concerning the enlargement of the European Union. According to Rõivas, the subject of enlargement is often raised in the Committee which is why Macedonia is always in the picture. A considerable part of discussion between Rõivas and Poposki was dedicated to the accession negotiations of Macedonia and the relevant problems. They discussed implementation of reforms, so-called screening, achievement of European Union criteria and expectations for current Member States. To quote Rõivas, “We can see that Macedonia is serious about acceding to the European Union and we should deal with the practical aspects of the accession process. We have a lot of experience to share. Macedonia has a clear political will to join and is prepared to carry out the necessary reforms. In some issues, the state is already fulfilling EU terms and conditions. The negotiation process should therefore be accelerated.” Rõivas expressed his hope that the Riigikogu delegation might visit Macedonia in the near future, to get a clearer idea of the achievements and developments in the country.

The meeting was attended by member of the Foreign Affairs Committee Raivo Järvi, Chairman of the Estonian-Macedonian Parliamentary Group Margus Hanson and member of the European Union Affairs Committee Andres Herkel.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Macedonia also met with representatives of the Estonian-Macedonian Parliamentary Group of the Riigikogu.

Pictures of the meetings can be found at: https://fotoalbum.riigikogu.ee/v/2012/Riigikogu/makedoonia_valiminister/

The Riigikogu Press Service