Foreign policy debate as a matter of significant national importance was held in the Riigikogu today. Minister of Foreign Affairs Urmas Reinsalu and Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee Enn Eesmaa made reports. They focused on Estonia’s foreign policy success and foreign policy priorities, and the importance of international and regional cooperation.
Minister of Foreign Affairs Urmas Reinsalu said that Estonia’s foreign policy success today was manifested in our membership in the UN Security Council. “The fact that Estonia was elected a member of the Security Council is a clear sign of the maturity and reliability of our diplomacy,” Reinsalu said. He noted that the membership was accompanied by a responsibility to strengthen security across the globe and an opportunity to stand for adherence to international law and the rules-based order. According to Reinsalu, Estonia will also use its Security Council term to strengthen its allied relations and to present our country as one who stands for human rights provisions and supports multilateral diplomacy.
The minister stressed that the global and regional security, and in particular the national security of the Republic of Estonia was and would remain a priority of Estonia’s foreign policy. According to him, good relations with allies and the collective defence will remain mainstays of Estonia’s security, besides independent defence capability. At the same time, Reinsalu noted that the unity of the European Union and NATO, cooperation, and the continuing strengthening of NATO’s deterrence and defence posture were important to Estonia.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs said that the strengthening of security was also a priority in regional cooperation as well as during Estonia’s presidency in the Baltic Council of Ministers and in the Nordic-Baltic cooperation format NB8. Reinsalu pointed out that the supporting of eastern partners and the deepening and diversification of cooperation with the United States of America also continued to be important. As significant examples of the deepening of the allied relations and partnerships between the countries of the region, he mentioned the Government’s application to obtain observer status in the Arctic Council in 2021 and Estonia’s initiative in the Three Seas Initiative.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs said that the aim was an influential and strong Estonia in an active European Union. He confirmed that, according to Estonia’s positions, the European Union needed to continue the open doors policy. Therefore Estonia supports the starting of negotiations with North-Macedonia and Albania on the basis of pre-set criteria. The minister also pointed out that the Estonian Government supported the climate goals with a view that countries maintained their sovereignty in tax issues and changes were carried out so that regional competitiveness was maintained.
Speaking of “The Estonian Foreign Policy Development Plan 2030”, Reinsalu noted that three main courses of action would be strengthened – security, stability of international relations and sustainable development, and foreign economy and the Estonian diaspora. The minister said that, in the development plan and the planning of further action, special attention would be paid to the Estonian community abroad who have shown great interest and willingness to support the Estonian exporting businesses as well as to contribute more widely to the strengthening of Estonia’s positive reputation.
In conclusion, the minister stressed that foreign policy was being implemented with a consistent view to increasing the reputation and influence of Estonia. “The task of foreign policy is to ensure comprehensive protection of Estonia’s national interests,” Reinsalu said.
Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee Enn Eesmaa said that, over the last couple of years, Estonia had risen to an exceptionally high foreign policy orbit. “This year and the next two years will be a foreign policy highlight, as it were, for Estonia, rich in opportunities to be seized. We are currently presiding over the Baltic cooperation as well as the partnership processes in the Baltic and Nordic Countries,” he said. Eesmaa said that the priorities of the Nordic-Baltic cooperation format and the Estonian presidency of the Baltic Council of Ministers included security, connectivity, regional energy and transport projects, and digital cooperation.
According to Eesmaa, the Foreign Affairs Committee supports Estonia’s activities in the Three Seas Initiative and in its application for observer status in the Arctic Council. He noted that Estonia’s membership in the UN Security Council was in particular focus, however. “Nearly two years of work still lies ahead in the UN Security Council, which will add to Estonia’s reputation and provide it opportunities in the demanding work of the peace mediator,” he said. The Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee also mentioned the exceptional importance of the maintenance and furthering of transatlantic relations, and referred to the work to be done in developing the Eastern Partnership.
In his speech, Eesmaa stressed the importance of international diplomacy and the foreign service and how thereby Estonia’s representation was ensured and enhanced. He said that the Foreign Affairs Committee greatly welcomed the opening of Estonian embassies in South Korea and Singapore. He noted that the people working in the foreign service needed to be supported more, also in their career plans. Eesmaa also commended the readiness and willingness of the Estonian institutions of higher education in providing training to foreign experts and in preparing diplomats.
The Chairman said that, over the last months, the committee had been paying special attention to the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union, and it had helped develop Estonia’s positions regarding the future relations between the two countries. Eesmaa stressed that it was in Estonia’s interests to continue close cooperation regarding a broad free trade agreement as well as in the fields of security, defence and foreign policy, digital issues, and education and research.
Eesmaa confirmed that the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Riigikogu actively participated in the shaping of the foreign policy and the development of the principles of the foreign relations of Estonia, and monitored the foreign policy activities of the Government. As regards the document “The Estonian Foreign Policy Development Plan 2030”, Eesmaa said that the committee attached importance to communication with the Estonian communities abroad. In the proceedings with the development plan, the committee strives to ensure that it is compatible with various thematic and government-based strategies and forms a coherent whole.
In conclusion, the Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee touched upon the European Union’s long-term budget. He noted that, in Estonia’s view, an ambitious multiannual financial framework should be adopted that would ensure the continuity of the main policy areas, for example, regional policy and agricultural policy, as well as foreign policy.
During the debate at the foreign policy discussion, Marko Mihkelson (Reform Party), Maria Jufereva-Skuratovski (Centre Party), Ruuben Kaalep (Estonian Conservative People’s Party), Mihhail Lotman (Isamaa), Raimond Kaljulaid, Oudekki Loone (Centre Party), Peeter Ernits (Estonian Conservative People’s Party) and the Minister of Foreign Affairs Urmas Reinsalu took the floor.
The Bill on Amendments to the Fishing Act (136 SE) that was on the agenda today was not deliberated due to the end of the working hours of the plenary. The first reading of the Bill is scheduled for tomorrow’s sitting.
Video recordings of the sittings of the Riigikogu can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/riigikogu.
(Please note that the recording will be uploaded with a delay.)
Your feedback is important. Please share it with us!