The deliberation of foreign policy that was discussed as a matter of significant national importance in the Riigikogu today focused on security and the unity of the European Union and NATO.
“The wider security of Estonia depends to a very great extent on our capacity to act as a credible cooperation partner on the international area,” the Minister of Foreign Affairs Marina Kaljurand said. “Several escalating conflicts in the world draw our attention again to the situation of human rights and democratic values in the world.” Kaljurand stressed that the ensuring and spreading of such values is our main aim in the world politics.
Kaljurand said that the year 2015 had been extremely complicated for Estonia and Europe, and 2016 would not be easier. She said that it is important to find a solution to the conflict in Ukraine that would respect and ensure the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country. She assured that Estonia stands ready to continue supporting Ukraine in carrying out reforms.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs said that Europe’s attention must be kept on Eastern Partnership countries, and they must be integrated in the domain of the rule of law. Besides Moldova, Georgia and Ukraine, she mentioned Belarus, Armenia and Azerbaijan who are interested in field-based cooperation.
In her speech, Kaljurand discussed at length also the fight against terrorism. She called on not to put the equation sign between terrorists and war refugees, and terrorists and all Muslims, and to oppose all attempts at inciting hatred and hostility.
When speaking of migration, she considered it shameful that so far the European Union has been able to relocate less than 500 war refugees. “It is irresponsible with regard to the refugees who flee from wars, who need international protection, and whose only wish is to find peace for themselves and their children,” she said.
The greatest trial of the unity of the European Union within the context of the migration crisis is, in her words, the strengthening of the common border defence and preservation of the Schengen agreement. “The external border of the European Union must begin to function and must resist any kind of illegal border crossing,” the Minister said. She stressed cooperation with Turkey as an important factor in finding solutions to the refugee crisis.
From the point of view of preserving Europe’s unity and future, it is very important to avoid the emergence of processes disintegrating the European Union, Kaljurand said. She said that Estonia definitely does not wish Great Britain, one of its most important security policy partners, to leave the European Union. “It is important for Estonia that no crisis would be solved at the price of the unity of the European Union. A united and strong European Union is a vital interest of Estonia,” Kaljurand said.
Kaljurand said in conclusion that, in the following years, the Estonian foreign service will have to work towards the stability of our security environment and work for further strengthening of NATO. The Russian-Ukrainian conflict will remain in the focus of attention. Here, Estonia attaches importance to supporting Ukraine in the restoration of territorial integrity and ensuring sovereignty, and the management and resolution of the migration crisis in Europe is a priority.
The Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee Sven Mikser said that the greatest immediate security threat that threatens the survival and development of the Estonian state is still related to the crumbling of Europe’s security architecture. “Russia’s aggression against Ukraine and illegal annexation of Crimea were and continue to be a direct challenge to international law and the organisation of security in Europe that is based on it,” Mikser said.
Mikser said that an aggressive neighbour can be deterred. In his opinion, Estonia’s and our allies’ collective moral, economic, political, and military potential by far exceed that of any challenger, and Estonia is not alone when facing security threats.
The allies’ readiness and capability to support Estonia if needed depend, in Mikser’s words, on our reliability in the eyes of our friends, and the unity of the democratic countries gathered in NATO and the European Union. In his words, unity of the democratic world is clearly manifested also through the sanctions that have been imposed against Russia in connection with the aggression against Ukraine.
When touching upon the European migration crisis, Mikser said that strengthening Europe’s external borders is vital for protecting the principle of free movement of people within the EU. Defending the fundamental freedoms of the European Union is one of the main guarantees of our security and growth of welfare. In his words, Estonia’s priority is to help the needy first of all in their own countries and the neighbouring countries, and to try to solve conflicts in the places where they emerge.
Mikser spoke briefly also of the ratification of the border treaties between Estonia and Russia. He expressed the hope that it would be possible to complete this long process in the near future. At the same time, we must be ready to work towards the ratification and implementation of the treaties also together with the next Russian parliament, which will be elected in autumn. He stressed that the border treaties concern only the position of the border line. They do not attempt to solve other issues between the countries, or different interpretations of history.
Mikser admitted that work with the European Union’s eastern partners, in particular with Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia and Belarus, requires strategic patience. However, he is convinced that bringing them closer to Europe will benefit both the standard of living of these people, and the stability and security of the whole Europe.
Mikser stated critically that, although foreign policy has been discussed as a trans-political party topic over the years, the more strained foreign policy situation and the antagonisation of Estonia’s internal policy have sadly reduced this consensus. “As a small nation, we know that we are strong on the international arena only if we can find a common position with our allies,” Mikser said. “The same principle could apply also to the Estonian domestic debate on our foreign policy priorities.”
The Riigikogu and parliamentary diplomacy play an important role in representing Estonia in the world, Mikser said. “Let no one of us think, when performing that role, that what is good for the party must be good enough for Estonia,” Mikser addressed his colleagues.“Instead, our frame of mind should be: what is good for Estonia, is good for the people of Estonia, and is consequently good for all our political parties.
The representatives of factions Marko Mihkelson, Enn Eesmaa, Marianne Mikko, Henn Põlluaas, Keit Pentus-Rosimannus and Andres Herkel took the floor during the debate.
Mihkelson who took the floor on behalf of the Pro Patria and Res Publica Union Faction said that the foreign policy of Estonia must be active, it must be creative and oriented towards international cooperation. He noted that we have a revisionist and very aggressive neighbour, Russia, whose current activities are directed at changing the security architecture of Europe.
The fight with Islamic extremism requires very serious security policy cooperation, but also actual intelligence cooperation, between countries, Mihkelson said.
In Mihkelson’s words, it is obvious that Estonia’s foreign policy efforts must be directed at reducing splits and strengthening unity in the European Union. In conclusion, Mihkelson drew attention to the need to strengthen the financing of the Estonian foreign service.
Eesmaa, who took the floor on behalf of the Centre Party Faction, said that one of the main aims of the foreign policy of the European Union, and consequently also of Estonia, is to maintain and increase unity and balance. In his words, the same holds true for transatlantic relations. Among other things, he stressed the importance of a free trade agreement between the European Union and the USA, and the new possibilities arising from that.
Mikko, who spoke on behalf of the Social Democratic Party Faction, said that, since the restoration of independence, and also last year, the foreign policy of Estonia has been guided by the universality of international law. “This means that no country is higher than the others, but the same rules apply to all countries. Keeping in mind the geopolitical location as well as the size of population, Estonia must stay on the course of value-based foreign policy. It is our trademark, it relates to us. This steadfastness is necessary for Estonia. In a long-term perspective and keeping in mind the big picture,” Mikko said.
Põlluaas who spoke on behalf of the Estonian Conservative People’s Party Faction regretted that he had not heard these two words during the discussion: “national interests”. “We heard a lot about the liberal value system, we heard of solidarity, but we did not hear if all that is really worth that Estonia should take them in without the least criticism,” Põlluaas asked.
Põlluaas agreed that cooperation with our allies, developing good alliance relations and strengthening our security together with friends must continue. However, in his words, it cannot work at the expense of our own interests, our own people, and our own sustainability and continuity.
Pentus-Rosimannus who spoke on behalf of the Reform Party Faction said that politicians must explain to the people more, on time and openly what is going on in the surrounding world, and the background for that, and elaborate how it affects Estonia.
”There are powers in the world and in Estonia who wish to push Estonia to the direction exactly opposite to the security policy initiated by Lennart Meri and pursued since the restoration of independence. They wish to tear Estonia, a border country, out of Europe and the Western Alliance, to leave us in no-one’s land, alone. The shy reticence must be stopped when the people are turned against one another with lies, and adequate and quick responses must be given to the security concerns of the people,” Pentus-Rosimannus said.
Herkel who took the floor on behalf of the Free Party Faction said that the deliberation of foreign policy is one of the most important deliberations. He stressed that the unity of Europe is extremely important, and its focus for us is on security that is based on the unity of NATO.
“There are no masses of refugees in Estonia, but the refugee problem will probably remain in Europe for a long time. The issue of values stands out very sharply in that connection, and we also have to formulate our national interests,” Herkel said. He said that the national interests of Estonia lie in being with Europe, in European values.
Video recordings of the sittings of the Riigikogu can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/riigikogu
(NB! The recording will be uploaded with a delay.)
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