Today, the Riigikogu deliberated foreign policy as a matter of significant national importance. Reports were by the Minister of Foreign Affairs Urmas Paet and Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee Sven Mikser.
In his speech, the Minister of Foreign Affairs highlighted the last year as a very special year, encompassing many achievements, and noted that, for the first time, the foreign policy report can discuss Estonia’s activities in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) as well as of the euro zone. In Paet’s opinion, Estonia is one of the most integrated nations in Europe at the beginning of the second decade of the 21st century. Paet referred to the world’s leading economics magazine, The Economist, which selected Estonia nation of the year. Last year, Estonian politicians had their first opportunity to have their say in the shaping of NATO’s future, that is, in the process of renewal of the Strategic Concept. The consistency and effectiveness of our European Union policy can be seen in the European Union IT agency headquarters that will begin its activities here in Tallinn in 2012. The Eastern Partnership Training Centre was opened in Tallinn at the end of January. “Our aim is to avoid the emergence of divisions in Europe and to assist EU’s eastern partners, that is, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine, in their political and economic integration with the European Union. This includes providing support for the concluding of association agreements with Eastern Partners as well as the creation of a comprehensive free trade area and the establishing of visa freedom. In Estonia’s new development plan for development co-operation and humanitarian aid, all the Eastern Partners of the European Union are included as priority target countries,” said the Minister of Foreign Affairs. In Paet’s words, there are problems with Belarus where Estonia’s development co-operation will concentrate on supporting the civil society and education opportunities.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs stated that Estonia has ever more opportunities to contribute to the attainment of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDG). Paet: “Co-operation in developing an e-state covers all continents, including Africa.” The Estonian exhibit at the Shanghai EXPO was also based on innovation. In Paet’s words, the geography of our foreign economy has expanded, and so has the network of Estonian foreign representations. We have worked consistently to more effectively supply entrepreneurs with information about the possibilities of the state and advised them while they make efforts to enter new markets. The results are reflected in export statistics: the export of goods from Estonia increased by 48% during October and November of the last year, compared to the same period a year before.
Regarding co-operation with the Nordic countries and countries of the Baltic Sea region, he mentioned the Nordic-Baltic Co-operation Report and the Estonian-Latvian Future Co-operation Report. The Minister stressed that, for Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, energy security continues to be one of the key issues. It has been possible to move ahead with the building of new energy connections in the Baltic Sea region: decisions were made concerning investments for establishing the Estlink 2 electricity cable between Estonia and Finland, as well as the NordBalt electricity cable between Lithuania and Sweden. The Minister added that the Nordic electricity exchange Nord Pool Spot began trading in Estonia. Solutions must be found for the expansion of Nord Pool Spot to Latvia and Lithuania and the implementation of the Lithuanian nuclear energy project together with Poland, as well as the creation of a functioning Baltic gas market and finding a consensus concerning the location of a regional liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal. Energy security is promoted within the framework of both the EU and NATO.
Paet confirmed continuing contribution to the Afghanistan mission both at the military and development co-operation level. Estonia has proven its competence in the cyber security sphere where we are an appreciated partner.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs pointed to the importance of setting objectives for preserving the environment and ensuring sustainable development: greenhouse gas emissions have been reduced by 50%, with the aim being to reach 60% by the year 2020. At the same time, we have increased the use of renewable energy sources; renewable energy is planned to constitute 25% of energy used by the year 2020.
Paet thanked the members of this Riigikogu, whose authority will terminate soon, for the efficient cooperation.
Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee analysed the most important foreign policy issues and trends of the parliamentary cycle that is about to end, and tried to guess what foreign policy challenges the parliament will have to face in the coming four years. In Mikser’s words, the changes in outside environment and the emergence of new risk factors have noticeably adjusted the list and order of Estonia’s priorities in foreign and security policy. Mikser emphasised energy security and supply security as one of the key issues in global international relations. As another important issue, Mikser mentioned cyber security. Mikser noted that, in addition to the protection measures of public e-services and cyber infrastructure, we have to continuously observe the preparation and implementation of international practices and agreements concerning cyber security.
Mikser highlighted the decisive attitude of the Riigikogu in the statements of the Riigikogu on Georgia-Russia conflict which declare unambiguously that it is not possible to accept the changing of internationally recognised state borders by military force.
The Chairman of the Committee considered it necessary that we could formulate our interests and expectations also in such issues which NATO has to face, like missile defence and the future of tactical nuclear arms in Europe.
In connection with the question of Afghanistan, Mikser expressed the position that foreign troops should be in Afghanistan not a moment longer than is absolutely necessary. “The speed of our departure should not be determined by our political impatience but by how fast we can create conditions where Afghanistan’s own security forces and civil powers can take the responsibility for the security of the country. Estonia’s decision to define Afghanistan as one of the important target countries of our development cooperation clearly shows that we have understood the indivisibility of military and civil security also in crisis regions far from home,” said Mikser.
Mikser stated that the economic crisis which had brought along a decline of our export markets had made the Riigikogu Foreign Affairs Committee to focus on Estonian foreign trade policy of for long months. Mikser believed that this work had given an additional impulse to improving the cooperation of the organisations and agencies supporting the entering into foreign markets of Estonian enterprises. At the same time, he stated that the institutional organisation of a common foreign service of the European Union has taken longer than expected. Mikser: “Worthy representation in shaping and carrying out the foreign policy of the European Union will increase our international influence and give our diplomats fresh motivation that seems to have started shaking after achieving important national interim goals.”
Mikser also touched upon issues connected with Wikileaks: the case raises the question how the states will keep, handle and share sensitive information in the future.
Mikser: In brief conclusion, the ambition of our foreign policy of four years could be the following: to influence in our interests the international processes which we can influence, to predict as exactly as possible the changes in international relations and global lines of power that we cannot influence, and to be ready to change and develop if necessary, in order to be better prepared for the changes in the world.”
Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee recognised the work of the Riigikogu delegations and noted that, in planning the budget of foreign relations in the future, we should take into account the positions our representatives have won in one or the other assembly. He mentioned the very intensive and effective foreign relations of the Riigikogu in the last four years and said that the coordinating role of the Foreign Affairs Committee is extremely important.
Comments were presented by Members of the Riigikogu Silver Meikar, Enn Eesmaa, Mart Laar, Aleksei Lotman, Sven Mikser, Trivimi Velliste, Andres Herkel and Nikolai Põdramägi.
For the complete overview of the deliberation of foreign policy, read the verbatim record of the sitting (in Estonian):
On the motion of the Social Affairs Committee, the second reading of the Bill on Amendments to § 5 of the Artificial Insemination and Embryo Protection Act
), initiated by the same Committee, was concluded. The purpose of the Bill is to extend the range of the persons who are entitled to receive the health care service of artificial insemination. The Bill provides elimination of the list of medical contraindications in the case of which artificial insemination of a woman is prohibited which is established by a Regulation of the Minister of Social Affairs. Accordingly, a decision concerning the need for and permissibility of artificial insemination will be made only by a doctor. The Bill was sent to the third reading.
On the motion of the Social Affairs Committee, the second reading of the Bill on Amendments to the Labour Market Services and Benefits Act and the Unemployment Insurance Act
), initiated by the same Committee, was concluded. One purpose of the Bill is to facilitate the accepting of short-term jobs by enabling people to apply for repeated unemployment insurance benefit more flexibly. Thus, the Bill changes the procedure for the implementation of the waiting period upon payment of the unemployment allowance and the unemployment insurance benefit. Upon repeated loss of a job, payment of the allowance will no longer be preceded by a waiting period of seven or sixty days, which means that calculation of both the unemployment allowance and the unemployment insurance benefit will start as of the day of submission of the application if a person loses a job again after a short-term employment. The Bill also extends the opportunities to communicate by means of telecommunications instead of appearing to a visit at the unemployment insurance office, increasing the flexibility of communication with the Unemployment Insurance Fund. The Bill was sent to the third reading.
On the motion of the Social Affairs Committee, the second reading of the Bill on Amendments to the Social Welfare Act
), initiated by the Government, was concluded. The purpose of the Bill is to eliminate the bottlenecks related to the essence and organisation of special welfare services for persons with special psychological needs which are financed from the state budget, in order to clarify the regulation concerning the provision of special welfare services. The Bill grants to persons who need a special welfare service the right to receive a service supporting the employment regardless of the degree of severity of the disability or the percentage of loss of capacity for work. According to the Act which is currently in force, a certain degree of severity of the disability or a percentage of loss of capacity for work within a certain range must be established for receiving a service of supporting nature which is financed from the state budget. The Bill also specifies the isolation of a person and it will be allowed also in the case when a person is dangerous not only to himself or herself or others persons receiving the service but also for example to workers. At the same time, the Bill provides the right to continue studies in the Master’s study to young people who are using the substitute home service, similarly to other young people who are being raised by and maintained by their parents. The Bill was sent to the third reading.
On the motion of the Economic Affairs Committee, the Bill on Amendments to § 24 of the Public Transport Act
), initiated by the Social Democratic Party Faction and Members of the Riigikogu Kalle Laanet, Aivar Riisalu, Jüri Ratas and Evelyn Sepp, was rejected at the first reading. 31 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of the rejection and 16 members voted against. Thus, the Bill was dropped from the legislative proceeding.
On the motion of the Environment Committee, the Bill on Amendments to the Nature Conservation Act, the Building Act and the Immovables Expropriation Act
), initiated by the Social Democratic Party Faction, was rejected at the first reading. 28 members of the Riigikogu voted in favour of the rejection and 4 members voted against. Thus, the Bill was dropped from the legislative proceeding.
The Riigikogu Press Service