The deliberation of foreign policy as a matter of significant national importance was held in the Riigikogu. Reports were by the Minister of Foreign Affairs Urmas Paet and the Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee Marko Mihkelson.
Paet stressed that the focus of his speech was foreign policy that serves the people. Human rights and values are a constant theme in all areas of foreign policy, from security to European policy, from economics to consular issues. Improving and protecting the human rights situation has for 95 years been and will remain a matter of principle as well as a goal for Estonia.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs gave a thorough overview of Estonia’s foreign policy activities and its priorities. Paet noted that the security of the Baltic Sea region is stable, but it needs strengthening as a whole. “Nordic” is a stamp of quality in matters of economy and finances. The whole region must set the same security goals. Estonia would like to see Finland and Sweden tied more closely to the Alliance, he said.
Northern Europe is economically and financially strong. We are more competitive, stable, and growing faster than the rest of Europe. However, this does not mean that everything is ideal. Here in the Nordic region we are doing better than some others. Yet even we are not doing as well as we would like to. Closer regional co-operation is essential. Next year Estonia will chair Baltic co-operation, co-ordinate the work of the NB8, and lead the Council of the Baltic Sea States. Thus, we will have a clear chance to encourage closer ties among the Nordic and Baltic countries, the Minister of Foreign Affairs said.
In Paet’s words, what is done in the European Union must support our region’s past success and future goals. More important than the fact of EU membership is what we do in Europe. What is important is how we stand for the interests and rights of our people. But also for the interests of all of Europe, he emphasised.
Estonia’s relations with Russia are developing and busy. Based on the proposal from the Riigikogu, we have started new consultations on the topic of a border treaty. Recently we concluded social security and border point agreements and an implementation protocol for a readmission agreement. Progress has also been made in agreements on higher education, cross-border co-operation, and emergency situations. The Government is interested in developing partnership relations between Russia and the European Union. We support the conclusion of a new comprehensive framework agreement for relations.
Paet said that he was grateful to the Riigikogu and the public for participating in discussions on Estonia’s opportunities in Asia and elsewhere. A discussion on Asia had taken place in the Riigikogu and in November the Government had approved its Asia programme. It is a good way to continue developing concrete activities, the Minister of Foreign Affairs remarked.
Mihkelson gave a thorough overview of the activities of the Foreign Affairs Committee and its contribution to the development of Estonia’s foreign policy.
Mihkelson noted that the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Riigikogu is constantly contributing to our foreign policy debates and activities by reports, recommendations and observing the foreign policy activities of the Government. The most recent examples of this are the Asian Strategy Report published last spring and the analysis of Estonia’s network of foreign missions with recommendations to the Government. Also the Foreign Affairs Committee’s contribution to the recent debates over the Estonian-Russian border issue can be clearly felt.
Mihkelson highlighted that, over the years, the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Riigikogu has involved our “think tank” analysts in different debates and taken their advice. Their latest contribution, the 65-page report of the International Centre for Defence Studies on the security perspectives in the Baltic Sea region until 2020, was presented during the seminar held at Toompea on 15 November last year. All the analyses that have been ordered are also available on the homepage of the Foreign Affairs Committee.
Mihkelson stressed that, in its work, the Foreign Affairs Committee has focused on different urgent issues, which are important in view of our foreign and security policy aims. The discussion of the Asian strategy last year ended in a corresponding report and recommendations made to the Government, which we also discussed at the Riigikogu Plenary sitting last spring. He added that the importance of the Asian countries in the global economy and politics is a growing trend, and this is why the Foreign Affairs Committee will actively continue to deal in more depth with the issues touched upon in the report, from the position of Estonia’s interests.
Mihkelson explained that, the previous year, the Foreign Affairs Committee had been working in the name of re-launching the parliamentary dialogue with their Russian colleagues. Mihkelson noted that, during several meetings held in the previous year, the Foreign Affairs Committee had discussed the state of the Estonian-Russian bilateral relations, and in October, with the agreement of all political forces represented in the Riigikogu, it had made the decision to recommend the Government to accept Russia’s proposal to begin border consultations. With this, the Government had been issued a very strict mandate extent: “The proposal is based on the knowledge that Estonia wishes to develop relationships which respect each other’s sovereignty and legal continuity with all its neighbouring countries, including Russia,” the Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee emphasised.
Mihkelson noted that the parliamentary diplomacy of the Riigikogu is certainly not limited only to the activities of the Foreign Affairs Committee or the President of the Parliament. The foreign delegations working in different international parliamentary assemblies play a very important role.
Enn Eesmaa, Margus Hanson, Andres Herkel and Sven Mikser took the floor during the debate.
The Riigikogu concluded the second reading of the Defence League Bill (190 SE), initiated by the Government. The Bill brings the Act which is currently in force into conformity with changes, including the legislation which is in force or going to enter into force, and reorganisations, in the field of national defence. The Bill fixes the exact duties of the Defence League as well as the authority of the Commander of the Armed Forces in the activity of the Defence League, which the Bill limits to military training. The Bill provides for specialised organisations to be brought within the structure of the Defence League as its structural units. The Bill organises the regulation relating to the weapons of the members of the Defence League. The Bill was sent to the third reading.
The Riigikogu Press Service
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