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Deliberation of foreign policy as a matter of significant national importance was held in the Riigikogu today. Central topics in the report of the Minister of Foreign Affairs Urmas Paet were security, external economic policy and the European Union. In his words, the last year had brought with it progress as well as presented us with new challenges in all these three realms. “We are participating for the first time in the formulation of NATO’s new Strategic Concept, which will also be under discussion at the NATO foreign ministers’ meeting taking place in Estonia this spring. In the economic realm, we have made major decisions that have brought accession to the euro zone within arm’s reach. We are also on the threshold of joining the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development – the OECD – which assembles 30 economically likeminded states,” he said.

Paet recalled that, in spring, Eastern Partnership had become an official policy of the European Union and there were plans to establish an Eastern Partnership training centre in Tallinn. Thanks to Sweden’s successful leadership, the European Union’s Baltic Sea Strategy, in which Estonia heads the internal market sphere, was approved in the autumn. On 1 December, the Lisbon Treaty entered into force, and the implementation of the treaty, including the establishment of a common foreign service, is also in our hands.

When speaking about the increasing surge of extremism in the world which is affecting our sense of security and solidarity very deeply, the Foreign Minister underlined the role of the members of the Estonian Defence Forces in hotbeds of crises, especially in Afghanistan. “Estonia will stay in Afghanistan for as long as is needed, but we will withdraw our troops as soon as possible,” he stressed.

He explained that, although the direct mission of the Estonian troops is to ensure the security of Helmand Province, their contribution also helps in the fight against international terrorism being fought by Pakistan and the other countries in the region. Likewise, it helps prevent the spread of drugs and the crime connected with them.

Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Riigikogu Sven Mikser also spoke about Afghanistan as a region of special meaning and importance to Estonia in his report. He pointed out that, during the previous year, the Foreign Affairs Committee had several times discussed the situation in Afghanistan and the Estonian-Afghanistan policy with the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Minister of Defence, our diplomats and other experts. At the joint sittings with the National Defence Committee, we have heard the periodic overviews of the Defence Forces about the activities of Estonian soldiers, and the situation and the incidents in the mission region.

“The continuing participation of the Estonian Defence Forces in the stabilisation of Afghanistan is important for several equally important reasons. Contributing to the regulation of one of the most complicated crises of the world makes it possible for us to be the producers of international security, not just its users. It gives us the moral right to participate in the shaping of the international security organisation of today and tomorrow, and strengthens our reputation as a trustworthy ally and partner,” he said.

Mikser also discussed thoroughly the foreign economic policy of Estonia and the cooperation of our state structures and organisation supporting export on which the Foreign Affairs Committee had been focusing the previous year. The human and financial resources that Estonia can use to help its enterprises reach the foreign markets are naturally limited, and therefore it is even more important that we use these resources reasonably and try to find the best synergy between different state agencies and business organisations, he said.

“It is clear that each export market is specific, and the traditions and the organisation of work of other countries differ. But the positive aspect is that today all parties assure that cooperation and exchange of information have improved,” noted Mikser. He expressed his hope that, in the nearest future, we can see the situation where a commercial representation of Enterprise Estonia can fulfil also consular functions.

As representatives of factions, Marko Mihkelson, Enn Eesmaa, Ivi Eenmaa, Ester Tuiksoo, Valdur Lahtvee and Sven Mikser presented comments at the deliberation of foreign policy.

The Riigikogu passed with 85 votes in favour the Act on Amendments to the Penal Code (640 SE), initiated by the Government, the purpose of which is to prevent communication of an adult and a child from developing into a physical sexual relationship and thereby to prevent sexual abuse of children. The Act amends the regulation relating to potential abuse of minors in the creation works which contain pornography or eroticism, use of minors as models or actors in a pornographic or erotic performance as well as in the manufacture of a pornographic or erotic picture, film or other work, and provides a fine or up to five years’ imprisonment for it.

The Riigikogu Press Service