While meeting with French Minister of European Affairs Bernard Cazeneuve today, Foreign Minister Urmas Paet noted that in recent years co-operation between Estonia and France in certain areas has become significantly closer.
The foreign minister stated that we have successful co-operation with France in the security sector within the framework of the European Union anti-piracy operation ATALANTA. “An Estonian vessel protection unit participates in the operation on board a French ship, and thanks to our positive experiences thus far we would like to continue participating in the operation this year together with the French crew,” said Paet.
The basis of bilateral defence co-operation between Estonia and France is the defence co-operation agreement that was updated in fall of 2011. We also work closely with France within the framework of NATO. “France was one of the major supporters of making the air policing mission over Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania permanent and has participated in the air policing mission many times to ensure the safety of our airspace,” said the foreign minister.
The foreign minister added that the French have provided aid to our citizens within the framework of consular co-operation. “Currently the French Embassy in Fiji is a very good partner in helping to find a solution to the situation of the Estonian citizen awaiting trial there,” he stated. The foreign minister added that in accordance with the visa representation agreement between Estonia and France, France represents Estonia in visa matters in 15 different countries—this means France represents Estonia in more countries than any other partner.
The foreign minister stated that Estonia gaining observer status in the International Organisation of the Francophonie (OIF) has added a new dimension to Estonia-France relations. Especially important to Estonia is the agreement with the OIF that allows Estonian state officials to study the French language with the support of the OIF. Paet also added that it is wonderful to see the active cultural co-operation between Estonia and France. Last year the biggest Estonian cultural festival ever held in France took place. Within the framework of the festival, “Estonie-Tonique”, over 200 Estonian performers went to France and more than 50 events took place.
During their meeting, Paet and Cazeneuve spoke for some time about the situation in Syria. The ministers agreed that efforts must continue to encourage a political transition to take place in the country. “It is essential to keep moving forward towards forming a transitional government in Syria,” said Paet. Therefore, said the foreign minister, the international community must call on Syria even more forcefully to join the opposition. “We fully support the work of the Special Representative of the UN and Arab League Lakhdar Brahimi in finding a solution to the situation,” he added.
The ministers also acknowledged that the humanitarian situation in Syria is extremely poor. “Therefore we must support the residents of Syria until a political solution is found and peace is achieved,” stated Paet. The foreign minister added that the international community must show its solidarity by also supporting the countries that have accepted refugees.
During their meeting the ministers also discussed recent developments in the European Union and euro zone, Eastern Partnership, and matters related to Russia.