Address by Mr. Urmas Paet,
Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Estonia,
to the Riigikogu on behalf of the Government of Estonia
MAIN GUIDELINES OF ESTONIA's FOREIGN POLICY
Respected Members of the Riigikogu,
In accordance with the agreement concluded with the Riigikogu Foreign Affairs Committee, this address is devoted to matters concerning enlargement and partnership with states in the neighbourhood of the EU and NATO. Various questions and significant points, which are of essential importance for Estonia’s foreign policy, are all intertwined with this. But this is not the only reason why enlargement and relations with our neighbours are spheres of primary interest for us. They become essentially important for us when we realize that everything occurring today and tomorrow within Europe’s borders, and even beyond them, has a very long-time effect upon Estonia as well as the whole European Union and NATO. Thus – one wrong choice, and the after-effects remain with us for a long time. Therefore, when making a choice, the foremost criteria should be the balancing of values and interests, the relationship of domestic and foreign policy, as well as public opinion. And certainly not the least important factor – responsibility. The responsibility that the wealthier bear for the less privileged. The responsibility that the more advanced bear for those yet developing. The responsibility that club members bear for membership candidates
In the course of the last two months, I have met with many colleagues in the EU’s and NATO’s neighbour and partner states, with the representatives of nations, which regard as a major goal of their people and state integration with the organisations that are the embodiment of Western values. What are these states expecting from us? First of all, attention, understanding, and support for their endeavours to become normal, secure, democratic nations. And what is not expected of us – to forget them; to treat them with arrogant condescension; to disregard those values, which we have proclaimed after the regaining of our independence, and have set up as an example for others. We are fully aware of the problems that Eastern European and Western Balkan states have to struggle with, and we have solutions to offer, that are appreciated in those nations, and which they are trying to implement.
If the first decade that followed the regaining of our independence witnessed a reduction of tensions in the world, then, at present, in the international arena, there are ever more tensions and challenges. This makes Estonia observe NATO’s and the European Union’s neighbouring regions with even greater consideration – after all, peace, stability and the development of democracy there are of the utmost significance for us. Since, thereby, the peace and stability of Estonia is also increased.
In 25 days, Bulgaria and Romania will be part of the European Union. We greet them and wish them speedy development. We are prepared to pass on our experiences from that most trying post-accession period. Estonia has opened its embassy in Sofia, and is considering the time schedule for establishing its representation in Bucharest.
This is also a new experience for us – for the first time we are old-timers who are observing what the neophytes are bringing with them. The first of our entrepreneurs are beginning to operate in these states. We also have to be prepared for the fact that Bulgarian and Romanian products will begin to compete much more than before in our market. A development, which we as believers in free trade, greet wholeheartedly, since it has been so useful for us. Estonia will also open its labour market for Bulgarian and Romanian citizens as soon as these states accede. Just as we expected and expect similar treatment for us from other member states.
For Estonia, the further enlargement of the European Union is a matter of observing European values and promoting its interests. The enlargement of the European Union has greatly influenced the international way of life as a whole – it has expanded the region of peace and stability in Europe, and strengthened the European Union’s voice in international relations. Enlargement influences the European Union’s successfulness in the field of global economic competition, and expands the region of European values. It increases efficiency in the prevention of wars and other conflicts, as well as in the furthering of democracy and human rights in the world. The European Union is today functioning in a world in which Asia is gaining a stronger role, and in which Russia is becoming more active than before. No matter how active the European Union’s single Member Sates, or groups consisting of them, including the bigger Member Sates, are, in today’s world, this, often, does not suffice. To be able to essentially influence events in the international arena, it is necessary to make use of the potential of the whole 25-member Union, and function collectively. Estonia consistently stands up for making the EU’s Common Foreign and Security Policy more effective, and hopefully the EU has learned from the bitter experiences of the beginning of the Balkan wars, during the previous decade, when the inability of the Member Sates to reach an agreement resulted in tragedy. There is another example, from recent history, that deals with the disputes preceding the Iraq War, and the inability to reach agreements. We hope to never witness such indecisiveness in the European Union again.
Every step in the enlargement process must, of course, be considered in the context of the development of the whole EU, and its effects upon very differing spheres be thoroughly evaluated. In a week, the European Council will be discussing existing attitudes and opinions concerning enlargement.
The past two and a half years have, of course, been too short a time for a more thorough and scientific evaluation of the last wave of enlargement. But the European Commission’s first analysis, released in May, was clearly positive. The development of those who acceded in 2004 has been quicker, and we are actively catching up to the old-timers. If, considering purchasing power, Estonia’s gross national product per inhabitant, was, in 1996, according to Eurostat data, 34.8% of the 25-member Union’s states’ average, then, in 2004, it already surpassed the 50% level. According to the latest data, last year we were at the 57% level, and very soon we will pass the 60% point. The new Member States have successfully adopted the common rules and regulations of the EU. Thus, by July of this year, the old Members States had not implemented 2.2%, and the new ones, 1.5%, of the legislation concerning the internal market. We have increased the effect that a common market has upon the Member States, and have helped firms to strengthen their positions. In the last few months, there has been a visible speeding up of the development tempo of the EU as a whole, and according to opinions expressed by analysts, enlargement has also played a role in this economic growth.
At the same time, those that acceded in 2004 cannot be held wholly responsible for the phenomena that are preventing our further integration – the postponement of our accession to the euro zone, the slow opening up of the labour market, as well as the difficulties that have arisen with the enlargement of the Schengen area.
Enlargement and relations with neighbours are testing the media’s, the politicians’, and all of the citizens’ readiness to remain true to the established and agreed upon values. This fall, articles with a critical undertone have appeared, in the international media, about new Member States. There is concern over their internal stability, and there are complaints about the slowing down of the economic development in several states. The problems of one or another country are often attributed to all new Member States, which, inevitably, harms the image of even those states that are in no way connected with the reasons for concern.
Shortcomings must be talked about, but not one-sidedly, not by making unfounded generalities, and not by over-dramatizing. In the process of skilfully presenting petty gripes, of pitting one part of the continent against another, of bandying about populist slogans, the positive gains of enlargement, which are, after all, essential for all of Europe, tend to be overlooked. For the people of the new Member States, life has, in two years, clearly improved -- the environment is cleaner, and many states are developing at a very fast tempo, which is accompanied by a constant inflow of foreign investments. Nevertheless, when bringing forth these positive facts, justified concerns must, at the same time, also be talked about. But, it must be kept in mind, that the enlargement of the European Union has made Europe a better place for all Europeans.
But actually, pessimism concerning enlargement is nothing new. It is connected with understandable human prudence. In part, we are also dealing with fear of new and perhaps not so familiar as well as noticeably poorer societies, which seem to contain threats to an established and stable welfare system. But even when successful and rich Sweden, Finland, and Austria were acceding, 11 years ago, there were those who claimed that the acceptance of new members was not justified, since, supposedly, Europe wasn’t prepared for it.
On November 8th, the European Commission released the report “Enlargement Strategy and Main Challenges 2006 – 2007” as well as progress reports concerning the Candidate States and those states that are aspiring to become that. The Commission has found the right approach – enlargement must continue, and, at the same time, its quality must be improved on the basis of acquired experiences. Existing commitments must be fulfilled, but, at the same time, new commitments must be made with caution.
These commitments encompass the ongoing accession negotiations with Croatia and Turkey, the matter of granting Candidate status for Macedonia, and the question of European Union prospects for the other Western Balkan states. But, at the same time, we must keep in mind, that, at the Copenhagen Council, in 1993, the European Union made an indirect commitment to all European nations – they all, upon fulfilling the necessary criteria, must have the opportunity to accede. And this is where the stronger party’s responsibility towards the less privileged becomes apparent.
As happens in the European Union, Member Sates have started to deal with the approaching of the Commission with differing viewpoints. For some, its prudent attitude is an excuse for avoiding the making of new decisions, for others, it’s a stimulus to prepare themselves more thoroughly for upcoming decision making. For us, the choice is clear – Estonia has been, and will consistently remain, a supporter of further enlargement. The December Council must definitely send our neighbours the signal that the enlargement rain is on the move. This symbolic train, the creation of Commissioner Olli Rehn, may, very well, wheeze at times, and stand in some stations longer than planned, but it is rolling.
Enlargement is tied in with the development of all other major European Union processes. Among other things, to accept new Member States, solutions must be found for the various questions concerning existing institutions. If the Constitutional Treaty, ratified by Finland, as the 16th state to do so, the day before yesterday, had become effective in accordance with the original schedule, there wouldn’t have been any major reasons for concern. Today, I wont dwell upon the fate of this document – let us leave these discussions for the upcoming year. But the European Commission finds that institutional changes should be implemented before the new Member, or Croatia, is accepted. We think that, if all parties are willing, then all questions can be solved. For instance, it would be possible to solve the institutional questions associated with accepting Croatia, with an accession treaty.
The European identity encompasses geographic, historical, and cultural elements. The European Union is defined, primarily, by its values. Each generation finds its own approach to the matter. A single, unvaried, European identity does not exist. It is constantly changing, and is comprised of the identities of both nations and individuals. Reforms in Europe’s eastern part, and the intensification of ties with the European Union, will, in the future, definitely bring about essential changes in this sphere. Estonia has always said, that no geographic barriers should be set for the European Union’s enlargement. Since, if the EU sends, in the future, to those that wish to accede, the message that the door is closed, then those left out in the cold might make a choice that could be dangerous and damaging for Europe.
We wish to see the continuation of enlargement, but at the same time, it is essential that integration be intensified too. This does not involve any insurmountable contradictions, such as, either one or the other. Estonia is cooperating with the Partners so that the EU would agree upon and implement new steps in further developing the common market, in environmental matters, in the struggle against crime, in the protection of the consumer, as well as in other spheres.
At the same time, looking at the results of public opinion polls, we see that in the European Union, as a whole, support for enlargement is waning, and that the number of its opponents is increasing. This last spring, 45% were for enlargement, and 42% of the European Union’s citizens were opposed to it. In Estonia, and the other new Member Sates, the support for further enlargement was clearly greater than in the old Member Sates – as much as 66%, and in Estonia, 50%. This is natural, and also places upon our shoulders the responsibility of proving, even more than before, the usefulness of enlargement, and the need for continuing it. To prove this standpoint with both words – by presenting the success story of the enlargement of 2004 – and actions. By being a mature and readily cooperative Member State.
In the case of further enlargement, the European Union has to ensure its capability to accept and absorb new Members. This includes the readiness of its institutions, common policies, and budget to do this. The ability to integrate is, already by definition, a matter relevant only for the EU, therefore, inevitably, a self-centred term. But, right now, we need less self-centredness in Europe, and a more caring sense of responsibility for the continent as well as the rest of the whole world. The question of the ability to integrate is, for us, a matter of tempo, rather than, of whether to enlarge or not. Just as was concluded at the summer European Council.
Presently, the enlargement train’s way stations have been the association treaties that have been concluded with those wishing to accede. These specify the prospects for acceding, as well as spell out the mechanisms for cooperation, trade preferences, etc. Several Western Balkan states also have stabilisation and association agreements that offer prospects for acceding. At the same time, the European Union has partnership and cooperation agreements, which are not directly connected with potential accession.
Only the prospect of membership, even if it is, time wise, far away, ensures the complete and irreversible Europeanness of the Candidate States’ reforms. And states, that potentially wish to accede, can very well sense if they are being peddled an alternative to accession, even if the latter is a remote possibility. When the prospect for EU accession disappears, then, unfortunately, it can be assumed that there will be essential negative changes in the disappointed state’s policies.
The European Commission’s progress report concerning the development of Croatia, which is holding accession negotiations, on its way towards the European Union, brings forth both achievements and shortcomings. We know, from our own experience, how complicated this stage of the negotiations can be, when many of the questions under discussion are still being solved. Croatia has shown lively interest in our experiences in various spheres. This is also the country in the Western Balkans to which we export the most goods, although the volume of this trade is still quite modest. In various forums, there has been talk of Croatian accession taking place in 2009-2010, but officially, the EU is, from now on, ready to talk about concrete deadlines only towards the very conclusion of the negotiations. Hopefully, Croatia will still become the EU’s 28th member within this decade.
When evaluating Turkey’s accession negotiations, we must take into consideration the European Union’s common strategic interests. Last year’s September 21 Declaration concerning Turkey’s commitment to apply the region of implementation of the Ankara Protocol to all Member States, including Cyprus, gave directions for doing this, even foreseeing circumstances, which could impede the negotiations. In our opinion, from now on, both the letter and the spirit of the Declaration should be adhered to. Thereby, the EU must react to Turkey’s shortcomings in implementing the Ankara Protocol, but this reaction must be appropriate, and cannot lead to the breaking off of negotiations. The not opening, for negotiations, of the chapters directly connected with the implementation of the Ankara Protocol is the right reaction. According to our evaluation, there are three such chapters – free trade, the tariff union, and transport. Serious discussions concerning this will take place at the upcoming EU foreign ministers’ meeting, and, its not impossible, also at the Summit following that.
The reforms and changes that have been carried out in Turkey, during the last few years, have already taken this country closer to the European Union, and the democratic changeover must, of course, be continued. The negotiations with Turkey will probably last ten or more years, but the goal of the negotiations must also be concrete for Turkey. In the course of the negotiations, mutual understanding between the EU and Turkey will definitely improve, and both societies will be able to adjust to the concept of Turkey being a potential EU member. It is clear, that the Turkey, which, years from now, accedes to the European Union after the successful conclusion of the negotiations, will no longer be today’s Turkey, and especially not the Turkey that we knew five or ten years ago. Conforming Turkey to certain requirements for EU accession is also a great opportunity for drawing the Christian and Islamic cultural and religious spaces closer together in a friendly manner, and for these societies to significantly learn to better understand each other. The important example, that Turkey can offer us, is how democracy, Islam, and secularism can coexist. How Turkey is doing, and how the nation evolves, also influences other states and developments both in the Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia, where these events are followed closely. Turkey also offers a significant opportunity for the EU to diversify its energy supply routes.
When talking about the Western Balkans, we are dealing with a region that is of essential significance for Estonia’s foreign policy. A couple of years ago, this all may have seemed to be in the realm of wishful thinking, but, by now, our policy is even starting to bear realistic fruit. Our relations are intensifying – at the beginning of the year I was in Macedonia and Kosovo, in the summer, in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Montenegro’s foreign minister visited Estonia before their referendum, and today, on 7 December, the foreign minister of Macedonia is Estonia’s guest. And we have also been visited by Albania’s foreign minister, as well as the foreign minister of the former Serbia and Montenegro.
We are glad that, last year, Macedonia became an EU Candidate State. Although accession negotiations will not be started with Macedonia in the near future, it is essential that Candidate State status was achieved. Considering the present development trends in Serbia and Kosovo, it can be said that Candidate State status is an essential stabilising factor for Macedonia and the whole region, which helps to approach the future in a positive frame of mind, and to avoid those mistakes, which brought about the outbreak of a conflict in that state in 2001. Macedonia wishes, in many ways, to learn from Estonia’s experiences in approaching NATO and the European Union, as well as in the sphere of developing information technology, and Estonia has given its appropriate assistance. And especially praiseworthy is Macedonia’s ambitious endeavour to become a Balkan economic “Tiger”.
This summer, a new state appeared on the map of Europe – Montenegro. Estonia was the first state to establish diplomatic relations with Montenegro. Estonia was also the first state to have its ambassador present his credentials to the president of Montenegro. Why? Because we know, from first hand experience, how essential it was for us, that we would be quickly recognized by others as an equal state. Montenegro is developing quickly in the Western Balkans, and the prospects for the development of both political and economic relations between Estonia and Montenegro are very good. The European Union is about to conclude talks with Montenegro concerning a stabilisation and association treaty, and, hopefully, an appropriate agreement will be signed soon. This will also open up accession perspectives for Montenegro.
One of the key states in the region is Serbia. The country is approaching parliamentary elections, which will essentially influence the choices that the nation will make as well as the formulation of the state’s foreign policy. We must keep in mind the thinking that has developed in the area in conjunction with the negotiations concerning Kosovo’s future, as well as Montenegro’s secession. Within the framework of the EU and NATO, it is important to keep developing relations with Serbia. It is, for instance, essential to conclude a visa facilitation treaty as quickly as possible, since over three quarters of Serbia’s young people have not visited a single EU Member State. And limiting the freedom of movement creates resentment. Meanwhile, the international community continues to demand that Serbia cooperate with the international tribunal dealing with the former Yugoslavia’s war crimes.
At the Riga Summit, Serbia, just like Bosnia and Herzegovina as well as Montenegro, were invited to participate in the NATO Partnership for Peace programme, and this is a visible indication of the NATO states’ interest in the positive development of this region.
Estonia continues to contribute to various EU and NATO operations in the region. The solving of Kosovo’s status has reached the home stretch, but that stretch might not be as straight as it could be. Even when Kosovo’s status is established, the need for an international presence will not disappear, so that we will also have to make decisions concerning our continued presence there. Of no less importance is also NATO and EU activity in connection with the building up of Kosovo, with the main stress, in this realm, falling, specifically, upon the shoulders of the European Union. But it is quite clear, that the incipient EU civilian mission has to establish a very smooth working relationship with the NATO mission that is already there.
The UN’s special ambassador, Martti Ahtisaari, has established the goal of building up a Kosovo in which all the various communities can live together on a dignified basis. Meanwhile, the negotiations concerning Kosovo’s future have not, especially, made Belgrade’s and Priština’s positions any more compatible. Nevertheless, in the course of the following two or three months, but which will be, since the upcoming Serbian elections will be somewhat delayed, later than originally planned, Ahtisaar is expected to make a proposal concerning Kosovo’s future status.
Likewise, Estonia has a consistent policy concerning Bosnia and Herzegovina as well as Albania. All of them are in need of a continuous and clear European Union perspective, since only that can provide an opportunity for the region’s normal development, and for the forgetting of old animosities.
The messages sent to the Western Balkan states from the NATO Summit in Riga should encourage them to make greater efforts to approach not only NATO, but also the European Union. After all, we know from first hand experience, how tightly tied in with each other are integration into both NATO and the European Union, the two most important organisations for the maintenance of Western values.
This is also one of the reasons why Estonia is interested in meaningful dialogue and cooperation between NATO and the European Union, as well as in mutual coordinating on a daily basis. After all, everyone involved shares common values, and, today, 19, whereas, starting in the new year, 21 members are also shared. Cooperation between the European Union and NATO means coordinated activity in the course of operations, as in Afghanistan and Kosovo, as well as the intensification of mutual political dialogue. The dialogue between NATO and the EU is an essential element in the development of trans-Atlantic relations as a whole. Therefore, NATO and the EU must also discuss, in addition to matters concerning operations, threats to security in a strategic context – for instance, energy security, terrorism, and future threats to security. For us, the European Union and NATO are not competitors, but rather, they support and compliment each other.
And now, back to the European Union, or to be more precise, back to its Neighbourhood Policy, which was launched at the same time as the last enlargement took place. The EU is interested in a secure, stable, and blossoming neighbourhood, which observes such values as democracy, the rule of law, good governance, and human rights. This policy was used to encompass Ukraine, Moldova, and, to a limited degree, Belarus, as well as three Southern Caucasus states, and ten Middle East partners. Within the framework of the Neighbourhood Policy, intense cooperation is developed with these states in the political, economic, security, and cultural realms. The Neighbourhood Policy is implemented with states on the basis of individual action plans, of which there are 11. On December 4, the European Commission released progress reports about the implementation of the Neighbourhood Policy up till now, and presented ideas for strengthening it.
The Neighbourhood Policy will also be tied in with enlargement, but there will be nothing automatic about it – enlargement will, of course, take place where it is desired, and where the Copenhagen criteria have been fulfilled. Thus, the Neighbourhood Policy should not be regarded as an alternative to the membership prospect, since, for some state, it can be a means to achieving membership, but for another, it would not be that at all.
The Neighbourhood Policy is one of Estonia’s priorities in the sphere of a Common Foreign and Security Policy. For us, both an eastward and a southward direction are essential. But we have more competence and opportunity for contributing to, specifically, the EU’s eastern neighbours, and we devote special attention to Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine. Along with the development of mutual relations, multilateral cooperation is also essential, including a proposal to hold regular European Union and Ukrainian, Moldovan, as well as the three Southern Caucasus states’ foreign ministers’ joint meetings.
Nevertheless, the EU should do more than it has been doing till now in this sphere. This concerns the promoting of trade, the easing of travel restrictions, making greater contributions to the solving of frozen conflicts. In Estonia’s opinion, the Commission’s proposals are a good basis for making progress.
At the same time, EU and U.S. cooperation are also essential in supporting the new democracies. So that activities in this realm would be coordinated, and that the messages being passed on to the new democracies would be mutually supportive and similar, all with the aim of developing a strong civil society in these states. Whereas, it is essential to support both the rooting of democratic values, as well as economic development, since economic activity, without any values, could, very possibly, result in extensive corruption.
One of the European Union’s Strategic Partners is Russia. After Estonia’s accession to NATO and the European Union, some additional opportunities have opened up in our relations with Russia. In several spheres, we can talk about good cooperation, but it still has not been possible to eliminate a single one of the more essential political problems concerning Estonian and Russian relations. Russia does not want to, unfortunately, admit, that the Soviet occupation, which stalled Estonian development, was a historical reality. We are also concerned about the fact that extremist groups are becoming active in Russia’s political life, and about the situation in the democracy and human rights realm.
Trade between Estonia and Russia has increased noticeably, but this has also been accompanied by problems. For instance, in the case of exporting fish products. Also, we are, now and then, concerned about the long waiting lines for automobiles on the border between our two countries, which affects the interests of the trucking firms of many European Union countries. To this we can add problems with Polish meat, Norwegian salmon, Georgian and Moldovan wine, juice and mineral water, as well as warnings about the importing of European Union products after January 1, when Bulgaria and Romania have become EU members. But for a state about to join the World Trade Organisation, matters concerning trade should not be a means for achieving any political objectives. And the EU must support its members who have been subjected to this pressure, and must, right now, help to solve the difficulties that have arisen with the exporting of Poland’s meat and Estonia’s fish products.
Likewise, Russia’s attitudes towards countries, that have established as their goal the democratisation of their society and the development of a civil society, are causing concern. When Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine, for instance, wish to be democratic states with open societies, then this would, of course, also benefit Russia. Every state should want its neighbours to be stable and peaceful democracies.
Estonia regards it as being very essential, that the European Union, when dealing with Russia, remain true to its values, and maintain its internal unity, and not sacrifice its values for the sake of pragmatic interests. Russia is a strong Partner, and the European Union’s unitedness is very important from the standpoint of a balance of interests. Inevitably, the EU, in its every-day dealings with Russia, also experiences difficulties in cooperating in the energy sphere, or in trading with Russia. Primarily, these are the concerns of the smaller Member States. Therefore, Estonia is doing everything to ensure that the negotiations, between the European Union and Russia, concerning the follow-up to the Partnership and Cooperation Treaty, can begin as quickly as possible. In this connection, it is very essential to establish common EU positions, and to maintain them.
Among the achievements of the recent European Union and Russian summit is the agreement concerning the step-by-step elimination, by the year 2013, of tariffs for flying over Siberia that are imposed upon EU airlines, which will, definitely, also benefit Estonian travellers. The treaties dealing with visa facilitation and re-admission that were concluded in the spring with Russia, are awaiting entry into force. These documents are in accordance with Estonia’s interests, and would simplify travelling for many of our citizens.
On November 24, a summit also took place in Helsinki concerning the Northern Dimension, where the European Union, Russia, Norway, and Iceland were represented. Future cooperation must, of course, take into consideration Russia’s own increasing opportunities and sense of responsibility – a state that spends a great many resources upon the military aspect of its security, should also be able to find them for environmental security.
The fact that in the middle of Europe, in the form of Belarus, there still remains a grey authoritarian zone, is an anomaly. Sooner, rather than later, Belarus society must also change, so that the imprisonment of opposition leaders, for their views, is no longer imaginable, so that young people do not have to escape to neighbouring countries to study, so that people do not have to fear repressions from their fellow countrymen, who are in power. And for changes such as these, Estonia is offering concrete support.
We have been developing a European Union policy towards Belarus, which would help to achieve democracy, the rule of law, and human rights in that state. Presently, Belarus is able to take advantage of only a limited number of Neighbourhood Policy projects, since certain limits have been imposed. The European Union has aided Belarus in eliminating the results of the Chernobyl catastrophe, and we support the independent media, as well as radio and television broadcasts directed at Belarus. Estonia has accepted university students for whom studying in Russia has become impossible, with the government giving them scholarships.
On November 21, the EU Commission presented Belarus a document that lists, for Belarus, the beneficial steps that the European Union would take, if Minsk confirmed its readiness to make changes in the sphere of democratisation and protection of human rights. Primarily, it would mean that extensive European Union aid programs would open up within the whole framework of the Neighbourhood Policy. The Commission’s document presents 12 clear conditions – democratic elections, freedom of the media, etc. The spheres in which Belarus would benefit by changing its policies include, for instance, better opportunities for travelling, new trade opportunities, participation in transport and energy networks. Needless to say, Estonia is waiting, along with the other Member States, for a constructive answer from Belarus.
Estonia supports the continuing of NATO’s enlargement policy. NATO’s and the European Union’s parallel enlargements have, together, strongly and irreversibly transformed Europe’s and the world’s political landscape. At the recent Riga Summit, NATO sent out a clear message – the door is open for further enlargement. Praise is given to the efforts of candidates Albania, Croatia, and Macedonia, for their preparations for becoming members. At the alliance’s next summit, in 2008, those states, which meet the requirement standards, may be invited to participate in accession negotiations. Estonia has never, in its committed support for enlargement, forgotten the significance of the candidates’ homework. Enlargement must, very clearly, be connected with the candidate states’ progress, and the decisions must be based upon the results achieved.
During the last two NATO enlargements, there were great doubts among the politicians and, somewhat, even in the governments of existing Member States. Some thought that all, or some, candidates were not ready to fulfil the commitments of a member of the alliance. It was thought that the new members might bring along such a quantity of special interests and inexperience that the NATO leadership would be paralysed. Some thought that the inviting of one state, and not inviting another, might bring forth strong emotions and problems in their mutual relations. Some thought that, keeping in mind the critical opinions coming from Russia, it would be wiser to avoid the supposed upsetting of Moscow. But, nevertheless, in both cases, the decision was made, and in this, the position of the biggest Member State, the United States, played a significant role. And now, there is a general consensus concerning the last two very successful enlargements. The new Member States have played a role in helping to conclude NATO’s agreements. Our objective has always been to be part of the solution, not the problem. We have been active participants in various missions and operations.
Even in the Russian dimension, NATO can bring forth some positive developments – for instance, the activities of the NATO-Russia Council. But, unfortunately, Russia has still not implemented the OSCE Istanbul Summit resolutions concerning the evacuation of troops from Georgian and Moldovan territory. Moldova and Georgia have, in these matters, the support of many states, which believe, that it is important that the territorial integrity and sovereignty of both states be fully respected. This position was also confirmed by the recent NATO Summit. The continued presence of Russian troops is also preventing the solving of frozen conflicts, and is crippling the development of these countries. I am not aware of any authorities in the European Union or NATO, who would be prepared for the creation of, for instance, another Kaliningrad oblast in Moldova’s Transnistria territory.
With shifting power relationships, and in a crisis-ridden world, NATO must, both modernise and enlarge itself, cooperate intensively with the European Union and other organisations, develop partnership relationships with states that share the same values, like Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, and Japan. In a world with various power centres, NATO must preserve its trustworthiness concerning both the maintaining of its principles and the fulfilment of its main tasks. NATO is the most powerful defence alliance in the world, and it is faced, at the same time, with the challenge of also being the most adaptable. In addition to being able to combat terrorism and narcotics, as well as to deal with natural disasters, the basic objectives cannot be forgotten, just as the principle of “one for all, all for one”.
The modernising of NATO, and adapting it to new challenges, is also reflected in several Riga Summit decisions. In addition to the Summit Declaration, the Comprehensive Political Guidance was adopted, which complements the NATO Strategic Concept for the next 10-15 years, and establishes essential guidelines in the alliance’s transformation process. It was announced that the NATO Rapid Reaction Force was in operational readiness.
As far as Estonia is concerned, we strongly support the principle of further enlarging NATO as well, and actively involve ourselves in the endeavour, helping and supporting those, in the Western Balkans, in Eastern Europe, as well as in the Southern Caucasus, who would potentially accede. With our fresh baggage of experiences, we are an essential source of inspiration for states wishing to accede.
The basis for further enlargement must consist of values. I do not approve of borders within Europe – the only limits we have are determined by the readiness to share values, the ability to prepare oneself, and the true desire to contribute to the alliance. This means, among other things, the maintaining of a constant political dialogue with our partners. We were hoping, before we acceded, that NATO would be a bigger and more constant political discussion forum for its members, than it, unfortunately, presently is.
The main driving forces of enlargement will continue to be the states that actually wish to accede. Presently, we have 3 Candidate States: Albania, Croatia, and Macedonia. Estonia is, in every way, helping them to make their preparations. Among other things, next February, the Baltic Charter and Adriatic Charter foreign and defence ministers’ meeting will take place in Tallinn, where, in addition to the 3 states from either region, the United States will also be represented. Invitations are also to be sent to Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, and Serbia.
Ukraine has developed fairly close contacts with NATO, and thanks to the intensified dialogue, NATO is aware of Ukraine’s problems, and Ukraine is aware of NATO’s and its Member States’ opinions. In Ukrainian society, the discussions are far from having formulated any final answers, and after the present government assumed office, it did not ask NATO for a Membership Action Plan. But, if Ukraine, nevertheless, decides to present a definite and explicit application, and implements the necessary reforms for obtaining an Action Plan, then we will support that wish.
We are glad about the decision to raise NATO’s relations with Georgia to the Intensified Dialogue level. This will help Georgia to speed up the necessary transformations, and Estonia is, for its part, ready to offer help and support. Georgia’s reforms, plus its activities on behalf of peace and stability in the interests of both regional stability and the solving of internal conflicts, would increase trust among NATO members. Convincing progress in these matters would create prospects for achieving a Membership Action Plan. Extremely essential would be the support of the international community for Georgia concerning the matter of its territorial integrity and the departure of Russian forces.
In supporting states interested in trans-Atlantic integration, it is essential to cooperate with the United States. These matters were discussed during the U.S. president’s visit to Estonia before the NATO Summit. We had very similar views concerning NATO development.
Eastern European states have an essential place in Estonia’s bilateral development cooperation. According to Estonia’s development cooperation and humanitarian aid development plan, Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine are our priority Partner States. In addition to bilateral projects, good results have been achieved by combining efforts with third states like Finland, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and, in the future, after the discussions at the recent meeting, possibly, also the U.S.
In aiding Georgia, Estonia has, this year, again trained its government officials, police officers, prison officials both independently as well as together with Finland, Iceland, the UN, and the OSCE. We are continuing to help Georgia to implement its Deer’s Leap programme, based upon our Tiger’s Leap, and in which the e-Government Academy is playing an essential role. Every year we are developing new contacts in Georgia, and we are able, thanks to intensive relations, able to give aid just where it will do the most good.
Cooperation with Moldova built up steam just recently, and in this Partner State, comparable in size to us, it is possible, with our limited resources, to make essential contributions. I visited Moldova at the end of October, and opened, in Kishinev, the Estonian Honorary Consulate. There, we are also training officials, and supporting the supplying of schools with computers. Within the framework of the EU’s Common Foreign and Security Policy, Estonia is supporting the European Union’s border guard mission, EUBAM, on the Moldova-Ukraine border, which has the assignment of preventing illegal trade and improving border security on the Transnistria border sector. Estonia has contributed 5 experts to this mission, and I met several of them when I visited the Platonovo frontier post.
We have been cooperating well with Ukraine for several years already. The new essential milestone will hopefully be the Ukrainian president’s upcoming visit to Estonia. Since we are dealing with a large nation, then, naturally, when participating in the cooperative effort, we must find, among the other states and organisations, the role most suitable for Estonia. We are continuing to train Ukrainian government officials and diplomats. Kiev is especially interested in seeing our officials who have just dealt with European Union accession.
Estonian representation in priority states has increased step-by-step. Within this ending year, we will be opening our embassy in Georgia, and our diplomat will start representing us in Moldova. Working conditions have also been improved in the Kiev Embassy, which, after the Tbilisi Embassy becomes fully functional, can concentrate more on Ukraine itself and Moldova. The development of our network of representations also has an essential effect upon our opportunities for participating, with our information and our activities, in the European Union’s and NATO’s policies in that region. It also helps to achieve better results in our development cooperation projects.
Honourable Chairman, distinguished Riigikogu!
In the preamble of Estonia’s Constitution, it is stressed that the Estonian state is based upon freedom, law, and justice. This also applies to our foreign relations. In our relations with our neighbouring regions, we need to constantly remember these values. We are obligated to do so by the good memories of those supporters of Estonia who, even during the most difficult of times, still encouraged us to keep trying. Secondly, we are obligated by the sense of responsibility with which I began this speech – things went well for us, so now we must also stand up for others. And thirdly, but this is definitely not the least important factor – a high-principled policy, the sharing of values, has, in the end, time and again, proven to be the most practical policy for promoting our interests. The resolute observance of explicit enlargement principles will result in a better, safer, wealthier, more stable Europe and world for us all. Who can have anything against that?