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Address by Estonian Minister of Foreign Affairs Urmas Paet to the Riigikogu on behalf of the Government of Estonia
Overview of Estonia’s Foreign Policy
Respected Members of the Riigikogu,
As we launch into the Government’s annual foreign policy presentation, it would not be superfluous to recall Estonia’s primary foreign policy objectives. These are ensuring Estonia’s security as well as increasing our people’s welfare, and everything that the Government, along with the Foreign Ministry, does is all directed at achieving this. Estonia’s activities in the foreign policy sphere are unified by a connecting thread, which is the concept of enlarging the space of shared values, in which democracy, human rights, and the principles of the rule of law are respected.
According to the general consensus, we are now living in a time of great change. We talk about the widening gap between the core of developed nations and the underdeveloped fringe world; about China, which has already become, and about India, which is about to become an economic giant. We know that an ever more self-assured Russia is setting itself up as a counterbalance to the democratic world. Ahead of us await difficulties with obtaining energy, as the world’s environment is continually deteriorating.
But let us take a brief look at how the international situation was described, for instance, 50 years ago: “The world is experiencing major changes. The most significant one is the dangerous increase in population. Scientific development is astounding: people will very soon be leaving the Earth’s gravitational field. The tone of the time is being set by the political revolutions in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. One major factor unto itself is the fact that China is becoming a dynamic player. The United States is getting a new president, which could mean that the U.S. will break out into the international arena.” Thus wrote an expatriate Estonian about the world at the threshold of the ‘60s. Sounds dramatic. But actually, that period, considering the recent history of international relations, was relatively calm. Thus, our acute problems of today acquire, in the longer perspective, a much more promising hue.
Respected Members of the Riigikogu, I will now, first of all, talk about the security situation in the world, and the steps that Estonia has taken to strengthen it. Just as previously, cooperation in the fight against terrorism, the prevention of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, the solving of regional conflicts, as well as the ingraining of the principles of the rule of law and democracy are relevant to this very day. I dealt with these matters, in length, in my address to the Riigikogu a year ago. I will be dealing with energy security and cyber security, which have, in the course of the last few years, been added to the list of security problems, in the second part of today’s address.
Appraising the situation in Afghanistan, we see that although progress has been made, for instance, in the economic and educational spheres, there are still plenty of problems. Estonia continues, as part of NATO’s most important operation in Afghanistan, together with its partners, to improve the security situation there, to cut through the roots of terrorism, and to prevent the Taleban from returning to power. And it is, naturally, not excessive to note that to improve the situation there, it is essential to work together with the Afghans and to take into consideration their customs and practices. We are also helping the local inhabitants to develop their sense of ownership towards their state.
In the longer perspective, it is crucial to build up Afghanistan’s own security forces, since this will also be one of the foundation blocks of the eventual exit strategy.
During my recent visit to Afghanistan, I was happy to see our blue-black-and-white flag flying over several important stabilisation points in Afghanistan. Our development aid has redoubled, with most of our donations going to the medical sector. This year, we are also deploying a police expert to Kabul, and a health care expert to Helmand. Now, looking back upon it, it is apparent that international civilian aid to this very impoverished land could have been much greater already in the 1990s. But, as we all know, it is an old truth that difficult missions, such as this one, are just like looking into the sun – thinking about it later, is always less painful and clearer. And, quite understandably, Afghanistan must also devote itself with an ever greater sense of responsibility to the development of its civil society, which, among other things, also encompasses ensuring of the freedom of the press.
In Afghanistan, more is expected of the international community. We hope that an internationally influential individual will be assigned to be the United Nations’ special representative to Afghanistan, and we support the expanding of UN activities to the country’s southern provinces, where the situation is the most delicate. The European Union’s role in the spheres of civilian aid and the building up of the police system should also increase significantly. Within the European Union, Estonia has begun to actively promote increasing of the EU’s role in Afghanistan, and sensing Afghanistan’s needs much more keenly.
In Iraq, the increase in the number of U.S. troops there from the spring of 2007 on, along with serious U.S. diplomatic efforts, has brought about noteworthy progress. According to the UN general secretary’s report that was issued in January, the security policy situation in Iraq is, as previously, serious. But, in comparison to an earlier year, there has been a noticeable decrease in the intensity of the waves of violence, thanks to the thorough work being done by Iraqi police units.
In half of Iraq’s provinces, the security situation has already stabilised to such an extent that the international coalition forces have handed control over to Iraqi units. In the course of this year, Iraq will have to be able to assume control over the remaining nine provinces. The atmosphere of national reconciliation is encouraging.
It is possible that due to the improving security situation, the legal basis for international presence in Iraq could be altered, and several countries have started to discuss how Iraq might be helped in the future. Our clear position is that the international coalition should continue to assist Iraq. Otherwise, Iraq could be threatened with the possibility of a large-scale civil war which might spread beyond its borders.
Before the summer, I plan to visit Iraq and meet with the country’s politicians, so as to determine what their expectations are. Iraq will for some time yet remain the focus of international attention, and I believe that Estonia should continue to extend its aid until stability returns to Iraq, and for as long as Iraq wants our help.
The situation in the Middle East is always complicated. At the initiative of the U.S., and at the discreet direction of a whole row of Arab states, the Palestinian National Authority and Israel are presently making efforts to achieve an agreement concerning those essential differences that have, up until now, not really been dealt with. These topics are the status of Jerusalem, the right of Palestinian refugees to return to Israel, and the determining of the borders of Palestine and Israel.
Estonia is, for its part, helping to promote the creation of a Palestinian state, and to prevent future armed actions against the residents of Israel. That is why we are donating almost 11 million EEKs in the course of three years to support the Palestinian-Israeli peace process, which is, our biggest contribution to the solving of world-wide conflicts to date.
I am glad that our opportunities for voicing our opinions in the colourful Middle-East political arena have, over the years, markedly improved, and especially now, when we have our own diplomatic representatives, and soon embassies in Tel Aviv and Cairo.
Europe and the world still have reason to be worried about Africa. Let us just take a look at the latest events – the attempted coup in Chad, the falsifying of election results in Kenya, and the disturbances that followed these events show how delicate the situation there is. Long-term religious and ethnic conflicts in Somalia, as well as genocide in Sudan, have hindered the normal development of these countries, and have created a great flow of refugees. The Sudanese government has made promises to co-operate with the international community. If these promises are not fulfilled, Estonia will support the harshening of the European Union and UN sanctions that have, till now, been implemented against Sudan.
What has Estonia done to aid Africa? Las year we have participated in the European Union’s election observation missions. We aided Sudan with a million EEK to relieve the situation of the internally displaced persons and refugees in that country. We have also extended aid to Kenya’s internally displaced persons. Europe will, in the future, definitely be co-operating very extensively with Africa, if for no other reason than the fact that Europe and Africa are very close – only 14 km separate us.
Honourable Members of the Riigikogu!
Returning to Europe – to frozen conflicts and the Western Balkans – let us first of all take a look at how things stand in relation to Kosovo.
At this point I am glad to announce that the Government has just decided to recognise the Republic of Kosovo.
We have considered that the best plan for Kosovo is the status settlement and time schedule proposed by UN Special Envoy of the Secretary General Martti Ahtisaari. It is noteworthy that in its declaration of independence the Kosovo Assembly confirms its readiness to implement the Ahtisaari plan, including everything that deals with minorities and the protection of their cultural heritage. Based upon the discussions at Monday’s European Union foreign ministers’ meeting, Estonia has recognised Kosovo’s independence. Also, we are supporting the European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP) civilian mission in Kosovo, to which we are contributing with our experts.
It is strategically essential that Serbia’s participation be ensured in the region’s long-term development solutions. As we know, 70% of Serbians would like to integrate with Europe. The re-election of Boris Tadić as president is an indication that the majority of the Serbian people wish to continue their endeavours to join up with Europe. There is no doubt that Serbia needs Europe’s, and thus also Estonia’s attention. True partnership with Europe is what guarantees progress of the whole Western Balkan region.
And now, a few words also about so-called frozen conflicts, Europe’s actual hot-beds of tension. Unfortunately, after 15 years of efforts to find a solution to the questions plaguing Trans-Dniestria, South Ossetia, Abkhazia, and Nagorno-Karabakh, nothing more than the issuing of proclamations and good-will declarations has been achieved. Even the peacekeeping formats that have been implemented there do not meet the known requirements and do not bring solutions any closer.
But the situation is, nevertheless, not hopeless, since the local people’s desire to live in peace increases with each day.
This is especially noticeable on the Trans-Dniestria line of demarcation, which, from the Trans-Dniestria side, is crossed, every day, by thousands of people, so as to go to work, or to visit, in other parts of Moldova. Hundreds of Trans-Dniestria companies have registered themselves in Moldova, thereby choosing to get closer to the European Union market, which is made possible by Moldova’s Neighbourhood Policy Roadmap. In addition to promoting the Neighbourhood Policy, we should, in the European Union, also formulate measures for increasing trust and security, or consider increasing the political and financial support being given to previously presented measures. For instance, those that increase Trans-Dniestria’s economic integration with the rest of Moldova and promote communication among people.
In South Ossetia, where, at present, a realistic alternative exists to the de facto government in the form of a pro-Georgian temporary administrative unit, people are also seeking opportunities to live in peace. In essence, there is a choice – whether to follow Georgia’s invitation to approach Europe together, or to let the status quo remain. But, in Abkhazia’s case, we should think about how to ensure Abkhazia’s greater openness, as well as the greater transparency of the peace process. We could, together with the Riigikogu, consider getting involved with various parliamentary institutions, for instance the ENPA and others, in order to increase openness. Estonia supports the creation of trust and the freedom of movement, as well as the creation of a direct dialogue between Tbilsi and Sukhum. This would help to increase trust between the people of Abkhazia and Georgia’s central authorities, as well as promote the economic development of the region.
And finally, I reiterate that Estonia sees a clear added value in the European Union’s greater participation in the resolving of frozen conflicts, primarily by making use of the European Union’s Neighbourhood Policy and special representatives.
Honourable Members of the Riigikogu!
To ensure world-wide and regional security, it is necessary to bring the new democracies and the Western Balkan states closer to NATO. Questions concerning enlargement are also on the agenda of the upcoming NATO Summit. Assuming that the candidate countries of Croatia, Macedonia, and Albania continue to implement the necessary reforms and preparations for accession at their present pace, Estonia supports the issuing of an invitation to accede to all three of these states at the Bucharest conference. We also support the further Euro-Atlantic integration of Georgia and Ukraine, and find that both partners could be given a Membership Action Plan (MAP) in the course of the year 2008. The first opportunity for doing this will arise at the Bucharest summit in April.
One rather unique and essential point of juncture in the realm of security is NATO and European Union cooperation. By this, we mean both the coordinated activities involved in actual operations, as well as the intensifying of political dialogue. It would be natural and necessary to cooperate in the preventing of crises, not to even mention then the solving of crises. Thus, we could make the best use of existing opportunities, and prevent the endangering of human lives in the course of missions.
One main element in the ensuring of Europe’s stability and security continues to be the Treaty for Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE). We support the NATO Allies’ efforts to preserve the Treaty with Russia’s participation. Estonia, for its part, is prepared to start discussions for acceding to an adapted Treaty, as soon as it has come into force and is open to new members.
From a security point of view, Russia’s role and development is, without a doubt, also essential. Regardless of the outcome of the presidential election, I find it to be very important that an active dialogue be maintained between the European Union and Russia. But, of course, dialogue and cooperation do require, as a prerequisite, the desire of both parties to do so. I’m sure that if its good will existed, Russia would not have found it at all difficult to co-operate with, for instance, the ODIHR in connection with election monitoring. It is regrettable that this opportunity for cooperation was left unused.
Let us hope that Russia will use the presidential elections, and the assuming of office by the new president, as a good opportunity for improving relations with the West, primarily with the EU and NATO. This would also create a positive atmosphere for launching negotiations for a new Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA).
But, for Estonia, I believe that it is essential to continue a pragmatic dialogue with Russia. We are moving ahead, one small step at a time, keeping open various communication channels and developing agreements that will bring practical benefits to the people of both countries, like the cultural cooperation agreement which was recently concluded by the ministers of culture.
The positive progress of democratic values can be regarded as one of the most praiseworthy achievements of contemporary history, or, perhaps, of the whole history of human society. Estonia has employed two such well thought-out political fields of activity, development cooperation and the European Union’s Neighbourhood Policy, for the furthering of democracy and freedom.
When talking about practical cooperation, it must be noted that neighbourhood cooperation has been practiced for some time now on the basis of action plans encompassing several years. But this cooperation with the European Union is very varied – for instance, the first action plans with Moldova, Ukraine, and Israel are already coming to an end. There are plans for concluding new framework agreements with some countries. Others, for instance Morocco, are interested in having tighter relations with the EU. Therefore, Estonia favours a differentiated approach towards partner states. We also strongly support the further development of the Neighbourhood Policy towards both the east and the south. I think that in addition to other reforms, upcoming agreements could also encompass elements of the four basic freedoms – the free movement of capital, goods, services, and persons – in accordance, of course, with the development of each concrete partner state.
Within the neighbourhood, we have paid the most attention to how Ukraine, Georgia, and Moldova are faring, with Estonia, for instance, supporting the concluding of visa facilitation and re-admission agreements with Georgia. But, we are also involved elsewhere. A good example of this is the joint seminar of the European Union’s northern and southern states – the Barcelona Process and the Northern Dimension – that is being organised by the Foreign Ministry, along with our Portuguese, Finnish, and Spanish colleagues, here in Tallinn in March. We would also very much like to pay more attention to cross-border cooperation with Russia’s Leningrad and Pskov regions, since the residents of these border areas are very interested in this cooperation.
The other important field of activity is development cooperation. What was once a specific niche activity has, in ten years, developed and expanded into one of the most wide-ranging and recurring themes of our foreign policy.
Our responsibility for solving world-wide problems has increased noticeably, and this is reflected also by the growth of our budget. The Foreign Ministry’s budget for development cooperation and humanitarian aid has, in the course of the last couple of years, increased almost nine-fold: from 7 million, to 60 million EEK. But all together, Estonia’s contribution to international development cooperation, last year, according to preliminary statistics, was almost 250 million EEK, which forms 0.12% of our gross national product (GNP). Our objective is that by the year 2011 this amount will grow to 0.17% of the GNP, which is also the percentage that the European Commission would like to see.
Estonia’s mutual development cooperation is directed primarily, towards those countries where Estonia can offer the most added value, and which are ready to move towards becoming democratic and human rights respecting societies. Our primary partners are Georgia, Moldova, Ukraine, and Afghanistan.
In winding up the section dealing with economic matters, I would, briefly, like to talk about how our negotiations concerning our membership in the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) are evolving. The preparatory work that was started more than ten years ago, has now reached the stage where we are, together with the other ministries, processing the OECD acquis.
Why is joining up with the OECD so important for Estonia? Firstly, it enables us to better analyse our economic prospects, as well as to find consultative help for finding solutions. Secondly, decisions made in the OECD often influence even those states that do not actually belong to the organisation – for instance, the OECD determines the principles of development cooperation that are followed by all donor states, including the European Union. Also, right now, the legal concepts relevant to cyber-security are being formulated in the OECD, which is of great interest to Estonia. But, what is most important of all – the OECD is a valuable official and unofficial meeting place for the appropriate leading experts in their field.
Right now, it is of course difficult to predict how long our negotiations will eventually last, but let us hope that it will not be more than two years.
Members of the Riigikogu!
And now, let us take a closer look at our objectives in the European Union. One source of optimism for us was the fact that Estonia became a part of the Schengen space exactly two months ago. The biggest and most stressful part of the work, dealing with the enlarging of the common visa space, was done by our colleagues in the Interior Ministry, who I would like to thank once more. As a further comment concerning visa-free travel, I would like to point out that we are presently involved in negotiations of a technical nature with the U.S., and we hope to be able to participate in the Visa Waiver Program by the end of this year.
But our immediate tasks are primarily connected with the implementation of the European Union Reform Treaty. Let us hope that the Riigikogu will ratify it this spring, and that the Treaty will be put into force on 1 January 2009.
What perspectives will the Lisbon Treaty open up for Estonia and Europe? From the Foreign Ministry’s aspect, the Treaty’s importance lies, primarily, in the fact that it gives the European Union an opportunity to play a more essential role in the world – by means of a more self-assured and coordinated foreign and security policy. And it is not insignificant that with the Treaty being put into force, the argument that the European Union cannot, on an institutional level, enlarge any further becomes irrelevant.
Right after the drawing up of the draft Constitutional Treaty, preparations were also started for creating, step-by-step, a new external action service for the EU. The future service, with more than one hundred representations, that will begin to function in cooperation with the diplomatic representations of the Member Sates, will increase the feeling of unity of the EU countries, as well as consolidate the common foreign policy.
But, above all, it must be kept in mind that all the Member States be included in the building up of the service, and that all large and small states, as well as geographical regions, be fairly represented. For us, it is extremely important, that in this action service, just as in other international organisations, Estonians are also employed.
In the second half of the year, we can expect that there will be substantial discussions concerning the reforming of the EU’s security strategy. I would like to remind you that the security strategy that was formulated in 2003, was the first attempt to put together a unified vision of the challenges, in the security sphere, that were facing the EU members, as well as of the means and measures for solving them. Now, five years later, it is time to take stock of this.
From Estonia’s point of view, the priorities that were then established in the strategy are, generally, still relevant today. But many changes have also taken place, and these need to be taken into consideration.
First of all, concerning the European Union’s relations with the world’s other centres of power, I find that, in a situation in which Russia and China are ever more strongly promoting their interests, the EU’s cooperation with other states that share equal values is becoming even more important. Above all else, I’m referring to the special relationship with the U.S., as well as to the reinforcing of the cooperation between the EU and NATO, and also to cooperation with other partners who treasure the same values, such as Australia, Japan, New Zealand, and South Korea.
Also, the European Union has not been, especially in the Eastern Neighbourhood, sufficiently successful in helping to solve regional conflicts. And, in the course of the last few years, both energy- and cyber-security had to be added to the list of essential security problems.
A constant theme is the enlargement of the European Union. Estonia, in every way, supports the enlargement of the European Union based upon the existing criteria. This conviction is reinforced by the knowledge that all states, including the old Member States, have benefited from all the enlargements that have taken place.
We hope that Turkey will re-activate its reform process, and that accession negotiations with Croatia will reach a decisive phase. The concluding of negotiations always requires a sense of clear dedication, as well as a desire to carry out necessary reforms, an undertaking for which we wish Croatia all the best. Estonia is always prepared to cooperate very closely, and to exchange experiences, with Croatia, Turkey, as well as the other candidate states.
Honourable Members of the Riigikogu!
Having always supported the strengthening of the European Union, and thus, enlargement based upon firm bases, we this year focus our attention upon the European Union’s energy policy and Baltic Sea strategy.
Gas deliveries to Ukraine are disrupted! The gas pipeline from Russia to Georgia has been blown up! Continually threats are being made to turn off the gas! Venezuela’s President Chavez threatens to cut off oil deliveries to the U.S.! Headlines of this nature have already become quite common in the international press.
Since, in Estonia, domestic energy production does not satisfy all of the nation’s energy needs, the reliability of energy supplies and energy security are our foreign policy priorities and require serious attention. As we very well know, the question of energy is also the focus of attention for international relations as well as relations within the European Union. I’m in total agreement with President Toomas Hendrik Ilves’s concept that energy and the reliability of energy supplies are, definitely, strategically essential matters in which, to have a proper say, Estonia requires more specialists, both scientists as well as officials.
Let us take a brief look at what the current situation is on the international level.
First of all, oil prices and the consumption of energy. On the global level, we can foresee that energy consumption will increase for, at least, another twenty years. And the prices of crude oil have, in less than five years, increased fourfold. If, in the autumn of 2003, the price of a barrel of oil was still 25 dollars, then now it is hovering around 100 dollars.
Secondly, the dangers accompanying the warming of the climate are forcing nations to increase energy efficiency, and, especially, to limit the pollution created by energy production. Thirdly – the extensive changing over of large-scale transport and energy infrastructures takes decades.
So, what opportunities are there for Estonia in this new system that is just taking shape? We are at the central point of the changes that are occurring, in the sense that the European Union, as the most active promoter of new climate and energy policies, is assuming responsibility for preventing climate changes and the depletion of energy supplies.
Keeping all this in mind, it is natural that the European Union has to seriously think about an actual unified energy market, so as to ensure free competition, and be able to build interconnections between Member States, especially between the fringe areas of the European Union and other EU regions.
As a matter of principle, Estonia supports the positions taken by the European Commission concerning the internal energy market as well as energy and climate policies. These positions continue to liberalise the energy market, and to promote a shift towards a low-carbon-content economy, thus, also, towards the development of new technology, and the increasing of the relative importance of renewable energy. In connection with all of this, it is essential for us that an equal access to the transmission networks be ensured for all market participants.
It is important for us that the criteria of the internal market take into consideration the differing characteristics of the market, and the uniqueness of the energy sector, of each Member State. It is quite obvious that Estonia’s energy market differs from, say, that of Luxembourg. I would like to stress that the European Union must implement the same competitiveness and environmental standards for the firms of third countries, and for energy carriers, above all, electricity, that are imported from third countries. Only thus is it possible for us to avoid possible market distortions, as well as to reduce energy security risks.
In connection with the actual protecting of the environment, we wish that the system for trading the permissible quantities of greenhouse gases would also take into account the unique characteristics of Estonia’s oil shale energy. We are now endeavouring to have oil shale integrated into the relevant rulings.
Also, it is ultimately essential to diversify energy sources and supply channels. This calls for the connecting up of the Estonian and Finnish, Lithuanian and Swedish, as well as Polish and Lithuanian electricity and gas supply systems. This could also include the routes for transporting Caspian region energy carriers to Europe. We recommend that these projects be carried out in a spirit of true cooperation, so as to ensure secure supplies for all of Europe, not just for individual states. The Trans-Caspian pipelines are a prime example of projects that would make it possible to transport Central Asian oil and gas to Central Europe.
The European states’ growing need for Russia’s gas and oil could, very dangerously, even fatally, increase the burdens being put upon the Baltic Sea. It is of the utmost importance that the decision concerning the making of the correct choice, from amongst the existing alternative routes of the Nord Stream gas pipeline, be arrived at in a cooperative spirit. Of the alternatives, the best choice, as well as the most environmental-friendly one, would be to construct the pipeline on land, in cooperation with the states that the pipeline would cross.
The European Union also needs a clear and concrete foreign policy concerning energy. The present situation, in which every Member State formulates its own appropriate policy, is not a suitable long-term solution, nor does it promote the development of a unified energy market. A common European Union foreign energy policy would serve to promote the same objectives as the European Union’s internal energy policy – it would ensure the reliability of the energy supply at an acceptable price, would promote competition, and would improve the condition of the whole world’s environment.
But the solving of global issues cannot be seriously contemplated without extensive cooperation between the EU and the U.S., which encompasses very many different spheres, from energy security to technological innovations.
And it is not insignificant to add that by becoming a member of the OECD, we wish to also join the International Energy Agency (IEA), an authoritative and independent institution that advises its members about their energy policy, as well as promotes cooperation with major energy consumers and producers.
Let’s examine these matters more closely, from the standpoint of regional opportunities.
Looking at our prior cooperation in the Baltic Sea region with the Baltic and Nordic countries, we come to the conclusion that we need to unify new and existing policy areas and ideas and make them more consistent. Even more so because we currently have a historical chance to advance regional cooperation. Exactly a week ago, my Swedish colleague Carl Bildt, giving a similar foreign policy speech in parliament, stated, “Co-operation in our region has not been this close and extensive at least since the Kalmar Union.” The Kalmar Union among the Nordic countries – which I probably don’t have to explain to my current audience – was signed in the year 1397. Therefore, we have an opportunity today that only comes by every several centuries. Co-operation with the European Union within the framework of the Baltic Sea Strategy would be an optimal way to utilise this opportunity. The Baltic Sea Strategy, initiated by the European Parliament, including Estonian representatives, is a value contribution to the evolution of the region. Estonia is actively working with Finland and Sweden to get the strategy approved during Sweden’s presidency next year.
Our opinion is that we can take the development of the EU internal market further within the Baltic Sea region. For example, we can establish completely free movement of services and set an example for the rest of the European Union. European Commissioner Janez Potočnik’s idea to add a fifth freedom to the four existing ones – free movement of knowledge – has already been put into practice in our region. In this respect, the Baltic Sea region could be considered a pattern for the rest of the EU to copy.
The Baltic Sea region also has some of the greatest economic potential of any region in the EU, but just as before, the opportunities are not being optimally used. Since the Baltic Sea region is far-reaching but with a fairly small total population, it is especially important that the distances be diminished by good infrastructure. One successful example is the Baltic and Nordic countries’ unified stock market. There is also still untapped potential in trade, where there are many trade barriers, particularly non-tariff ones. Russia’s accession to the WTO will increase the region’s trade potential even more. According to various estimates, the elimination of these barriers could increase goods exchange by up to 10%.
Another highly important topic that should be included in the Baltic Sea Strategy is the protection of the Baltic Sea environment. East-west oil shipments are increasing all the time, which create a risk of contamination for the environment of the Baltic Sea and the Gulf of Finland. Assuming that the transport of oil and petroleum products by tankers in the Gulf of Finland could double to 250 million tonnes by the year 2015, it is crucial to cooperate within the European Union and, as necessary, on the international level, in order to prevent accidents and preserve the Baltic Sea environment.
Estonia is also seeking to tighten navigation safety rules for the Baltic Sea. The government believes that in order to decrease risk to the environment, additional navigational measures, as well as additional qualification requirements for tanker qualification and tanker stability should be enacted for the Baltic Sea.
The third co-operation trend is connecting the energy markets of the Baltic and Nordic countries with energy transmission infrastructure. What is most important is the fact that the Baltic states currently rely on Estonian oil shale, Latvian water power, and Lithuanian nuclear energy for electricity. These are supplemented by imported natural gas and petroleum products, and increasingly also by local renewable energy sources. However, we need to keep many important factors in mind, for example, the continuous increase in oil and gas prices globally. Overdependence on one source is dangerous. All of this forces us and gives us the opportunity to advance a common energy policy.
To conclude this topic – obviously energy issues are strongly tied to security issues. So as not to burden you with numerous well-known arguments, I would like to focus right now on just one important point in our international cooperation.
As we well know, this topic is on NATO’s agenda as well, and NATO’s role in the field of energy security will become better defined at the NATO summit in Bucharest. Considering the alliance’s authority, NATO’s role would be to help analyse energy security risks and development tendencies and ensure the security of critical infrastructures, including as a part of anti-terrorism efforts. The solidarity of partners in crisis situations is vital.
Respected members of the Riigikogu!
In 1918, the first Estonian diplomats set off in the bitter cold to go from Tallinn to Helsinki in order to ensure Europe’s recognition of our independence and to initiate ties with the Western world. They were each sent off with 9000 roubles and heartfelt handshakes.
In 1990, the Foreign Ministry, helping to re-establish our independence, communicated with the outside world by asking trustworthy acquaintances to “smuggle” letters to Finland or Sweden. The hefty mobile telephone on the windowsill at Toompea Castle was optimistically connected to the Finnish network, its antenna pointed towards the sea.
During the August coup, when one of the Foreign Ministry’s most important tasks became initiating contact with the world, all the most valuable technology – mobile phone, fax machine, computer and printer – was evacuated to an apartment in Lasnamäe, just in case.
And so it was. But what ensures our vitally important contact with the world today? Is it our foreign representations and media? Or is it our attitude, our openness? “He who is born to see and observe must move, in order to see as much as possible. He must always be engaged in dialogue with everything: his environment, the whole world, and finally – with himself,” Hanno Runnel memorably wrote.
New technology gives new opportunities for interaction. Estonians like new information technology. It’s a fact that within the past ten-fifteen years, we have become intimate with all sorts of information technology. It’s no wonder that anything with the prefix IT-, internet-, or cyber- grabs our attention in international communications, and yes, even in Estonia’s foreign policy.
Our feelings towards information technology are evident in many aspects of our foreign policy. Internet communication has become a human right. Disruption of communication channels is now practically equivalent to a restriction of rights, and in a worst-case scenario to an attack. Information technology has literally made freedom a tangible thing for us – for example, free movement in the Schengen area is made possible by the advancement of information technology. This is also why we support the development of information technology through our development cooperation.
Of course, Estonia was also one of the first nations to establish an embassy in the virtual environment Second Life. I am sure that we will gain wonderful experience in how to communicate with the new, “second generation” digital world, and the people who dwell there – young, educated, citizens of the world.
At the same time, there is the unfortunate truth that the global network spreads not only unlimited information, but also misinformation and other pollution. In order to keep away all manner of cyber pollution, one of our basic ideas is the implementation of a cyber culture, so that people can learn to protect themselves and their computers in the internet environment. This can be done by increasing society’s internet awareness, and also by agreeing on model laws.
Secondly, there are security questions. With the general development of information technology, crime in network environments has increased as well, and cyber security has become an international problem. Cyber attacks are no longer just assaults on computer systems, but essentially attacks against an entire way of life.
Since the vulnerability of cyberspace is a security risk to all nations, these issues should also be actively addressed on a global level.
We could say that the development of international laws on cyber security still stands ahead of us. At the moment, the most important document aimed at preventing and resolving cybercrime is the Council of Europe’s Convention on Cybercrime, which came into effect in 2004 and has been joined by almost fifty nations. We call upon all countries to join this convention, which creates a basis for legal cooperation among nations. Estonia also financially supports the Council of Europe’s initiative, which helps nations join the convention and find a greater audience for its principles. We also encourage nations to come together to compile an international model law for ensuring cyber security, which could be free of legal politics and would draw together the most valuable experiences of all the participants.
Currently in the European Union, the conclusions of the Justice and Internal Affairs Council from November 2007 are the basis for a uniform political framework for the fight against cybercrime. I emphasise that the European Union’s cyber cooperation must be coherent and wide-ranging. It must include all areas that could be affected by cybercrime, including competitiveness.
There are currently preparations being made in the European Union to launch an external action service with over a hundred representations, which will require well-thought-out information technology solutions. Estonia may be interested in co-operating with the European Commission in order to find the best information technology solutions for the future foreign representations and to support the security of those systems.
The current strategic concept in NATO also puts cyber security-related tasks before the alliance. We would like for the heads of states and governments to give concrete directives and deadlines for the implementation of cyber security policy at the summit in Bucharest. We should create a situation in which allies would be ready and able to come to each other’s aid in warding off cyber attacks if the situation arises.
But what is particularly satisfying is the fact that Estonia has the honour of being among the leading nations in the cyberworld, with the establishment of the international NATO Centre of Excellence for Cyber Defence. The centre will begin its work in full force during this year.
To conclude the topic of information wars, I’d like to say a few words about foreign propaganda. Every once in a while you hear accusations that it is as if Estonia lacks the power and means to combat hostile propaganda. And that, because of this, something is seriously out of joint with our reputation.
Naturally, representing Estonia is the important daily task of the Foreign Ministry. To do this, we create communication networks and co-operate within Estonia. From year to year, we see the fruits of valuable cooperation with the Estonian Institute, Enterprise Estonia, and other authorities. This year our foreign representations are organising hundreds of cultural and otherwise Estonia-related events in order to celebrate the 90th anniversary of the Republic of Estonia.
I am confident that we must dedicate our time and energy first and foremost to Estonia’s well-being and to forming our own narratives. We choose to offer positive solutions and examples to the outside world. Through promotion of democracy, energy security, nature preservation, conflict resolution, and ensuring peace, we attempt to do unquestionably more good and create a far better reputation than even the most powerful propaganda campaign. In order to maintain Estonia’s positive image abroad, it is important to coordinate our cultural exports within Estonia. Just as we do with all other policy realms, from environmental policy all the way to our standpoints on energy issues.
Of course a harsh word can ruin a whole day and a wrong note can ruin a whole symphony. But nobody remembers better than us that propaganda has short legs. And knows, as we know, how insignificant the weight of anti-Estonian propaganda is in free media today. The best weapon against written propaganda is, as before, freedom of speech and media. The fact that Estonia ranked among the top three nations in the world for freedom of media is a significant achievement.
Present-day foreign relations are extensive and layered – questions are no longer answered at summits alone, since the knowledge and qualified understanding of experts is becoming increasingly important. Work in European Union and NATO institutions has become our clear priority and everyday work. The Foreign Ministry is not the only one involved in foreign interactions; all the ministries and experts contribute. Our foreign interactions and foreign policy can be successful only with positive and harmonious cooperation.
In this anniversary year, it feels appropriate to think with profound gratitude about the first diplomats who ensured the recognition of Estonia, and all those who came after them. Member of the first Parliament Karl Ast has said about Jaan Poska and other great figures: “Though their brilliance is not like a lighthouse, visible all over the world, just as Estonia itself, due to its size, will never be first in the world, among their own people they are just as great as a great figure would be to a great people.”
What more can we do, other than know the accomplishments of our predecessors and thank them for their work? We can continue to move forward, keeping our spirits open and fresh.