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NATO is Greatest Security Guarantee for Estonia and Entire Region


No 59-E

In his annual foreign policy address to the Riigikogu today, Foreign Minister Urmas Paet spoke about security topics that are important to Estonia and emphasised that NATO is the greatest security guarantee for Estonia and this entire region.

In his speech, Foreign Minister Urmas Paet noted that for Estonia it is important that the Baltic air policing mission will continue indefinitely. “Estonia is working to get at least one air policing rotation per year based in Ämari in the future. Logically, a mission that is in the interests of all three countries should use all the available opportunities. This is what Ämari has to offer for the security of Baltic airspace,” Paet asserted. The foreign minister recognised all the countries that have participated in air policing. Among them, the ones that have served the most are Germany, followed by Poland, France and Denmark.

Paet also emphasised the importance of defence spending. Currently Estonia is one of the few allies that contributes the NATO minimum to national defence – 2% of GDP. “We would like our allies and closest partners to also set the goal of contributing more to their defence budgets,” the foreign minister said, explaining that Europe as a whole must contribute more to security.

In talking about NATO’s Afghanistan mission, Foreign Minister Urmas Paet stated that the full transfer of security responsibility to the Afghan forces will happen in the middle of this year. “Soon we shall decide when to pull out our soldiers. NATO will continue its work in Afghanistan after 2014, leading an international training mission,” he added. The foreign minister emphasised that Estonia is thankful to every soldier, civilian, and family that have helped to ensure Estonia’s security.

Estonia plans to significantly increase development co-operation support for Afghanistan, which still needs the international community’s support to build up its country. “Our priorities are health care, education, good governance, and safety,” said Paet. “For example, in Helmand Province about 80% of residents now have access to free health care services. The whole province is covered by a network of clinics. Our health expert’s task was to co-ordinate Estonian and international development co-operation projects, and to advise Helmand’s provincial government,” the foreign minister said, describing Estonia’s development co-operation activities aimed towards developing the health care sector in Helmand.

While talking about the complicated security situation in the Middle East and North Africa and its effect on the rest of the world, Paet noted in his speech that paradoxically, in this day and age it is necessary to act far from home in order for life to be safe here in Estonia. “For example, Estonia participates in the European Union anti-piracy operation Atalanta and plans to participate in the EU’s training mission in Mali,” Paet said. “It is important to us that in Mali, Afghanistan, and elsewhere the extremists that threaten the peace and stability of the whole world do not come to power. It’s important to us that Somali pirates don’t damage the world economy – and therefore also the Estonian economy – with their actions,” the foreign minister explained.

Paet said that the security of the Baltic Sea region is stable, but NATO-centred co-operation needs strengthening. “Estonia would like to see Finland and Sweden tied more closely to the alliance. In the future, when their societies are ready for it, even as members,” the foreign minister said. “We regularly and effectively work together with Finland and Sweden in NATO crisis management exercises. A lot of our co-operation takes place within the framework of the European Union. The Nordic Battle Group is one way to intensify our defence co-operation even more,” he added.

In his speech the foreign minister also expressed satisfaction over the fact that more and more countries have begun to understand the importance of cyber security. Paet emphasised the completion of the European Union cyber security strategy and the work of NATO’s Cyber Defence Centre as important developments. Most recently France and the United Kingdom announced that they would join the centre, located in Tallinn.

Full text of the address:

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