TALLINN - Estonian Minister of Defense Juri Luik said at a general assembly of the Estonian Defense Industry Association on Wednesday that the pandemic has not reduced any security risks and dangers in the Baltic Sea region and the Defense Ministry's priority is to maintain the intensity of support to the domestic defense industry's research and development activities at least at the same level as before.
Estonia's defense industry is an integral part of national defense as it strengthens the state's defense capabilities and contributes to the economy -- through cooperation between the ministry and defense industry companies over the past ten years, an internationally competitive domestic defense industry with high added value has been created.
"We can be proud of having reached the forefront among the Baltic states," Luik was quoted by spokespeople as saying.
The defense minister said that the economic downturn that is about to hit NATO member states will differ from one state to the other, but it will definitely put pressure on the allies' defense spending due to struggling businesses and people needing support all over the word.
"In order to ensure that Estonia's defense capability is preserved and the development of national defense is not halted, defense spending must remain on at least the same level as before," Luik said, adding that a large share of the defense budget will be used in Estonia, which will support the economy's exit from the crisis.
Luik underlined that the Estonian defense industry has advantages in cyber defense, autonomous systems, robotics and surveillance technologies.
"It is research and development that help create innovative solutions in the defense sector and retain the international competitiveness of Estonia's defense industry," Luik said. He noted that export is no less important, however, and relying on domestic demand only is not a reasonable approach.
"We will emerge from the crisis stronger if we work together," Luik said, and confirmed the ministry's preparedness for supporting the local defense industry with making international contacts with major European enterprises and end users as well as the defense forces' willingness to provide military expertise in product testing.