Estonian PM: Finland's NATO membership promotes defense cooperation

  • 2023-07-05
  • BNS/TBT Staff

TALLINN - Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas met with Finland's new government leader, Petteri Orpo, during Orpo's visit to Estonia on Wednesday and noted that Finland becoming a member of NATO opens up new opportunities for defense cooperation.

The prime ministers discussed the positions for the upcoming NATO summit in Vilnius, supporting Ukraine and intensifying cooperation between Estonia and Finland.

According to Kallas, she is glad that the first bilateral visit of the new prime minister of Finland was to Estonia.

"Finland has always had a very special place in the hearts of Estonians and now that Finland has become a member of NATO, an important leap forward is also taking place in the defense and security cooperation between the two countries," the prime minister said.

"In a week, Estonia and Finland will sit side by side at the NATO summit table in Vilnius, for the first time as allies. Finland's accession has strengthened both NATO as a whole and the security of the Baltic Sea region. We will continue to cooperate with our allies so that Sweden also becomes a member of NATO as soon as possible," he added.

According to Kallas, it is important to continue efforts to eliminate gray areas in European security, because they are breeding grounds for instability and wars.

"That is why Estonia supports Ukraine's accession to both the European Union and, after the war, NATO. Estonia's experience confirms that NATO membership is the safest, cheapest and most reliable way to deter Russia," Kallas said. "The promise made to Ukraine 15 years ago at the Bucharest summit cannot remain mere rhetoric, it must be followed by a practical plan in Vilnius to achieve Ukraine's NATO membership."

The prime minister emphasized that efforts must continue in parallel to strengthen Estonia's own security, while NATO's European allies must invest much more in their defense capabilities than before.

"At the NATO summit, one of Estonia's goals is that we reach an agreement that all allies contribute two percent of GDP to defense and 2.5 percent in the longer term," she said.

He added that Estonia also expects the approval of NATO's new regional defense plans and the rotational model of NATO's air defense in Vilnius.

Speaking about bilateral relations, Kallas said that Finland continues to be Estonia's most important trade partner.

"It is a pleasure to see that tourism between Estonia and Finland has recovered strongly after the low caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Hopefully, this will also be helped by the fact that next year our university town of Tartu will hold the title of European Capital of Culture. I invite all Finns to visit to enjoy Estonian culture and experience the spirit of Tartu," Kallas said.

The prime minister added that the belief that we know each other well and are already closely connected should not prevent us from looking for new opportunities for development and becoming closer.

"On the contrary, this is the basis for doing even more together. The Estonian-Finnish future cooperation report provides a good framework for this. I see great potential for the further development of all four areas outlined in the report -- be it digital governance, a vibrant economy, a green future or expanded cultures," Kallas said.

At the meeting, attention was also paid to border cooperation and energy security.

"We both share a border with an aggressive and unpredictable neighbor and are working closely together to keep our borders secure," Kallas said. "The construction of the ESTLINK 3 cable between Estonia and Finland is one of the highest priority projects for our region. In a situation where Russia's aggression against its neighbors has increased the risk of electricity and gas supply interruptions throughout the European Union, it is important that Estonia and Finland have an additional connection. We also need to increase our efforts to accelerate the development of offshore wind energy in the Baltic Sea."