TALLINN – Estonia is implementing an independent and consistent foreign and security policy, mainly through its involvement in the European Union and NATO, Foreign Minister Urmas Reinsalu said in his speech about Estonia's foreign policy in the Riigikogu on Tuesday.
In increasing Estonia's clout, the country's status as an elected member of the UN Security Council, maintaining a strong transatlantic bond, the Three Seas Initiative and expanding the foreign service are under special attention this year, the minister said.
"We have gone through a complicated journey over these past hundred years. Today, we are stronger than ever before as a state and as a nation, acting according to the principles of the legal continuity of the Republic of Estonia and the Tartu Peace Treaty. We have committed ourselves to building our state and our diplomacy has represented us with dignity. The success of our foreign policy is manifested in our membership in the UN Security Council -- the center of global diplomacy. The election of Estonia as a member of the Security Council is a clear sign of the maturity and credibility of our diplomacy," Reinsalu said.
The minister said that deepening and diversifying our bilateral cooperation with the United States, our most important security policy partner, continues to be important. Therefore, strengthening transatlantic relations and intensifying bilateral cooperation with the United States is a crucial objective for Estonia, including in its actions in international organizations.
"We are convinced that a strong and functioning transatlantic cooperation and a close alliance between the democracies of Europe and North America are essential for ensuring both our security and prosperity, as well as that of the entire Western world, but also for maintaining broader international stability," Reinsalu said.
"We must be able to protect and advance our values and principles in light of the long-term developments in global politics. I am referring to the relations of Estonia and the European Union with the emerging China. In relations with China, we see opportunities for mutually beneficial cooperation in many areas. At the same time, it is necessary to ensure the unity of the EU and allies in general and develop common policies to avoid the fragmentation of the interests of Estonia and the European Union as a whole in the interplay of global change," he added.
On the topic of the Middle East Peace Process, the Estonian minister described presentation of the new peace plan of the United States as an important development that has gained widespread attention.
"It is important to relaunch the dialogue between the parties of the conflict, as negotiations are the only way to achieve a just and lasting peace. Success requires a unified position of America and Europe on this issue," he said.
The minister said Russia continues its aggressive foreign policy, which is why the European Union and NATO must continue their current policy in their relations with Russia.
"Ahead of the 75th anniversary of the end of the Second World War, Russia continues its forceful presentation of a historical narrative that ignores historical facts and tries to alter a generally recognized view of history," Reinsalu said.
"Considering the fact that Russia has not ended its aggression against its neighbors, making a fresh start in Western-Russian relations is inconceivable," he said, reaffirming Estonia's continued support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine and Georgia.
Speaking about advancing our region's economic environment and interconnections, Reinsalu emphasized the significance of summit of the Three Seas Initiative to be held in Estonia in June.
"As a part of the summit, we are organizing a business forum with the objective of increasing interest in investing in the region’s economy and paving the way for contributions from international investors to the Three Seas Fund. The Three Seas Investment Fund was established to finance the infrastructure projects of the Three Seas Initiative. The successful launch of the fund and a greater number of states and investors joining it are among the objectives of the Tallinn summit. In principle, Estonia is ready to join the fund and allocate 20 million euros for the launch of the fund," the minister said.
Of specific areas, the minister highlighted development cooperation, saying that for an improved efficiency and analysis of our development cooperation, plans are underway to establish a Development Cooperation Agency and compose its strategy for action.
Primarily with a view to expanding its external economy interests, Estonia plans to open embassies in Singapore and South Korea in 2020. Additional business diplomats will be appointed at first to Tokyo, Toronto, Geneva, Warsaw, Riga, Washington and Abu Dhabi this year. Mainly for representing the interests of the IT sector companies, we are appointing an economic diplomat for Africa who will reside in Tallinn. All these actions demonstrate that boosting entrepreneurship by supporting exports and encouraging growing investments, as well as boosting tourism are among the main priorities of the Foreign Ministry today.
Other topics touched upon by the foreign minister in his speech included EU climate policy, seeking observer's status in the Arctic Council, strong partnership with the United Kingdom also after Brexit, regional cooperation in view of Estonia's status as the presiding nation in the Baltic Council of Ministers and the Nordic-Baltic cooperation format NB8, as well as the fight against illegal migration.
The minister expressed his gratitude to the foreign affairs committee of the Riigikogu and other committees for their thorough processing of the Estonian Foreign Policy Strategy 2030 and their substantial discussions.
"It is the first time a comprehensive foreign policy strategy of this kind has been put together. The strategy will strengthen our foreign policy in the long term. Based on this strategy, we will reinforce our three main lines of action, which are security, the stability of international relations and sustainable development; foreign trade; and Estonians abroad," he said.
In conclusion of his speech, the minister emphasized that the most important asset of foreign policy are the people who are working on a daily basis towards ensuring Estonia's security, supporting Estonian companies in export markets, and representing and protecting the interests of our citizens abroad.