TALLINN - The Estonian government on Thursday gave its nod to a bill to ratify the agreement on defense cooperation between Estonia and the United States.
The agreement to regulate in more detail the status of members of the U.S. armed forces, their dependents, and contractors of the U.S. armed forces during their stay in Estonia was signed by Estonian Defense Minister Margus Tsahkna and U.S. Ambassador to Estonia James Melville on Jan. 17.
The agreement needs to be ratified by the parliament because its enactment requires amending the National Defense Act and the Value-Added Tax Act, spokespeople for the government told BNS.
The agreement complements the already existing agreement on the status of armed forces between NATO member states (NATO SOFA), spokespeople for the government said. It will reduce the red tape related to the stay of members of the U.S. armed forces and their contractors in Estonia and make available to them certain advantages based on common strategic interest and principles.
The document will replace the agreement on the use of land plots and structures of the Estonian defense forces that was concluded in 2015 by means of exchange of notes between the governments of Estonia and the United States.
The accord will not restrict Estonia's exclusive right to give permission for the entry of members of the U.S. armed forces, military aircraft, and military vessels into Estonia.
It will also regulate the application of Estonian penal law to members of the U.S. armed forces and their dependents. The document determines in greater detail the cases in which the jurisdiction of Estonia as the receiving state and in which cases the jurisdiction of the U.S. as the sending state will apply to members of the U.S. armed forces.
The focus of the tax exemptions envisaged under the agreement is primarily on goods and services meant for official use. One of the basic principles of international defense cooperation is that no country must earn money at the expense of the armed forces of the sending state.
Estonia has previously signed a similar agreement with Germany, for instance. The United States has signed similar agreements with Germany, the Netherlands, Poland, Bulgaria and several other countries.