Paet addresses foreign relations, security

  • 2005-06-08
  • From wire reports
TALLINN - Keeping within the framework of both the EU's neighbor policy and NATO's partnership program, Estonia has promised to make relations with Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova a national priority, the foreign minister said this week.

During a foreign policy debate in Parliament June 7, Foreign Minister Urmas Paet emphasized that in order to ensure a politically and economically stable Ukraine, Estonia must support discussion of the country's prospects of joining the EU.

"In the first place, Ukraine's domestic policy reforms must continue, and the same applies to the cooperation between Ukraine and NATO," the minister said.

Estonia should also back democratic developments and reforms in Georgia, Paet added. In his words, the withdrawal of Russian troops is a necessary precondition for peacefully settling the so-called frozen conflicts and will facilitate Georgia's successful development.

"Let's hope the agreements reached about a timetable for pulling out Russian bases will be carried out," the minister said.

Paet was quick to add that more attention should be paid to Moldova.

"The growth of Moldova's political and economic stability is crucial for regional security, and a necessary precondition for this is resolving the frozen Transnistria conflict, including the pullout of Russian troops," he said.

He added that, like other EU member states, Estonia does not support the isolation of Belarus.

Paet further stressed the necessity of supporting political and economic reforms in Uzbekistan and keeping watch on developments in Kyrgyzstan. "An absence of democratic reforms rocks the stability of wider regions," he observed.

EU enlargement plans to take in Bulgaria, Romania, Croatia and Turkey, as well as possibly Ukraine and Georgia, must be based on the Copenhagen criteria, Paet said, adding that the EU itself must be ready to admit new members as stable law-governed democracies.

"The prospect of membership gives strong motivation to countries carrying out market economy and democratic reforms. This, in turn, fosters stability and security in Europe," the minister said.

The minister also emphasized the country's need to participate in international operations and contribute to foreign security, saying that Estonia must increase its contribution to the EU's common foreign and security policy.

"A domestic procedure for participating in international crisis settlement operations has to be devised. The question concerns both monetary resources and an inter-ministry coordinating and decision-making mechanism," the minister told lawmakers.

Although NATO plays the key role in European and transatlantic security and defense, operations launched within the framework of Europe's common security and defense policy are of increasing importance to the continent's stability, he said.

"Estonia is present on all missions that have priority for us: we are participating in Balkan missions in Bosnia, Herzegovina and Macedonia, as well as in Georgia," Paet observed. o