On Feb. 8, Estonia officially finished its mission in Iraq, which started in June 2003. "All parties gained from Estonia's participation in the Iraq mission, and Iraq now is a safer and more democratic country than it was before," said Defense Minister Jaak Aaviksoo. Three Estonian officers will continue serving on the NATO training mission in Iraq. In accordance with a joint declaration on cooperation signed with Iraq's Defense Minister Abdul Al-Qadir Jassam, Iraqis may be trained at the Baltic Defense College located in Tartu. During his visit, Aviksoo met with the security adviser to the Iraqi prime minister, Mowaffak Baqer al-Rubaie Rubaie, chief of the Iraq training mission, Lieutenant General Frank G.Helmick, and U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker. "The gratitude expressed by the Iraqi president, the prime minister and the defense minister are an honourable recognition for both our defense forces and the Estonian state," Aaviksoo said.
On Feb. 9 the Opposition Center Party filed a bill of amendments seeking to grant aliens permanently residing in Estonia the right to vote in the upcoming European Parliament elections.Vilja Savisaar, the chairperson of Center Party, said that alien voters should be applied the same criteria as the citizens of Estonia. Savisaar has also underlined that nobody should be stripped the right to vote in the country one comes from and expressed hope that the amendment will be adopted before the June 7 elections. The amendment would give voting rights to an alien who resides in Estonia on the basis of a long-term or permanent residence permit.