Estonia in closer ties with Canada

  • 2010-11-10
  • By Ella Karapetyan

GOOD RELATIONS: Urmas Paet (left) tells Lawrence Cannon that Estonia-Canada cooperation must continue.

TALLINN - Foreign Minister Urmas Paet was on an official visit  to Canada, where he met with Canadian Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon and Defense Minister Peter MacKay, where they discussed Estonia’s important and visible contribution to building up Afghanistan. Paet said that both Estonian and Canadian soldiers are working to stabilize the security situation in southern Afghanistan. Paet gave Cannon an overview of Estonia’s civil contribution to developing the health care system in Helmand Province. “In its civil aid, Estonia focuses first and foremost on health care, improving the situation of women and children, and establishing good administrative practices,” he added.

Defense Minister McKay stated that Estonia’s soldiers are highly valued allies in ensuring security in Afghanistan’s Helmand Province.
Foreign Minister Paet invited Canada to participate in the Eastern Partnership Training Center, to be established in Tallinn. “The training center, which is based on the Estonian School of Diplomacy, will focus on increasing administrative capacity in the public sector of Eastern Partnership states and on sharing reform experiences. The participation of Canada and all of our international partners is welcome,” he stated.

Paet asserted that Estonia-Canada cooperation has been successful in the development aid sector as well. “For example, in cooperation with Canada, we have shared economic policy experiences with Ukrainian state officials and helped to alleviate the aftermath of the earthquake in Haiti,” said Paet. “We would like to continue development cooperation with Canada in the future,” he added.

Paet noted that Estonia would also like to intensify relations with Canada by expanding its network of honorary consuls. “Estonia just opened an honorary consulate in Halifax, and starting today a new honorary consul in Canada will begin working in Quebec,” he stated.

Cannon discussed with Paet the issues related to developments in the Arctic. Paet said that Estonia would like for the role of the European Union in Arctic issues to increase, and that the EU should gain observer status in the Arctic Council. “Because the Arctic is so vulnerable, all of us cooperating is inevitable and would be beneficial for the environmental, economic and security sectors,” said Paet.

Canada was welcomed to participate in the work of the NATO Cyber Defense Center of Excellence in Estonia. “Cyber crime does not recognize borders, which is why international cooperation is extremely important for ensuring cyber security,” Paet emphasized.

Paet and McKay addressed cooperation in NATO, including NATO’s new Strategic Concept, matters related to the Afghanistan mission, and Estonia-Canada bilateral defense cooperation.
Canada was the first NATO member state to ratify Estonia’s NATO accession protocol.

During his visit, the Foreign Minister also met with members of the Estonian community in Canada. He stated that the role Estonians living in Canada play in preserving Estonia’s culture and traditions is very important, and many Canadian-born Estonians have contributed to the development of the Estonian nation after re-independence. “Following the restoration of Estonia’s independence, many Estonians from Canada have returned to their fatherland, and Estonia has benefited from their experiences and expertise. Many Estonians that have lived in Canada have also helped to develop Estonia’s foreign service,” Paet added.

Paet stated that Canada holds a special significance for Estonians, as it provided a safe refuge for thousands of their fellow countrymen. “For those who fled the Soviet occupation and escaped to Canada, the country provided safety as well as opportunities to study, work, and become a part of a society that values multi-culturalism. Currently, one of the biggest Estonian communities in the world is found in Canada,” added Paet. “In addition to close person-to-person contacts, Estonia and Canada share many common values and views in foreign, economic, and security policy,” foreign minister noted.

Foreign Minister Paet said that thanks to the Canadian-Estonian community, Estonia and Canada have always shared good cultural ties. “Through culture and individual contacts we have the opportunity to introduce Estonia better in Canada.”

Estonians living in Canada expressed interest in Estonia’s political and economic situation. Estonia’s relations with its neighboring countries were also discussed, as was Estonia’s role in the European Union and foreign relations in general. Paet also visited the Estonian Exile Museum and Tartu College in Toronto.

Estonians in Canada are represented by the Estonian Central Council in Canada, which was established in 1951 and has the goal of developing and preserving cultural, economic and other ties between Estonians in Canada and the Estonian state. In addition, many cities also have Estonian societies that work to organize events and help people who are living in Estonia. Large numbers of Estonians are mainly concentrated in three areas of Canada: Toronto, Vancouver, and Montreal.