TALLINN - In his annual foreign policy address to the Riigikogu (Estonian Parliament) on Feb. 8, Foreign Minister Urmas Paet emphasized that, as a result of the activities of the international mission in Afghanistan, the number of terrorist attacks in the world have decreased. “Our soldiers are in Afghanistan so that the whole world would be more secure and the potential terrorist attacks that pose a threat to all people, including Estonians, would be prevented,” he said.
Paet stated that all of society should be supportive of those soldiers, of those that have been injured on the mission. “Estonia has suffered very tragic human losses in Afghanistan. But we must also keep in mind that by paying this price, the security of our people has been strengthened,” he asserted.
The foreign minister stated that today, at the beginning of the 21st century, Estonia’s security is better ensured than ever before, but the constantly changing security environment is presenting the country with new and global challenges that it has to be prepared to deal with. “One of our main objectives in the security sector is securing conditions for the transferring of security responsibilities in Afghanistan within the next few years,” he said.
Paet said that Estonia will continue to contribute to the Afghanistan mission on the principle that since Estonia has decided to begin the mission together with its allies, the decision to end it must also be made together. “By being active in Afghanistan we are contributing to the fight against terrorism and increasing our capabilities in the development and civilian co-operation sphere,” he emphasized.
The foreign minister said that Estonia will also continue to give first aid training in Helmand, in the course of which over two years more than 1,000 women in Helmand Province have been trained and first aid kits have been supplied to many families. “The project to give supplementary training to health workers is also continuing,” he said.
Paet noted that while visiting Afghanistan in January, he met with schoolchildren at the friendship school to Tallinn’s Pae Secondary School in Kabul. “I became convinced that young Afghans have a great desire to learn and are very hopeful about the future,” he stated. The foreign minister added that Estonia’s development co-operation in Kabul is mainly focused upon the educational sphere. We are also supporting the preserving of information materials in the National Archives and the publishing of their new books,” he said.
In talking about security topics, Paet also mentioned security co-operation between Estonia and the United States. “Estonia greatly values its bilateral security co-operation with the U.S., including joint military exercises as well as collective activities as NATO allies in Afghanistan and in the sphere of increasing cyber security. It is also heartening that new spheres of co-operation are being added, like supporting the European Union Eastern Partners, energy security, and development co-operation,” said Paet.
He added that the close relationship that exists between the United States and Estonia was once again confirmed in the course of his visit to Washington in January, during which Secretary of State Hillary Clinton expressed her pleasure over such a dependable, creative and close ally as Estonia. “Estonia has in the course of just 20 years become one of the most successful models for emerging nationhood anywhere in the world, with its growth as a wired-in nation of Internet voters and cyber innovators and its commitment to good governance, the rule of law, and fiscal responsibility,” said Paet, quoting the words of the American secretary of state.