Austrian decision strengthens Baltic unity

  • 2011-07-20
  • From wire reports

TALLINN - At a meeting of the European Union foreign ministers held on July 18 in Brussels, Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Paet thanked his European Union colleagues for support in freeing the abducted Estonians, reports news agency LETA. Paet notified his colleagues that the seven Estonian citizens abducted in Lebanon on March 23 had been freed on July 14 and returned home to Estonia early on the morning of July 15.  “This very complicated situation, which went on for about four months, has reached a positive conclusion and the abducted men are back home with their families and loved ones,” said Paet.

Paet thanked the European Union, High Representative for the EU Catherine Ashton, the EU representations in Beirut and Damascus, and his colleagues in all European Union countries for their co-operation and help in finding and freeing the Estonian citizens.  “This cooperation flowed effortlessly and is confirmation of the European Union states’ support for one another, even in a complicated situation that is of importance to one member state,” Paet noted. “Estonia has received practical and positive confirmation of the fact that in countries where we do not have our own representation, we are still represented through the European Union,” he added. Paet’s European Union colleagues expressed happiness over the fact that the complicated situation had a positive resolution and that the abducted Estonians are back home.

His expression commending mutual support among EU member states took a U-turn, however, when on July 19 Paet confirmed that the ministry’s deputy chancellor in EU issues was to call Austrian ambassador to Estonia Angelika Saupe-Berchtold to the ministry to discuss what caused the decision of Austria to free former KGB officer Mikhail Golovatov, who was arrested in Vienna.

Estonia demonstrates Baltic unity and supports Lithuania in the conflict with Austria in connection with the release from custody of a former KGB officer suspected of Jan. 12, 1991 crimes, he stated. “It was a bad surprise that he was released in less than 24 hours,” Paet told the media, adding that the important thing is that the international warrant of arrest posted by Lithuania stays in force and that person could still be detained in order to carry out investigation procedures. “If there is strong and justified suspicion that he has committed crimes in 1991 in Vilnius, as a result of which 14 people were killed, he has to face the court.”

The Baltic foreign ministers on July 19 met in Brussels to sign and submit a joint letter to European Union foreign ministers and European Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship Viviane Reding, that protests the release of Golovatov in Austria, shortly after he was arrested pursuant to a European arrest warrant.

The three foreign ministers, Audronis Azubalis of Lithuania, Girts Valdis Kristovskis of Latvia and Paet emphasize in their joint letter that the European arrest warrant is an instrument of mutual trust that must ensure efficient law enforcement and detention of suspects, especially if such persons are suspected of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
The Austrian authorities’ decision to release Golovatov infringes upon the efficiency of international legal cooperation as well as the importance of the principle of solidarity among the EU member states, the ministers write in the letter.