Poland's NATO experience useful for Estonia

  • 2001-07-26
  • BNS
TALLINN - Polish Foreign Minister Wladyslaw Bartoszewski made an official visit to Estonia on July 24, meeting with the country's president, deputy parliamentary speaker, foreign minister and defense minister.

Because Poland became a member of NATO in 1999, Bartoszewski had some experience to share with Estonia.

During a dinner hosted by President Lennart Meri, he and Bartoszewski spoke about Estonian-Polish bilateral relations, economic and cultural contacts, history, relations with neighboring countries and the general international situation, a Meri spokeswoman reported.

Bartoszewski assured Tunne Kelam, the Estonian Parliament's deputy speaker, that the Polish Parliament will certainly back Estonia in its NATO accession bid.

Bartoszewski also said the Baltic countries' membership in the alliance was a foreign policy priority for Poland.

He emphasized that when U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell had asked him to name countries deserving support and admission to NATO, he had first named Poland's neighboring countries. However, he denied having any preferences.

"No Baltic country deserves NATO membership more than the others," said Bartoszewski.

Bartoszewski said that of the three Baltic countries, Poland historically has the closest relations with Lithuania, but he could see no reason why Poland should support Estonia's or Latvia's NATO aspirations less than Lithuania's.

The Polish foreign minister sees it as important that Estonia should increase its defense expenditure to 2 percent of GDP.

"It will certainly be difficult for the state and incomprehensible to the people, but the image of engagement is worth a lot," he said.

Kelam said that the example of Poland, where there was a stabilization of Russian-Polish relations after Poland joined NATO, was of great importance for Estonia.

"Stability and mutually friendly relations with Russia are a priority for Estonia also. Becoming a NATO member will give Estonia, like Poland, the best opportunity to build relations with Russia and overcome our burdensome historical heritage," Kelam said.

Russia's anti-NATO stance has had no concrete consequences so far, Bartoszewski said when meeting with Defense Minister Juri Luik.

"Russian opposition to NATO enlargement could be felt also when Poland held accession talks with NATO, but the two countries' relations are now constructive and cooperative," said Bartoszewski.

Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic joined the alliance in 1999. The next round of enlargement will be decided by NATO next November in Prague. Nine countries hope to be invited to join, including Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Albania, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia.