Government approves agreement regulating U.S. Army presence in Estonia (1)
The government supported an agreement on Thursday that will regulate the legal status of members of the U.S. Army stationed in Estonia, and authorized the minister of defense to sign it.
Defence Minister Margus Tsahkna (IRL) said that the signing of such a bilateral agreement was necessary seeing as the two countries’ defense cooperation was going to last in the longer term.
“The defense cooperation agreement between Estonia and the United States supports the presence of U.S. units in Estonia and strengthens our security. This is a material step towards deepening cooperation with the United States, our strategic partner. The United States has concluded similar agreements with several other European countries, such as Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, Poland, and others,” the minister said.
The agreement would complement the already existing agreement on the status of armed forces between NATO member states (NATO SOFA), spokespeople for the government said. It would reduce the red tape related to the stay of members of the U.S. armed forces and their contractors in Estonia, and make certain advantages available to them based on common strategic interest and principles.
The document will replace the agreement on the use of land plots and structures of the Estonian Defence Forces that was concluded in 2015 by means of exchange of notes between the governments of Estonia and the United States.
The agreement will not restrict Estonia’s exclusive right to permit the entry of members of the U.S. armed forces, military aircraft, and military vessels into Estonia.
The agreement will also regulate the application of Estonian penal law to members of the U.S. armed forces as well as their dependents. The document will determine in greater detail the cases in which the jurisdiction of Estonia as the receiving state and in which cases the jurisdiction of the U.S. as the sending state will apply to American military personnel.
The focus of the tax exemptions envisaged under the agreement would be on goods and services meant for official use. One of the basic principles in international defense cooperation is that no host country must earn money at the expense of the armed forces of the sending state.
The agreement is to be signed by the Estonian minister of defense and the U.S. ambassador to Estonia. After that, the agreement has to be ratified by the Riigikogu.
Estonia has previously signed a similar agreement with Germany, for instance. The United States has signed similar agreements with Germany, the Netherlands, Poland, Bulgaria and several other countries.