Toomas Sildam: Once more, how many foreign policies does Estonia have?

Toomas Sildam
Toomas Sildam Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

President Kaljulaid and the government will be able to decide or at least discuss Estonia's foreign policy heading at a lunch scheduled for Monday (the lunch took place on February 3), journalist Toomas Sildam writes.

Listening to the various speeches that marked the 100th anniversary of the Treaty of Tartu, one might be tempted to ask how many foreign policies does Estonia have and who are the people who shape them?

First, there's President Kersti Kaljulaid who, according to the Constitution, represents Estonia in foreign relations and coordinates her foreign policy actions with the government. In her speech on Sunday evening, she urged us to maintain clarity and consistency in our foreign policy tenets of the past 25 years and to also honor the international consensus that post-war borders will not be redrawn in Europe.

To translate the president's words, it means that Pechory and areas east of Narva that were Estonia's after the signing of the Tartu Peace Treaty and that the Soviet Union annexed after WWII will remain Russia's and Estonia should not bother trying to reclaim them. Any rhetoric to the contrary can only sow confusion, the president emphasized.

President of the Riigikogu, coalition Conservative People's Party (EKRE) politician Henn Põlluaas disagrees completely. He said on Sunday that certain circles' desire to surrender voluntarily and free of charge territories that rightfully belong to Estonia and the natural resources they hide is unacceptable and that Estonia does not need a new border agreement that would effectively negate the Treaty of Tartu.

The opinion of the government that handles daily international relations and officially shapes foreign policy was not revealed. Both Prime Minister Jüri Ratas and Minister of Foreign Affairs Urmas Reinsalu avoided the topic of the Treaty of Tartu and the new border agreement. The Estonia-Russia border agreement was signed by then foreign minister Urmas Paet and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov five years ago but has not been ratified by either side.

Ratas recently told ETV's "Esimene stuudio" political talk show that the Estonian government lacks consensus when it comes to the border agreement. Translation: The Center Party would be outnumbered as coalition partners EKRE and Isamaa are against the ratification. Ratas believes the agreement is necessary as it would lend the matter concreteness and clarity.

Isamaa recently approved a political statement according to which it would not be proper for President Kaljulaid to attend the May 9 celebration of the victory over Nazi Germany in Moscow because Russia is busy rewriting Second World War history and does not honor the Tartu Peace Treaty.

Isamaa and most of Ratas' cabinet were also cautious when commenting on Kaljulaid's Moscow visit and meeting with President Vladimir Putin last spring. While the president said back then that neighbors need to talk to each other and that she will open the door to that communication, there seem to be few willing to walk through it today.

Therefore, the head of state and Ratas' government will get the chance to decide or at least discuss the Russian course in Estonian foreign policy during their lunch meeting on February 3. Whether we will be sept away by Russia's fear of the past, reacting to every Moscow official's statement or whether we will shape our own policy with a level of confidence fitting of a member of the EU and NATO.

"Foreign policy cannot be pursued based on nostalgia or emotions but needs to happen in a well-weighed and rational manner. As it was done during the Estonian War of Independence," Kaljulaid said.

In reality, foreign policy can be very emotional and nostalgic at times. However, the message sent to those celebrating 100 years from the signing of the Treaty of Tartu was beautiful and precise: "Onward with Peace."


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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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