Ratas in Paris: France-Estonia relations stronger than ever
Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Center) was on an official visit to France Wednesday, meeting President Emmanuel Macron. The pair signed a Franco-Estonian strategic partnership declaration, after an earlier declaration signed between France and the other two Baltic States, Latvia and Lithuania, had not received Estonian assent.
"The history of diplomatic relations between our two countries will soon reach the 100-year mark, with cultural ties stretching even further back," Ratas said of the visit, via a government press release.
"The declaration signed today adds substance and momentum to our dialog, and strengthens joint action in both European and transatlantic cooperation. We have to stand together in support of basic European democratic values," he went on.
Ratas also expressed gratitude for French contribution to both the NATO Enhanced Forward Presence (eFP) Battlegroup based in Tapa, and to the Baltic Air Policing duties based at Ämari, where a French contingent most recently served from May to September this year.
Other topics on the table included the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic situation – President Macron declared a second nationwide lockdown late on Wednesday night, to start Friday – and the need for a secure, digital, Europe-wide identity system.
"Finding solutions to crises caused by the spread of the coronavirus opens up new avenues for cooperation," Ratas wrote on his social media account Wednesday.
"At the same time, we must continue our joint efforts in ensuring the people of Europe can live in a vibrant environment where they can make use of a secure digital identity. Together, we must stand up for Europe's fundamental democratic values," he went on.
The meeting also took place against the background of a spat between France and another NATO, but not EU, member state – Turkey – following a controversial cartoon featuring Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, which appeared on the cover of this week's edition of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.
Another key area of defense cooperation comes in the West African country of Mali, where an Estonian Defense Forces (EDF) infantry platoon, and other personnel, regularly contribute as part of the French-led counter-terrorism Operation Barkhane.
"The joint experience in Estonia and Mali has turned both countries' defense forces into real comrades," Ratas said via a government press release.
Digitalization of the EU, and climate change, as well as relations with Russia and the situation in Belarus and the Nagorno-Karabakh region disputed between Azerbaijan and Armenia, were other topics discussed.
Ratas also took part in a round-table business discussion featuring Estonian firms Guardtime, a cyber security solutions provider, and aircraft maintenance company Magnetic MRO, along with several French firms.
The meeting follows media reports earlier on this month that Estonia had declined to sign the joint statement on the protection of European democracy as a sop to the avowedly-Eurosceptic Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE), with whom Ratas' party is in coalition. Latvia and Lithuania signed the statement in late September a few days after Emmanuel Macron visited the two countries, but not Estonia.
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Editor: Andrew Whyte