Riigikogu green-lights EDF international missions participation for 2021

Regular EDF personnel in Mali, based in the eastern city of Gao. Source: Taavi Karotamm/mil.ee

The Riigikogu has resolved to extend several international missions involving Estonian Defense Forces (EDF) personnel, including NATO and European Union missions, as well as those of the United Nations.

The missions focus on the same region the EDF have been involved for several years already, notably the West African nation of Mali, the Lebanon, the Mediterranean, Iraq and Afghanistan.

The defense ministry sees contributing to the EU's southern flank via some of these missions in the light on preserving EU security, given that several EU nations are involved, as NATO members, in both Baltic Air Policing duties out of Ämari air base, and in the NATO Enhanced Forward Presence (eFP) Battlegroup based at Tapa.

Deployment requires the go-ahead from the legislature, however.

Up to 50 EDF members can be deployed in any NATO missions or any mission of any or its member states, as well as those of the EU or the UN, under Chapters VI and/or VII of the UN Charter to maintain or restore peace and security, plus any other international military operation in accordance with the generally recognized principles and norms of international law.

Another resolution, entitled "Use of the Defense Forces in Fulfilling Estonia's International Obligations in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization Contingency Units" provides for the deployment of up to 70 EDF members, in military operations aimed at maintaining or restoring peace and security and any other international military operation consistent with generally recognized principles and norms of international law.

Additionally, called "Use of the Defense Forces in Fulfilling the International Obligations of the Estonian Joint Forces" will allow the deployment of up to 24 members of joint forces from on military operations and any other international operation in accordance with the generally recognized principles and norms of international law, throughout the entirety of 2021.

The breakdown of missions is as follows


  • Participation in the French-led counter-terrorism and anti-human trafficking Operation Barkhane has been extended through 2021, with numbers of personnel capped at 75. The EDF's main contribution to Operation Barkhane, which covers much of the Sahel region, is an infantry platoon based in the city of Gao and principally involved in patrolling.
  • Up to 10 EDF members can additionally continue to take part in the EU Training Mission (EUTM) mission in Mali through to year-end 2021.
  • Five EDF personnel can also be deployed in Mali in the UN's MINUSMA mission through to December 31 2021.


  • Up to three EDF members can take part in the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) in 2021.
  • The Riigikogu also opted to extend the deployment of up to six EDF members UN-led peacekeeping mission UNTSO, in Lebanon, Israel, Egypt and Syria until 31 December 2021.


  • Up to 10 EDF personnel can be deployed to Iraq in 2021 as part of the U.S.-led Operation Inherent Resolve, principally aimed at countering the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
  • Another 40 EDF members can take part in NATO's Iraq mission.


  • Up to 46 EDF personnel can be involved in the NATO-led training and advisory missions to local forces there, the Resolute Support Mission.


  • Up to six members of the EDF can take part in 2021 in performing Estonia's international obligations to the EU military mission EUNAVFOR Med, now known as Operation Irini. The EU launched this mission's predecessor, also known as Operation Sophia, following the outbreak of the Libyan Civil War and aimed at countering human trafficking and other criminal or terrorist activities, as well as humanitarian aid for persons crossing the Mediterranean in ill-equipped boats.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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