If former Foreign Minister Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa) expressed doubt in terms of Estonia attending an upcoming summit of China and 17 Eastern European states, his successor Eva-Maria Liimets said that Estonia will attend the meeting.
"We will definitely be present for the meeting, while it still needs to be decided in what form," Liimets told the "Vikerhommik" radio show on Thursday. The minister pointed out that the new government has only just taken office.
Asked whether Estonia's participation could be affected by the Belarusian leader Aleksandr Lukashenko's potential attendance as an observer even though the EU does not recognize him as the legitimate president of Belarus, Liimets replied: "The partnership with China includes 17 Central and Eastern European countries. Observers are not a topic we have deemed important enough to discuss at this time."
EurActiv wrote on January 20 that China will try to hold the 17+1 meeting in February to discuss combating the coronavirus pandemic and offer Central and Eastern European countries its vaccine. Beijing would at the very least like to hold the summit virtually should meeting physically prove impossible, EurActiv.com added.
The 17+1 initiative is a diplomatic cooperation format covering former Soviet socialist states, including the Baltics and Visegrad, Bulgaria, Romania and the Balkans. Greece recently joined the format.
Urmas Reinsalu said on January 20 that he has "several question marks" concerning the format. "I have made no secret of the fact that my preference would be to talk to China in the EU as opposed to the 17+1 format and demonstrate Western unity," the former foreign minister said.
The suitability of Estonia's participation in the format has also been called into question by now Ambassador to Finland Sven Sakkov (former head of the International Center for Defense and Security) and MEP Urmas Paet (Reform).
"Estonia and other likeminded states should leave the 17+1 format with China in the name of a more united EU China policy," Paet said, adding that the format undermines a common China policy on the EU level and that member states should not forget human rights violations against the Uighurs, in Hong Kong and elsewhere.
Editor: Marcus Turovski