Security is the focus of Estonia's foreign policy this year due to the international security situation becoming increasingly tense, Minister of Foreign Affairs Eva-Maria Liimets said on Tuesday.
Liimets (Center) gave the Riigikogu an overview of the main focal points for Estonia's foreign policy over the coming year.
"We must make an effort in our foreign policy to ensure that the Western world remains united and proactive and that we are unreservedly at its political core," Liimets said.
The minister described a strong transatlantic bond and membership in NATO as continuously the cornerstone of the security of Estonia and emphasized that investing in security is the responsibility of every state.
"The credibility of the ties between allies depends on it. For a considerable time now, Estonia's defense spending has exceeded 2 percent of its GDP. However, transatlantic ties cannot rely on financial contributions alone; instead, they have always been based on an interest in protecting common values, maintaining peace and preserving freedom," she said.
"In addition to United States' participation, in strengthening Europe is critical to Estonia's security; however, it is not an alternative to transatlantic cooperation. On the contrary, reinforcing the transatlantic link both in the framework of NATO as well as in European Union - United States cooperation must be an integral part of a strengthening Europe. Estonia unequivocally supports closer cooperation between the European Union and NATO," the minister said.
Estonia being an active participant in shaping the foreign and security policy of the European Union is in the country's interests as is a union that speaks in a single, principled voice and can assert itself not only in simple matters but also on complicated issues like relations with Russia and China, Liimets said.
"We support initiatives that develop the defense capabilities of the European Union; however, I would like to reiterate our position - when it comes to ensuring the security of Europe, there is no alternative to NATO and close transatlantic cooperation with the United States," she said.
The minister said Estonia is actively and constructively contributing to the policies of the European Union.
"Our strategy for establishing Estonia in the European Union has been aptly articulated by [fomer President] Lennart Meri, who was convinced it must be YES. Not a passive 'yes,' but an active and discerning one. We must know exactly what we want and present good arguments for our decisions and choices," she said.
At the UN Security Council, Estonia will continue to raise the security issues of our region -Ukraine, Belarus, Russia - and remain actively engaged in more distant flashpoints.
"This year, we are taking on more responsibility in the UN Security Council as one of the penholders for Afghanistan and one of the main negotiators for the arms embargo of Libya. We also consider it important to participate in discussions on the impact of climate change on international security. Not wanting this to remain a one-time effort, we have decided to apply for UN Security Council membership again in 2050," she said.
In addition to UN Security Council membership, Estonia's multilateral diplomacy goals include applying for the chairmanship in the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to take an active part in solving conflicts in the European Union's neighborhood and advance human rights, fundamental freedoms and democratic norms.
Estonia will also continue its activities in the protection of human rights, climate diplomacy and cyber diplomacy.
"In addition to multilateral diplomacy, active bilateral relations with our allies are also critical for us. Although the United Kingdom withdrew from the European Union, it continues to be a crucial part of European cooperation and remains our close ally," the minister said.
"Naturally, the Baltic states and Nordic countries are particularly close to our heart - we share values, history and culture, and we have enjoyed long and outstanding cooperation. As we recover from the pandemic, it is these countries that are particularly important when it comes to contacts in fields such as the economy, trade, investments, the environment and reinforcing regional security," she said.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs will continue to pay attention to the Three Seas Initiative, which Estonia coordinated in 2020.
The minister stressed that events in Europe's immediate neighborhood have major security policy implications for Estonia.
"The relations of Estonia and Russia cannot be viewed as separate from Russia's actions on the international stage, and the same applies for the policies of the European Union and NATO towards Russia," she said.
The minister said that Russia's aggressive foreign policy, its abandonment of voluntary international commitments and democratic values and attempts to alter the security architecture of Europe have a direct impact on the security environment around us.
"Obviously, good relations with our neighbor Russia are in our long-term interests; however, for this to happen, the policies and actions of Russia must also become neighborly," she said.
According to the minister, the foreign policy of this government is focused on supporting Estonia's economic development through active business diplomacy to boost exports, investments and tourism. Activities in the field of development cooperation and humanitarian aid also contribute to Estonia's foreign policy goals and add to our reputation.
Estonia cherishes each and every one of its people, and this is also the guiding principle for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in consular affairs and staying in touch with the global Estonian community.
"One of the aims of the global program for Estonians is to include our diaspora in the development and life of Estonia. To achieve this, we need new targeted action that contributes to Estonia's future," the minister said, adding that the ministry is creating the position of an ambassador at large for diaspora affairs to increase the cohesion of Estonia's diaspora policy.
Held the annual speech on foreign policy at the @Riigikogu today. In #foreignpolicy, acts as a #sovereign state to ensure that our interests are represented, our #security is protected and our people's lives improve. Full speech: https://t.co/v1m4f95vJB pic.twitter.com/xuwbERcUdo— Eva-Maria Liimets (@eliimets) February 16, 2021
Editor: Helen Wright