Military conflicts or occupations in Europe should be a thing of the past, prime minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) says. Kallas was in Ukraine this week, with her trip taking in eastern Ukraine, scene of conflict since 2014. The prime minister also got to see for herself how Estonian aid in the region had been put to use.
Kallas said Tuesday that: "In the Europe of today, no one should have to suffer from military conflicts or occupations."
"All of us – friends and partners of Ukraine – must put an end to it. We have worked hard together with our western partners to take concrete steps in response to Russia's aggressive actions. The Kremlin must know the price of further escalation," the prime minister went on, according to a government office press release.
"The security of Ukraine is the security of all of Europe," she added.
Estonia also supports Ukraine in its continued development, she added. "Estonia will continue to support Ukraine in the framework of development cooperation. Our projects will help to decrease educational inequalities in the crisis region."
As a concrete example, Kallas said: "We are supporting the modernising of 16 schools and kindergartens in the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts. We are providing an internet connection to two villages near Zolote, helping the elderly that have been affected by armed conflicts, and supporting local firefighters."
"I want to be back here when the occupation is over. On that day we can say: this is Europe – whole and free," the prime minister went on.
Tuesday was day two of her official visit, when Kallas traveled to the hazardous region of Luhansk Oblast, accompanied by Oleksii Reznikov, Minister for Reintegration of the Temporarily Occupied Territories, and getting to see two crossing points between territories occupied by the Russian Federation and the rest of Ukraine.
The itinerary included the town of Stanytsia Luhanska, where 70 per cent of buildings have been damaged during the conflict.
Representatives of the Ukrainian army also gave the Estonian prime minister an overview of the current status of military activity.
Representatives of the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) were also present and gave an overview of how restoration of damaged buildings, and other activities, were going.
The prime minister also planted a tree in Stanytsia Luhanska to symbolise Estonian support in battling recent forest fires in the region.
Serhiy Haidai, Governor of Luhansk, also provided an overview of how Estonia's funding of the construction of "last-mile internet" solutions in the two villages in the region, hooking up schools, libraries, and medical institutions to the web, helping to provide online learning and positively impacting 14,000 people, the government office says.
Kallas: Ukraine must implement reforms and meet all required criteria, if it wants to join EU
On Wednesday, meanwhile, during meetings with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and Minister of Foreign Affairs Dmytro Kuleba, Kallas said that the prerequisite for Ukraine's accession to the EU is the efficient implementation of reforms and meeting all the required criteria.
She said: "So far, the central axis of the EU-Ukraine relations has been the Association Agreement. Harmonising Ukrainian legislation with that of the EU and implementing it, fighting corruption, and carrying out the court reform are of key importance not just for joining the EU, but also from the perspective of the well-being of the Ukrainian people and the economic development of the country."
"It took Estonia 12 years of persistent work to join the EU and NATO. Ukraine's efforts will also be rewarded in due time and Estonia is willing to provide all forms of support during that journey," the prime minister, who returns to Estonia today, Wednesday, went on.
Ukraine's success also sends a positive signal to other countries in the region that see their future in Europe, she added.
The Normandy Format, cooperation in various international organizations and formats and transatlantic relations were also on the table Wednesday, the government office says.
Editor: Andrew Whyte