Committee: Not necessary to apply special measures in Tapa

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Recent rotation handover ceremony at Tapa base, home of the U.K.-led NATO Enhanced Forward Presence (eFP) Battlegroup. Source: Oliver Turp

The Riigikogu national defense committee found at its meeting on Monday that while incidents related to allied soldiers in the town of Tapa, which is home to the Tapa military base, are regrettable, it is not necessary to apply special measures in the town.

The national defense committee listened to the explanations of the defense forces and the Ministry of Defense concerning the incident that took place in the town of Tapa in mid-May and unanimously found that this incident is regrettable, but civil-military cooperation in Tapa does not require special measures, spokespeople for the Riigikogu said.

The chairman of the committee, Enn Eesmaa, said that while the committee came round to the view that in mid-May British personnel went to excesses when spending their leisure time in Tapa town, generalizations cannot be made on the basis of one unfortunate case.

"The case of May 15 was certainly regrettable, but we were assured that, on the basis of the information available, the incident was not anything to indicate an escalation of the situation and does not require the implementation of special measures," the Center Party MP said.

The committee deplores any such incident and will continue to keep such incidents under scrutiny. In the committee's view, account must also be taken of the possibility that, in covering each case, our eastern neighbor will have the opportunity to launch a disinformation campaign building on it. 

Eesmaa stressed that cooperation with the NATO contingent is very good at all levels.

"It's not only seamless cooperation between the military but also day-to-day cooperation on several levels with the municipality and local residents," he said, citing the construction of sports facilities in Tapa as an example.

The committee was briefed on civil-military cooperation in Tapa by Maj. Gen. Indrek Sirel, deputy commander of the Estonian defense forces, and the deputy secretary general of the Ministry of Defense for defense readiness, Meelis Oidsalu.

Sirel acknowledged that the incident in Tapa on May 15 was very disturbing and regrettable, but it does not require emergency measures.

"We are ready to respond to these things should problems happen again," Sirel said. He said that ensuring military order and discipline on the Tapa campus and outside of it is under the spotlight at all times.

Sirel informed the committee that the situation has also been discussed with the mayor of the Tapa rural municipality and that cooperation with the local government will continue. According to Sirel, there has been no message from Tapa municipality that the situation is alarming. He said that communication with local residents is good, although they themselves indicate that daily contact is minimal. According to Sirel, members of the NATO contingent have been advised to spend time off duty also outside Tapa if possible.

NATO soldiers have been serving in Tapa since 2014, with over 5,000 British soldiers having been stationed there in rotations in four years. Less than ten incidents have been recorded in these years.

Criminal proceedings have been opened to investigate an incident that took place in the town of Tapa in mid-May between an allied soldier and a member of the Estonian defense forces.

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Editor: Helen Wright

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