Estonia, France and the rest of Europe must face up to and respond to challenges on the eastern frontier of the European Union, and elsewhere, together and in conjunction with NATO, the prime minister said while on an official visit to France Wednesday.
Of Russian military maneuvers near the Ukrainian border, Kallas, who was in Paris and met with French President Emmanuel Macron, said that: "At the moment, the most important thing is to do everything in our power to prevent any military escalation. To this end, concrete steps must be taken together to discourage Russia from escalating further," adding that both countries were keeping a close eye on developments.
"One of the priorities of the French Presidency of the Council of the European Union is security and defense policy. Now is the right time to formulate principles and policies that will allow Europe to further strengthen its security, for example to better protect its external borders," Kallas went on, as reported by the government office, noting the importance of syncing EU defense capabilities with those of NATO.
The Estonian prime minister thanked President Macron for his country's significant contribution to the Baltic Air Security Mission based at Ämari Air Base, and the NATO Enhanced Forward Presence (eFP) Battlegroup, based at Tapa.
She also thanked France for the fight against terrorism in its southern European neighborhood, and noted the strong defensive cooperation in the Sahel region, where Estonian Defense Forces (EDF) regular and special forces personnel are currently deployed, in the West African state of Mali.
Had a good mtg w/ @EmmanuelMacron. We have common understanding that:— Kaja Kallas (@kajakallas) November 24, 2021
Have to increase pressure & sanctions on regime
Pay close attention to military build up near
Looking forward to EU presidency
leadership in Sahel important, proud to serve together pic.twitter.com/s9AT189iHg
Kallas said that. "Mali is currently Estonia's largest foreign mission and we are contributing to ensuring the security of that region. The experience gained from Mali is also extremely important to us."
There had also been no signs yet that the hybrid attack on Belarus on the EU-NATO border was fading away, not least when the confrontation was in the interests of the Lukashenko regime. "It helps to divert attention from the brutal repression and human rights abuses that continue in Belarus. The regime is also brutally exploiting people by attracting them to Minsk with false promises in orer to achieve their goals," Kallas said.
EU climate and digital policy were also on the table, as was the French corporate umbrella organization MEDEF (Mouvement des Entreprises de France) International, a business forum. Bilateral meetings were also held with companies interested in Estonia.
Ratas meets with their French counterparts in Paris
Riigikogu speaker Jüri Ratas (Center) was also in Paris Wednesday, meeting with his French counterparts - two of them, given that France has a bicameral legislature - and taking the opportunity to underline the importance of EU member states remaining united.
Ratas said: "The hybrid attack organized by Belarus is not targeted only against the Baltic States and Poland, it is against the eastern border of the EU and NATO."
Ratas' visit and those of the speakers of the Seimas (Lithuania) and the Saeima (Latvia - in fact Latvia's ambassador to France represented the Saeima on Wednesday) Paris was dedicated to the 100th anniversary of the start of diplomatic relations between France and the Baltic States, as well as the 30th anniversary of restoration of the independence of Baltic States.
"We must also not forget what is happening in Ukraine at the same time, and we must understand that at the moment there is no sign of any positive steps being taken by Russia to comply with the Minsk Agreements, meaning the EU's sanctions against Russia have to continue," he continued, according to a Riigikogu press release.
Illegal immigration, the EU's future and the strengthening of parliamentary cooperation were also discussed at Ratas' meeting with his French upper chamber counterpart, the President of the Senate of France Gérard Larcher.
Ratas also noted the common goals the two countries have as EU and NATO members and their commitment to democracy, combating terrorism and strengthening security both in Europe and on missions beyond its borders.
Ratas, who was accompanied by Speaker of the Seimas of Lithuania Viktorija Čmilytė-Nielsen, also thanked France for its security contribution via Tapa and Ämari.
Ratas also met with lower chamber counterpart Richard Ferrand, President of the National Assembly, noting the strong Franco-Estonian relations which had arisen from the ashes of World War Two a hundred years ago, interrupted during World War Two and the period of Estonia's occupation by the Soviet Union and then revived 30 years ago.
Again, the EU, cyber security, digitalization and the environment were also discussed, as was cybersecurity and the Covid pandemic.
Editor: Andrew Whyte