Estonian foreign minister Eva-Maria Liimets has thanked the United Kingdom for its excellent cooperation in the Media Freedom Coalition, adding that both countries have a joint responsibility to work for freedom of speech and media freedoms globally.
Attending the second day of the Global Conference for Media Freedom in Tallinn on Thursday, Liimets said: "It is impossible to fight the spread of disinformation without a free and functioning media."
The minister made her remarks after a meeting with the a British Conservative life peer, Tariq Ahmad, Baron Ahmad of Wimbledon, who is also that country's Minister of State for South and Central Asia, the UN and the Commonwealth.
"We are proud of the state of media freedom of our countries, as both Estonia and the U.K. rank highly in global media freedom rankings. For this reason, we have a joint responsibility to work towards freedom of speech and media freedom across the world, so that we would see progress instead of pressure and warning examples," Liimets continued, according to a ministry press release.
Estonia ranked 15th on the latest Reporters Without Borders (RSF) press freedom index; the U.K., 33rd.
Liimets also expressed her gratitude to Baron Ahmad and to the U.K. for its contribution to the deterrence and defense posture on NATO's eastern flank, primarily via the Enhanced Forward Presence (eFP) Battlegroup at Tapa, which is headed up by the British Army and is set to roughly double in size.
"In our view, the statement by the British prime minister about doubling the size of the NATO battle group based in Tapa is crucial."
"The U.K. has led the NATO battle group based in Tapa since 2017 and has also repeatedly taken part in the Baltic Air Policing mission at Ämari. This cooperation is very important for both countries and Estonia highly appreciates the contribution of the U.K. to our common security," the foreign minister, who made her remarks at a meeting with the U.K. Minister of State Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon on the sidelines of the conference, continued.
The ministers also discussed Ukraine and the current security situation, given the build-up of in excess of 100,000 Russian military personnel on Russia's border with that country, and agreed the Ukrainian people first and foremost required support.
Liimets said: "First, it is crucial to express broad political support for Ukrainians, both bilaterally and internationally. Second, Ukraine needs economic support to ensure their continued economic development and successful reforms."
"Third, we must help them reinforce their defense capabilities, which would simultaneously constitute a deterrent. At the same time, Russia must end its military intimidation and take concrete steps to de-escalate the situation," the minister continued
The ministers also talked about the two countries' cooperation on the UN Security Council (UNSC) for the period 2020-21, when Estonia held its non-permanent seat, and discussed cyber-security, a priority issue for Estonia and one which needs to be an integral part of international discussions on peace and security.
The hybrid attack by Belarus on its borders with the EU, and the resulting sanctions, plus concerns over human rights and political prisoners in Belarus, and the continued need to raise these issues at Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and Council of Europe-level, were also on the table at Thursday's meeting.
At a meeting in Brussels with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on Thursday, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson reportedly reiterated an earlier announcement that the current, roughly 850-strong complement at Tapa would be doubled in size, a move which Estonia's Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) called: "an important move for further bolstering our deterrence and collective defense."
Baron Ahmad sits in the House of Lord's, the U.K. legislature's upper chamber.
The Media Freedom Coalition (MFC), is a cross-regional collaboration involving 50 countries who work together proactively to advocate for media freedoms internationally.
Editor: Andrew Whyte