Support has been created in the coalition for draft legislation proposed by the opposition EKRE for Estonia to leave a convention banning the use of anti-personnel mines. The Riigikogu National Defense Committee wants a legal analysis.
The Riigikogu National Defense Committee on Thursday discussed whether to proceed with draft legislation proposed by the Conservative People's Party (EKRE) and Reform MP Ants Laaneots that would see Estonia leave the Ottawa Convention that bans the use of anti-personnel mines. Committee chair Raimond Kaljulaid (SDE) told ERR that Isamaa's Heiki Hepner joined EKRE members and Laaneots in backing the initiative.
"Whether that means all Isamaa MPs are ready to back the bill, I do not know," Kaljulaid clarified, adding that this will become clear if MPs propose rejecting the bill at its first reading.
Because the bill raises issues of constitutionality, the committee wants an analysis from the parliament's legal department.
"Looking at the Constitution and other relevant legal acts, the legislator seems to want initiative regarding joining and leaving international agreements to come from the government," Kaljulaid said.
While the government has discussed EKRE's proposal, it has not shaped a position yet.
"We do not have a consensual government position on our desk. We cannot rule out this matter landing on the coalition's agenda at some point. However, what we have is a very thorough position from the Ministry of Defense of why they are not in favor of the initiative," Kaljulaid also said.
The ministry opposes leaving the convention because it finds that anti-personnel mines would add little in terms of deterrence while making it more difficult for Estonia to include allies in defending Estonia.
The National Defense Committee is also interested in the opinion of its counterpart in charge of foreign affairs. "As leaving the convention would affect international relations and reputation, we would also like to hear from the Foreign Affairs Committee," Kaljulaid said.
The committee chair added that it is nevertheless unlikely the bill will be taken forward, suggesting that he cannot see the parliament going against the will and recommendations of the ministry and the Estonian Defense Forces (EDF).
Hepner does not believe allies would be dissuaded by mines
Isamaa MP Heiki Hepner told ERR that using anti-personnel mines would be a considerable measure and is worth considering in the current security situation. He described the defense ministry's position according to which pulling out of the Ottawa Convention could lessen allies' motivation to come to Estonia's aid as flimsy.
"I would disagree in this matter. I'd like to know what this position is based on. Rather, I would say it would send the signal that we are concerned for our security and willing to consider every measure to defend ourselves. The United States have not joined the convention – why should they refuse to help us if we were to leave it," Hepner said.
Hepner said that all of Isamaa supports taking the bill forward. "If we think back to when the convention was ratified, Isamaa voted against it. I have discussed it with my colleagues in the party, and they agreed the matter could be taken forward," he offered.
There is no consensus currently in the coalition as neither the Social Democrats nor other Reform MPs have voiced support.
The bill is scheduled to reach the floor in early January.
MPs who proposed the bill believe it could help keep the enemy from invading central and western Estonia.
The article was updated to add comments by Heiki Hepner.
Editor: Marko Tooming, Marcus Turovski