Tsahkna: Estonia to resist Russia's pressure within OSCE

Minister of Foreign Affairs Margus Tsahkna (Eesti 200) taking part in a panel discussion at the 2023 Lennart Meri Conference in Tallinn.
Minister of Foreign Affairs Margus Tsahkna (Eesti 200) taking part in a panel discussion at the 2023 Lennart Meri Conference in Tallinn. Source: ICDS/Arno Mikkor

Minister of Foreign Affairs Margus Tsahkna (Eesti 200) said that Estonia has no intention of submitting to Russia's opposition to Estonia's upcoming OSCE chairmanship.

Tsahkna told ERR on Monday, "We will not give up our chairmanship on terms that Russia dictates who best suits them."

Estonia submitted its candidacy for the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) chair in 2021, but Russia and Belarus seized the opportunity to obstruct Estonia's bid, as the OSCE's internal rules require a consensus to approve the new leadership, Tsahkna explained.

"Russia has obstructed a number of other international organizations to create a power vacuum for itself. Not only is it now uncertain whether Estonia will hold the chairmanship, but Russia has blocked the adoption of the organization's new budget as well. As a result," Tsahkna continued, "the OSCE now operates on a monthly basis using the budget from previous years."

Tsahkna emphasized on multiple occasions that Estonia will not submit to an aggressor. "At this moment, we are not prepared to search for a candidate who meets Russia's criteria. This is a principled position, not only because Estonia is an excellent candidate for the chairmanship, but also because we cannot allow a culture in an international organization in which an aggressor country and a country that commits genocide and deports children begins to dictate who and which country and under what conditions would suit them," he said.

Tsahkna said that Russia is not interested to oppose only Estonia, but rather to block the activities of all international organizations based on democratic principles that take into consideration the interests of all member states.

"[Moscow wants] to obstruct this activity, which would combat and subject to evaluation Russia's aggression. This is entirely understandable and therefore not acceptable; we will not allow it," he said.

Tsahkna said that he has discussed the issue with the foreign ministers of other European countries and made it clear that Estonia will not yield to coercion; he has also received the support of all partners.

"Everyone recognizes that the issue is not Estonia, but rather Russia's conduct," Tsahkne added. "There is still time until the new year begins and discussions are ongoing."

The minister also said that the OSCE has numerous responsibilities and that, granting Ukraine's victory in the war against Russia's aggression, the OSCE's activities and influence in the entire Russia-bordering region are crucial.

"The situation is difficult," Tsahkna said, "However, I believe we will find a solution so that at least the organization can continue to function in a way that prevents us from succumbing to Russia's terrorizing oppression." The minister, however, did not offer a solution to the conflict.

In response to Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto's concerns, Tsahkna expressed optimism that, in the event of a conflict, the OSCE would not be shut down.

"It is agreed that Finland will hold the presidency in 2025 and Finland is without a doubt the most qualified candidate for this position," he said. "Yes, but I believe we will find a way out of this predicament and Russia would not derail the operations of such an important organization."

"This is still a very large organization and there are many broader questions about the principles upon which it should continue to operate," Tsahkna continued, "It is better we take the time to clarify those principles now as opposed to rushing to a solution."

"Estonia opposes every solution devised under the Russian dictate," he added. "As a member state we have the full right to voice our opinion on this matter."

The conflict, according to the foreign minister, must be settled before the end of the year so that the incoming presidency can plan its own agenda and actions.

The Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe (CSCE) was created to serve as a multilateral forum for dialogue and negotiation between East and West, which was approved by the Helsinki Final Act in 1975. Its members included then-European democracies, the United States and Canada, as well as countries from the then-Soviet bloc and, eventually, the Soviet Union. It is largely concerned with security issues. Following the Budapest Summit in 1994, it was renamed the OSCE.

Today, the OSCE includes 57 member states from Europe, North America and Asia. Estonia joined the OSCE in September 1991. The OSCE chair is held for one year by one of the participating states. The function of the chairperson-in-office (CiO) is exercised by the minister of foreign affairs of that state. The consent of all OSCE participating states is required to become chairman-in-office.


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Editor: Mait Ots, Kristina Kersa

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