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More people may be exempt from wartime service based on their work in Estonia

Reservists.
Reservists. Source: Eduard Iganus/EDF

The Government Office is planning an amendment to complement the list of professions people in which will not be called up for military duty. The Ministry of Defense warns against reserve resources drying up.

Some jobs are so important that the people working them will not be called in for duty in case of war. For example, rescue workers will be needed elsewhere. There are other such professions at other state agencies and ministries. The planned amendment would add Tallinn Airport, Estonian Railways and other vital service companies to the list.

"Another group of companies affected are those in charge of district heating and sewage. Food and medicines supply security are also affected fields," Priit Saar, spokesperson for the Government Office, said.

But the Ministry of Defense warns that the effect of these changes on the Estonian Defense Forces (EDF) should be analyzed in more detail.

"If I had to sum it up, I would say that we need to make sure Estonia has enough people defending it when facing the existential threat posed by war," said Lauri Kriisa, head of the Defense Ministry's legal department.

Saar said that the changes do not make the bulk of the workforce unavailable for the EDF. Rather, there is talk of a few hundred positions. A person in such a vital position but who is also a reserve officer would have to notify both their employer and unit, Saar added.

"It could culminate in people having to give up being an active reserve member or their critical job. We cannot allow a situation where both sides – a military unit and a company – are counting on the same person."

The law would prescribe discussing allocation of roles with the EDF, Saar emphasized. While we may not be talking about a lot of people, those with valuable leadership kills are often needed by both businesses and the armed forces. That is just one example of potential problems, Kriisa said.

Estonia has such a small population that a careful balance needs to be struck between civilian and military needs during wartime. Kriisa added that another planned amendment, the adoption of a European directive would also obligate security guards to be left in their posts.

It is something the original directive does not require, Kriisa said, adding that it is another example of a trend the Riigikogu European Union Affairs Committee has pointed to.

"Estonian officials, when adopting EU directives, too often add their own ideas, which the directive does not require, while it is still used to justify these changes," the legal expert said.

Kriisa remarked that while the planned changes might be sensible from the point of view of broad-based national defense, it constitutes taking a risk. The Government Office agrees that the EDF must not be robbed of its human resources.

"We cannot create a situation where national defense jobs of vital service providers start affecting military national defense capacity," Saar promised.

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Editor: Mirjam Mäekivi, Marcus Turovski

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