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Isamaa MEP: Implementing civil defense would be time and resource intensive

Riho Terras MEP.
Riho Terras MEP. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

Establishing a civilian defense service would require both plenty of time and a lot of funding, while Estonia currently needs to solve more pressing problems relating to national defense, MEP Riho Terras (Isamaa) says.

Terras was responding to a recent proposal from some defense experts whereby the state would train both men and women for crisis situations, in tandem with the defense forces.

"Building a new civil defense model would take time and a large volume of resources. It is important rapidly and adequately to plug the existing gaps in national defense and population protection," Terras, a former Estonian Defense Forces (EDF) commander-in-chief, told ERR.

Taking into consideration the current security situation and the pressures of time, the priority should be to develop and implement other activities relating to national defense, Terras added.

"National defense must go hand in hand with the defense of the populace, and to achieve this the necessary means must be found as a matter of urgency. Over the long term, I would not rule out the creation of a model of civilian defense service, but this would require a comprehensive model, one which also takes into account conscripts, the Estonian Defense Forces (EDF), the Defense League (Kaitseliit) the Women's Defense League (Nasikodukaitse) and the corresponding funding. The desire there to protect the people of Estonia is high, so I believe that this will not become an obstacle," Terras went on.

Civil defense in the role of an 'orphan'

Terras says he sees shortcomings in the financing of Estonia's national defense and, according to him, it is currently not working together.

"Military defense funding has been rising, and we have also seen the announcement of a number of vital new procurement."

"At the same time, if you look at the contribution of the state budget strategy as planned by the government for civilian defense, then this civil defense will essentially remain an 'orphan' in the following years. Any new step or change also requires a financial contribution, which currently is not provided for infrastructure and people," Terras said.

"We have started with young people and have established mandatory national defense training in order to to boost young people's awareness of the need to take action in the event of a crisis. It is equally important to improve the availability of various national defense-related programs aimed at children and young people, throughout Estonia," he added.

Terras also pointed to the rise in the number of conscripts, adding that this, too, requires an additional financial contribution.

"Beyond that we have upped the number of training gatherings and have introduced the snap exercise model, plus increased the number of public protection training sessions. It is also important to ensure the necessary funding for the Defense League. In addition, various threat notification systems, national stockpiles for crises, shelters, a rapid construction of border infrastructure and much more must be ensured. I continue to take the view that the state could also motivate the private sector to contribute more to national defense than it had done, for example through benefits and a recognition system," said Terras.

Brig. Gen. Vahur Karus, head of the Estonian National Defence College (Kaitseväe Akadeemia) recently proposed creating a civil defense alternative to Estonia's compulsory military service, which would function as a crisis readiness reserve and in which women would also be included.

Security expert Erkki Koort has spoken favorably of the idea, as has Kalev Stoicescu, Eesti 200 MP and also a security expert.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Alexander Krjukov

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