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Estonia 'not opposing' Malta as OSCE chair

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OSCE meeting.
OSCE meeting. Source: SCANPIX/EPA

Minister of Foreign Affairs Margus Tsahkna (Eesti 200) said Estonia will not oppose Malta being nominated for the 2024 chair of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) after Russia and Belarus vetoed its bid last week. However, it will still not withdraw its candidacy.

The OSCE Permanent Council adopted a decision recommending that Malta chair the organization, local media reported. The proposal was put forward on Monday by North Macedonia which currently holds the chairmanship.

Russia vetoed Estonia and said it did not want a NATO member to hold the chair. The 57-member organization must reach a unanimous agreement at a meeting at the end of the week.

Tsahkna said Russia wants to "derail the OSCE" and Estonia still does not plan to withdraw its candidacy.

"Making concessions to an aggressor who is violating all the fundamental principles of the OSCE is out of the question," the minister said in a statement on Monday evening.

Margus Tsahkna. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

"However, since Estonia's candidacy is conclusively blocked and the North Macedonian Chairmanship of the OSCE has proposed the alternative of asking Malta, another European Union member state, to assume the Chairmanship next year along with the extension of the mandates of heads of four structural units of the OSCE for one year, Estonia is not opposing this solution.

"We consider it important that in a situation where the aggressor has vetoed Estonia as the European Union's only candidate, the EU is standing firmly behind Estonia."

Additionally, Estonia considers it "crucial" that the OSCE's fundamental principles are upheld and continues to "address Russia's aggression and offer every assistance to Ukraine."

The OSCE is a regional security-oriented intergovernmental organization comprising member states in Europe, North America, and Asia. Its mandate includes issues such as arms control, the promotion of human rights, freedom of the press, and free and fair elections.

Mihkelson: Estonia must not overreact

Riigikogu Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Marko Mihkelson (Reform). Source: Riigikogu Press Service/Erik Peinar

Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Riigikogu, Marko Mihkelson (Reform) said Estonia must not now overreact as it will give Russia another victory.

"Certainly, we must not create a situation that would give Russia a further diplomatic victory, in other words, by allowing our allied space to further crumble. We certainly need to work with our key allies at a diplomatic level, particularly the US, Germany, and others, to talk about our positions and what kind of European security architecture we still want to maintain and defend. I very much hope that in the next few days, when the OSCE meeting takes place and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is supposed to be there, that our ministers and Western ministers will not attend such a meeting," said Mihkelson.

The MP said he has nothing against Malta "as a good partner" but the organization has given Russia decision-making power over its leadership while it is "waging a war to destroy Ukraine, an OSCE member".

"The question still arises as to whether Europe, the allies of the West, still need such an organization today What has happened in the OSCE in the last few months, including in the case of Estonia, shows that this organization is clinically dead," he said.

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Editor: Marko Tooming, Helen Wright

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