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Reform, Center leading MPs: Civil defense concept merits discussions

Signage indicating the location of a designated civil defense shelter in Narva.
Signage indicating the location of a designated civil defense shelter in Narva. Source: Rescue Board/Flickr

While a proposed civilian defense service deserves discussion, the main issue is an effective distribution of resources within the existing national defense set-up, say two leading MPs from the coalition Reform Party and the opposition Center Party.

Under a recent proposal put forward by defense experts, the civilian population would play a greater role in crisis preparation by receiving the relevant training, in tandem with the regular Estonian Defense Forces (EDF), its conscripts and reservists, the volunteer Defense League (Kaitseliit) and the civilian Rescue Board (Päästeamet), Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) and other authorities.

Following a lead from, among other countries, Israel, the concept would see larger numbers of women involved directly in civil defense than is currently the case.

Reform Party Riigikogu whip Erkki Keldo says all this requires societal discussion ahead of any decision for a civil defense system to be made mandatory, not least because while conscription is mandatory for men, it is not for women, in Estonia.

Moreover, following the proposal would require greater resources than currently used.

Erkki Keldo. Source: Siim Lõvi/ERR

Keldo said: "A distinct question immediately arises regarding the susceptibility of this system, since it is clear that as of today, the infrastructure, means and resources to train an additional 50 percent of men and all women in the country is lacking."

"This would necessitate the development of an entirely new system and approach," Keldo added

Veteran MP and Riigikogu National Defense Committee member Enn Eesmaa (Center) said that his party has has always emphasized the importance of a general military service, which, according to Eesmaa, carries with it an important social, educational and educational significance, in addition to its national defense aspects.

Enn Eesmaa. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

At the same time, since the "times are changing quickly," in relation to civil defense and discussions on that, "I think a serious exchange of thoughts on the expediency of a civil military service is worthwhile," he added, noting that he would sponsor having such a dialog within his party.

"If this civil military service is going to be voluntary, I think it is important to also consider the participation of women in civil military service," he added

Erkki Keldo said that since the concept is new, his party has not discussed it in detail, though it pledges to take it up.

Since there is already an alternative service system in place (which could for instance include activities undertaken by conscientious objectors, in lieu of standard military conscription – ed.), more detailed consideration should be given as to how the new system would differ from the existing one, with reference to funds and resources needed.

Reform finds that the pre-existing areas of scope for voluntarily contributing to national defense, such as via the women's Defense League (Naiskodukaitse) the men's equivalent (Kaitseliit), not to mention the organization's two youth arms, may also be worthy of strengthening, rather than setting up an entirely new service.

Brig. Gen. Vahur Karus, head of the Estonian National Defense College (Kaitseväe Akadeemia) and security expert Erkki Koort came up with the concept; Riigikogu National Defense Committee chair Kalev Stoicescu (Eesti 200) has spoken in favor of the principle, while former EDF commander-in-chief and current Isamaa MEP Riho Terras has called for focusing on more pressing needs first.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Aleksander Krjukov, Mirjam Mäekivi

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