Had Estonia taken on the role of chair nation of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the world's largest security organization, in practical terms it would not have benefited Estonia in the current situation where Russia, also an OSCE member is obstructing everything, Minister of Foreign Affairs Margus Tsahkna (Eesti 200) says.
Estonia was supposed to take on the chairing role, which rotates among the 57 OSCE member states annually, for 2024, but Russia and Belarus had been vetoing this even ahead of the invasion of Ukraine, which started over 21 months ago.
Unanimity is required among all member states on who the lead nation will be; an eleventh-hour compromise candidate was found in the form of Malta.
Appearing on ETV morning magazine show "Terevisioon," Tsahkna said: "We and the EU stood up [for Estonia's presidency] tot he very end, until a situation was created whereby Russia blocked the entire organization's activities."
"We then decided together that we were not going to block Malta's accession," he went on.
Malta was proposed by outgoing presiding nation North Macedonia as announced at a meeting in Vienna at the start of this week, and has been formalized in Skopje, where a two-day meeting began yesterday, Thursday.
A 2024 lead nation was required by the end of this week; OSCE ran the risk of losing credibility had the issue not been hammered out by the deadline.
Malta was seen as a compromise given that while it is in the EU, it is not in NATO – Russia's demand was for the next presiding nation to not be a member of that alliance.
It had also received praise for its mediating stance on the Ukraine war and, more recently, the Israel-Gaza war.
Inertia on the part of the members from the big countries of the organization, created in 1975 during a period of detente between Eastern and Western blocs, was strong, Tsahkna said, adding that dialog would still be sought.
He said: "The presidency, if it had somehow been forced through [for Estonia], would not have given Estonia anything," Tsahkna said, referring to Russia's vetoes. "We would have just sat there and locked down the huge resources of our people, but would not have achieved anything."
OSCE is fading away into irrelevance, he added, noting that Russia hamstrings all consensus-based decisions made by the body.
"OSCE should guarantee security in Europe, but it cannot, because one of its members is promulgating its aggression in Ukraine," noted Tsahkna, listing Russia's war crimes.
Russia and Belarus reiterated their veto of Estonia as president nation of OSCE on Tuesday of last week; Estonia's official line as enunciated by Tsahkna – would as foreign minister would have become chairman-in-office for 2024 – was that while there was no issue with Malta taking the role whatsoever, backing down on Russian demands was not on the cards.
Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, joined by Poland and Romania, boycotted the Skopje meeting over the attendance of Russia's foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov.
Editor: Andrew Whyte