On December 4, the Estonian government's Crisis Management Committee adopted the 10-year civil defense goals and four-year action plan, for which €31 million of funds will be allocated. The committee also assessed Crevex 2023, the condition of the Baltic Sea undersea infrastructure, and border issues.
The framework document discussed at the meeting describes civil defense measures and recommends targets the state should meet within the next decade to guarantee the safety of civilians and functioning of the state in crisis and emergency situations.
This gives the government a long-term action plan – agreed between state authorities – of the direction it should take in fostering the defense of the population.
"Developing civil defense is aimed at making society as a whole better prepared to cope with and recover from any crisis that arises, in a way that protects everyone's life and health," Erkki Tori, the head of the security and national defense coordination office, explained.
"In order to be able to deal effectively with a crisis and to get past it, there must be a very clear division of roles and authorities must work together. That said, it is just as important that every individual in the country is aware of what they need to do and is prepared to work with the state in that regard."
The action plan outlines 10 targets that will help to ensure the best possible level of crisis preparedness.
The plan was created with the current budget in mind, and the priority areas for development over the next four years were determined appropriately. The selection of these sectors was driven, among other things, by current threat scenarios and available funding, as well as the broader security environment, including Russia's war in Ukraine.
The areas whose development is deemed to be of the highest priority are as follows: raising the crisis awareness and independent preparedness of the population; boosting crisis-related capabilities at the local government level; developing a solution for promptly and consistently warning the population of threats; and enhancing the continuity of authorities responsible for performing civil defense tasks.
"Civil defense is based in people's crisis awareness, but there are things that people themselves are unable to do," Viola Murd, the ministry of the interior undersecretary for rescue and crisis management, said.
"Our priority is not just to train the population, but to enhance the capabilities of local governments and boost the preparedness and ability of authorities that help people in crisis situations like the Rescue Board, the Emergency Response Center, the Health Board and the Social Insurance Board to fulfil their duties even in the most extreme crises."
"We need reinforcements to help us out – people we know will cope in a crisis and are prepared to help others in their community," she said.
The underlying principles of civil defense policy were set in place in the original concept developed in 2018, the drafting of which led to the distribution of civil defense roles among authorities and the linking of those roles to specific activities. The action plan included a total of 40 activities and 35 recommendations.
In order to move ahead with the plan, the principle that civil defense as a field in its own right must be provided with permanent funding was added to the Estonian security policy approved by the Riigikogu in February this year.
The government has earmarked around €80 million for broad-ranging investments in national defense over the next four years, of which €31 million is to be allocated to the development of civil defense.
Both the framework document and action plan for civil defense are approved by the government.
During their meeting on Monday, the Crisis Management Committee also discussed the conclusions drawn from Crevex 2023, an overview of the current state of underwater infrastructure in the Baltic Sea and details of the situation on the border.
Crevex 2023, which culminated in October, comprised 36 individual exercises.
In the course of 2024, the authorities involved will have to conduct repeat exercises to test how effectively they are able to resolve the bottlenecks identified in Crevex and at least once a year they will need to rehearse their planning and coordination of crisis communication.
The conclusions drawn from Crevex 2023 and the proposals made as a result of it will be now reviewed and approved by the government.
The Crisis Management Committee convenes at least four times a year. Its work is led by the secretary of state and its members include ministerial permanent secretaries and the heads of key crisis-management authorities.
Editor: Kristina Kersa