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Mihkelson, Hanso visit UK with Baltic colleagues

Hannes Hanso and Marko Mihkelson meeting with troops in the U.K. March 27, 2017.
Hannes Hanso and Marko Mihkelson meeting with troops in the U.K. March 27, 2017. Source: (Foreign Affairs Committee of the Riigikogu)

Chairmen of the Foreign Affairs Committee and National Defence Committee of the Riigikogu Marko Mihkelson and Hannes Hanso are in London with their Baltic colleagues to discuss post-Brexit foreign policy and defense cooperation.

According to a Riigikogu press release, Mihkelson said that during their visit, on Wednesday, the government of the U.K. is to officially notify the EU of its intention to withdraw from the union, triggering Article 50 of the Treaty of Lisbon.

"The exit negotiations will begin during Estonia's Presidency of the Council of the European Union," Mihkelson said. "As the presiding country we will be impartial and try to keep the interests of all 27 member states in mind in the negotiations." According to him, Estonia's primary interests is to preserve the current rights of Estonian citizens living and working in the U.K. as well as Estonian companies operating there.

He expressed hope that the exit negotiations would result in an agreement that suited both Europe and the U.K. as well as NATO allies.

Hanso said that the U.K. was a strong pillar of the security of Europe and that it was in everyone's interests that defense and security cooperation continued after Brexit as well.

"The U.K. is one of our most important partners, with whom we have a longtime allied relationships," Hanso assured. "The Brits will be our good and firm partners in cooperation and allies in the future as well." He recalled that both the U.K. and Estonia are among the five NATO member states that contribute more than two percent of their GDP to defense spending.

The chairs of the foreign affairs and national defense committees of the parliaments of all three Baltic states are to meet with Chair of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee Crispin Blunt and Chair of the Defence Select Committee Julian Lewis. They will also meet with Minister of State at the Department for Exiting the European Union David Jones, Minister of State for Europe and the Americas Alan Duncan as well as members of the British parliamentary friendship groups with Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

On Wednesday, Mihkelson and Hanso will also participate in the roundtable at think tank Chatham House as well as meet with representatives of the British media.

On Monday, the Estonian politicians visited the 5th Battalion The Rifles. Troops and defensive equipment of the 5th Battalion have been deployed to Estonia as part of the NATO battle group stationed there. Mihkelson and Hanso were given an overview of the mission of a framework country and the armored capabilities of the battalion. They in turn thanked the Brits for their contributions to ensurin the security of the Baltic region.

Editor: Aili Vahtla

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