The Riigikogu ratified an agreement on defense cooperation between Estonia and the United States on Tuesday. The agreement provides a framework for enhanced partnership as well as defense and security cooperation between the United States and Estonia.
The agreement was signed by Defence Minister Margus Tsahkna (IRL) and the U.S. ambassador to Estonia, James D. Melville, in Tallinn on Jan. 17 this year. The agreement needed to be ratified by the Riigikogu because of amendments that had to be made to the Value-Added Tax Act and the National Defense Act for its implementation, spokespeople for the Riigikogu said.
The agreement supplements the NATO SOFA agreement, or Agreement between the Parties to the North Atlantic Treaty regarding the Status of Their Forces, that governs the presence of U.S. forces and their dependents in Estonia as well as the presence and activities of U.S. contractors in Estonia.
In spring 2014, in connection with Russia's aggression in Ukraine, the U.S. launched operation Atlantic Resolve, which significantly increased U.S. military presence in all eastern NATO member states, including in Estonia. In 2015 the agreement between Estonia and the U.S. on the use of the areas and facilities in the possession of the Estonian Defence Forces was signed, which is now replaced by the new and more detailed agreement.
The new agreement regulates matters such as the status of U.S. forces, dependents of members of the U.S. forces and contractors, tax exemptions, the import and export of property, environmental protection, customs procedures, and the division of criminal jurisdiction between Estonia and the U.S.
The agreement regulates the application of Estonian penal law to members of the U.S. armed forces and their dependents. The document determines in greater detail the cases in which the jurisdiction of Estonia as the receiving state and the jurisdiction of the U.S. as the sending state will apply to U.S. military personnel.
The focus of the tax exemptions included in the agreement is primarily on goods and services meant for official use. One of the basic principles in international defense cooperation is that no country should earn money at the expense of the armed forces of the sending state.
The agreement enters into force after ratification by the Riigikogu.
Editor: Dario Cavegn