Belgian unit replaces outgoing Danish troops in NATO battlegroup ({{contentCtrl.commentsTotal}})

MOWAG Pirhana APC arriving at Tapa with incoming Belgian troops. Source: Sergei Stepanov/ERR

Belgian troops have arrived in Estonia, taking over from the outgoing Danish contingent. Both arrival and departure were marked by a ceremony at the Tapa military base on Friday.

The incoming troops are largely drawn from Belgium's Chausseur Ardennais Battalion, which despite its name, is in fact an armoured infantry unit.

"I believe that the experienced Chasseur Ardennais are not daunted by the Estonian winter, nor the Estonian forests. I hope that you find the time to experience the Estonian hospitality while being off duty," Mr Ratas said.

A total of 300 personnel, close to 100 vehicles, including Piranha Armoured Personnel Carriers (APCs), as well as 120mm mortars and combat engineers using the Leopard tank-based assault bridge system, make up the Belgian contingent, which forms part of the NATO battle group stationed in Estonia.

Maj. David Paitier, the Belgian senior national representative, said his troops are delighted be joining the NATO battle group and that they are thankful for the help and support they received in deploying to Estonia.

Long-standing Danish-Estonian links

As well as Prime Minister Jüri Ratas, second in command of the Estonian Defence Forces (EDF), Maj. Gen. Indrek Sirel attended the ceremony, together with representatives of the participating nations and their armed forces, according to EDF spokespersons.

"Danish volunteers fought alongside us during the War of Independence, and your service in the enhanced forward presence battle group is another significant contribution to the security of Estonia and whole Europe as well," Mr Ratas told the outgoing Danish troops, giving thanks for their service.

A Danish-Baltic Auxiliary Corps of approximately 200 men was formed under the command of Captain Richard Gustav Borgelin in April to September 1919, during Estonia's independence war. The company took part in battles against Red forces in Latvia and near Pskov in Russia, losing a total of 19 lives.

Much of Northern Estonia was under Danish rule in the 13th century and first half of the 14th century, whence Tallinn probably derived its present-day name (literally ''Danish city'', by some theories).

Estonian and Belgian defence forces also have a long standing cooperation, ranging from naval cooperation to air defence. Belgium has also contributed to the Baltic Air Policing mission, with multiple deployments.

The Belgian troops are due to remain in Estonia for four months.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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