Estonia should be rightly pleased with its accession to the European Union, incoming foreign minister Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa) said Wednesday, marking the 15th anniversary of the country's EU membership.
''Looking back over this time, we can be pleased with the choice made at the referendum [on EU accession, which took place in September 2003 and saw a little over 66 percent in favour of joining – ed.] . Membership of the EU has increased Estonia's influence, increased our security, supported economic growth and provided additional freedoms and rights to our people,'' Reinsalu said, as reported on ERR's Estonian online news portal.
''Joining the EU and exercising membership rights was the will of the Estonian people, which our diplomats and previous administrations have made happen," the Minister added.
The new foreign minister also stressed the history of Estonia has shown that the potential cost to a small country standing alone can be fatal.
"Today, we pay tribute to all our partner countries in the EU, with whom we are jointly seeking solutions to the expectations of the peoples of Europe. In my conversations with foreign ministers, I have offered congratulations to the Latvian, Lithuanian and Polish nations [which joined the EU at the same time as Estonia – ed.] and thanked the Finnish Foreign Minister for speaking about our brotherly support in becoming a member," Reinsalu went on.
Reinsalu however stressed that Estonia is, and must remain, a sovereign nation state, noting that ''the EU must remain a union of nation states in the future, working together for a stronger future and a better life for their peoples".
''Today, we can look back on those fifteen years with a contented heart,'' the foreign minister concluded.
Estonia became an EU member state on 1 May, 2004, as part of a large expansion incorporating both Malta, and several Central and Eastern European States (CEE), which had all been either part of the Soviet Union, or the Warsaw Pact of Soviet-aligned nations, down to the late 1980s/early 1990s, namely: the Czech Republic, Hungary, Lavtia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia.
Two subsequent, smaller rounds of accessions saw Bulgaria and Romania join in 2007, with Croatia following in 2013. In June 2016, voters at the UK referendum on EU membership chose, by a narrow margin, to leave the union.
Editor: Andrew Whyte