Foreign Minister Urmas Reinsalu gave on 11 February the annual foreign policy address at the Estonian Parliament, presenting an overview of the main foreign policy actions of Estonia. The minister stressed that Estonia was implementing an independent and consistent foreign and security policy, mainly through its involvement in the European Union and NATO. In growing our influence, special focus this year is on our elected membership in the UN Security Council, maintaining strong transatlantic relations, the Three Seas Initiative and expanding the foreign service.
“We have gone through a complicated journey over these past hundred years. Today, we are stronger than ever before as a state and as a nation, acting according to the principles of the legal continuity of the Republic of Estonia and the Tartu Peace Treaty. The success of our foreign policy is expressed in our membership in the UN Security Council – the centre of global diplomacy,” Foreign Minister Reinsalu said, adding that being a part of this circle of decision-makers boosts Estonia’s security.
Describing the current security conditions, the foreign minister emphasised the strategic need for strong transatlantic relations. “We are convinced that a strong and functioning transatlantic cooperation and a close alliance between the democracies of Europe and North America are essential for ensuring both our security and prosperity, as well as that of the entire Western world, but also for maintaining broader international stability.”
“We must be able to protect and advance our values and principles in light of the long-term developments of global politics,” the foreign minister said, referring to the relations of the European Union and China as an example. According to him, it is necessary to ensure the unity of the EU and allies in general and develop common policies to avoid fragmentation in the interplay of global change.
Among other foreign policy issues, Reinsalu recognised the significant development in the Middle East Peace Process with the presentation of the peace plan of the United States, and stressed the importance of relaunching dialogue between the parties of the conflict. “Negotiations are the only way to achieve a just and lasting peace,” he said.
According to the foreign minister, the continued aggressive foreign policy of Russia made it necessary to continue the current policy of the European Union and NATO towards Russia. “Ahead of the 75th anniversary of the end of the Second World War, Russia continues its forceful presentation of a historical narrative that ignores historical facts and tries to alter a generally recognised view of history,” Reinsalu said. “Considering the fact that Russia has not ended its aggression against its neighbours, making a fresh start in Western-Russian relations is inconceivable,” the foreign minister said, reaffirming Estonia’s continued support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine and Georgia.
Touching upon improving the economic environment and connectivity of our region, Reinsalu highlighted the Three Seas Initiative summit in June. In principle, Estonia is ready to join the Three Seas Investment Fund and allocate €20 million for the launch of the fund.
Other specific areas highlighted by the foreign minister included development cooperation, and the planned creation of the new Development Cooperation Agency that would improve its efficiency. Supporting Estonia’s entrepreneurs abroad is also crucial. For that purpose, the Foreign Ministry plans to open embassies in Singapore and South Korea this year, and the recruitment of Estonian economic diplomats to Tokyo, Toronto, Geneva, Warsaw, Riga, Washington, Abu Dhabi and Africa is underway.
In his address, the foreign minister also discussed the climate policy of the European Union, applying for observer status on the Arctic Council, a strong partnership with the United Kingdom after Brexit, regional cooperation as the coordinator of the Baltic Council of Ministers and Nordic-Baltic (NB8) cooperation formats, and fighting irregular migration.
In his closing words, the foreign minister emphasised that the Estonian foreign service was doing excellent work and was comprehensively serving Estonia’s interests. “The most important asset of foreign policy are the people who are working on a daily basis towards ensuring Estonia’s security, supporting Estonian companies in export markets, and representing and protecting the interests of citizens abroad,” he said.