Foreign minister Mikser: the US commitment is crucial for Estonia

The continued dedication of the United States to its commitments as an ally is crucial for Estonia, the country’s foreign minister, Sven Mikser, said in his annual address to the parliament. Estonian World publishes an excerpt of the minister’s speech.

The alliance between Europe and Northern America has been the backbone of the international security architecture for decades and will remain so in the future. This relationship is based on common values, but also on a cultural sense of solidarity and an essential convergence of strategic interests.

Bearing the burden

Europe, including Estonia, has always been and will continue to be interested in the United States being balanced and strong in terms of economy, politics and military. The continued dedication of the United States of America to its commitments as an ally, including its participation in ensuring Europe’s security with respect to conventional military threats, is crucial for us.

While we long to see the continued dedication of the United States to its commitments as an ally of Europe, it is also our duty to understand the concerns and expectations of the United States as our ally. The wish that European countries bear their fair share of the burden of ensuring joint security is understandable and natural. As one of the few NATO allies who consistently performs the obligations undertaken with respect to military spending, Estonia naturally supports the principle that all allies should endeavour to do the same.

Estonia has stood alongside the United States as an ally in Afghanistan, Iraq, and several other crisis hotspots in dire need of resolution. This will continue to be the case. We are working to ensure that the United States remains a steadfast ally for Estonia whose support we can rely on in difficult situations. Our close-knit alliance is based on a foundation of shared values as well as on intensive day-to-day communication and practical cooperation.

The new US administration

Presently, as the new administration has taken office, our primary goal is to create genuine and functional channels of communication with various governmental authorities and to maintain and intensify our existing contacts with the two chambers of Congress, numerous think tanks in the United States, and the people of Estonian heritage living in the United States. The implementation of these goals is one of the directions that will be taken by the Estonian ministry of foreign affairs in the next few years and is also a part of reinforcing our foreign policy.

The new administration’s opinion on how to continue negotiations on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership with the European Union is still being shaped. As a fundamental supporter of free trade, Estonia naturally hopes that this process will continue. Yet regardless of the short-term developments with respect to free trade, Estonian-American trade relations have plenty of room for improvement and using the opportunities of the American market is inarguably in Estonia’s interests.

Maintaining the unity of the EU

I would like to continue by describing the tasks that the European Union must face.

During the entire period in which Estonia has been a member state, the European Union has been moving towards geographic expansion and ever deeper integration. With the Brexit referendum last year, this trend was broken.

Neither British policymakers nor leaders in continental Europe were able to generally foresee that the British decision on continued membership in the European Union would be negative. I would prefer not to pretend that the result of the referendum was as I expected or would have liked it to be. But like it or not, Estonia will fully respect this democratic decision made by its close ally.

In the terms, conditions and details of the negotiations concerning the United Kingdom leaving the European Union that are due to start soon, Estonia will wish to maintain the unity of the 27 member states. We presently have no reason to speculate what the final results of the negotiations will be, but we are interested in a result that will not harm the future harmony and strength of the European Union and that preserves the opportunity for tight cooperation by the European Union with the United Kingdom following its leaving the union.

A significant proportion of the negotiations will be held during the time of Estonia’s presidency of the Council of the European Union. This places a particular responsibility on us for the successful conduct of the process as even though the Commission bears the brunt of the negotiations, the task of the presidency is to ensure the seamless conduct of the process and uninterrupted exchange of information between the member states and European Union institutions. At the same time, we must clearly prevent the Brexit negotiations from overshadowing the other priorities of our presidency.

“Regardless of the United Kingdom leaving the European Union, the country is and will remain one of Estonia’s most important bilateral cooperation partners.”

Regardless of the United Kingdom leaving the European Union, the country is and will remain one of Estonia’s most important bilateral cooperation partners. Likewise, Nordic-Baltic regional cooperation with the British will remain essential for us. I would like to separately emphasise the willingness of the United Kingdom to continue playing an active role in European security and contributing to reinforced NATO deterrence status by deploying its forces with the NATO contingent in Estonia.

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The opinions in this article are those of the author. The full speech is available on the webpage of Estonian foreign ministry. Cover: The Statue of Liberty on Liberty Island in New York Harbor, New York City (the image is illustrative/courtesy of wallpapersafari.com)

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About the author: Sven Mikser

Sven Mikser has been the minister of foreign affairs of the Republic of Estonia since November 2016. He has been a member of the Social Democratic Party since 2005.