France

French nationalist Marine Le Pen visits Estonia

Shortly after the far-right Estonian Conservative People’s Party was included in the country’s government, the French nationalist populist politician, Marine Le Pen, the leader of the National Rally party, came to Estonia for a visit.

The National Rally party is known as a right-wing populist and nationalist political party in France. Most political commentators place it on the far-right, but some suggest that the party’s position on the political spectrum is more difficult to define clearly.

The party’s major policies include opposition to French membership in NATO, European Union, the Schengen Area, and the eurozone. As an anti-European Union party, the National Rally has opposed the European Union since its creation. The party also supports greater government intervention in the economy, protectionism, a zero-tolerance approach to law and order, and significant cuts to legal immigration.

Marine Le Pen has been the leader of the National Rally since 2011, and she’s run for president in France twice. In 2012, she came third in the presidential election with 17.9% of the vote, behind Francois Hollande and Nicolas Sarkozy. In 2017, she finished second in the first round of the election with 21.3% of the vote, but lost the vote to the centrist Emmanuel Macron in the second round, having received approximately 33.9% of the vote.

Le Pen invited herself

It’s not very clear why she’s visiting Estonia. An MP of the Estonian Conservative People’s Party (EKRE), Jaak Madison, wrote on Facebook on 6 May that “soon, the most popular French nationalist, Marine Le Pen, will be visiting Estonia, together with other right-wingers”. However, on 9 May, Madison also said he didn’t invite Le Pen to visit Estonia, “she’s coming on her own”.

Whichever may be the truth, the fact is, when Le Pen landed in Tallinn on 13 May, Madison was one of the first to greet her, among other Estonian people. News portal Delfi reports that Le Pen was pleasantly flattered by the attention she got at the airport from the media and gladly posed in front of the cameras. She didn’t give any comments, though, promising to do that at a press conference.

On 14 May, she met with members of the Estonian Conservative People’s Party, and also some other nationalist politicians from the neighbouring countries, namely members of the True Finns of Finland and the Danish National Party. A press conference is to follow.

It’s peculiar that the anti-Russia Estonian Conservative People’s Party is cosying up to the French nationalist leader. Le Pen has previously justified annexing the Crimean Peninsula, a Ukrainian territory, by the Russian Federation, and has said that NATO should change its mission to fighting terrorism and Islamism and should, therefore, accept Russia.

A security risk?

She has also met with the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, saying that Putin was representing a “new vision” of the world.

Moreover, on 10 September 2015, Le Pen voted against a European Parliament resolution that demanded the release of the Estonian security official, Eston Kohver, who had been kidnapped by Russian agents.

Some Estonian politicians are wary of Le Pen’s visit to Estonia. The main candidate to the European Parliament from the Isamaa (Fatherland) party, Riho Terras, told the Estonian media that he’s suspicious of the claim that Le Pen invited herself to Estonia and noted that he was questioning whether the Estonian Conservative People’s Party cared about Estonia’s security.

“The attitude towards Russia should be the main reason why to keep away from Le Pen and other populists,” Terras told the Estonian media. “Now it seems that when Estonia’s security is in consideration, the Estonian Conservative People’s Party is ready to close their eyes.”

“That politician is someone who’s against the NATO presence in Eastern Europe, who thinks that the Crimea belongs to Russia and who thinks the sanctions against Russia should be dropped,” Terras added.

Isamaa in coalition with the far-right

Strong words from someone who’s running for the European Parliament, but we can’t forget the fact that Terras is a member of the party that voluntarily joined the current governing coalition with the Conservative People’s Party and the Centre Party.

Not only is the Conservative People’s Party cosying up to European nationalists and other far-right movements, the Centre Party has an active cooperation agreement with United Russia, the party of the Russian president, Vladimir Putin.

Moreover, Terras’s party, Isamaa, joined a government lead by the Centre Party already in 2016 together with the Social Democrats. And the leader of the Centre Party and the prime minister, Jüri Ratas, has constantly said he was not willing to cancel his party’s cooperation agreement with United Russia.

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Cover: Marine Le Pen meeting EKRE MPs in Tallinn, 14 May 2019 (Facebook).

Estonian design showcased in France

The Marseille-based gallery, Kolektiv 318, and the Estonian Design House collaborate to showcase Estonian design at the Le Corbusier-designed Unité d’habitation in the second largest city of France. 

Entitled “Estonian Modern”, the exhibition will be held at the Unité d’habitation in Marseille and will comprise of two exhibitions. “Luther & Isokon” will explore the unexpected and far-reaching connections between Estonia, the UK and the German Bauhaus style, while “Size Doesn’t Matter” will focus on contemporary Estonian design. A pop-up store will offer a selection of contemporary designers and brands.

“Size Doesn’t Matter”

In collaboration with Ilona Gurjanova, the curator of the exhibition, “Size Doesn’t Matter”, Kolektiv 318 has selected several iconic Estonian contemporary lamps and furniture for the display.

Modular shelves, indoor swings, modernist lines furniture, brutalist ceramics will be staged, highlighting the functionality and inventiveness of the design made in Estonia – an intelligent aesthetic playing with light and polychrome, as well as purity of lines and natural materials.

“Luther & Isokon”

The exhibition “Luther & Isokon” was shown for the first time in Tallinn in September 2018 and is organised in collaboration with the London-based Isokon Gallery. The latter was created in 2014 to tell the remarkable story of the Isokon building – situated in Hampstead, London – also known as Lawn Road Flats, inaugurated in 1934 as a progressive experiment in new ways of urban living. Central to the Isokon story is the former Estonian plywood manufacturer A. M. Luther (Luterma), whose materials provided the inspiration for some of the most radical furniture designs of the twentieth century.

The exhibition, running in Marseille from 15 December 2018 until 15 January 2019, is exploring the key role played by Luther and plywood in this architectural project.

The exhibition introduces the owners, Jack and Molly Pritchard, and the architect, Wells Coates, who conceived and designed the building and presents some of the purpose-made furniture that formed part of the new vision of an elegant and affordable modern lifestyle. Among the many distinguished residents who lived there during its prime years in the 1930s, were the writer Agatha Christie, the Bauhaus School founder Walter Gropius and Hungarian painter and photographer László Moholy-Nagy.

Estonian pop-up store

In parallel, an Estonian pop-up store will be hosted at Gallery 318, located in the heart of the winter garden on the third floor of the Unité d’habitation, offering a selection of gifts and decorative objects, such as posters, ceramics, plaids and wooden toys – evoking the winter in Estonia and the Christmas traditions in the Baltics.

Unité d’habitation buildings were designed by Swiss-French architect Charles-Édouard Jeanneret, known as Le Corbusier. The first and most famous of these buildings is in Marseille and was built between 1947 and 1952. One of Le Corbusier’s most famous works, it proved enormously influential and is often cited as the initial inspiration of the Brutalist architectural style and philosophy.

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Images courtesy of the Estonian Design House, except where stated.

Baltic art classics exhibited at the Musée d’Orsay in Paris

An exhibition at the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, France, will feature symbolist art from Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania dating from the late 19th century to the 1930s.

The exhibition, “Wild Souls. Symbolism in the Baltic States” (“Âmes sauvages. Le symbolisme dans les pays baltes”), is due to be opened on 10 April and marks the celebration of the centenaries of the Baltic states. Its importance is underlined by the fact that the presidents of France, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania are the patrons of the exhibition.

A total of 150 works will be brought to Paris, representing iconic artists in the art history of the Baltic countries: Mikalojus Konstantinas Čiurlionis, Janis Rozentāls, Konrad Mägi, Kristjan Raud, Nikolai Triik and others.

“It has not been very often that we have been able to introduce our art classics in the international arena. We were simply not included among the European countries when the great art histories of the 20th century were written after World War II,” Sirje Helme, the director of the Art Museum of Estonia, said in a statement. “Now the time and opportunity for our inclusion is here. I am sure the work of our artists can add a new and interesting viewpoint to the classics of European modernism.”

A unique artistic phenomenon

Four Baltic museums collaborated to show the historical art works in Paris: the Art Museum of Estonia; the Latvian National Museum of Art; the Lithuanian Art Museum, and the M. K. Čiurlionis National Art Museum. The main curator is Rodolphe Rapetti, a distinguished researcher of symbolism.

The exhibition demonstrates the dynamic interaction between various foreign influences and the local cultural field, which formed the basis for the artists’ personal creative idioms. According to Rapetti, by using elements related to agriculture, folklore and landscape, the artists of the Baltic countries were able to create a totally unique artistic phenomenon. The three main themes – “Myths and Legends”, “Soul” and “Landscape” – express the artists’ enthusiasm for romantic stories, the individual inner worlds of people, and the mystery of nature.

On 3 May, the Musée d’Orsay will also organise a seminar day dedicated to Baltic symbolism. The exhibition, “Wild Souls. Symbolism in the Baltic States”, will be open at the Musée d’Orsay in Paris from 10 April to 15 July 2018, and at the Kumu Art Museum in Tallinn from 12 October 2018 to 3 February 2019.

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Cover: “Young peasant” (circa 1904) by Johann Walter and “Portrait of Malvine Vīgnere. Evening” (1898) by Janis Rozentāls (both Latvian artists/images courtesy of Musée d’Orsay/Eric Jouvenaux).

Estonian-founded Taxify launches its ridesharing platform in Paris

The Estonian-founded ridesharing startup, Taxify, has launched its service in Paris, France, with 5,000 drivers signed up to the platform.

Taxify’s platform in Paris is open to both taxi drivers and private hire drivers who have the required documentation. Taxify takes 15% commission from the drivers, which is up to almost half the commission taken by the other ridesharing platforms, the company said in a statement, adding that the lower commission allows the company to offer lower prices for riders and more take-home pay for drivers.

To celebrate the launch, Taxify has suspended all surge pricing and is offering a 50% discount to riders during the month of October. The Taxify app is available on iOS and Android.

Taxify is an international ridesharing platform founded and headquartered in Tallinn, Estonia, operating in 20 countries in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Central America.

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Cover image courtesy of Taxify.

PICTURES: British and French troops arrive in Estonia

The first British and French troops have arrived in Estonia to reinforce the eastern flank of NATO; the troops are supported by tanks and heavy artillery.

The first 120 UK troops arrived in Estonia in the second half of March, accompanied by 50 French marines. Altogether, the UK will send over 800 troops to defend Estonia from a potential Russian threat; the French will deploy 300 marines.

“This is the start of one of the biggest deployment in Eastern Europe since the Cold War and by the end of next month, we will have 800 British troops, with armour, with tanks, ready to help reassure our allies and to underline our commitment to the security of Europe,” the British defence secretary, Michael Fallon, said in a statement.

“British troops are playing a leading role in Estonia and supporting our US allies in Poland, as part of wider efforts to defend NATO,” he added.

Tanks and armoured vehicles

The British and French troops will be working with the 1st Estonian Infantry Brigade of the Estonian Defence Forces.

In addition to the troops, the first group of British tanks and armoured vehicles have arrived in Estonia. The armoured convoy consists of 130 units, including Challenger 2 tanks and self-propelled guns.

Altogether, over 300 war vehicles will arrive by the end of March 2017. Also, a group of French armoured vehicles has arrived in the country, most notably VBCI tracked infantry fighting vehicles and Leclerc main battle tanks.

The French contingent will be replaced by Danish troops in 2018.

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Images courtesy of Estonian Defence Forces.

Isabelle Frochot: Estonia is very advanced in teaching methods

Dr Isabelle Frochot, a visiting associate professor of tourism marketing at the University of Tartu Pärnu College, says that she would recommend Estonia as a place to study without hesitation.

In Estonia, when one talks about a “university town”, one usually means Tartu, the home of the largest and oldest university in the country. And then, of course, everyone knows the capital, Tallinn, has many universities.

It therefore comes as a surprise to many – at least for outsiders – that the somewhat sleepy, but cute resort town Pärnu, home to just about 40,000 people, also hosts a higher education institution. Under the wing of the University of Tartu, at Pärnu College one can obtain degrees in entrepreneurship, social work and tourism management. Master’s degree in “wellness and spa service design and management” is taught in English and it is this programme that brought Isabelle Frochot to Estonia, by a lucky chance.

Impressed with the dedication

Originally from France, Frochot served as the president of European Travel and Tourism Research Association for few years. There, she met the current head of department of tourism studies at the Pärnu College, Heli Müristaja, who offered her a lecturing position in Pärnu.

“I was quite impressed with the dedication to the tourism at the department and the presentation at the college. She invited me to come and give lectures here – I agreed and have given the lectures ever since,” Frochot recalls.

Frochot, who has almost 1,300 citations to her name, has plenty of international experience – she completed her PhD at Manchester Metropolitan University eighteen years ago and then worked as a lecturer in Scotland for five years, before returning to teach in France – but it was first time for her to set a foot in Estonia.

“I had been in Finland, but never in Estonia, so was my first visit. I took a ten-day holiday to look around and get to know the place – and it exceeded my expectations!” she says.

endla-bog-jarek-joepera

Because Frochot’s research interests include the study of the tourist experience, with a specific focus on flow, immersion, access conditions and satisfaction, she was quick to evaluate the local experience. “It was very positive and especially the service provided in the Estonian national parks. I liked how the services were designed in the national parks – how the walks were designed, viewing towers and all these kind of services – I really, really liked that. And obviously, the nature here is amazing – it was really nice to see it,” she remembers the impression that was sealing the deal for her.

Happy in Pärnu

Now, working part-time at Pärnu College, she is happy with the working conditions and teaching methods too – and according to Frochot, so are her diverse mix of students.

“I teach a mix of students: Russian, Polish, Georgian, also from Montenegro, Nigeria and Cameroon. The students I have come across are very pleased with the teaching department here. And they are really happy in Pärnu. They are very relaxed in this town,” Frochot observes. “It does not have to be a big city for the university, as long as the teaching standards are high – the students have a very happy life in Pärnu.”

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Frochot notes that Estonia also has an “amazing” culture. “I know that the students would not only enjoy the high level of teaching, but there is plenty to do and see here.”

She does concede, however, that the public transport connection could do with an improvement. “It’s ok if you use one of the big buses between the large cities, but otherwise it would need an upgrade.”

And what about the infamous Estonian shyness?

Frochot admits that people in Estonia are reserved. “They are a little bit shy in a way. But they are not cold or unhelpful – they are very helpful when you ask them.”

“Yes, in case you’re wondering, it is harder to make Estonian friends than international. Give Estonians some time, though, one day they will let you hug them. I swear it will be one of the best days in your life!” says half-jokingly one of the former international students at the college.

Advanced teaching techniques

When comparing the teaching approach in Estonia and other countries, Frochot says the students here expect a lot of interactivity. “In France, we still teach in an old-fashioned, conventional way. When I come here, I always sense that the students expect lot more interactive teaching methods. Baltic and Nordic countries are more advanced in teaching techniques than we are in Southern Europe.”

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“The universities in Estonia are trying to use more creative methods to teach. Some lecturers also try to use specific techniques to get people to express their ideas that could be put into practice. Real thinking – how do I get ideas across and how do I get students to express their ideas? This is more advanced than in France,” Frochot says, adding that it’s important to teach the students how they can use the knowledge on a daily basis.

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Frochot’s observation is backed by the fact that the international programme at the Pärnu College has proven itself – many graduate students have gone on to manage the top spas, wellness centres and resorts in their respective countries. “I just loved our discussions, group work and teacher involvement. After graduation, I got myself into one of the best spas in my country,” a former Polish student at the college recalls.

Recommending Estonia

While not teaching or travelling, Frochot also finds time to look around in Pärnu that has almost 180 years of longstanding traditions in health resorts and hospitality – a primary reason why the tourism management studies are conducted from this town.

“Spas are good and Pärnu has a very nice waterfront, which is very, very pleasant and a very enjoyable place to visit. The Scandinavian-style wooden houses are very welcoming and very warm. What I have also noticed are very good restaurants and craft shops. The Estonian perception of design is amazing – in France we don’t have the kind of crafty skills as much as you do. I find it very charming,” she praises.

Pärnu Old Town

But Frochot is also encouraging. “Estonia is very well presented in Pärnu, but there is also a lot more potential. Estonians should be more confident at what they have and what they do. Because Estonia is small, people here sometimes feel that they cannot do enough because they are too small. They don’t want to show off what they do, although they have everything to go for. Estonians should be more confident,” she argues.

As a researcher in tourism marketing, Frochot also collaborates with the local staff at the college. “We are looking at the way how consumers will remember the place. If they remember, they’ll come back,” she says.

parnu-college-i

In the meantime, she feels very safe and content in Pärnu and doesn’t think for a second when asked whether she would recommend Estonia as a place to study. “I would definitely recommend Estonia without hesitation.”

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Did you know?

Tartu University was once based in Pärnu, due to historical circumstances. From 1699 to 1710, the university that was originally founded by the Swedish king in 1632, was operating in Pärnu, which is considered a phase in the history of the University of Tartu. Due to the Great Northern War, the activities of the university were short-lived, but the impact of the university on the development of Pärnu was significant.

academia_gustavo-carolina

Higher education was once again possible in Pärnu in 1991 when Pärnu Business School opened. The business school was absorbed into the University of Tartu in 1996, becoming what is now known as Pärnu College.

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This article is published in collaboration with Study in Estonia. Cover: Students in front of University of Tartu Pärnu College (Gertrud Alatare Photography). Images courtesy of Isabelle Frochot and Pärnu College.

France to send troops, tanks and combat vehicles to Estonia

France is to send five Leclerc tanks, 12 infantry combat vehicles and 300 troops to Estonia next year.

The deployment was confirmed by the French defence minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, to his Estonian counterpart, Hannes Hanso, at a meeting of the security forum in Halifax, Canada.

“We recognise that we have to invest in the defence of Europe by increasing the military presence of NATO in the Baltic Sea region and especially in the NATO-member frontier countries,” Hanso said, according to a statement by the Estonian ministry of defence.

He also said Estonia and France had a significant bilateral cooperation in cyberspace as both countries had “significant capabilities” in the field and the challenges both countries faced were similar. The two ministers signed a bilateral cyber cooperation agreement in May 2016.

The French armoured unit is to serve in Tapa under the command of the British NATO battalion.

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Cover: A French Leclerc tank.

France and Germany take over protecting the Baltic skies

France and Germany took over NATO’s Baltic Air Policing mission from Portugal and the United Kingdom on 31 August.

France will lead the mission until the end of the year, with four Mirage jets based at Šiauliai airbase in Lithuania, while Germany will provide four Eurofighter Typhoon that will fly out of Ämari Air Base in Estonia.

The Baltic Air Policing mission was established in 2004 to assist Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania who have no airborne air defence capability of their own.

The aim of the mission is to prevent unauthorised incursion into the airspace of the Baltic states and its most frequent duty is intercepting Russian aircraft and escorting them from the area. To the west of the Baltic states’ airspace is an air corridor often used by aircraft travelling to the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad from territorial Russia.

Luftwaffe Eurofighter Typhoons

The aircraft, alongside the pilots and the ground crews, will be on 24/7 stand-by to launch quickly in response to any unidentified aircraft approaching NATO airspace.

The latest handover of command marks the 42nd rotation for the mission, which gained extra prominence after Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea and Russia’s increased military activity in the Baltic Sea region.

Apart from the Baltic states, NATO aircraft also guard the airspace of Albania and Slovenia.

Portugal and the UK guarded the skies over the Baltic airspace since May this year.

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Cover: French Dassault Mirage 2000 (picture courtesy of bhmpics.com)

Axelle Lemaire

French digital affairs minister: Estonia is a small state that became bigger, thanks to its choice of being a digital country

Axelle Lemaire, the French minister responsible for her country’s digital affairs, visited the Estonian capital as a guest of the Tallinn e-Governance Conference, and discussed with Estonian World the entrepreneurship and startup culture in respective countries and what could a large country like France pick up from Estonia.

The Estonian ICT Week, taking place in late May/early June, brought hundreds of global tech luminaries and cyber experts to the Estonian capital, truly underlining once again the fact that the country has become a sort of magnet for those interested in digital society and innovation.

One of the high-profile guests was Axelle Lemaire, an energetic and youthful French politician who currently serves as a Secretary of State in the French government, responsible for digital affairs. Lemaire participated in the Tallinn e-Governance Conference, which focused on the impact of e-governance on the economy and society. 340 representatives of the public and private sectors from more than 50 countries attended the two-day conference.

Lemaire, who has always had a global approach – she was born in Quebec, Canada, studied in France and then lived twelve years in London, before relocating to Paris and embarking on a political career – had many good words to say about Estonia.

“If you would have asked me ten years ago, I would have said that Estonia is a country where companies will go to manufacture because of cheap labour. But now, when politicians think of Estonia in France, they think of it as ‘e-Estonia’. This is a sign of success because it means we are open for collaboration,” Lemaire said, fresh from discussing the open data with president Toomas Hendrik Ilves.

Axelle Lemaire and Toomas Hendrik Ilves. Photo by Raigo Pajula

While en route to visit one of the many local startups, Lemaire discussed with Estonian World the entrepreneurship and startup culture in respective countries and what could a large country like France pick up from Estonia. “I think we can still learn from the entrepreneurial spirit that we have found here in Estonia, especially with the young people. Remember that famous phrase by president George W. Bush, that ‘the thing that’s wrong with the French is that they don’t have a word for entrepreneur’, without realising that the word ‘entrepreneur’ is a loanword from French. This was very funny because it was a good example how wrong the conception about France is,” Lemaire said, amusingly, emphasising that France is not standing still.

Lemaire added that it used to be very comfortable for young people to go and work in large multinationals where they would have a comfortable career, whereas nowadays they would want to create startups. “One young person in two, according to a recent poll, says that in the next two years, they would like to create their own company. I think that this mentality is very common in Estonia.”

Axelle Lemaire visiting the Estonian startup, Lingvist, at its office in Tallinn. Photo by Irina Zorina.

She observed there were many areas where Estonia had impressed the western European country of 65 million. “There is also this capability of using administration as a kind of experimental laboratory to create more efficient public policies. What was done with the e-residency is a good example because the programme will probably be very different in ten years’ time, compared to what it is today. It is creating a community of people who share not only common interests and information about themselves with the Estonian state, but both parties share even more, which is common values – and that’s what I find fascinating about Estonia,” she noted, adding that it’s not only about the expertise in technicalities, but the entire digital process.

The minister suggested Estonia created interest by its embrace of innovation and potential of digital world, and finding ways how to play a role. “What we say in France is that Estonia is a small country that became bigger, thanks to its choice of being a digital country. That’s where we have to learn. Because we are a big country, but sometimes we look smaller. I’m convinced that once France appears and practices moving towards digital innovation, both in public and private sector, that’s when we become winners,” Lemaire asserted.

Among other things, Lemaire also highlighted that France and Estonia had common ground when it comes to transparency and openness in data. “I’m convinced that opening up data is the new way to help economy. And France is probably the pushiest government in terms of open data – we take a political initiative.”

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Cover: Axelle Lemaire. Photo by Raigo Pajula.

Belgium takes over NATO Baltic air mission

Lockheed Martin F-16 Fighting Falcons of the Belgian Air Component have today taken over NATO’s Baltic Air Policing mission, after a ceremony at Šiauliai Airbase in Lithuania.

Responsibility for airspace integrity over the Baltic states was transferred from the French Air Force, who had been on duty since April 30 this year. This is the third time that Belgian jets will perform the mission, with previous visits in 2004 and 2006/7.

The Baltic Air Policing mission was established in 2004, to assist Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania who have no airborne air defence capability of their own and was extended indefinitely in February 2012. The aim of the mission is to prevent unauthorised incursion into the airspace of the Baltic states and its most frequent duty is intercepting Russian aircraft and escorting them from the area. To the west of the Baltic states’ airspace is an air corridor often used by aircraft travelling to the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad from territorial Russia.

French FC-1 intercepts Russian Tu-22M3

A typical mission day includes two or three planned flights (known as TANGO scrambles) and responding to incidents as they occur. The detachment consists of six pilots; two with Quick Reaction Alert duties who respond to live or ALPHA scrambles (and must be airborne within ten minutes), two who are performing standard duties (usually training) and two who are at rest.

Over Easter this year, two Russian Tu-22M bombers flanked by four Su-27 fighters conducted simulated attacks on Stockholm, Sweden, and were escorted out of the area by Danish F-16s of the NATO mission. During their recent mission, French Mirage jets responded to seven ALPHA scrambles in their first six weeks.

 

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