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Estonia Sees Active International Role as Security Guarantee

(Washington, DC--December 12, 2003) Estonia understands that, to guarantee its future, it will always have to be an "active partner" in organizations such as NATO and the European Union -- both of which it expects to join in mid-2004. This was the message of that country's new Ambassador to the United States, Juri Luik, during a recent briefing at RFE/RL.

"Estonia punches heavily above its weight," Luik said, referring to Estonia's contribution to peacekeeping missions in Iraq, Afghanistan, KFOR in Kosova, and SFOR in Bosnia -- despite its small population of only 1.4 million people. "We decided that we can only be partners if we are active partners," Luik said, noting that involvement enables even a small country to "speak with a loud voice," particularly in an organization such as NATO that "we want to be the main defense guarantor."

Luik also commented on the challenges facing NATO and stated that Estonia feels that "tensions should be addressed by open debate about the problems." Although the United States views the military capabilities of the alliance members as the key issue, for Estonia the "political cohesion" of the alliance is "as critical" an issue. Estonia sees Article 5 of the NATO Charter, which guarantees mutual defense, as the necessary "linchpin" of the alliance. Luik considered the current debates within the EU and NATO to be "a debate about the future, a debate about the soul" of a unified Europe.

In discussing the challenges of European Union membership, Luik stated that the two-thirds of Estonia's population who voted for membership in the EU recognize that unfettered access to this market will strengthen the Estonian economy. Luik said that Estonia supports the view that the EU should remain a "union of sovereign states" that guarantees each member country a commissioner on the EU's governing council. The current constitutional debate within the EU, Luik said, is marked by shifting alliances among states "with the most convincing voice," noting that Estonian Prime Minister Juhan Parts had recently published a joint letter with UK Prime Minister Tony Blair in the "Financial Times" on the need for EU members to maintain independent tax policies.

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