At the North
of the President of the Republic of Estonia, Mr Lennart Meri
Ambassadors, Ladies and Gentlemen,
At the same time, we should not forget that NATO's actions aimed at finding peaceful solutions in Bosnia and Kosovo are only one piece of the new European security puzzle. More general and structural matters should be resolved. NATO itself must adapt to the new conditions and realities in Europe. Its membership should be expanded to reunify Europe and to build a solid basis for avoiding future conflicts, both large and small scale ones. I do not believe that post-Cold War reconstruction has ended On the contrary it should be relentlessly pursued. Unfortunately, the enthusiasm, which characterised events following the collapse of the Berlin Wall, is fading, giving ground to a technical and bureaucratic approach, an approach, which is clearly fruitless in these complicated political matters.
Sadly enough, I do not find the rhetoric of the enlargement in the political speeches of decision-makers any more. Other problems and events have overshadowed this truly important issue. People are not actively discussing the logic of the second wave, its reasons and its implications. Enthusiasm for enlargement has faded to the background, and this is most unfortunate.
The second round of NATO enlargement is undoubtedly more complex than the first one. I believe that it should include countries from both the North (the Baltic States) and from the South (the Southeast European countries), as indicated in paragraph 8 of the Madrid declaration. I believe that the new round of enlargement should be comprehensive since there are a number of serious applicants lined up. whether it takes place in 1999 or later is obviously up to you to decide Postponing the decision to enlarge, however, has its own risks, because it opens the path to the question: why today and not tomorrow, why tomorrow and not the day after tomorrow?
I also regret that Russia with its harsh statements of red fines and ex-Soviet territories is often seen as an obstacle to NATO. we have to understand that we are facing a new situation, where Russia must find new ways of interrelating with the rest of the world. However, if we do not carry the integration forward dynamically, if we do not show that Europe really has changed, then we do not support new thinking in Russia, but confirm that old ways are good enough. Let me draw your attention to a carefully crafted response of Foreign Minister Ivanov in "Izvestija" (28.10.98), a leading Russian newspaper: "We do not dispute the sovereign rights of our neighbours to join various alliances. When Russia speaks about a certain red fine, it does not mean that we would tomorrow send somebody an ultimatum. In those circumstances we would simply judge the real danger to our security and act accordingly." No doubt an interesting statement, which modifies the previous Russian position in a positive direction.
Estonia and Russia are in the different weight categories of a midget and a giant. Nevertheless, their relations have a great symbolic value for the future of Europe. The Baltic countries, as future members of the European Union, symbolise both the changed nature of Russia's relationship with its neighbours, as well as new opportunities in trade, human contacts and, above all, Russia's own relationship with what we generally call the West.
Estonia is therefore happy to note that we have managed to reorganise our relations with Russia to on a qualitatively new level. Major issues, like our mutual border, have been regulated Although a border agreement has not yet been signed, Estonian and Russian delegations have initialled a protocol, indicating that there are no differences between the two sides over the delimitation line of the land border. Russia reconfirmed its intention to sign the treaty in the near future, when congratulating Estonia on the appointment of new foreign minister, an experienced diplomat and an old Russia hand, Mr Mlk. At the same time, Russia also indicated its satisfaction with the direction in which our relations are developing, which is especially important in the present circumstances. And I hope this could materialise into a practical lasting result at this very moment when I am speaking here, because today and tomorrow another Round of the border negotiations between the full delegations is taking place in Tallinn.
Although the recent economic developments in Russia give cause for concern, we have managed to keep our economy rather safe and the effects have been limited. Estonia's credit ratings have stayed unchanged. Special government projects have been established to support those who have suffered most by the Russian crisis. But I am happy to note that the Estonian Government has stood determined to maintain the economic principles that have brought along our success and that Estonian economy in general is in a good shape. This serves as a reminder that the days of liberal economic policies are not yet over. As a proof, credit ratings of Estonia have stayed unchanged. Or, as a renowned economic newspaper 'wall Street Journal" announced in its Central European Review (26.10.98) "Recently a model of economic achievement, Estonia stands out again, this time as a lesson in how to manage a crisis".
While so much has been said about the military criteria of NATO enlargement, the actual criteria themselves have remained vague. A number of qualified studies, above all the study by Department of Defence of the United States (the so called Kievenaar study) and other studies, in particular by EUCOM and the Danish Ministry of Defence have created a logical framework for the development of our defence forces Activities by the Baltic security Assistance Group (BALTSEA group), which involves 14 countries that are engaged in bi- and multilateral assistance projects with the three countries, and deals with security in the Baltic region, have given material assistance and moral backing to our efforts. On the other hand, we would still welcome a more precise "roadmap" to direct our defence forces to become fully NATO compatible.
The Estonian Government has created a governmental task force, whose task is to co-ordinate the efforts made by various ministries to prepare for NATO membership. The commission is headed by the Foreign and Defence ministers and is thereby vested with sufficient authority to take decisions. we were particularly pleased by the message we received in our last Intensified Dialogue meeting, namely that we are on the right track and have chosen the proper course of action.
As Supreme Commander of the Estonian National Defence, I am happy to note, that our armed forces have avoided the entrapment of building an Army just for showing off, which would bring about an unnecessary waste of resources. We have, instead, focused on practical essential fields, first of all, defence planning, as a key; improving training at different levers, including language training, updating our infrastructure for possible reinforcement; improving command, control and communication capabilities; creating air and sea monitoring system, polishing mobilisation procedures and, lest but not least, solving the living standards issues. Considering our limited financial and human resources, this approach seemed to be more reasonable than the wasteful purchase of expensive weaponry and an attempt to create a large standing army. Such an approach is not necessarily useful for advertising campaigns, but it works well in practice. We are steadily raisin" our expenses on defence, which in the next year's budget will be 1.3% of the GDP. Our target is 2%, which, according to the present calculations can be achieved in 2002.
A number of international projects are also developing on the Estonian soil. Estonian peace-keeping company has been dispatched to serve in Bosnia. A Baltic Defence College (or BALTDEFCOL), a truly international endeavour with a Danish brigadier-general at the helm, will start to educate general staff lever officers from Baltic and also other countries, next August, it has, teachers from several NATO countries, as well as from Sweden, Finland and Switzerland. The Staff of Baltic Naval Squadron (or BALTRON), a joint mine -sweeping project, has been activated in the Tallinn Military Port. Estonia is actively participating in the BALTNET, a system of Baltic Air Surveillance Centres, capable of providing an integrated picture for our air-controllers, and if necessary, to provide pictures for other friendly networks. Estonia strongly supports the idea of jointly purchasing a Baltic radar system, which would be a viable example of our co-operation.
Estonia was one of the five countries, which were deemed ready in the medium term to reach a necessary level of integration with the European Union. Three of those five were also invited to join the Alliance. While it is completely understandable, that BU and NATO enlargements are two different processes, one has to point out, that political and economic criteria of these enlargements are very similar. By recognising this fact, NATO would save itself from creating its own political and economic criteria, and bring some more predictability to the enlargement process of the Alliance.
Apart from security issues, social and humanitarian issues are particularly important for the Estonian Government we have drafted numerous laws to liberalise our citizenship procedures for those aliens, who have lived in Estonia for a number of years. The legal act, which automatically grants citizenship for the children of stateless parents, is under debate in the Parliament. Both myself and the Government support that law, so I am hopeful that it will eventually pass, albeit after difficult debates.
In conclusion, I would like to reaffirm that, in my view, lack of political will is one of the major reasons for the slow pace of the reunification of Europe. I am not trying to play on your conscience, since it is evident, that everybody understands the moral dimension of the issue at hand. Rather I am trying to raise a coldly calculated, rational point and ask: in which circumstances would the accession of European democracies to democratic organisations influence European security negatively? I fail to see such circumstances.
Thank You, Mr. Chairman.