In favour of an open-door policy and an ambitious Eastern Partnership

The Eston­ian gov­ern­ment con­tin­ues to sup­port fur­ther enlarge­ment, while empha­sis­ing that the process is depen­dent on progress made by each can­di­date state. Accord­ing to For­eign Min­is­ter Urmas Paet, “Esto­nia is a sup­port­er of the Euro­pean Union’s open-door pol­i­cy so that nations that share com­mon val­ues and prin­ci­ples with our mem­ber states can be includ­ed in the Union.”11Min­istry of For­eign Affairs: For­eign Min­is­ter Paet: Esto­nia Sup­ports Ser­bia on Path to Euro­pean Union, press release No 80‑E, 09.03.2010, avail­able at: http://www.vm.ee/?q=en/taxonomy/term/61 (last access: 01.06.2010). The gov­ern­ment faces no sig­nif­i­cant domes­tic con­straints in pur­su­ing this pol­i­cy: accord­ing to the lat­est Euro­barom­e­ter sur­vey, con­duct­ed in autumn 2009, 57 per­cent of Eston­ian respon­dents sup­port­ed enlarge­ment, com­pared to the EU aver­age of 46 per­cent.22Euro­pean Com­mis­sion: Euro­baromeeter 72: ava­lik arva­mus Euroopa Liidus. Sügis 2009. Rahvus­lik aru­anne: Eesti, avail­able at: http://ec.europa.eu/public_opinion/archives/eb/eb72/eb72_ee_ee_nat.pdf (last access: 01.06.2010).

Esto­nia main­tains that acces­sion nego­ti­a­tions with Ice­land should be start­ed as soon as pos­si­ble and strong­ly backs Iceland’s acces­sion to the Euro­pean Union. In April 2010, the Eston­ian For­eign Min­istry held a sem­i­nar in Ice­land, dur­ing which rep­re­sen­ta­tives and experts from Eston­ian gov­ern­ment insti­tu­tions shared Estonia’s expe­ri­ences with EU acces­sion and mem­ber­ship. For­eign Min­istry Sec­re­tary Gen­er­al Marten Kokk stat­ed that “for any sec­tors in which Ice­land is inter­est­ed, Eston­ian experts will glad­ly share their expe­ri­ences in join­ing the Euro­pean Union.”33Min­istry of For­eign Affairs: Esto­nia Sup­ports Start­ing EU-Ice­land Acces­sion Nego­ti­a­tions as Soon as Pos­si­ble, press release No 114‑E, 14.04.2010, avail­able at: http://www.vm.ee/?q=en/taxonomy/term/61 (last access: 01.06.2010). This com­mit­ment reflects the his­to­ry of bilat­er­al rela­tions: Ice­land was the first coun­try in the world to recog­nise the Repub­lic of Esto­nia fol­low­ing the restora­tion of inde­pen­dence in August 1991. This bold step by a tiny nation is remem­bered with grat­i­tude, and ensures Estonia’s whole-heart­ed sup­port to Iceland’s EU aspirations.

Estonia’s sup­port to the acces­sion of the West­ern Balkan coun­tries remains sim­i­lar­ly firm. In May 2010, Vladimir Drob­n­jak, Croatia’s chief nego­tia­tor with the EU, vis­it­ed Esto­nia. Eston­ian offi­cials acknowl­edged Croatia’s progress and expressed hope that Croa­t­ia “will soon be able to open the final chap­ters and com­plete the nego­ti­a­tions on the tech­ni­cal lev­el this year.”44Min­istry of For­eign Affairs: Esto­nia Sup­ports Rapid Acces­sion of West­ern Balka­ns to Euro­pean Union, press release No 149‑E, 04.05.2010, avail­able at: http://www.vm.ee/?q=en/taxonomy/term/61 (last access: 01.06.2010). Accord­ing to the Eston­ian For­eign Min­istry, “Croa­t­ia becom­ing a mem­ber of the Euro­pean Union would be a pos­i­tive sign to the entire West­ern Balkan region.”55Ibid.

Dur­ing the meet­ing with Ser­bian For­eign Min­is­ter Vuk Jere­mić in Tallinn in March 2010, For­eign Min­is­ter Paet con­firmed that Esto­nia recog­nis­es Serbia’s steps towards the EU and com­plete­ly sup­ports Serbia’s reform efforts. Esto­nia regards the deci­sion made by the EU in Decem­ber 2009 to begin imple­ment­ing an inter­im sta­bil­i­sa­tion and asso­ci­a­tion agree­ment with Ser­bia as a sig­nif­i­cant step in the inte­gra­tion process.66Min­istry of For­eign Affairs: For­eign Min­is­ter Paet: Esto­nia Sup­ports Ser­bia on Path to Euro­pean Union, press release No 80‑E, 09.03.2010, avail­able at: http://www.vm.ee/?q=en/taxonomy/term/61 (last access: 01.06.2010). EU’s deci­sion to extend visa-free trav­el to cit­i­zens of Ser­bia, Mon­tene­gro, and Mace­do­nia con­si­tutes anoth­er impor­tant and wel­come devel­op­ment. Esto­nia attach­es great sig­nif­i­cance to Serbia’s coop­er­a­tion with the Inter­na­tion­al Crim­i­nal Tri­bunal for the for­mer Yugoslavia.

Eston­ian offi­cials share the gen­er­al per­cep­tion that, rel­a­tive to the oth­er West­ern Balkan coun­tries, Bosnia and Herze­gov­ina has fall­en behind and needs to speed up the imple­men­ta­tion of reforms, and the gov­ern­ment needs to agree on a com­mon vision regard­ing the gen­er­al direc­tion of the nation’s Euro-Atlantic devel­op­ment.77Min­istry of For­eign Affairs: Paet: Ser­bia, Mace­do­nia and Mon­tene­gro Clos­er to Europe Than Before, press release, 08.12.2009, avail­able at: http://www.vm.ee/?q=en/taxonomy/term/61 (last access: 01.06.2010).

The EU’s East­ern neigh­bour­hood is an area of great impor­tance to Esto­nia, and the coun­try has been a keen observ­er and active par­tic­i­pant in the devel­op­ment of the Euro­pean Neigh­bour­hood Pol­i­cy (ENP). Esto­nia por­trays itself as a pro­po­nent of an ambi­tious ENP and as a “prin­ci­pled, con­sis­tent, and strong, yet demand­ing, sup­port­er of our East­ern Part­ners.”88Address by For­eign Min­is­ter Urmas Paet to the Riigikogu on behalf of the Gov­ern­ment of Esto­nia, 11.02.2010, avail­able at: http://www.vm.ee/?q=en/taxonomy/term/61 (last access: 01.06.2010). Esto­nia is keen to share its tran­si­tion expe­ri­ences with oth­er coun­tries, and has expand­ed activ­i­ties designed to trans­fer tran­si­tion know-how. It par­tic­i­pat­ed active­ly in the com­pil­ing of the Tran­si­tion Com­pendi­um, an overview of the mem­ber states’ tran­si­tion expe­ri­ences pre­pared by the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion. The For­eign Min­istry is expand­ing its train­ing pro­grammes for the East­ern part­ners. A five-day train­ing sem­i­nar for spe­cial­ists and experts from East­ern Part­ner­ship tar­get coun­tries (Arme­nia, Azer­bai­jan, Geor­gia, Moldo­va, Ukraine, and Belarus) was organ­ised in Tallinn in April 2010. It focused on mat­ters relat­ed to good gov­er­nance and pub­lic admin­is­tra­tion reform. In the longer per­spec­tive, Esto­nia is pre­pared to estab­lish an East­ern Part­ner­ship train­ing cen­tre in Tallinn sim­i­lar to the Mediter­ranean Acad­e­my in Mal­ta.99Ibid. Esto­nia also sup­ports the East­ern neigh­bours by con­tribut­ing to the Neigh­bour­hood Invest­ment Facil­i­ty Trust Fund, and con­tin­ues to imple­ment bilat­er­al devel­op­ment coop­er­a­tion projects in its pri­or­i­ty part­ner coun­tries – Geor­gia, Ukraine, and Moldo­va, as well as in Belarus and Armenia.

Estonia’s goal dur­ing the Span­ish Pres­i­den­cy is the fur­ther devel­op­ment of the East­ern Part­ner­ship in accor­dance with goals spec­i­fied in the Joint Dec­la­ra­tion of the Prague East­ern Part­ner­ship Sum­mit, and devel­op­ment of bilat­er­al rela­tions between the EU and the part­ner coun­tries.1010State Chan­cellery of Esto­nia: Aims of the Eston­ian Gov­ern­ment Dur­ing the Span­ish Pres­i­den­cy, avail­able at: http://www.riigikantselei.ee/failid/EE_priorities_EN.pdf (last access: 01.06.2010). The gov­ern­ment empha­sis­es the impor­tance of con­clud­ing deep and com­pre­hen­sive free trade agree­ments, the ulti­mate objec­tive being a com­mon free trade area. It also sup­ports the expan­sion of visa-free trav­el and pri­ori­tis­es close coop­er­a­tion in ener­gy and infra­struc­ture mat­ters. It notes that Ukraine, Moldo­va, and Geor­gia have already uni­lat­er­al­ly dropped all visa oblig­a­tions for EU cit­i­zens. Accord­ing to For­eign Min­is­ter Paet, Esto­nia sup­ports “the con­tin­u­a­tion of the visa dia­logue with Ukraine, and the ini­ti­a­tion of one with Moldo­va, as well as the speedy con­clud­ing of visa facil­i­ta­tion and read­mis­sion agree­ments with Geor­gia.”1111Address by For­eign Min­is­ter Urmas Paet to the Riigikogu on behalf of the Gov­ern­ment of Esto­nia, 11.02.2010, avail­able at: http://www.vm.ee/?q=en/node/9002 (last access: 01.06.2010). Paet also con­firmed that Esto­nia will “do [its] best to reach a con­sen­sus on the asso­ci­a­tion agree­ment nego­ti­a­tions man­dates with Geor­gia, Arme­nia, and Azer­bai­jan” in the first half of 2010. Esto­nia also con­tin­ues to empha­sise the val­ue dimen­sion in rela­tions with East­ern part­ners, argu­ing that the East­ern Part­ner­ship “must become a val­ues-based pol­i­cy that will pro­vide effec­tive aid to tar­get coun­tries in grow­ing clos­er to the Euro­pean Union and in devel­op­ing democ­ra­cy and build­ing up the rule of law.”1212Min­istry of For­eign Affairs: Paet: Free Trade and Visa Facil­i­ta­tion with East­ern Part­ner­ship States in EU’s Inter­ests, press release No 304‑E, 08.12.2009, avail­able at: http://www.vm.ee/?q=en/taxonomy/term/61 (last access: 01.06.2010).

Com­pared to the East­ern dimen­sion of the ENP, Esto­nia has few­er con­tacts and expe­ri­ences with the south­ern neigh­bours. The gov­ern­ment recog­nis­es that “the EU’s coop­er­a­tion with neigh­bours to the south is equal­ly impor­tant” but focus­es its own atten­tion most­ly on the East­ern dimen­sion. Accord­ing to the For­eign Min­istry, it is essen­tial to ensure that financ­ing for the neigh­bour­hood pro­grammes is allo­cat­ed equal­ly between the south­ern and east­ern facets of Euro­pean Neigh­bour­hood Pol­i­cy.1313Eston­ian Embassy in the UK: Esto­nia in the Euro­pean Union, 04.05.2010, avail­able at: https://www.embassy-worldwide.com/embassy/embassy-of-estonia-in-london-england-uk/ (last access: 01.06.2010).

    Footnotes

  • 1Min­istry of For­eign Affairs: For­eign Min­is­ter Paet: Esto­nia Sup­ports Ser­bia on Path to Euro­pean Union, press release No 80‑E, 09.03.2010, avail­able at: http://www.vm.ee/?q=en/taxonomy/term/61 (last access: 01.06.2010).
  • 2Euro­pean Com­mis­sion: Euro­baromeeter 72: ava­lik arva­mus Euroopa Liidus. Sügis 2009. Rahvus­lik aru­anne: Eesti, avail­able at: http://ec.europa.eu/public_opinion/archives/eb/eb72/eb72_ee_ee_nat.pdf (last access: 01.06.2010).
  • 3Min­istry of For­eign Affairs: Esto­nia Sup­ports Start­ing EU-Ice­land Acces­sion Nego­ti­a­tions as Soon as Pos­si­ble, press release No 114‑E, 14.04.2010, avail­able at: http://www.vm.ee/?q=en/taxonomy/term/61 (last access: 01.06.2010).
  • 4Min­istry of For­eign Affairs: Esto­nia Sup­ports Rapid Acces­sion of West­ern Balka­ns to Euro­pean Union, press release No 149‑E, 04.05.2010, avail­able at: http://www.vm.ee/?q=en/taxonomy/term/61 (last access: 01.06.2010).
  • 5Ibid.
  • 6Min­istry of For­eign Affairs: For­eign Min­is­ter Paet: Esto­nia Sup­ports Ser­bia on Path to Euro­pean Union, press release No 80‑E, 09.03.2010, avail­able at: http://www.vm.ee/?q=en/taxonomy/term/61 (last access: 01.06.2010).
  • 7Min­istry of For­eign Affairs: Paet: Ser­bia, Mace­do­nia and Mon­tene­gro Clos­er to Europe Than Before, press release, 08.12.2009, avail­able at: http://www.vm.ee/?q=en/taxonomy/term/61 (last access: 01.06.2010).
  • 8Address by For­eign Min­is­ter Urmas Paet to the Riigikogu on behalf of the Gov­ern­ment of Esto­nia, 11.02.2010, avail­able at: http://www.vm.ee/?q=en/taxonomy/term/61 (last access: 01.06.2010).
  • 9Ibid.
  • 10State Chan­cellery of Esto­nia: Aims of the Eston­ian Gov­ern­ment Dur­ing the Span­ish Pres­i­den­cy, avail­able at: http://www.riigikantselei.ee/failid/EE_priorities_EN.pdf (last access: 01.06.2010).
  • 11Address by For­eign Min­is­ter Urmas Paet to the Riigikogu on behalf of the Gov­ern­ment of Esto­nia, 11.02.2010, avail­able at: http://www.vm.ee/?q=en/node/9002 (last access: 01.06.2010).
  • 12Min­istry of For­eign Affairs: Paet: Free Trade and Visa Facil­i­ta­tion with East­ern Part­ner­ship States in EU’s Inter­ests, press release No 304‑E, 08.12.2009, avail­able at: http://www.vm.ee/?q=en/taxonomy/term/61 (last access: 01.06.2010).
  • 13Eston­ian Embassy in the UK: Esto­nia in the Euro­pean Union, 04.05.2010, avail­able at: https://www.embassy-worldwide.com/embassy/embassy-of-estonia-in-london-england-uk/ (last access: 01.06.2010).

The reports focus on a report­ing peri­od from Decem­ber 2009 until May 2010. This sur­vey was con­duct­ed on the basis of a ques­tion­naire that has been elab­o­rat­ed in March and April 2010. Most of the 31 reports were deliv­ered in May 2010.

The EU-27 Watch No. 9 receives sig­nif­i­cant fund­ing from the Otto Wolff-Foun­da­tion, Cologne, in the frame­work of the ‘Dia­log Europa der Otto Wolff-Stiftung’, and finan­cial sup­port from the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion. The Euro­pean Com­mis­sion is not respon­si­ble for any use that may be made of the infor­ma­tion con­tained therein.