Western values under pressure

Evelyn Kaldoja
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Foreign Minister Sven Mikser.
Foreign Minister Sven Mikser. Photo: Tairo Lutter

Estonia has done well as an independent country when the international arena has been dominated by liberal democratic values, Foreign Minister Sven Mikser said yesterday when delivering the government’s annual foreign policy speech in front of the Riigikogu. Mikser added that liberal values are under pressure in the world today.

Postimees highlights ten points from Mikser’s speech.

1. Liberal values still under pressure.

“Speaking before you last year, I noted that “in recent years, questioning the values of liberal democracy globally, in the European Union, and also here in Estonia has become one of the greatest and fundamental challenges for democratic states and their governments”. The principles that have served Estonia so well since the regaining of independence continue to be under pressure.”

2. Europe must take seriously America’s call to shoulder a bigger share of the burden

“The transatlantic security alliance continues to be strong; however, in recent years we have witnessed the emergence of some discords in several policy areas that may have a negative effect on the current accord in foreign and security policy. It is perfectly clear that the leading role of the United States of America in ensuring NATO’s deterrence and protection as well as their active contribution to European security continue to be necessary. At the same time, the call of the United States for more equal burden-sharing should be taken seriously by European allies.”

3. Talking about European defense, we should avoid irritating the U.S.

“It is important to make sure that the development of European defense cooperation complements the European security architecture based on transatlantic ties instead of attempting to replace it. Also, the debate around the strategic autonomy of Europe should not become an unnecessary irritant in transatlantic relations.”

4. Relations with the U.S. good, cooperation to bring Americans to the Baltic region pursued with other Baltic states and Poland

“Our bilateral relations with the United States are very good. In increasing our defense and security cooperation where are focusing on military exercises, cyber issues, energy security and strategic communication. We are working with Latvia, Lithuania and Poland towards an increased US presence in Estonia as well as the Baltic region.”

5. Terrorism and illegal migration remain threats

“The global map of threats is becoming increasingly complex. Asymmetric threats know no national borders and their sources are difficult to determine. Extremists, terrorist organizations and autocratic regimes are increasingly forceful and brazen in their actions. European security is also affected by illegal migration caused by conflicts and instability in the neighborhood of the European Union as well as economic and climate problems.”

6. Estonia’s interests concern allied relations, not imported political technology

“Today, the unity and values of the EU are under threat – populism based on lies and scaremongering that appeals to the base instincts of people are some of the tools in the hands of those who oppose the idea of Europe. Attempts have been made to import these kinds of political methods to Estonia, where public support for the European Union has traditionally been high. The so-called illiberal democracy is hailed as an example, which essentially means an absence of democracy; European unity is contrasted with national sovereignty, forgetting that it is cooperation that increases the influence of small states. When we put our sovereignty in the service of common interests, it is precisely to ensure the endurance of our independence and sovereignty.”

7. Estonia is a wealthy county that must contribute more in aid

“In the near future, Estonia must also be able to engage more with issues related to the Southern Neighborhood of the European Union. In development cooperation too we must look further ahead and focus on least developed countries. On the global scale, we have been a wealthy and very successful small state for years now, so it is the task of the next Riigikogu and government to find a way to attain the promised 0.33% of GDP for development cooperation and humanitarian aid. I would like to remind you that it currently stands at a mere 0.18%.”

8. Political cyberattacks an increasingly serious threat

“Politically motivated cyber-attacks pose an increasing threat. The responsible conduct of states in cyber space is gaining importance. This is why we are active in shaping cyber security initiatives in the UN, OSCE, the Council of Europe and other international organizations.”

9. Liberal world order favorable for Estonia

“Historically, Estonia as an independent state has thrived when liberal values have dominated the international arena. Europe has thrived when the system of international relations has been based on rules and respect for the sovereignty of states. Conversely, the darkest chapters of our continent have been written at times when limited national self-interest has been placed above international cooperation, or when liberal ideals have been suppressed and destroyed.”

10. Weapons of war constitute plan B

“Finally, allow me to go back nearly a hundred years and quote Estonia’s first Foreign Minister Jaan Poska, who spoke at the Constituent Assembly on February 10, 1920: “Because it may come to pass that in order to protect our neutrality we must take up arms, because after we have made peace and it has been ratified, we have the position of a neutral state and must protect its obligations against states that are still at war”. Let this quote be the answer to those who ask what Estonia’s Plan B is, should the foreign policy based on alliances, European solidarity and Western values fail us. The answer is simple; our current actions are the alternative to the plan that failed in 1939.”

Translation by BNS.