At his meeting in Oslo with Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs Jonas Gahr Støre, Estonian Minister of Foreign Affairs Urmas Paet emphasized the importance of protecting and preserving the Arctic and proposed that the European Union should receive observer status in the Arctic Council*. “We consider it important to increase the role of the European Union in Arctic issues. Developments in polar regions are important for the countries of the world from the standpoint of assessing environmental risks and climate change. Closer cooperation would bring greater benefits for all in the field of the environment, the economy and security,” added Paet.
Paet also discussed Estonia’s imminent accession to the Eurozone with his Norwegian colleague along with developments in the Estonian economy. ”On 1 January of next year, Estonia will become the 17th member of the Eurozone. Estonia has an interest in contributing to a strong and functioning monetary union. Accession to the Eurozone is the result of our long-term economic and financial policy. Estonia’s recovery from the economic downturn has been better than expected and today we have reached positive economic growth,” said Paet.
Among other things, the good economic relations between Estonia and Norway are characterized by the relatively large trade volume. “Norwegian investments into the Estonian economy have also increased consistently since the mid-1990s,” said Paet. Norway is the country with the fourth-most investments into Estonia as of the end of 2009.
Paet said Estonia considers Norwegian financial assistance through the Norwegian and EEA financial mechanisms. “Most recently, Norwegian assistance was used to open a Peipsi region visitor centre and SOS children’s village in Põltsamaa,” said Paet. The Norwegian financial mechanism has thus far provided over 30 million euros of financing for Estonian projects.
In discussions on the situation in Afghanistan, Paet said that Estonia has consistently stressed the need to develop the process of transferring security responsibility in Afghanistan. “It is very important that Afghanistan’s government play an increasingly leading role in stabilization of the security situation, reintegration, national reconciliation and implementation of reforms to promote sustainable institutional and economic development. This must take place with the continued support of the international community,” said Paet.
Paet and Støre also discussed cooperation in international organizations. The foreign ministers considered “promising” cooperation between the Baltic and Nordic countries for supporting each other’s candidates in the UN. Paet said Estonia had a high regard for Norway’s support for Estonia’s candidacy in the UN Human Rights Council 2012-2015 and considers Norway’s role to this point to be very important.
At a meeting with Ine Marie Eriksen Søreide, the chairwoman of the Norwegian parliament’s standing committee on foreign affairs and defence committee, Paet spoke of regional cooperation, particularly in the Council of Baltic Sea States and the Baltic Sea strategy and the Northern Dimension
From 1 July Norway holds the presidency of the Council of Baltic States. The three national priorities of Norway’s presidency are maritime policy, including developing marine rescue capability for disasters; the fight against human trafficking; and developing the activities of the Council of Baltic Sea States. Paet expressed pleasure with well-functioning Nordic-Baltic cooperation.
* The Arctic Council is a high-level intergovernmental forum responsible for pursuing cooperation between countries and peoples in the Arctic. The member states are Canada, Denmark along with the Faroe Islands and Greenland, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and the US.
Paet: EU should receive observer status in Arctic Council