Helsinki, 15 April 2014 - At his meeting with Jyrki Katainen, Prime Minister of Finland, Prime Minister Taavi Rõivas stressed the need to reach a quick agreement regarding Balticconnector and the LNG terminals, in order to finish the long-drawn-out process.Decreasing energy dependence is a priority for the Estonian Government, Rõivas said, and cooperation between the two countries is a great opportunity to change the way our gas markets are functioning today. In this regard, the Estonian Government sees the completion of Balticconnector, the gas pipeline connecting the gas grids of Finland and Estonia, as most important.
\"This is not just a matter of security; it is also a matter of increased choice, supply guarantees and better prices for the customer,\" Rõivas said.
\"We have the launches of Estlink 1 and Estlink 2 as a real success story in this field,\" he added, referring to the connection of the energy grids of the two countries as a good example of cooperation. According to Rõivas, Estlink 2 has been instrumental in harmonising the energy market prices of Estonia and Finland.\"Ever since Estlink 2 was launched, the price of energy has been on the same level in the two countries, as it was for 94% of hours in March, which has meant better tariffs for the Estonian consumer,\" Rõivas said.
Today, the LNG terminal and Balticconnector projects have reached the most active stage to date. A letter of intent was signed in February and talks are underway between developers at present, with the aim of getting the projects ready for the financing programme of EU, which is opening in May. The Prime Ministers expressed hope that the European Commission may reach a financing decision as early as June.
The situation in Ukraine was another subject at the meeting. The Prime Ministers pointed out that tensions are continually high in eastern Ukraine, and all activity by the Russian Federation directed against Ukraine\'s territorial integrity is unacceptable.\"Every step Putin\'s regime takes towards escalating the situation is also a step towards economic sanctions from the EU,\" Prime Minister Rõivas said. Ukraine was also discussed at the meeting with Sauli Niinistö, President of Finland.
In discussing the mutual relations of our two countries, Rõivas said that what is happening in Ukraine right now is a good reminder for us about how important close, similar-minded friends are in international relations – like Finland has been for Estonia.
\"The relationships between Finland and Estonia continue to be strong – our economies are interwoven, and we have good cooperation on regional, EU and global levels,\" he said, citing the development of cross-border e-services and defence cooperation as examples.
Finland continues to be the most important economic partner for Estonia. In 2013, Finland was foremost in imports and second in exports in Estonia\'s foreign trade relations. Trading between the two countries grew by 5.2%. There was growth in both exports and imports.
Photos of the meeting are available at: http://valitsus.ee/et/uudised/pildialbum#2624-1
"Russia's military activities in Ukraine, changing the borders of countries, justifying the occupation of Crimea with a fake referendum and applying continued pressure on rebuilding Ukraine as a state – this is how Russia itself is complicating its co-operation with Europe and the USA," stated President Toomas Hendrik Ilves at his meeting last night with John McCain and John Hoeven, influential senators from the United States of America.
The President, Toomas Hendrik Ilves, has joined the Salute Them charity campaign, which was launched today, by purchasing liver leaf badges for himself and his family from members of the Women's Home Defence to support the veterans of the Defence Forces and the Defence league and their next of kin.
Today, a week-long NATO Joint Force Command Brunssum-hosted conference, Baltic Spring, concluded. The conference focussed on regional security in the Baltic Sea area and took place in Tartu, Estonia.According to Commander JFC Brunssum, General Hans-Lothar Domröse, it´s important that his headquarters acts as a hub for bringing together all the Northern region headquarters to make necessary adjustments to existing threat assessments, especially in the wake of recent events in Europe.
“We have established a very good personal relationship to assess the situation together and form a common view on this. While the conference is regular in its nature, recent events do have an impact on our work,” General Domröse stressed.
“Our threat perception has changed and we have to evaluate whether current counter-measures are sufficient. Our job here is to formulate recommendations that can be passed to SHAPE and representatives of NATO member nations so that future capability decisions are the result of informed consideration,” Deputy Chief of Staff for Plans JFC Brunssum, Major General Hans van Griensven, added.
Baltic Spring is an annual conference that offers a venue for NATO commands, including SHAPE, Maritime, Air, Land, Special Forces command, STRIKEFORNATO, U.S. European Command (EUCOM) and Armed Forces´ representatives from Poland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway and the Partner Nations Finland and Sweden, to discuss regional security issues, exchange views and raise situational awareness. The conference also aims at fostering interoperability between NATO and Baltic nations and provides a platform for sustained, long-term, and enduring NATO commitment to the Baltic region.
“The event is part of our regional focus, but it´s important to recognise that we are already doing several activities in the region, such as the JFC Brunssum certification exercise Steadfast Jazz last year, using an Article V scenario. That´s already an assurance that we are taking things seriously,” ACOS J5 at JFC Brunssum, Brigadier General Torgeir Gråtrud, commented.
During the academic session the attendees received overviews on Baltic history and NATO relations with the UN, Russia and the pretext Russian Federation used in the Crimea intervention. Dr. Brooke Windsor-Smith, a researcher at NATO Defence College, highlighted that President Putin´s recent actions are making collective defence more relevant to the Alliance than it has been in recent years. “It is very likely that collective defence will now become the main narrative of the upcoming NATO summit to be held in Wales,” he added.
“For the past ten years the focus of NATO has been abroad - the reason being that there was no significant nearby threat perceived so the Alliance adopted a more expeditionary outlook. Because of recent events in Crimea and the Ukraine we have to consider the Article V threat as a real possibility again,” Major General van Griensven added when talking about the Alliance´s future challenges.
This year Baltic Spring was organised for the fourth time. In the autumn, the respective commands and headquarters meet at the staff officer level to discuss the detailed issues of military cooperation.
The exercise Yellow Knight, which started in Denmark last week, centres on the activities in Tallinn between the Estonian Defence Forces 1. Infantry Brigade and the Danish Division as well as the cooperation with Estonian civil structures.“We are currently used to planning operations and following through with them primarily in Afghanistan, where national infrastructure and the status of the authorities is significantly different from the NATO member nation,” said the Commander of the Danish Division, Major General Michael A. Lollesgaard, into whose division along with his two Danish brigades are included according to NATO structure, infantries from Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. “As for Estonia we are dealing with a developed nation, which has a strong infrastructure and where the battleground does not belong to the military but rather to the government of the nation.”
The Estonian authorities participating in the exercise are tasked to create a situation for the Danish Division and Baltic Infantry Brigade staff, related to domestic concerns where a fictitious nation Bothnia has invaded Estonia´s capital Tallinn and part of Pärnu. Consequently NATO Article V has been activated.
Participating in the command post exercise along with the 1. Infantry Brigade staff are Estonian representatives from the Ministry of Defence, Ministry of Interior, Police and Border Guard Board, Rescue board as well as from the city government of Tallinn. From the Danish side representatives of the International Red Cross, Rescue Board, Water authority, Police as well as members of the local Defence League take part.
1. Infantry Brigade has been associated with the Danish Division since August 2009. The association is based on cooperation during exercises resulting in the ability of national staff and units to participate in joint operations.
President of the Republic's Cultural Foundation announces the Young Cultural Figure Award competition with a prize of 5,000 euro.