Ukraine's step closer to the Baltic-Black Sea Cooperation

Author : Mykola Siruk

Source : 112 Ukraine

Taking into consideration what is happening in the EU, Brexit, and growth of populist sentiment, I think this is a high time for developing more local unions - Chairman of Ukrainian Congress in Estonia Vira Konyk
17:59, 25 January 2017

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Mykola Lazarenko/POOL

President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko made an official one-day visit to Estonia, during which he held talks with the top leadership of the country and met with the Ukrainian community. Ukrainian leader secured the support of Tallinn concerning preservation of EU sanctions against Russia and abolition of EU visas for Ukrainians.

In particular, at a joint press conference Estonian President Kirsty Kaljulaid stated that the restrictive measures on Russia could be canceled only if Russia adheres to the basic principles of international law and fulfill Minsk agreements. She also expressed confidence that the US change of leadership should not lead to a change in this policy, as "international policies does not change because of the elections." President of Ukraine thanked Estonia for such a strong position.

Related: Ukraine, Estonia agree to intensify economic cooperation

According to him, in a situation when Ukraine is the object of Russian aggression, there is a sharp need in global, European and transatlantic solidarity in order to liberate Ukrainian territory, make Russia take back its troops, and bring back the power over the uncontrolled areas to Kyiv.

Estonian Prime Minister Jüri Ratas also emphasized the importance of peaceful settlement of the conflict in eastern Ukraine. According to him, Estonia will do its best during the EU Presidency in the next six months.

"Ukraine is and remains an important Estonian partner, the fate and well-being of which for us are essential; that is why we are making a maximum contribution to support Ukraine in defense and economic sectors, facilitate Ukrainian reforms, assist the country in getting a visa-free regime with the European Union," Ratas underlined.

Related: Baltic maneuvers: Why Russia militarizes Kaliningrad?

Chairman of Ukrainian Congress in Estonia Vira Konyk comment on the significance of the visit and told why this Baltic country has so rapidly integrated into the EU and NATO, and became a leader in e-government.

"The most important success factor in Estonia became replacement of the Soviet nomenklatura"

This visit is quite significant. Firstly, the Estonian president is in the office only for a few months, and Ukrainian President was one of the first officials invited to Tallinn. Thus Estonia shows its attitude and his for Ukraine. This is quite important.

Secondly, in the second half of 2017, Estonia will chair the European Union. This was noted by both presidents when discussing the prospects of bilateral cooperation. They expressed hope that during the EU presidency, Estonia will have more authority and more opportunities to do something for Ukraine.

Related: The Baltic Times: Decision of NATO Warsaw Summit sends strong signal to Russia

Thirdly, Estonia has changed its government. After impeachment to previous Prime Minister, who represented the Reform Party, a centrist party got the power, which long ago was in the opposition because it has signed a cooperation agreement with Putin's party "United Russia," and no political force would cooperate with it. Now the leader of the centrist party became Jüri Ratas, who on the eve of Poroshenko’s visit assured that Estonia will continue to support Ukraine.

Summing up the meeting with Estonian President Ukrainian leadership, we can say that this is a demonstration of support for Ukraine. Moreover, I had the impression that despite the global changes taking place in the world (American unpredictable president, future elections in France, which can bring to power those who do not support Ukraine), Kyiv seeks reliable partners. For example, Baltic countries, including Estonia, at national and public levels, have always supported Ukraine.

Related: Reuters: Russia's Baltic outpost digs in for standoff with NATO

We can say that this visit may be the step forward in the Baltic-Black Sea cooperation. Taking into consideration what is happening in the EU, Brexit and the growth of populist sentiment, I think that this is a high time for developing more local unions. Therefore, Ukrainian President should seek contacts with Finland, which is also a possible alliance. This country, feeling threatened by Russia, is close to joining NATO. Therefore, it may be closer in its cooperation with Ukraine.

Why Estonia’s transformation was that quick, I mean joining the EU and NATO. All in all, Estonia become a leader in e-government too.

Estonians really wanted this. Of course, the situation in the 1990s was very difficult, there was a break in all relations, primarily economic. And young reformers came to power in this country, they replaced the entire Soviet nomenclature. In my opinion, the most important success factor was the replacement of the Estonian Soviet nomenklatura, which could transform to new realities.

A young team came to power then, and Mart Laar became Prime Minister, he was 32 years old. When I asked him how he managed to do it, he answered simply: "We wanted to move away from the Soviet Union. We really wanted to be independent. We wanted to join the EU and NATO, which were the only institutions that could defend Estonian independence."

Related: Estonian Prime Minister: Crimea is Ukraine

Another important point was that an oligarchic clan did not form in Estonia. In addition, Estonia did not suffer from the corruption that was present in the other republics during the Soviet period.

It was important that people heard the truth. However, the government was making real steps, explaining to people what is being done and why. However, in my opinion, the most important factor was the very strong support of the independence. Estonians wanted to be self-reliant, independent, and have their own state.

It should be noted that the first government took full responsibility and assumed all the discontent of the people, initially in the implementation of reforms will be worse. But two years later they laid the foundation for reform and then held new elections. Another government came to power, taking the shot, departed from the government. It was a wise policy.

Related: Russian military aircraft violated Estonian airspace

Estonia has been always proposing Ukraine to transfer the experience, which is invaluable. There is no need to invent a bicycle. Of course, Estonian experience cannot be mechanically transferred to Ukrainian realities, and it must somehow adapt. But I have the impression that Ukraine does not have enough specialists to conduct effective reforms.

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