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Foreign Minister Urmas Paet: Sweden and Finland are NATO’s Closest Allies

14.01.2013

No 10-E

Speaking at the biggest security conference in Sweden taking place in Sälen today, Foreign Minister Urmas Paet said that Sweden and Finland’s extremely close co-operation with NATO is very positive. “One could even say that Sweden and Finland are de facto members of NATO. However, actual membership still means something more,” he said. “Taking into consideration the increasingly close co-operation within the European Union, Estonia would be happy to see a Nordic and Baltic region that is as integrated and united as possible,” he added.

Paet said that the protection of NATO and its partners depends on not just the existence of regular military forces, but also the readiness and flexibility to address new threats. He added that it is essential to address cyber security and develop NATO’s ability to deal with cyber threats. “The NATO Collective Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence in Tallinn was created to meet this challenge – to work out new strategies to combat cyber threats and carry out necessary training,” noted the Estonian foreign minister. “Everything that we do in cyberspace has real consequences in the real world. The widespread use of e-solutions in both Estonia and Sweden, as well as other Nordic countries, makes us more vulnerable in that sense.”

In addition to cyber security, Paet stated that another challenge for NATO and its partners is declining defence spending, while at the same time some third countries are actually increasing their defence expenditure. “Decreasing defence spending is not sustainable and could lead us to new crises that are even more difficult,” he noted. “Every country must fulfil the obligations it has accepted and Europe cannot become a so-called consumer of security,” he added.

Foreign Minister Paet emphasised that Estonia is contributing 2% of its GDP to defence spending for the second year in a row. “The 2% criterion was determined by NATO in order to ensure the capability of the alliance,” Paet said.

In talking about Afghanistan, Paet noted that the mission in which both Estonia and Sweden are participating has made our own countries much safer. “The Afghanistan mission has confirmed that NATO plays a vital role in backing international security and that allies are capable of working together on a wide-ranging foreign mission,” he said.

During his speech Paet also mentioned that from the viewpoint of the Nordic and Baltic region, the decision made at the NATO summit in Chicago last year regarding Baltic air policing was very positive. “Sweden also benefits when Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania are better protected. And Sweden's participation in regular air policing exercises in Baltic region strengthens its ties to the alliance even more,” he said.

The security conference in Sälen is also being attended by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, Swedish Minister of Defence Karin Enström,  EU Commissioner Cecilia Malmström, and Swedish Minister of European Union Affairs Birgitta Ohlsson. The security conference is taking place in Sälen for the 20th time. Paet has a meeting scheduled in Sälen with Swedish Minister of Defence Karin Enström.

Photos: http://tinyurl.com/bh3ush9

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