Postimees web site, Tallinn, in Estonian
18 Nov 04

Newspaper questions consistency of Estonian foreign policy


Vacillating between idealistic and realistic strands is no good for
Estonian foreign policy, the Estonian newspaper Postimees has said,
adding that there should be greater coordination and clarity on this
front. The comments came in the wake of President Arnold Ruutel's
statement in Yerevan where he called on Turkey to apologize for the
1915 genocide in Armenia. The following is the text of the
newspaper's editorial published on its web site on 18 November:

The statement of President Arnold Ruutel in Armenia about the fact
that Turkey should apologize for the 1915 Armenian genocide is
evidence of eternal twitching between the Estonian idealistic and
realistic foreign policies.

Having suffered from a Soviet genocide as a small country, Estonia is
under a moral obligation to fight for human rights and against crimes
against humanity. Estonia is expecting that Russia should apologize
for its acts of violence. It is only natural that we should voice our
opinions on other issues as well, for example, on the Turkish
genocide of the Armenians in 1915.

However, this is where doubt creeps in. The Armenians think that 1.5m
people died as a result of the Turkish policy of genocide. Turkey
thinks that the number is perhaps up to 0.5m and there were dead on
both sides. It seems, however, that, in the eyes of the world, Turkey
is to blame.

But if we say so of Turkey, where is the Estonian position, for
example, on the occupation of Tibet or the independence of Taiwan?
Would Ruutel issue a statement in China to say that China needs to
end its occupation of Tibet? Once Estonia has accepted that
idealistic foreign policy is its aim we would have to go the whole
way.

The issue of Turkey, however, brings in the issue of realistic
foreign policy. Turkey has been one of the biggest supporters of
Estonia in NATO and Estonia has voiced support for the start of
accession talks between Turkey and the EU. Undoubtedly, Ruutel's
statement on the Armenian genocide will result in a negative reaction
from Turkey and our diplomats will have to explain what it was the
president wanted to say. Let us recall the statement from Justice
Minister Ken-Marti Vaher on the subject of the Kurds.

The problem is even broader, since the consensus over the
implementation of Estonian foreign policy that existed to a degree
quickly started to crumble once we joined the EU. Different
individuals say different things on foreign policy. The most recent
example was the public debate between Prime Minister Juhan Parts and
Foreign Minister Kristiina Ojuland as to when Estonia should be the
country holding EU presidency. It ended with the prime minister's
victory.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has refrained from statements on the
subject of the Armenian genocide. Now a presidential statement has
come. Arnold Ruutel has had his say on the Armenian genocide; it is
the diplomats' turn next. One would still like to hope that Estonia
should be more coordinated and unambiguous in pursuing its foreign
policy (whatever its content).