January 15, 2020

New Study: The Impact and Image of Estonia’s Foreign Policy in the European Union

AFP / Petras Malukas

According to a recent study “The Impact and Image of Estonia’s Foreign Policy in the European Union”, Estonia is highly valued by other EU Member States as a partner who not only pursues its own interests while striving for solutions but also considers the views of the other 27 countries. The study was conducted by the Estonian Foreign Policy Institute at the ICDS together with the European Council on Foreign Relations.

“Despite limited resources, Estonia has a strong image and impact in the European Union. Estonia has influenced the European Union’s policy towards Russia, the Eastern Partnership and defence cooperation. Estonia stands out particularly in the development of digital society and cyber security,” concludes Kristi Raik, Director of the Estonian Foreign Policy Institute at the ICDS and one of the authors of the study. “Estonia is the connecting link in the cooperation of the Baltic states and the Nordic countries. Often diplomats and officials from other countries turn to Estonia if they wish to involve the Baltic states and their common position,” she said.

Raik noted, however, that the study also showed some concerns. “Estonia’s strong image so far is overshadowed by domestic political turbulences and conflicting signals from the government,” she said.

In the conclusion of the research project, the authors highlight both general policy recommendations and, more specifically, proposals in the fields of security and defence policy, the Eastern Partnership, the Southern neighbourhood and development cooperation. Among other things, they recommend paying special attention to strengthening ties with France and Germany, investing more in Russia-related know-how, continuing to actively support the Eastern partners and articulating Estonia’s development cooperation goals and action plan.

The research project “The Impact and Image of Estonia’s Foreign Policy in the European Union” was based on a similar study by the European Council on Foreign Relations, which placed Estonia 12th in the ranking of 28 EU Member States in terms of influence. Finland was ranked 11th, Lithuania 21st and Latvia 22nd. This material was supplemented by 52 anonymous interviews conducted during July-November 2019, of which 24 were conducted with Estonian diplomats and officials, 18 with EU Member State diplomats and 10 with officials of EU institutions.

The authors of the research project – Kristi Raik, Director of the Estonian Foreign Policy Institute at the ICDS; Josef Janning, former head of the Berlin office of the European Council on Foreign Relations; Piret Kuusik, Junior Research Fellow at the Estonian Foreign Policy Institute at the ICDS, and ICDS Researchers Rein Oidekivi and Kalev Stoicescu – will present their findings today, 15 January  2020 at the ICDS in Tallinn.

The research project was commissioned by the Strategy Unit of the Government Office of Estonia and funded by the Operational Programme for Cohesion Policy Funds, 2014-2020, priority axis 12 “Administrative capacity”, action 12.2 “Development of quality of policy-making”. The initiator and partner of the project was the Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

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