Estonia. The war between the Russian Federation and Ukraine cast its shadow over Estonia during the year.
Otherwise, relations with the Kremlin started off well when Estonia’s foreign minister visited Moscow in February and, with his Russian colleague, signed the countries for a long time on the border agreement. A response visit was also planned by the Russian Foreign Minister, the first of its kind since Estonia’s independence.
But with the Russian annexation of the Crimean Peninsula in Ukraine, relations hardened, and the border agreement was not ratified. Estonia’s eastern border was the focus of NATO and the EU, and political analysts speculated in Russian plans for actions also against Estonia. Moscow described the annexation of Crimea as a protection for the local Russians, and the Narva area at the Russian border, like Crimea, has a majority of Russian-speaking residents. Therefore, Tallinn was worried about Russian statements that the language is used for segregation and isolation “in Estonia as well as in Ukraine”.
According to Countryaah.com, Estonia population in 2020 is estimated at 1,326,546. The Estonian Foreign Minister invited his colleagues from a number of NATO and EU countries to a meeting in Narva in March, where they jointly campaigned against Moscow, condemned the attack on Ukraine and demanded Russian withdrawal.
After ten years in vain as a NATO member of Estonia, Estonia pledged to obtain military NATO presence in its territory, the country was listened to during the Ukraine crisis. In April, the United States sent 150 NATO troops to Estonia for Estonian squad exercises. In May, four Danish NATO fighter planes were stationed in Estonia to monitor the country’s airspace, previously guarded by NATO planes from a base in Lithuania.
During the security policy crisis, the government crisis also erupted. Prime Minister Andrus Ansip of the Liberal Reform Party submitted his resignation in March, after he and EU Commissioner Siim Kallas agreed to change jobs with each other. Kallas decided to negotiate with the Social Democrats on a new coalition government, but the exchange of power upset the Liberal Reform Party’s coalition partner, the right-wing Alliance IRL, which was set aside. The IRL was assumed to be behind leaks to the press with troublesome information about Kalla’s time as governor of the Riksbank in the 1990s. After hard media exposure, Kallas chose to withdraw his candidacy as party leader and head of government.
The reform party elected 34-year-old relatively inexperienced social minister Taavi Rõivas as new leader and government leader. Social Democrats party leader Sven Mikser, 40, became a new Defense Minister, and his party-mate the Russian-speaking Narva politician Jevgeni Ossinovski, 28, was appointed Minister of Education.
EU sanctions against Moscow due to the Ukraine crisis were followed by Russian countermeasures that slowed Estonia’s important exports eastward. For the first time since 2010, Estonia’s economy went down as the first quarter of the year showed a decline in GDP. However, the second quarter saw growth of a few percent.
When US President Barack Obama traveled to the NATO summit on the Ukraine crisis in September, he made his way across Estonia and met President Toomas Hendrik Ilves and his colleagues from Latvia and Lithuania. The visit was intended as a declaration of US and NATO support for the Baltic in the shadow of threats from the Russian Federation. According to Obama, NATO is a guarantee that Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania will never lose their independence. For NATO, Tallinn, Riga and Vilnius are just as important to defend as Berlin, Paris and London, Obama explained.
In Narva, Russian-speaking residents lamented Obama’s visit. They voiced support for the Russian Federation, saying that Obama “quarreled” with Moscow and that relations would therefore deteriorate. From the Kremlin, it was stated that the increased presence of the US and NATO in Estonia showed intent to deteriorate relations with Moscow.
At the NATO summit in Wales, Estonia did not fulfill its desire for a permanent NATO base, but arms stockpiles and equipment in the Baltic States and a new force of intervention that must be deployed quickly where a crisis arises. Among other things, Denmark promised to send soldiers to the Baltics. Prime Minister Taavi Rõiva called the NATO meeting the most successful for Estonia since joining the alliance in 2004.
On the same day as the NATO meeting ended, an Estonian security police at the Russian border was arrested by the FSB security service. According to Estonia, he was forced under arms threat from Estonian territory, but Moscow claimed that he was taken on Russian soil. The agent was taken to Moscow and arrested on charges of espionage, and political analysts saw the incident as a Russian reaction to Obama’s and NATO’s support for Estonia.
Finance Minister Jürgen Ligi of the Reform Party resigned in October after calling Facebook Education Minister Jevgeni Ossinovski (S) rootless, a reference to Ossinovski’s ethnic Russian origin. The prime minister wanted to keep Ligi in government, but the Social Democrats forced the resignation. Former Swedbank analyst Maris Lauri was named Estonia’s first female finance minister.
In November, Foreign Minister Urmas Paet resigned to take a vacant seat in the European Parliament. Former Minister of the Environment, Keit Pentus-Rosimannus, was appointed new Foreign Minister.
Estonia was hit during the year by its first school shooting when a 15-year-old student shot to death one of his teachers during a lesson in Viljandi in southern Estonia.
Estonia is the country in the EU that receives the least number of asylum seekers and that gives the lowest number of people to asylum. When the figures for 2013 were presented, it turned out that only ten people were granted asylum in Estonia, compared to over 26,000 in Sweden.