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Estonia leaves Baltic minesweeping squadron

BC, Tallinn, 09.01.2015.Print version

The Estonian government supported on Thursday Estonia's unilateral exit from the Baltic states joint mine countermeasures squadron Baltron agreement because it considers it more effective to contribute more to NATO's northern group mine countermeasures squadron, LETA/Public Broadcasting reports.


Estonia intends to continue in other cooperation formats of Baltron, except for the mine countermeasures squadron.


The cancellation of the agreement must be approved by the parliament.


Defence Minister Sven Mikser said that the Defence Ministry and Defence Forces decided already in spring, when NATO began to implement the new deterrence attitude in the Baltic Sea region, that our priority is to participate in NATO's joint mine countermeasures squadron.


"Since the NATO mine countermeasures squadron tasks included the Baltron functions, doing both would be duplication and hence the denunciation of the Baltron agreement," explained Mikser.


Estonia's great wish is that instead of having the Baltron squadrons with Latvia and Lithuania, where in the first half of this year, for example, there are only two ships, all Baltic States could contribute to NATO flag being in the Baltic Sea, said Estonian Navy's Commander Lieutenant Commander Jüri Saska.


Saska said that there was a real danger that this flag would not have happened at the Baltic Sea.


"If Estonia and other countries had not significantly increased their contributions in 2014, there was a very clear threat of closing the first mine countermeasures squadron, because countries did not contribute to this. That would have been the worst for us, what might have happened because as a wartime function, the NATO mine countermeasures squadron


has a function while BALTRON unfortunately does not," said Saska.


Latvia and Lithuania, however, at least initially intend to continue with BALTRON and Estonia will withdraw only from participation in the sea squadron.


"Baltron cooperative format is much broader than just mine countermeasures squadron in Baltron. There is the diving school in Latvia, weapons workshop in Lithuania and communication school in Estonia. We also teach mid-level officers courses in Latvia. We plan to continue all that," said Saska.


Estonia has promised to contribute to NATO mine countermeasures squadron with one ship every year for 4-6 months. In the second half of this year, mine hunter Sakala participates in the operations; Admiral Cowan is in readiness.

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