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Remarks by Jüri Luik on the signing of a Free Trade Agreement with the European Union

18. July 1994 - 8:43

Mr. Jüri Luik, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Estonia
18 July 1994, Brussels

Ladies and Gentlemen,
Dear Colleagues,

The Europe of today is a continent of great changes. The agreements we are about to sign now clearly demonstrate this fact.

After we regained our independence in 1991, all three Baltic states placed the restoration of our positions as European countries, in every sense of the word, at the top of our foreign policy agenda. These agreements are a strong step forward in this process.

The road to these agreements has not always been smooth. Countless meetings and discussions were held parallel to the formal and official negotiations in order to elaborate positions and dissipate threats from both sides in the area of trade liberalization.. The fact that those discussions were successful is demonstrated by the content of our new agreement. We are fully convinced that our agreement is advanced in all modern understandings of trade liberalization. We believe it to be mutually beneficial as well.

On the one hand, the agreement is important for Estonia in terms of economic development. In broad terms, it promotes the further development of our young private sector and, in fact, attests to the progress we have already made in instituting a liberal trade regime. I would highlight the fact that our Free Trade Agreement will come into force next January, without a transition period for industrial products. In specific terms, the concessions we have been given in the agricultural sector are not quite as favorable as we expected, but we hope that a flexible mechanism for determining trade conditions between the concerned sides will provide the opportunity to correct these concessions step by step, in the spirit of further liberalization and reciprocity. We are, in any case, satisfied with the concessions we have been given in fisheries products. All in all, I would stay that in human terms, the Agreement we are about to sign is a source of great hope and pride among my people.

This agreement, however, does not only strengthen economic, but also political ties with the European Union on a broad range of topics and in several fora. In graphic terms, the agreement will enhance implementation of a principle we hold dear, that regarding the free movement of people, capital, goods and services.

Estonia welcomes European Commission`s proposal to hold initial talks on concluding Europe Agreement already by the end of this month. We promise to do everything in our capacity to prepare the Association agreement without delay and, considering the fact that the most difficult problems of the Association Agreement have already been resolved by our Free Trade Agreement, hope that the new agreement will be ready for the signing for the end of this year.

We hope that the Free Trade Agreements between the Baltic states and the European Union will also promote further cooperation among Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Association with the European Union is extremely important for Estonia. It is a means to achieve one of my country's primary foreign policy goals, which is to become fully integrated into the New Europe. The logical conclusion of this process would be eventual full membership in the European Union.

We are confident that Association opens new dimensions for accelerating my country's path to full membership. Looking at our present situation and success we have had in transition to a free market economy, we hope to be able to fulfill all European Union requirements for membership by the year 2000.

For Estonia, the essence of integration into Europe means sharing the values held dear by other European states. We believe the European Union has already recognized our progress in asserting shared values when, at Corfu, your leaders attached importance, and I quote, "to the efforts made by the Baltic states to develop legal and regulatory frameworks which conform with inter alia the recommendations of the CSCE High Commissioner and of the Council of Europe" (end of quote).

But integration into Europe is also an integral component of our security policy. Any other strategy would leave our future less clear. We saw an example of what could happen recently during the G-7 meeting in Naples, during which Russian President Boris Yeltsin statement that Russia's troops would not be withdrawn from Estonian territory by 31 August, 1994. Together with the United States and European states, Estonia's diplomatic efforts at resolving this problem have been intense. We appreciate the strong statement of support regarding troop withdrawals made by European Union member states at the recent summit in Corfu. I would add here that Estonia has no other demands on Russia other than that the troops go home unconditionally by the end of August. This withdrawal would create the conditions necessary to normalize relations between our two states. Normalization of relations with the Russian Federation is essential to our security, and we are convinced normalization is also in Russia's interest.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

On behalf of the Government of Estonia I would like to reiterate the significance we place on the Agreement on Free Trade in terms of helping Estonia integrate quickly into the European Union. Estonia is eager to join forces with other European states toward building the New Europe through dialogue and in an atmosphere of mutual understanding and strengthened cooperation.

Thank you.

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