A delegation of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Riigikogu is on a weeklong working visit to the U.S. that will take them to Los Angeles and Washington, where the focus will be on topics related to transatlantic unity, among other things.
Meetings to take place during the visit will address topics including bilateral Estonian-U.S. cooperation, foreign trade policy, security and defence, and preparations for the upcoming NATO Summit, as well as transatlantic relations and relations with Russia and Iran, according to a Riigikogu press release.
Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Marko Mihkelson highlighted transatlantic unity as the focus of the visit, emphasising that the U.S. is an irreplaceable partner for Estonia in the field of security.
“The last thing we would want is to have our excellent defence cooperation overshadowed by the threatening trade war between the EU and U.S. over customs tariffs,” he added.
Regarding defence cooperation, Mihkelson explained that in addition to increasing troops on NATO’s eastern border, it is important to conduct joint exercises and rehearse cooperation. “Before the NATO Summit in July, we want to convince our allies of the need to turn the Baltic Air Policing mission into an air defence mission,” he said.
Working visit to begin in Los Angeles
The committee’s working visit to the U.S. will begin in Los Angeles on Friday, where the delegation is scheduled to attend meetings at the Culver City coworking space Phase Two, one of the city’s innovation centres.
Over the weekend, the Estonian MPs will meet with representatives of the local Estonian community at the Los Angeles Estonian House, as well as the Finnish consul and Lithuanian consul general. They will also visit the University of Southern California (USC), and tour the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library.
On Monday, the delegation will discuss foreign trade policy with President of the World Trade Center Los Angeles Stephen Cheung and Deputy Mayor of International Affairs, Ambassador Nina Hachigian.
The working visit will continue in Washington on Tuesday, where the Estonian MPs are scheduled to attend meetings in Congress and the Department of State.
“As emissaries of a parliamentary republic, we want to tighten our cooperation with Congress, which is why we have scheduled meetings with Chair of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee Europe Subcommittee Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) and Co-chair of the Helsinki Commission Sen. Roger F. Wicker (R-Miss.),” the Estonian committee chair noted.
Together with Sven Sakkov, director of the International Centre for Defence and Security (ICDS), Mihkelson will present the Report on Air Defence in the Baltic States to members of Congress.
The delegation, which also includes committee members Maire Aunaste (Pro Patria), Barbi Pilvre (SDE) and Henn Põlluaas (EKRE), will be in the U.S. through next Thursday.