The Government of the Republic approved the defence cooperation agreement with the United States, which will begin regulating the legal status of members of the U.S. armed forces, their family members and contractors in Estonia.
Minister of Defence Margus Tsahkna stated that the conclusion of a bilateral agreement was necessary due to the long-term nature of the defence cooperation.
"The defence cooperation agreement between Estonia and the United States supports the presence of U.S. units in Estonia and strengthens our security. This is a tangible step towards deepening cooperation with our strategic partner, the United States. The United States has concluded similar agreements with several other European countries, including Germany, Holland, Spain and Poland. Estonia has also concluded bilateral agreements in order to ensure the rights of its servicemen and women and the state,” said the Minister of Defence.
The concluded agreement would regulate the status of U.S. armed forces, their dependants, and contractors stationed in Estonia, while also simplifying their activities here and increasing well-being by providing certain agreement based benefits. The agreement will not limit Estonia’s exclusive right to grant permission for the entry of members of the U.S. armed forces, military aircraft, and military vessels into Estonia.
The need for more precise regulation of the presence of Allies arose in connection with the increased presence of U.S. armed forces in Estonia, with the United States proposing in August 2016 that a defence cooperation agreement be concluded.
The Defence Cooperation Agreement (DCA) complements the already existing agreement on the status of armed forces between NATO member states (NATO SOFA), and replaces the agreement on the use of land plots and structures belonging to the Defence Forces of Estonia, which was concluded with the United States in 2015.
Estonia has previously concluded bilateral armed forces status agreements with, for example, Kuwait and Germany.
The Defence Cooperation Agreement with the United States will be signed by the Minister of Defence in the near future, after which it will be submitted to the Riigikogu for ratification.