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Country Reports
ESTONIA, Landmine Monitor Report 1999


Mine Ban Policy

Estonia has not signed the Mine Ban Treaty, even though it was one of the first governments to publicly support a comprehensive ban on antipersonnel mines, which it did during the preparatory sessions for the negotiations on the Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW) in 1994. Estonia also voted in favor of the pro-ban UN General Assembly resolutions in 1996, 1997 and 1998. It participated in the Ottawa process diplomatic meetings, but did not endorse the pro-treaty Brussels Declaration in June 1997, and came to the Oslo negotiations only as an observer.

Despite its support for an AP mine ban in principle, according to Erik Männik of the Estonian Ministry of Defense the government is reluctant to sign the Mine Ban Treaty. Estonia believes that Conference on Disarmament can offer global, efficient, verifiable and legally binding prohibitions or restrictions on antipersonnel mines. Estonia is not a member of the CD. Estonia has yet to sign the CCW and its Protocol II regulating mines, but officials have indicated it will sign and ratify the CCW in the near future.[1]

Tiit Aleksejev of the Foreign Ministry has similarly outlined the Estonian government position on the landmine issue: Estonia condemns the indiscriminate use of antipersonnel landmines and supports an effective ban on antipersonnel landmines, but is of the opinion that the CD provides the best mechanism for dealing with these issues. The CD counts all key countries as its members and also provides for the possibility of active participation by non-members. The prohibition of landmines will be effective only when all states engaged in their production, storage, use and transfer are included in the preparation and implementation of the respective international measures.[2]

Estonia also believes that it must have alternatives to antipersonnel mines before it agrees to a ban, and discussions with foreign and defense policy experts have been held on searching for possible alternatives to antipersonnel landmines.

The reluctance on the part of Estonia (and other Baltic states) to fully join the Ottawa process stems in large part from its occupation by the former Soviet Union, and continued concern about Russian aggression. The military has argued that antipersonnel mines can be an inexpensive and efficient tool to slow down a massive land invasion and to protect strategic targets, and that no affordable alternatives exist.[3]

Production, Transfer, Stockpiling, Use

The government states that it does not use antipersonnel mines, except for training purposes.[4] It also states that it has never produced or exported antipersonnel mines.[5] The Estonian Foreign Ministry acknowledges that Estonia possesses antipersonnel mines, but maintains that they are limited in number--not exceeding that allowed for training purposes under the Mine Ban Treaty.[6]

The following legal acts regulate the use, production, storage, transfer and destruction of antipersonnel landmines in the Republic of Estonia:

1) Strategic Goods Export and Transit Act (signed in 1994);

2) Government of the Republic Regulation on Procedure for Export and Transit of Strategic Goods;

3) Weapons Act;

4) Minister of Defense Regulation on Import and Export of Weapons and Munitions in the Area of Government of the Ministry of Defense;

5) Minister of Defense Regulation on Procedure for Procurement, Storage, Conveyance and Carrying of Weapons and Munitions in the Area of Government of the Ministry of Defense; and

6) Customs Act.[7]

Landmine Problem

There are unpopulated islands in the Finnish gulf which were mined during WWII. They present only a minor danger, because still nobody lives on the islands, and they are protected from visitors. These islands are the only mined areas in Estonia.

Mine Action

The government has indicated that it will contribute to the UN Voluntary Trust Fund for Assistance in Mine Clearance in 1999, and that it willing to contribute one platoon-sized unit of deminers (18 men) for mine clearance in mine affected countries. There is also a demining group under the Ministry of Interior. The U.S., UK, and Sweden have provided training assistance.

There are sergeants and officers in the Estonian Defense Forces who have passed special courses of demining and who have practical experience in the field of mine clearance. Estonian officers serving on the SFOR mission have successfully participated in demining in Bosnia. The government’s preferred framework for this assistance and cooperation would be the U.S. Demining 2010 Initiative.[8]


[1]Telephone interview with Erik Mannik, Estonian Ministry of Defense, 27 January 1999. Fax memorandum from Mannik, March 1999.

[2]Interview with Tiit Aleksejev, Estonian Foreign Ministry, Tallinn, 29 January 1999; E-mail message dated 10 February 1999.

[3] Interview with Mr. Krivas, Lithuanian Ministry of Defense, Vilnius, 22 January 1999; telephone interview with Mr. Mannik, Estonian Ministry of Defense, 27 January 1999; interview with Mr. Aizporietis, Latvian National Armed Forces, Riga, 15 December 1998.

[4]Interview with Erik Mannik, 11 March 1999.

[5]Interview with Tiit Aleksejev, 29 January 1999; fax message from Erik Mannik, 11 March 1999.


[7]Interview with Tiit Aleksejev, 29 January 1999.

[8]Interview with Tiit Aleksejev, 29 January 1999; E-mail message, 10 February 1999.