Advocacy

Advocacy Opportunities in April and May

The Estonian American National Council (EANC) and Joint Baltic American National Committee (JBANC) have several new initiatives in Congress this Spring and would welcome the help of our readers throughout the U.S. in making contact with Members of Congress (MoCs).

The Senate recently introduced a resolution congratulating the Baltic nations on their centennial celebrations this year.  On March 12, Senators Ron Johnson (R-WI) and Christopher Murphy (D-CT) introduced S.Res.432, which currently has 16 bipartisan cosponsors and will likely go to the floor for a vote in early April after the Easter recess.  The resolution’s status is available at www.congress.gov under resolution number S.Res.432 for the 115th Congress.  Please check the list of cosponsors and call your Senator if you don’t see his or her name.  EANC recommends asking your Senators to cosponsor the resolution and/or vote yes when the time comes.  The House will likely introduce a companion resolution in April; EANC will provide updates once more information is available. Baltic day Esto flyer

 

There will be a major Baltic advocacy event on May 3rd, organized by the American Latvian Association and supported by EANC and JBANC.  The event will consist of a morning briefing and training session for new advocates followed by constituent meetings with MoCs.  The afternoon will end with expert panel discussions on topics relevant to Baltic security, including disinformation and U.S. sanctions against Russia.  No experience is necessary – all information and training will be provided at the start of the event.  Please contact karinshueyeanc@gmail.com by April 13th if you’d like to attend.

Finally, Estonian Americans are always invited to ask their MoCs to join the House Baltic Caucus (HBC) and the Senate Baltic Freedom Caucus (SBFC).  By joining the Baltic caucuses, MoCs show their support for advancing Baltic freedoms, maintaining robust relationships with the Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian governments, and promoting healthy democracies and economies in the region.  They prioritize issues important to the Baltic nations, such as maintaining a strong NATO presence there, combating Russian aggression and disinformation, and protecting the sovereignty of and human rights in all independent states.  Membership lists for both caucuses are maintained at www.jbanc.org/house-baltic-caucus.  If your MoCs aren’t listed, please consider calling their offices.

EANC will continue to facilitate grassroots advocacy and provide information for our constituents to make effective, educated contact with their MoCs.  Please follow this space to stay up-to-date on the latest news from DC and subscribe to the EANC blog at eancdc.wordpress.com by clicking the page’s Follow button.  We appreciate your support.

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Advocacy

Estonian Ministers Visit Washington

Estonian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sven Mikser and Minister of Defense Jüri Luik were in Washington last week for meetings with their U.S. counterparts.

Rex Tillerson,Edgars Rinkevics,Linas Antanas Linkevicius,Sven Mikser

From left, Estonian Foreign Minister Sven Mikser, Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, and Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Antanas Linkevicius at the State Department. (AP Photo)

Minister Mikser made a joint visit to the State Department with his Latvian and Lithuanian counterparts on March 5th.  They held a productive meeting with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, where all agreed on the need to address with deeper cooperation the Kremlin’s malicious disinformation and cyber campaigns against the West.  Strategies to combat Russia’s threat to broader European security and Putin’s lack of respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of neighboring nations were other important topics on their agenda.  They also discussed preparations for the Baltic summit President Trump will host in April and the July NATO summit in Brussels.  According to ERR News on March 6th, Minister Mikser highlighted the importance of  the U.S. as an ally in the Baltics, the need to strengthen the allied deterrent in the region, and hopes for progress on trade and stronger regional security as goals for the Baltic summit on April 3rd.

Minister Luik met with U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis on March 7th, where NATO, Russia, and cybersecurity were again main points of discussion.  Mattis’ appreciation for Estonia’s decision to support a larger NATO contingent in Afghanistan and Luik’s gratitude for continued European Deterrence Initiative funding were also emphasized.  More complete coverage of the meeting is available at ERR News for March 8th.

Luik and Mattis

Minister Luik (IRL) and Secretary Mattis in Washington. (Source: Estonian Ministry of Defence)

Minister Luik held a discussion at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a DC think tank, the following day, where he shared several insights.  He noted that there has been a mental change among NATO member nations since the 2014 and 2016 NATO summits that has led to increased defense spending among allies who had traditionally avoided it.  Estonia enjoys political consensus on its defense budget, which largely goes toward developing its self-defense capabilities and host nation support infrastructure to accommodate allied troops deployed to Estonian bases.  He observed that training in Estonia has added value to visiting British, Danish and French forces’ readiness.  Estonia offers unique forested military training grounds not found in other western European nations and that French troops have affectionately dubbed “the cold jungle.”   Minister Luik’s recommendations for improving NATO’s effectiveness in the event of conflict included better facilitating the movement of allied troops across borders, streamlining NATO’s command structure and decision-making process, strengthening nations’ political will to act if necessary, and better communication to the European public on the allies’ commitment to act as one.

EANC expects more developments on these topics as the U.S.-Baltic and NATO summits approach in the coming months.  Please follow this space for updates as U.S.-Estonian cooperation evolves.

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Advocacy

EANC on the Road

Estonian American National Council’s Washington, DC Director Karin Shuey had the honor of addressing the Los Angeles Estonian community for their Eesti Vabariik 100 celebration on February 24th.  Their festive program at the Los Angeles Estonian House included greetings from the Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and consul generals and honorary consuls resident in Los Angeles, along with songs and poems performed by the local mixed chorus and Sunday school students.  It also featured the unveiling of a plaque from the Estonian government that recognized the community for its successful execution of the XXXIII West Coast Estonian Days last summer as one of the first official EV100 events in the U.S.

After congratulating the community and reviewing some history of Estonians in Southern California, Ms. Shuey’s remarks focused on EANC’s mission, the issues tracked in Washington, and how the local community could help with Baltic advocacy.  She made an important pitch for supporting Vaba Eesti Sõna, the most enduring source of news for Estonian Americans that is facing financial difficulty. She encouraged all our readers to subscribe to either the online or print version.

LA photo w book

 EANC’s Washington, DC Director Karin Shuey addressing the Los Angeles community and sharing Estonians in America history book.

Another important priority covered by Ms. Shuey’s remarks was elections to the EANC council.  Estonian Americans throughout the U.S. are invited to run for one of fifty seats in the council membership.  EANC’s mission includes supporting Estonian American organizations that preserve and promote Estonian heritage, language and culture; and working to raise awareness of, and support for, Estonia among all Americans, and in Congress and the Administration.  Newer goals include bringing all the communities and demographics that we represent together through a new website and social media, and appealing to a broader audience with more information on topics Estonian Americans are interested in.  For anyone eager to participate in EANC’s evolving mission, the deadline to submit applications is March 31st.  More information is available at www.estosite.org.

The issues emphasized on EANC’s Washington radar include ending Russia’s occupation of Ukraine and Crimea; continued U.S. support for NATO’s presence in the Baltics and Poland; upholding democratic values and institutions in Europe; implementing the sanctions that the Administration has signed into law that punish Russia for attacking democracy in Europe and the U.S.; and enacting programs that combat Russia’s disinformation campaigns here and in Europe.  All of these issues have active legislation in the works and are items that EANC brings up when visiting members of Congress and their staff, often in conjunction with our Joint Baltic American National Committee and Central and East European Coalition colleagues.

Plaque

Plaque from the Estonian government to the LA Estonian Society for successfully hosting the XXXIII West Coast Estonian Days as an EV 100 event.

Ms. Shuey also highlighted several local Representatives who are members of the House Baltic Caucus and others whose membership would be welcomed.  Just based on Members of Congress who have announced their retirements so far, the House Baltic Caucus stands to lose 10% of its membership at the end of this session.  That number could go up depending on the results of the midterm elections in November.  The HBC membership list is at housebalticcaucus.webs.com/members.  Ms. Shuey encouraged the audience to check for their Representative’s name, and if not listed, to make a call to ask that they join.

Ms. Shuey’s trip to California was the latest evidence of EANC’s efforts to give more communities first-hand information about EANC’s activities.  Over the last two years, EANC has held its annual meeting and public seminars and dinners in San Francisco and St. Petersburg, Florida.  Ms. Shuey traveled to Seattle for that community’s Independence Day program last year, and her next trip will be to Cleveland in June for their Victory Day and Midsummer commemoration.  She will be joined by EANC President Marju Rink-Abel in early June at Stanford University for a panel discussion at the Association for the Advancement of Baltic Studies Conference on the 100th Anniversary of Baltic Independence.

EANC values its relationships with Estonian communities throughout the U.S. and welcomes opportunities to bring its message to them.  If anyone would like a representative to come to an event in  their city to share more information and engage with community members on a more personal level, please see the EANC website at www.estosite.org for contact information.

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