In terms of structures, the main points of coordinating responses to external crises and conflicts are in the Government Office and include, among others, the EU Secretariat, the National Security and Defence Coordination Unit, and national ministries. While the processes of coordination can be both formal and informal, there are certain policies and policy cases in which a WGA can be seen in practice, notably development aid and Estonia’s policy towards Ukraine since 2013.
One of the most advanced and well-documented coordination fields is development aid. Estonia has defined a list of priority partner countries for bilateral development aid (specifically, these are Afghanistan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine) with the justification that these are “countries to which Estonia can offer added value based on its own experiences” (MFA n.d.: 5).
It should be noted that Estonia’s selection of priority partners in the field of development aid strongly reflects national security concerns. A focus on Eastern Europe aligns well with one of Estonia’s bilateral foreign policy priorities: the Eastern Partnership. Additionally, Estonia’s contributions in Afghanistan (in the fields of both security and development) have been an important way to enhance relations with key allies (e.g. the US, the UK and other NATO partners).
More generally, the documents emphasise flexibility both in development aid and crisis response, which can also be observed in everyday policy decisions (e.g. humanitarian aid to refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey). In setting up, managing and assessing the development aid framework and related activities, even though the MFA takes the lead, it also involves a wide range of partners in the execution stage. Depending on the specific activity and aid target, cooperation partners may include various ministries, other public-sector institutions (e.g. the justice sector or institutions of higher education), private companies and NGOs.
An example of the application of a comprehensive foreign policy approach would be Estonia’s policy towards Ukraine since 2013. The events in Ukraine constitute a clear-cut case of an external crisis that had both domestic and foreign policy repercussions for Estonia. The annexation of Crimea by Russia and the war in Eastern Ukraine triggered a severe security crisis for Europe with significant securityrelated impacts on Estonia and the Baltic Sea region, as well.
Estonian foreign policy decisions were consequently focused on two main objectives at the international level: diminishing the effects of the crisis on Estonia and supporting Ukraine. To achieve these aims, Estonia employed a strategy of active engagement both in bilateral relations (e.g. in transatlantic relations) as well as through supranational and inter-governmental cooperation (e.g. with the EU, NATO, the UN and others). Bilaterally, Estonia’s support to Ukraine in all its various forms tripled in 2014 (compared to 2013). This support entailed humanitarian aid, civilian missions and aid through international organisations, and it reached EUR 1.2 million (or 10% of Estonia’s annual budget for humanitarian and development aid) beginning in 2015, and Estonia’s annual support to Ukraine has ranged between EUR 2.2 million and EUR 2.7 million (or over 20% of the budget).
The palette of Estonian activities has been extensive and included support for democratisation, the provision of digital solutions, corrupting-fighting efforts, and assistance to educational and media organisations. Among the implementers have been various governmental bodies and ministries, local and Estonian NGOs, and international organisations. Domestically, extensive policy coordination has developed among various security institutions with respect to building up the military and enhancing civil-military relations, internal security and strategic communication.