While there are no explicitly formulated WGA policies in Estonia, this should not be understood as indicating that the principle is altogether absent from its policymaking. What’s more, there are non-explicitly formulated policies. First, there are references to a ‘comprehensive’ approach in Estonian foreign policy strategy documents as well as to a ‘broad concept of security’ in defence development plans. These highlight engagement across various policy domains and require cooperation among multiple governmental institutions and agencies. For example, the National Development Plan for Foreign Policy 2030 (MFA 2019) defines the further strengthening of cooperation and coordination among relevant institutions as a priority.
Very broadly, these mentions pertain to the national policy preferences of Estonia when it comes to policies on protecting Estonian national interests at home and policies towards third countries (see discussion on post-2013 Ukraine below). However, the downside of comprehensive approaches is that they tend to require a significant amount of resources in both financial and organisational terms.
Second, external actors influence Estonian foreign policy through shared policy positions. Above all, the EU, NATO and the UN play key roles in framing Estonia’s foreign and security policies. For example, clear references to shared values and principles, decisions taken at the EU level, and NATO summit commitments are often incorporated into Estonian policy positions.
In the area of crisis management, Estonia emphasises the need to complement military operations with civil contributions and development aid. Relative to its small size, Estonia has been an active and significant contributor to missions of the UN, NATO and the EU. In the field of development and humanitarian aid, the UN and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s Development Assistance Committee (OECD-DAC) provide a rationale and basis for Estonia’s bilateral activities, such as identifying countries for humanitarian aid, coordinating aid donation and harmonising national reporting with that of the OECD-DAC.
Third, principles similar to that of a WGA are pursued through clearly established national priorities that are then projected to the international level. A good example of this is Estonia’s profile in the world as an expert in e-governance and cybersecurity. Identifying specific fields of expertise that cut across various policy domains helps to ground coordination efforts among different institutions aimed at joint foreign policy goals. Estonia’s activity in the field of digital society and cybersecurity encompasses legal, political, technological and military fields while requiring the engagement of various actors from the public and private sectors as well as civil society.
An important overarching goal is to ensure the application of international law in cyberspace. More specifically, for example, the cybersecurity domain is relevant when sharing expertise in the case of electronic voting, protecting citizens’ personal data, or storing state secrets in the case of an attack. Establishing such special expertise (and a reputation for it) obviously requires a lot of effort, which needs to be backed up by resources.
Finally, more specifically in the EU framework, Estonia’s experience of holding the EU presidency for the first time ever in the second half of 2017 provided important impetus to the country to enhance coordination both at the national level and with EU institutions and member states regarding EU policies. Preparedness for external crises and readiness to engage and coordinate among various actors and policy areas was one aspect of this work.