Estonia

Cluster Munition Ban Policy

Last updated: 05 September 2023

Summary: Non-signatory Estonia accepts the humanitarian rationale for banning cluster munitions, but has not taken any steps to accede to the Convention on Cluster Munitions. Estonia has never participated in a meeting of the convention, even as an observer. It abstained from voting on a key annual United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) resolution promoting the convention in December 2022.

Estonia states that it has never used or produced cluster munitions. Estonia has shared limited information on its cluster munition stockpile. InJanuary 2023, Estonian state media reported that Estonia was considering sending its stocks of German-made cluster munition 155mm artillery projectiles to Ukraine.

 

Policy

The Republic of Estonia has not acceded to the Convention on Cluster Munitions.

Estonia acknowledges the humanitarian rationale of the convention, but states that it has not acceded “due to security considerations.”[1] Previously, in 2012 and 2013, Estonia said that it could not join the convention due to the cost and time involved in replacing its stockpiled cluster munitions.[2]

Estonia participated throughout the Oslo Process that created the Convention on Cluster Munitions and joined in its consensus adoption in Dublin in May 2008, where it described the convention as a “remarkable achievement” that it would consider further.[3]

Estonia has never participated in a meeting of the Convention on Cluster Munitions, even as an observer. Estonia was invited to, but did not attend, the convention’s Tenth Meeting of States Parties in Geneva in August–September 2022.

Estonia abstained from voting on a key UNGA resolution in December 2022 that urged states outside the Convention on Cluster Munitions to “join as soon as possible.”[4] It has abstained from the vote on the annual UNGA resolution promoting the convention since it was first introduced in 2015.[5]

In March 2022, Estonia endorsed a joint UNGA statement by eight Nordic-Baltic states condemning Russia’s use of cluster munitions in Ukraine, calling it one of several “inhuman and immoral actions [that] embody Russia’s disregard for international law, including international humanitarian law, and the principles upon which the UN is based.”[6] In May 2022, four Estonian journalists were caught in a Russian cluster munition rocket attack in Ukraine’s Donetsk province.[7]

Estonia has voted in favor of UNGA resolutions expressing outrage at use of cluster munitions in Syria.[8] It has also voted in favor of Human Rights Council resolutions condemning use of cluster munitions in Syria.[9]

Estonia is a State Party to the Mine Ban Treaty. It is also party to the Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW).

Use and production

In 2012, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs affirmed that Estonia “has never produced or used cluster munitions offensively and has no intention to do so in the future.”[10] In January 2023, Minister of Defense Hanno Pevkur reportedly told state media that Estonia had told its allies that it would only use cluster munitions to defend Estonia.

Stockpiling and transfers

Estonia possesses cluster munitions but has not provided information on the quantity and types stockpiled. Estonia is not known to have exported cluster munitions, but inJanuary 2023, Estonian state media reported that Estonia was considering sending its stocks of “thousands” of German-made 155mm DM632 cluster munition projectiles to Ukraine.[11]

As an end-use measure, the re-transferring of these cluster munitions by Estonia to Ukraine would require prior approval from Germany. In response to media inquiries, Germany’s defense minister, Boris Pistorius, said in February 2023 that “Germany won’t authorize the transfer of cluster bombs to Ukraine.”[12]

Previously, in 2009 and 2010, Estonia’s then-Minister of Foreign Affairs, Urmas Paet, told the Monitor that the Estonian Defense Forces possess DM632 155mm artillery projectiles in “small amounts…for training and defensive purposes.”[13]



[1] Permanent Mission of Estonia to the United Nations (UN) in Geneva, “Arms control,” undated. In an April 2016 letter, the director for security policy at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated that Estonia “is not yet in a position to sign and ratify” the Convention on Cluster Munitions, but fully supports the convention’s “humanitarian goals.” Letter to Mary Wareham, Advocacy Director, Arms Division, Human Rights Watch (HRW), from Mariin Ratnik, Security Policy Director, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Estonia, 13 April 2016.

[2] CMC Austria meeting with Pirit Pikker, Advisor, International Cooperation Department, Ministry of Defence, Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW) Seventh Meeting of States Parties, Geneva, November 2013; and Letter No. 3-31/6134-1 from Väino Reinart, Undersecretary for Economic Affairs and Development Cooperation, and Acting Undersecretary for Political Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, to Laura Cheeseman, Director, CMC, 16 October 2012.

[3] For details on Estonia’s cluster munition policy and practice through early 2009, see HRW and Landmine Action, Banning Cluster Munitions: Government Policy and Practice (Ottawa: Mines Action Canada, May 2009), pp. 200–201.

[4]Implementation of the Convention on Cluster Munitions,” UNGA Resolution 77/79, 7 December 2022.

[5] In 2015–2018, Estonia endorsed a joint UNGA statement on cluster munitions made by Poland on behalf of itself and three other European Union (EU) member states—Finland, Greece, and Romania—that are not party to the convention, reiterating the need to meet their own “legitimate security concerns and military and defence needs.” Statement of Poland (on behalf of Estonia, Finland, Greece, and Romania), UNGA First Committee on Disarmament and International Security, New York, 8 November 2018; statement of Poland (on behalf of Estonia, Finland, Greece, and Romania), UNGA First Committee on Disarmament and International Security, New York, 31 October 2017; statement of Poland (on behalf of Estonia, Finland, Greece, and Romania), UNGA First Committee on Disarmament and International Security, New York, 31 October 2016; and statement of Poland (on behalf of Estonia, Finland, Greece, and Romania), UNGA First Committee on Disarmament and International Security, New York, 4 November 2015.

[6] Statement by Lithuania on behalf of eight Nordic-Baltic states (Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Sweden), UNGA, New York, 23 March 2022.

[7] The journalists were Anton Alekseev and Christian Svirgsden from ERR and Jaanus Piirsalu and Dmitry Kotyukh from Postimees. See, International Press Institute, “Estonian and German journalists caught in shelling in Donetsk region,” 12 May 2022.

[8] “Situation of human rights in the Syrian Arab Republic,” UNGA Resolution 75/193, 16 December 2020. Estonia voted in favor of similar UNGA resolutions on Syria in 2013–2019.

[9]The grave and deteriorating human rights and humanitarian situation in the Syrian Arab Republic,” Human Rights Council Resolution 29/L.4, 2 July 2015. Estonia voted in favor of similar Human Rights Council resolutions on Syria in 2013–2014.

[10] Letter No. 3-31/6134-1 from Väino Reinart, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, to Laura Cheeseman, CMC, 16 October 2012; Letter No. 3.3-1/3080-1 from Urmas Paet, Minister of Foreign Affairs, 6 April 2011; Letter No. 03.3-1/4591 from Urmas Paet, Minister of Foreign Affairs, 29 March 2010; and Letter No. 3.3-1/5341 from Urmas Paet, Minister of Foreign Affairs, to Judith Majlath, CMC Austria, 27 April 2010.

[11] Madis Hindre, “Estonia weighing giving Ukraine cluster munitions,” ERR, 26 January 2023.

[12] Antonia Faltermaier, “Cluster bombs for Ukraine? Pistorius makes a clear statement,” Berliner Morgenpost, 23 February 2023.

[13] Letter No. 03.3-1/4591 from Urmas Paet, Minister of Foreign Affairs, 29 March 2010; and letter from Urmas Paet, Minister of Foreign Affairs, 12 February 2009. Manufactured by Germany, each DM632 cluster munition projectile contains 63 DM-1383 submunitions with self-destruct features.


Mine Ban Policy

Last updated: 18 December 2019

Policy

The Republic of Estonia acceded to the Mine Ban Treaty on 12 May 2004, becoming a State Party on 1 November 2004. The Estonian criminal code and specific legislation, which entered into force on 5 February 2004, provide for the imposition of penal sanctions as required by the treaty.

Estonia attends meetings of the treaty quite regularly, including the Third Review Conference in Maputo in June 2014. More recently, Estonia attended the Mine Ban Treaty Seventeenth Meeting of States Parties in Geneva in November 2018, where it gave a general statement, and the intersessional meetings in May 2019.[1] Estonia served as co-rapporteur and then co-chair of the Standing Committee on Stockpile Destruction from 2005–2007.

Estonia is party to the Convention on Conventional Weapons and its Amended Protocol II on landmines and Protocol V on explosive remnants of war. Estonia is not party to the Convention on Cluster Munitions.

Production, use, transfer, and stockpiling

Estonia has never used, produced, exported, or imported antipersonnel mines, including for training purposes. In its initial Article 7 transparency report in 2005, Estonia did not declare any antipersonnel mines retained for research and training purposes, nor has it done so in any subsequent transparency report. However, in March 2000, a Foreign Ministry official told Landmine Monitor that Estonia possessed “less than 1,000” antipersonnel mines that it used for training.[2]

There are unpopulated islands in the Finnish gulf that were mined during WWII. They present only a minor danger, because no one lives on the islands and they are protected from visitors. These islands are the only mined areas in Estonia.



[1] Statement of Estonia, Mine Ban Treaty Seventeenth Meeting of States Parties, Geneva, 26 November 2018.

[2] Interview with Malle Talvet, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 10 March 2000.


Support for Mine Action

Last updated: 11 December 2023

In 2022, Estonia contributed US$30,000 to the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) for mine action activities in Iraq and Syria.[1] Estonia has contributed to UNMAS for more than 15 years. Estonia reported that in the period from 2012–2022, its total contribution to UNMAS amounted to $255,000.[2]

Five-year support to mine action

During 2018–2022, Estonia’s annual contribution has remained consistent at $30,000 annually, with an overall contribution to mine action of US$150,000 over the five-year period.

Summary of contributions: 2018–2022[3]

Year

Recipient

Amount (US$)

2022

UNMAS (Iraq and Syria)

30,000

2021

UNMAS (Iraq and Syria)

30,000

2020

UNMAS (Iraq and Syria)

30,000

2019

UNMAS (Iraq and Syria)

30,000

2018

UNMAS (Iraq)

30,000

Total

 -

150,000

 

 


[1] Estonia Mine Ban Treaty Article 7 Report (for calendar year 2022), Form J. See, Mine Ban Treaty Article 7 Database; and UNMAS, “Annual Report 2022,” April 2023, p. 119.

[2] Estonia Mine Ban Treaty Article 7 Report (for calendar year 2022), Form J.

[3] See previous Support for Mine Action country profiles. ICBL-CMC, “Country Profiles: Estonia,” undated.