Defence cooperation between Estonia and France has increased remarkably in recent years. The two countries cooperate closely both bilaterally and multilaterally. Bilateral cooperation is based on the intergovernmental defence cooperation treaty made between Estonia and France in 2011. Multilateral cooperation mostly takes place within the scope of the European Union and NATO. The main areas of cooperation are international operations and cyber defence. It also involves regular security policy consultations.
At the NATO summit held in Warsaw in 2016, France announced that it was going to participate in the enhanced presence of allies on the Eastern flank of NATO within the scope of NATO’s Enhanced Forward Presence (eFP). France participated in eFP in Estonia in 2017 in cooperation with the United Kingdom and has decided to return to Estonia within the scope of eFP in 2019.
France is one of the most important supporters of the Baltic air-policing mission organised by NATO. France has participated in Baltic air-policing since 2007 and in 2018, it is being done for the first time from the Ämari air base in Estonia.
France has participated in many projects aimed at helping the Baltic States in the area of defence, such as BALTRON and BALTSEA, and supported French language training in the Estonian Defence Forces. France is one of the most important procurement partners to Estonia.
The main contact between Estonia and France in the framework of operations has been in Mali since 2013, as part of the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali as well as the European Union Training Mission (EUTM). The Estonian ship protection team served on many French vessels as part of the European Union Naval Force Operation ATALANTA and the cooperation was very successful. Cooperation within the scope of EU missions strengthened in 2014 when the Estonian unit of approximately 50 men served as part of EUFOR RCA in Bangui, the Central African Republic.
Estonia is making preparations for participating with a unit the size of an infantry platoon in operation Barkhane in Mali, which is led by France, from the second half of 2018. The fact that Estonia is the only country among the Central and Eastern European countries that was invited to join the European Intervention Initiative (EI2) shows how good the bilateral relations are.
Bilateral cyber cooperation between the two countries is very close. It is based on the technical cooperation agreement for cyber security signed in 2016 in order to strengthen cooperation in the area of cyber security. France has entered into similar agreements with just three countries – the US, the UK and now Estonia. In addition to this, a framework agreement for mutual cooperation was entered into in 2018 between the Estonian Defence Industry Association and the Pôle d’excellence cyber, which is based in Bretagne, France, to increase cooperation between research institutions and small companies.