Defence Minister Jüri Luik met with his French counterpart, Florence Parly, in Lille. The ministers discussed intensifying bilateral defense cooperation as well as upcoming deployments to Estonia and Africa. Luik also gave a speech at the International Cyber Security Forum.
Luik thanked France for its contribution to the NATO battle group stationed in Estonia as well as the Baltic air policing mission. Parly highlighted how effective cooperation with Estonia has been, and thanked the Estonian minister.
Luik welcomed France's decision to return to Estonia with an army unit in 2019 as well as the country's first-time engagement in the Baltic air policing mission this spring, when French fighters will rotate to the Ämari air base in Estonia's Harju County.
The ministers also talked about Estonia's potential contribution of a platoon-sized infantry unit to the French-led counterinsurgency Operation Barkhane in the Sahel area.
The Estonian contribution to the operation would follow previous joint operations of the two countres' militaries in the Central African Republic and Mali.
Luik added that he will propose to the government that it request a mandate for the operation from the Riigikogu.
The ministers also discussed cyberdefense, where the French minister highlighted Estonia's leading by example. France is one of Estonia's most important strategic partners in the field.
Luik also attended the International Cyber Security Forum in Lille on Tuesday, where in a speech he emphasized that states' data has become a strategic object that must be protected.
"When it comes to the fight against cyber threats, an important part is cooperation with the private sector, where innovation takes place, as well as cooperation in the European Union and NATO," Luik said.