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Cablegate: Estonia: Close to Agreement On Vwp Mou

VZCZCXRO7938
PP RUEHAG RUEHAST RUEHDA RUEHDF RUEHFL RUEHIK RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHLN
RUEHLZ RUEHPOD RUEHROV RUEHSR RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHTL #0064/01 0450931
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 140931Z FEB 08
FM AMEMBASSY TALLINN
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0497
RHMFIUU/DEPT OF HOMELAND SECURITY WASHINGTON DC
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHUL/AMEMBASSY SEOUL PRIORITY 0017

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 TALLINN 000064

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DHS FOR ASSISTANT SECRETARY BARTH
STATE FOR CA, CA/VO AND EUR/NB

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: CVIS KFRD PREL EN
SUBJECT: ESTONIA: CLOSE TO AGREEMENT ON VWP MOU

-------
SUMMARY
-------

1. (SBU) Estonian negotiators from the Ministries of Foreign
Affairs, Interior, and Justice reached near agreement with DHS and
Department negotiators on the language of a Visa Waiver Program
memorandum of understanding. Final agreement awaits completion of
text revisions and then approval from the Estonian cabinet. The
Estonians pointed out that the MOU and follow-on implementing
agreements should take into account Estonian domestic law and EU
obligations, but did not describe this as a major obstacle to
signing the MOU. Speaking to negotiators and then to the media, the
DHS lead negotiator and the Estonian Foreign Minister both praised
the progress made and they looked forward to VWP travel for
Estonians beginning soon, hopefully this year. A/S Barth proposed
DHS Secretary Chertoff travel to Tallinn in March to sign the MOU.
End Summary.

------------------------------
MOU THE FIRST OF SEVERAL STEPS
------------------------------

2. (SBU) DHS Assistant Secretary for Policy Richard Barth and Visa
Waiver Program Office Director Marc Frey visited Tallinn on February
11 to negotiate the terms or a security memorandum of understanding.
They were accompanied by representatives from the DHS legal
advisor's office and from CA/VO and EUR/PGI. The Estonian side was
represented by MFA Undersecretary for Legal and Consular Affairs
Aino Lepik von Wiren. Assisting her were eight officials from
Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Interior and Justice, including MFA
Consular Department Director General Lauri Bambus.

3. (SBU) A/S Barth opened for the U.S. delegation by describing his
team's recent success in Prague. If Estonia can similarly come to
agreement on their MOU, the path would be open to a signing in
March. A/S Barth said. This could be followed by a VWP-for-Estonia
announcement by President Bush before years end, most likely around
October 2008.

4. (SBU) Barth explained that the MOU is the next step in Estonia's
progress towards accession to the VWP. The MOU provides a framework
for cooperation on information sharing, aspects of which will have
to be worked out in separate agreements or through more informal
mechanisms, depending on Estonian policy and legislation. One such
agreement, the HSPD-6 arrangement on known or suspected terrorists,
has already been concluded. Other agreements will be sought to
share information on serious criminals and on excluded aliens.

5. (SBU) Following the MOU (and its implementing agreements), the
next steps, Barth explained, are an on-site evaluation by a DHS
technical team (likely to happen in early April), and then DHS
deployment of the Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) system
required by U.S. legislation. Barth described ETA as similar in
basic concept to the web-based pre-clearance system used by
Australia. ETA enrollment would capture only about as much
information as does the current I-94 "landing card". DHS intends to
introduce ETA without a fee, though a fee remains a possibility in
years to come.

6. (SBU) Beyond Estonia and the Czech Republic, Greece, Malta, and
South Korea, said Barth, are aspirant countries which DHS sees as
possible VWP entrants in 2008. Additionally, Slovakia, Latvia,
Lithuania and Hungary could also enter this year, provided their
national visitor-visa refusal rates come in under 10 percent for the
fiscal year ending in September.

----------------------------------------
CLARIFICATION AND EDITS: EU ACKNOWLEDGED
----------------------------------------

7. (SBU) The Estonians, who had received the draft MOU text last
month in Washington, sought clarification in a number of areas. The
DHS team offered to make changes to the text in a number of areas to
respond to Estonian concerns, notably:

-- Passenger Data: MOU sections dealing with this subject, as well
as any implementing agreements on criminal and excluded- person
data, will incorporate some language acknowledging Estonia's need to
act in accordance with existing domestic and EU law.

-- ETA features and functions: Additional description and details
about the system will be added.

-- Lost and Stolen Passports (LASP): The number of requested data
fields will be reduced and the language modified to allow Post's
existing LASP arrangement to satisfy this requirement.

TALLINN 00000064 002 OF 003

-- Replacement Passport Annotation: The requirement that passports
issued to replace lost and stolen passports will be annotated as
replacements will be dropped.

-- Air Marshals and Airport Security: Language will be added to
these sections acknowledging that there are not yet any direct
commercial flights between Estonia and the United States.

-- "Nationals": references to "citizens and nationals" benefiting
from the VWP will be changed to read just "citizens". This to
clarify that VWP will not extend beyond regular Estonian passport
holders (i.e., not to the 8 percent of Estonia's residents of
"undetermined citizenship" who travel on GOE-issued Alien
Passports).

8. (SBU) In response to questions from DHS, the GOE committed to
provide the U.S. side with additional language pertaining to:

-- GOE plan to institute an air marshal program on Estonian flights
by the end of 2008.

-- The definition, in accordance with Estonian law, of "former"
citizens.

9. (SBU) The GOE team cited at several points the need to
acknowledge EU considerations in parts of the final MOU. However,
the GOE never held up EU claimed competencies as a dead end or
serious problem for any part of this bilateral agreement.

--------------------------------------------- --
ESTONIAN CABINET DECISION POSSIBLE WITHIN WEEKS
--------------------------------------------- --

10. (SBU) At the conclusion of the morning negotiating session DG
Bambus stated that it was possible that the MOU, incorporating the
agreed-upon changes, could be presented to the Cabinet as soon as
two weeks from now. With Cabinet approval of the agreement, a date
could then be set for its signing.

--------------------------------------------- -------
POSSIBLE SIGNING WITH SECRETARY CHERTOFF IN TALLINN?
--------------------------------------------- -------

11. (SBU) A/S Barth told our interlocutors that should a positive
GOE decision on the MOU come in time, he would seek to bring
Secretary of Homeland Security Chertoff to Tallinn to sign the MOU

SIPDIS
in mid-March (when he is scheduled to be in Europe for another
purpose). Barth stressed to the GOE officials, that such a visit
was still a tentative plan should not yet be discussed publicly.

--------------------------------------
SURPRISE MEETING WITH FOREIGN MINISTER
--------------------------------------

12. (SBU) U/S Lepik von Wiren stated early during the morning
session that her delegation had only the authority to negotiate, but
not to agree to the MOU, a decision resting with the Government at
the Cabinet level. A positive indicator of the prospects for such
agreement, however, came after lunch, when the MFA added a meeting a
meeting for A/S Barth and Ambassador Phillips with Foreign Minister
Urmas Paet to the program.

13. (SBU) FM Paet welcomed news of the morning's progress and asked
A/S Barth about next steps, noting the high expectations in Estonia
regarding VWP. Barth explained that the MOU was nearly OK, but that
the two sides need to work further on arrangements for data-sharing.
Following the MOU, comes the DHS technical team visit, and then ETA
fielding, Barth said. FM Paet said the plan "sounds promising, if
you can manage it", adding that, as was well known, Estonia and
other EU member countries are also talking to the European
Commission about U.S. VWP expansion. Barth thanked Paet for
Estonia's leadership on the issue.

-----------------------------
PRESS CONFERENCE: VWP IN 2008
-----------------------------

14. (SBU) At the conclusion of the negotiations, Ambassador, A/S
Barth FM Paet and U/S Lepik Von Wiren participated in a packed press
conference. A/S Barth noted the progress on the MOU and stated his
aim to conclude the agreement in the coming weeks. The MOU and
other steps would "hopefully bring us to a point where sometime
before the end of 2008 Estonians can travel to the U.S. without a
visa for up to 90 days for general tourism purposes and business
purposes."


TALLINN 00000064 003 OF 003


15. (SBU) FM Paet stated "Our goal is still to see [VWP accession]
happen, hopefully before the elections this year or at least before
the new administration starts at the White House." Paet left
mention of EU concerns to Lepik von Wiren, who noted that it is
"very important with the (MOU) signing that we follow our own
legislation as well as our international obligations and EU laws."

16. (SBU) A/S Barth went on to answer several press questions
regarding ETA, including its expected response time (minutes) and
user cost (none initially). Further questions included one about
whether UK and Irish resistance to VWP changes are hurting Estonian
prospects for joining the program. Barth pointed out that "the
individual MOUs must be signed on a government-to-government
bilateral basis and no individual MOU is dependent on any other. If
other governments resist the signing of a similar kind of agreement
that was presented to your government that would in the future
potentially jeopardize their participation in the Visa Waiver
Program." A/S Barth also made a point to emphasize that visas would
still be required for non-business/tourism travelers, such as
students, temporary workers, immigrants, etc.

-------
COMMENT
-------

17. (U) Post stands ready to help Washington reach final agreement
with the Estonians on an MOU text. Also, we are now seeking to find
mutually agreeable dates in early April for the DHS technical team
to come to Estonia.

Phillips

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