Opening times
Meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Tallinn, April 2010

20 years under NATO umbrella 

2. April 2024

In 2024, we celebrate the 20th anniversary of Estonia’s accession to NATO. Estonia officially became a full member of the organisation along with Latvia, Lithuania, Bulgaria, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia on 29 March 2004, when the deposit of the instruments of accession with the Government of the United States of America took place in Washington. Estonia’s depositor was the then Prime Minister Juhan Parts.  

On April 2 of the same year, a festive accession ceremony of the seven new member states that joined the alliance took place in Brussels, where the Estonian flag was hoisted to wave permanently among the flags of other member states in front of NATO headquarters.  

Estonia’s journey to NATO was complicated, as Jüri Luik, then Ambassador to Washington and the current Permanent Representative of Estonia to NATO, has recalled.  He even says that if Estonia had not taken advantage of the favourable political window of the time and joined NATO in 2004, then this opportunity would not have arisen later.  

Estonia’s journey to join the alliance began ten years before Estonia joined the NATO Peace Partnership Programme in 1994. In 1999, Washington recognised Estonia as an official candidate, and at the NATO Summit in Prague in 2002, Estonia and several other Eastern European countries were invited to join NATO.   

Accession negotiations took place from January to March 2003, held by a delegation formed by the Government of the Republic.  

In reality, we must thank President Lennart Meri – whose 95th birth anniversary we celebrated exactly on the anniversary of our accession to NATO – for getting under the NATO umbrella.  

Lennart Meri already had a vision in 1995 and a firm knowledge that „the future of Europe is marked by two keywords for Estonia – the European Union and NATO. These two organisations involve for us what we are striving for and what we can never have enough – prosperity and security“. (L. Meri’s speech at the Swedish Institute of International Affairs)  

President Alar Karis said in his statement on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of joining NATO: „With the same smartness and zeal as we aspired to NATO membership in our time, we are now working together to strengthen the alliance’s military. NATO’s umbrella is strong and solid but it requires constant care.“  

This year, NATO is celebrating its 75th anniversary.  

Although the library does not collect separate official publications of NATO, in cooperation with the Estonian NATO Association we have been able to compile a good selection of NATO-themed literature. Part of this collection is also listed as a reading recommendation below this article.