Our Europe – Tasks for Today and Tomorrow
Honourable Mr. President
Ladies and gentlemen
First of all, allow me to express my sincerest gratitude, and my pleasure over being invited to address such a dignified body.
I’m glad to be able to note that, only a week after the Irish referendum, the European Council decided that the Lisbon Treaty’s ratification process must continue, and so it did. On 18 June the domestic process of ratification was completed by my own nation when President Ilves signed the relevant ratification legislation that had been passed by the parliament just one day before the Irish referendum. I hope that six remaining countries will complete their ratification procedures as planned. It is important that during the European Council session an agreement was achieved with Ireland that, by October, a joint decision will be made to determine how to carry on.
But why does Estonia feel that the Lisbon Treaty is so significant? Estonia, along with other Member States, is interested in the development of a stronger EU that would be able to speak with one voice addressing matters of importance. An EU whose decisions could not be blocked by just one or two Member States, as is the case today.
And now, please allow me to touch now some issues that France has chosen as priorities for its term of the EU Presidency. I am doing so because France identified the essential issues which must be solved if the European Union wants to be capable of continuing its successful progress.
Let me start with the issues of energy and energy security, as well as the climate.
The production and consumption of energy are directly connected with climate change. Issues like climate change, energy, and energy security all go hand-in-hand.
Like other Member States, Estonia has expressed support for the objectives established by the EU climate and energy package. Achieving these goals, like reducing CO2 emissions by 20% by the year 2020, as well as increasing the role of renewable energy on the energy scale to as much as 20%, is quite an ambitious undertaking. However, it is not beyond our reach. At the same time, we must keep in mind the competitiveness of our economies, our energy security, and the possible threat of industries moving to third countries.
In Estonia, as in most European countries, the electrical energy sector is a major source of carbon leakage. But the rapid restructuring of Estonia’s energy sector and electricity production is not very realistic because it is based on oil shale, which is unique in the EU. And it takes time to connect our power grid with those of the EU. The transfer of production of electricity to third countries could potentially threaten our energy security, since Estonia lacks the alternative of importing electricity from other EU countries.
But all this does not mean that Estonia is not making efforts to achieve the objectives established by the energy and climate package. Estonia regards the matter of renewable energy as being essential, and highly appreciates the initiative shown by Germany concerning the founding of the International Renewable Energy Agency. On a related note, I would like to mention that several large wind parks are built in Estonia.
But the energy situation in Estonia and the other two Baltic states is far more complicated. One could even use the term “Baltic energy island”, due to the fact that our gas is still supplied by a monopoly -- Gazprom. This actually puts us in the same situation as Ukraine, Georgia, or even Belarus, since we lack pipelines that connect us to other Member States, which would provide us with energy alternatives. In addition to this, our electrical grids lack any real connections to the energy systems of Member States to the west of us. The only connection we have is between Estonia and Finland. But we are directly connected to the power grid of North-Western Russia.
At this point, it should be noted that the European Union in general, has fairly good gas and oil connections to third countries, and between Member States themselves. Most of its Member States are synchronized when it comes to electricity. However, I would like to emphasise that the establishment of a well-functioning internal energy market is, at least as essential as improving external, third country connections. Only when such an internal market, which also includes the three Baltic states, has been created, can we seriously speak about a common European Union energy market and policy, and about ensuring the energy security of all EU Member States. Estonia, along with the other two Baltic states, finds that serious attention must be paid to the development of a common EU electrical energy transmission infrastructure. And considering its importance to the energy security of the European Union as a whole, these endeavours should be given financial support by appropriate EU funds.
As this learned audience, no doubt is aware, the Baltic states have been seriously discussing for more than two years the construction of a new nuclear power plant to replace the Lithuanian Ignalina nuclear power plant, which will be closed down in the near future. Poland has also joined this project. The actual implementation of these plans will probably take at least 10 years. This project is of major significance for the Baltic states as well as Poland, since, to begin with, Lithuania obtains a major part of its electrical energy from Ignalina and, both Latvia’s and Poland’s developing economies need significant amounts of extra electrical energy. And finally, Estonia, following the EU’s climate policy, needs to start limiting the use of oil shale for the production of electrical energy.
Of course, attitudes towards nuclear electrical power plants are different, and even within the EU. But taking into consideration the technologies available today, there doesn’t seem to be any realistic alternative to nuclear energy. Incidentally, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency, 30 emerging economies in Asia, Africa, Latin America, as well as countries in Europe, have recently shown interest in establishing nuclear power plants. Presently, 34 new nuclear reactors are being constructed in various parts of the world. The IAEA has found that there has been a general shift in public opinion in favour of nuclear electrical power plants. There have been three main factors involved in this shift -- the high price of fossil fuels, energy security, and the world-wide debate concerning climate change. The same factors that are important to the Baltic States.
To summarise, I would like to stress Estonia’s position that the EU’s energy policy should take into consideration and evaluate all the risks involved, including the possibility that third countries could try to make use of their energy exports to influence the European Union’s policies and decisions. Therefore, it is essential that the EU should enforce common competition and environmental standards for third country firms and to energy providers being imported from there.
Despite all the problems, I would like to conclude the energy and climate part of my presentation on an optimistic note. I see reason for optimism because there is an increasing awareness of the matters and issues concerning energy and energy security, so that they are being dealt with in a more serious fashion than ever before. I believe that the European Union will mobilize itself to protect the common interests of the all Member States.
Now, another issue of major importance from the perspective of our common future -- the enlargement of the European Union. Estonia is by far not the only Member State which feels that if we want the EU to continue being a serious player in the international arena, then we must be able to formulate a true Common Foreign and Security Policy. And it is just as important to continue implementing the Union’s enlargement policy. But this must be based upon very definite and agreed-upon principles that will not begin to crumble under the pressure of wavering political opinions.
Only a principled and reliable enlargement policy will be able to motivate new potential Member States to implement the necessary changes and reforms that membership requires. The EU must maintain its policy of openness, if it desires to be an esteemed partner to United States, China or India. The EU should remain conditionally open to the Western Balkans and Turkey. Our duty is to help them remain on track with reforms. I am convinced that our common values of democracy and human rights serve as a good model to our neighbours.
I would still like to stress that enlargement should not occur just for the sake of enlargement itself. The basis for enlargement must continue to be the fulfilling of the appropriate criteria by the various Candidate States, not the emotional or self-serving support or recommendations of a Member State or group of Member States.
And the fulfilling or failure to fulfil criteria, as the case may be, depends greatly, as already stated, upon how we manage to motivate the Candidate States and to promote their true desire to join us. This means that the future of the EU’s enlargement is greatly dependent upon our own actions and behaviour. I therefore hope that, concerning the matter of EU enlargement, we will eventually be able to formulate an optimal policy that will ensure the balanced development and stability of Europe.
Although in the media there is often talk of a so-called “enlargement fatigue”, I believe that we cannot afford it. Estonia is very pleased that in June new chapters were opened for negotiations with both Croatia and Turkey.
I would now like to return to the European Union’s internal developments. More specifically, to the EU’s Baltic Sea Strategy, which affects my own country directly, but just as directly Germany as well. Both countries participate in many organisations and cooperative formats that operate in the Baltic Sea region. Although they have all contributed to the positive development of the region, there is still an obvious need for an even more uniting and coordinating structure.
As most of you here probably know, the Baltic Sea Strategy’s roots go back to the European Parliament. It is one of the few European Parliament initiatives that is becoming a reality. Incidentally, the rapporteur on this matter was at one point my present colleague, Finnish Foreign Minister Alexander Stubb, who was then a member of the European Parliament. Now the Baltic Sea Strategy has also aroused the concrete interest of both the United Kingdom and France.
In the Baltic Sea Strategy we can see three essential goals and spheres of activity. Firstly spatial integration, which would primarily promote the development of better relations between the Baltic Sea’s western and eastern coastal areas. One of the Strategy’s goals should be the establishment of well-functioning north-south and east-west transport routes. Other essential parts of the spatial integration sphere are the free movement of labour and the possibility for offering cross-border services.
The second essential sphere is that of the maritime environment and navigation, which encompasses both the prevention of pollution as well as coordinated efforts to regulate shipping. The ever-increasing traffic of tankers shipping oil and chemicals in the Baltic Sea is, without a doubt, a constantly growing threat. Serious consideration must be given to the establishment of a comprehensive integrated maritime monitoring system.
The third essential sphere is knowledge-based society, which is based upon the fifth freedom – the free movement of knowledge. The Baltic Sea Strategy could be very useful in helping to coordinate scientific research and development, and in formulating appropriate policies.
Here I would like to stress that we do not view the Baltic Sea Strategy as a new bureaucratic structure that exists for the purpose of creating work for itself and others and wasting taxpayers’ money. Its main task, according to the vision of its initiators, is to create a cohesive network for the implementation of existing programmes and for the promotion of further integration. The Strategy would also contribute to the European Union’s cohesion policy, making the Baltic Sea region and therefore the entire EU more competitive. One of its long-term objectives could be the creation of an intraregional market – for instance, in the form of an unrestricted market of services. And the European Union’s Northern Dimension could serve as a suitable instrument for developing cooperation with the littoral states of the Baltic Sea that do not belong to the EU.
From the Estonian point of view, it is especially important that the Baltic Sea Strategy gives the countries in our region a strong impulse to contribute more to the protection of the Baltic Sea. A few weeks ago, the World Wildlife Fund published a report on our common inland sea that contains some rather shocking data.
Among other things, it says that on 42 000 square kilometres of the bottom of the Baltic Sea, life has died out. This is a direct result of human activities, caused mainly by the nitrates used in agriculture, which eventually wash into the sea. As an illustration of how serious this is, one might recall that those dead zones make up an area which is almost as large as Estonia, and bigger than the Netherlands and Belgium. I think that we – the littoral countries of the Baltic Sea – have something to be seriously worried about. Especially concerning the future development of agriculture in the whole Baltic Sea region.
I would now like to speak about a topic that perturbs almost every citizen and government in Europe. That is the issue of demographic developments in Europe, or, to be more precise, illegal immigration.
As for my own country of Estonia, illegal immigration is not a very serious problem for us yet. The same is true about asylum seekers – their number is relatively small. Obviously, we have not yet become very attractive for illegal migration. But considering general long-term global trends, it seems quite clear that future waves of immigration will not leave us untouched.
Our general attitude in Estonia is that regardless of the differences between Member States concerning the details of immigration, the EU has to make an effort to reach an agreement dealing with the common principles of migration policy. Estonia is supportive of the plan to adopt a European document on immigration, which would harmonise the immigration and asylum policy of all the Member States. At the same time, Estonia does not support the introduction of automatic norms. Every Member State should, in our opinion, be dealt with on an individual basis, taking into consideration its specific conditions, history, and the unique background of its demographic situation.
Next, I would like to briefly dwell upon the relations between the EU and its neighbours. Currently the EU’s attention is focused on finding solutions to internal problems, and there is an evident risk that we may not be paying as much attention to our neighbours as we should within the context of the European Neighbourhood Policy. Especially in the eastern direction, since President Sarkozy has promised to concentrate on the Mediterranean Process.
Estonia’s priority countries within the framework of the ENP have for a number of years been Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine. Over the past years, we have devoted considerable intellectual effort and economic resources to support these countries in their European endeavours. We have done this both on our own and in cooperation with other Member States and third countries.
In our view, a special format of the ENP should be devised in order to provide the EU with a political dimension for developing relations with its eastern neighbours. This could be similar to the Barcelona Process that exists for promoting relations with our southern neighbours. This policy would reassure our eastern neighbours that the EU is interested in and engaged with all of its neighbouring countries, not with just two or three of them. It could lead to the intensification of relations between the EU and all its the eastern neighbours.
The so-called eastern dimension could be developed into a format for the sharing of experiences, and could thereby ensure the transparency of the EU’s policy towards all the countries concerned. The strengthening of the eastern dimension is particularly important in the case of the South Caucasus countries, considering their strong ties with Central Asian states. Here, the energy interests and needs of the EU also come into play.
And now, a brief overview of our priority countries. Estonia feels that Georgia, as a strategically placed country in the South Caucasus area, deserves more attention from the EU than it has received so far. The more so because the current administration of Georgia has, both in word and deed, displayed a firm commitment to the implementation of reforms. A more active and clear-cut policy from the EU would certainly help to put an end to Georgia’s two unresolved conflicts, which would increase the stability of our eastern neighbourhood area, and also of the entire EU neighbourhood. Estonia is also of the opinion that the EU could muster greater initiative for the promotion of bilateral contacts between Tbilisi and the separatist regions.
As for Ukraine, the greatest problem is a certain degree of instability in the domestic politics of the country, which leads to slowness in making decisions and choices. The new EU-Ukraine Agreement should not be viewed as a makeshift substitute for Ukraine’s EU perspective, but as a new step towards EU membership.
For the European Neighbourhood Policy as a whole, it is essential that the approach to the partner countries be flexible and strictly individual, taking into account each country’s unique possibilities and capabilities for making progress.
Considering the position of both Ukraine and Georgia we think that is not enough that EU tries to encourage them in the framework of ENP, therefore we firmly believe that these countries should receive their Membership Action Plans from NATO as soon as possible.
Ladies and gentlemen
Last but not least about the European defence and security matters. The military capability of the EU Member States has, over many decades, relied upon efficient transatlantic cooperation. I believe that this must and will remain so in the near, and not so near, future. This means that there will continue to be close and rational cooperation between the EU and NATO. Together we will have to meet new security risks, like the massive cyber attacks that Estonia already experienced a little more than a year ago.
During the French Presidency we expect to see more attention being paid to the European Security and Defence Policy. We hope that this will result in visible progress being made in the development of both the civilian and military crisis management capability of the EU. Our priority is increasing the EU’s real crisis management capability, rather than the setting up new institutions and structures. We must also carefully consider how to better organise cooperation between the military and civilian segments of crisis management.
In our view, the European Union plays a particularly important role in the strengthening of civilian capability, for which the need and demand have grown considerably. The EU has good perspectives for making contributions in this sphere. At the same time, it is also important to continue to develop military capability, and we feel that this sphere of activity is in need of additional resources.
In the sphere of conflict prevention and crisis management, the EU must develop better cooperation with its partners. The EU and NATO relations must become true partners, with both of them bearing full and equal responsibility, and without competition or confrontation between them. This is required, as the security challenges in the world today dictate the need for close cooperation and coordination. Further development of the ESDP and NATO should be closely linked, since they deal with same issues. Both the EU and NATO are going to review their fundamental strategic documents, namely, the European Security Strategy and NATO’s Strategic Concept. In our view, they are two parallel processes, which need to be coordinated and based upon the same fundamental principles.
Estonia welcomes France’s positive decision to rejoin NATO’s military structures. This lays a good basis for France’s term of Presidency, one priority of which is to deal with European defence issues.
The priorities set by the EU’s Security Strategy of 2003 are, to a large extent, still relevant today. In the review process of the Strategy, it is first and foremost necessary to work out how to realise its objectives more effectively, and to form a concrete platform for doing so. The most important aspect is to increase coherence of action and comprehensive approach in planning in the external arena. One of the possibilities for increasing efficiency might be to complement the Strategy with the Membership Action Plans.
Estonia thinks that in implementing its Security Strategy, the EU should pay more attention to issues like unresolved conflicts in the EU’s neighbourhood, more efficient cooperation between Europe and the U.S. in resolving global security problems, and threats to cyber security.
So, what is the present situation in terms of cyber security and the attention given to it? Unfortunately, the eventual consequences of cyber attacks, on both national and global levels, have not been fully realised by the general public, or even the appropriate authorities. Therefore, it is important to increase the public’s awareness and understanding of the threat that cyber crime poses, and to achieve a universal moral condemnation of cyber attacks.
It is also important to establish international cooperation for preventing and dealing with cyber attacks. The governments of all nations are encouraged to accede to the Council of Europe’s Convention on Cybercrime. There are no international laws dealing with cyber security yet. Legal instruments for combating cybercrime at an international level must still be formulated, and national legislations in this field must be harmonised accordingly.
Ladies and gentlemen
In conclusion, I am thankful to the German Council on Foreign Relations once more for their invitation, and for the opportunity to share with you some thoughts on the topical issues of Europe.
I thank you!
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