Chancellor Merkel in Estonia: We must build up a new EU together (4)
EU member states should not be rushed in making decisions following Brexit, which is why no decisions will be made at the upcoming summit in Bratislava, said German Chancellor Angela Merkel at a press conference in Tallinn on Tuesday. As for the Baltics, Merkel confirmed that Germany would continue to adhere to decisions made at NATO's Warsaw Summmit — and that is all that counted.
On Wednesday, Chancellor Angela Merkel arrived in Tallinn as part of a longer trip in preparation for the first EU summit to be held without th UK. At a press conference delivered in the Stenbock House, Merkel stressed the fact that, following Brexit, the EU must be given a new direction, however actionism would be unnecessary. Member states must be given time to discuss matters, and prior to the summit in Bratislava, the future of Europe must be discussed with all member states.
"This is a period for listening to one another, understanding and learning from one another in order to find and develop a new balance in the 27-member EU," said Merkel. "If the UK, who made up 15 percent of the EU's GDP, leaves [the EU], this means the departure of an important partner, and from the start we must act collectively and very calmly to build up a new, 27-member EU again."
A journalist for ETV's nightly news broadcast "Aktuaalne kaamera" asked to what extent Germany's policies would change as far as attitudes toward the security of the Baltic States was concerned if conservatives did not win in the elections scheduled to take place [in Germany] next year. German Minister of Foreign Affairs Frank Walter Steinmeier had recently criticized NATO exercises in the region, recommending that the alliance avoid "irritating Russia" by placing troops in Eastern Europe.
Merkel's response was terse, but confirmed that the only thing that counted was the support of the Baltic States agreed upon by NATO.
"Our government is working within the framework of the greater coalition and all decisions made in Warsaw were unanimous and in both of our opinions very positive, as were the decisions of previous NATO summits, and that is what counts," confirmed the chancellor.
Speaking about the ongoing migration crisis, Merkel repeated her earlier standpoint that European states must be united, but first and foremost combat its underlying causes.
"We must combat the root causes of [refugees'] flight — human trafficking, crime," explained Merkel. "And therefore we employed the EU-Turkey agreement. We are certainly obliged to diversely implement our humanitarian responsibility as well."
Following the press conference, Rõivas and Merkel visited the St Mary's Cathedral in Tallinn, where the chancellor was received by Archbishop Urmas Viilma of the Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church. Merkel, who herself hails from a religious family, was interested in Estonians' religiousness in general and asked about the relationship between young people and the church in Estonia.
Three letters sent by Martin Luther, a key figure in the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century, to the town council of Tallinn regarding the dispatching of Lutheran preachers to the capital city were also brought to the cathedral from the Tallinn City Archives.
After their visit to the cathedral, Merkel paid a visit to the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Center of Excellence (CCD COE), of which Germany was a founding member.
The German chancellor said that Germany and Estonia should strengthen cooperation in the IT field. She noted that Europe would benefit from a digital single market, referring to potential jobs for young people.
Merkel visits Estonian and German soldiers
On Wednesday afternoon, Merkel also met with Chief of the Estonian Defence Forces Lt. Gen. Riho Terras as well as Estonian and German military personnel at the Staff and Signals Battallion in Tallinn.
Nearly 200 soldiers from the 231st Mountain Rifle Battalion of the Bundeswehr's 23rd Mountain Rifle Brigade are currently serving in Estonia. In addition, German officers are also serving at the NATO command element and NATO's CCD COE in Tallinn, reported spokespeople for the Estonian Defense Forces.
This year, embers of the German defense forces have taken part in Estonia's Spring Storm and the US Army Europe's Saber Strike exercises as well as in Operation Dragoon Ride, a US Army and NATO exercise in the transfer of military equipment and troops through Europe, from the Baltic States to Germany.
Beginning this month, Eurofighter Typhoon fighter jets from the German Air Force will take over the NATO Baltic Air Policing mission based out of Estonia's Ämari Air Base for the third time.
The German air force has sent its jets and personnel to perform the mission in a total of eight rotations so far. Germany was also one of the nations to lay the foundations for the Estonian Navy's mine countermeasures capabilities, and several Estonian officers and NCOs have been trained in Germany.
Estonian defense personnel have served alongside their German colleagues in the Horn of Africa and are currently serving together in Mali as well.