ERR in Brussels: Estonian Members of the EU Parliament Prioritize Development of Digital Single Market
ERR's correspondent Johannes Tralla went to Brussels to learn what the six Estonians seated in the European Parliament have achieved so far and to which areas they hope to make a difference. It appears that although all the representatives have different aims, they find common ground on prioritizing the development of a EU-wide digital single market.
Indrek Tarand, who represents the Group of Greens on the Committee on Budgets, bears considerable responsibility. The EU budget draft for 2015 has already received 1,370 amendment proposals, and the structural deficit is increasing, reports ETV's "Välisilm".
"There is an accumulation of 200 billion in unpaid bills. We have agreed that we are unable to solve it but we will try to mitigate the situation," said Tarand, and added that there are further problems to be reckoned with.
Tunne Kelam, who has started his third term in the European Parliament, said his main concerns are the EU digital single market and the security situation in relation to the escalating conflict in Ukraine. He also discussed in some length the EU and US free trade agreement, the seventh round of talks of which will start this week in Maryland.
"One can always find objections but the questions here is, whether we are throwing the baby out with the bathwater. If the issue is GMOs or interception (of phone conversations by the US), these are minor problems. A big problem is one we face together," Kelam said.
In his view it is irresponsible to adopt a position that the negotiations have nothing to do with Estonia and we can manage without a free trade agreement. "We cannot manage without it, Europe's economic growth is coming to a standstill again," he said.
Kaja Kallas, when talking about her experiences so far, described spontaneous history lectures she is giving during official dinners for delegates. Last week's topics included the deportation of thousands of Estonians in cattle cars in the 1940s, a talk that the Belgian, Dutch and British ambassadors followed with wonder and surprise.
By introducing Estonian achievements to her colleagues, Kallas hopes to help EU overcome the problems inhibiting the integration of the digital single market. "We talk of digital signatures, something that is only a dream here. We have to spread the word on how well its working. It would be very positive to get the EU to the stage we are at," Kallas said.
Toom holds different views
Yana Toom lists discrimination in the labor market, education and free media has her priorities.
Toom, who in the last plenum voted against the resolution demanding tougher sanctions on Russia, radically differs from other Estonian parliamentarians in regard to the EU policies on Russia. She believes the Ukraine conflict should be solved and peace guaranteed by diplomatic means.
"We have overextended ourselves with those resolutions, they are not peaceful. If we want to achieve peace we should appeal to all three parties of the conflict, for in addition to Ukraine and Russia there is also Donetsk," Toom said.
In her opinion, sanctions are the first step towards a Cold War and present us with a dilemma: what do we want, war or peace?
Contrary to Toom, EU Parliament member Marju Lauristin finds that the sanctions implemented so far have not been harsh enough. "It is her opinion but I believe that we must apply all possible means on Russia. We have seen it before, Russia listens to the voice of power," she said.
Ansip faces the Parliament in a week
In a week, Andrus Ansip will face the European Parliament as the Vice-President-Designate of the Commission for Digital Single Market. Marju Lauristin is looking forward to hearing what Ansip has to say but said she is a little bit concerned.
"Despite all the domestic disputes and problems Ansip and I have had, now we are in Europe and share a common interest that our representative in the committee is convincing and comes forth with new ideas," Lauristin said.
Ansip said he has done his homework. "I assume most questions will probably concern the digital single market. There will be 45 questions, the hearing lasts three hours and this time should accommodate all kinds of questions," he said.
"Commissioner-designates approach the hearings differently. Some are very well prepared, they don't have to work through the texts in length. I have worked through hundreds of pages but feel that this is still not enough," Ansip said.