President in Munich: China now overshadows Russia

President Kersti Kaljulaid at this weekend's Munich Security Conference
President Kersti Kaljulaid at this weekend's Munich Security Conference Source: Office of the President

China is increasingly taking center stage over Russia, President Kersti Kaljulaid said at the Munich Security Conference, which she took part in over the weekend.

"It's not just Russia that were dealing with here" the president told ERR on Sunday.

"Every year, more and more business is being done with China. In fact, it is clear that the world has formed an opinion and we in Europe increasingly understand that there is a new global, major, unknown player... China," she added.

The president contrasted this with the Russian Federation, which she said was more a regional, European security question rather than a global one.

"Russia has, in a sense, become a regional risk which Europeans have to deal with themselves. And in that sense, French President Emmanuel Macron is right that Europe itself must be able to speak from a strong position with Russia. Indeed, this needs to be talked about" she said.

The president also noted diverging perceptions on how rapidly relations between Europe and Russia might be normalized, though said the five principles the EU set out following crisis in Ukraine beginning in 2014 were still in place.

 "There are different levels of optimism here, and it is very important for us to be involved in these discussions - that Estonia is a party to these debates and disputes, one in 27 [EU member states] who is involved in shaping our common European vision," the president said.

Look within ourselves to solve problems

"A lot of countries are fighting - we could put it this way - with internal demons, such as those here in Germany, in discussing what AfD is, whether it's a standard party or not."

"A lot of countries are asking where will we end up when those who rely on their own media system and have become detached from our overall political debate, have the political power," the president said.

"In that sense, I think we're having this debate in the right place, as we've been talking for years here in Munich about how Russia is trying to tear our societies apart, but maybe today we need to talk more about what we ourselves do with our societies," she added.

"In that sense, I completely share the theme of the conference, ambassador Wolfgang Ischinger (chair of the Munich Conference and a former German ambassador to the U.S.-ed). I think this is very close to an exact wording, because Westlessness ... sounds about right, that we have to look inside ourselves for the reasons that cause us difficulty today. In order to be strong in the future and all together. And all together in Europe is always a keyword, as [German President] Frank-Walter Steinmeier stressed yesterday," she continued.

The president also spoke at a Three Seas Initiative round table in Munich on Saturday, where she said the U.S.'s funding commitment to the region – covering Central and Eastern European countries close to, as the name suggests, the Baltic, Black and Adriatic seas - demonstrates the country's strong belief in the economy of the region.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo pledged $1 billion for the financing of infrastructure projects in the three seas region; Estonia is to host the summit and a business forum of the Three Seas Initiative in June this year.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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