Consistent, future-oriented, past the shock of the pandemic and indicative of new momentum is how I would describe European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen's annual speech this time. Her strong statement concerning Russia has already merited attention, while I would point out three other topics that are vital from Estonia's point of view, Keit Pentus-Rosimannus writes.
First of all, strong focus on new economy, digital services. It was music to Estonia's ears when von der Leyen referred to the next ten years as the digital decade for the EU and put on the table creating a common and secure European digital ID.
Everyone who has dealings and does business in more than one EU country has been eagerly awaiting this initiative. If the digital signature provided by the digital ID system can save Estonia around 2 percent of GDP a year, we can only imagine the effect of having the same possibility on the level of the European Union.
Secondly, boosting climate ambitions by seeking to lower carbon emissions by 55 percent instead of the originally planned 40 percent by 2035. Greater emphasis will be placed on energy sector reorganization and energy saving. The latter presents another brilliant opportunity for Estonian researchers and companies that have excellent complete solutions and examples of how heating bills can be reduced by up to 60 percent.
It is interesting in this context to take a look at energy consumption over the past six months or during the coronavirus period. The Wärtsilä corporation's annual report compared energy generation in the EU in 2019 and 2020 (including the United Kingdom in 2020).
Use of coal fell by 20 percent as did total emissions, while energy demand shrank by 10 percent. The report also found that 45 percent of total energy generated came from renewable sources in 2020. While political forums are still busy debating the matter, the energy turn is already happening.
The third topic von der Leyen touched on in her speech concerned China. Admitting that the aspirant hegemon China is a rival for the European Union on this level and with this level of clarity came as an important message. As did admitting that member states' ability to shape a correspondingly serious common China policy has been lacking. It is where Estonia should also take a frank look in the mirror.
As is the case with all speeches, goals painted in words are less important than the actions that follow. Knowing the demographic forecast, the European Union does not have too many competitive edges.
What we can do is turn Europe that is often depicted as slow and gray-haired into a vibrant adopter of new technologies to support the quality of life of its people by supporting cooperation between researchers and companies and investing in corresponding fields.
Editor: Marcus Turovski