EU Commission president: We should have listened to Baltics about Russia

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The flags of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.
The flags of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

Brussels should have listened to warnings about Russia from the Baltic states and Poland, President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen said in her annual speech on Wednesday. Estonian experts noted its closeness to Estonia's policy positions.

"One lesson from this war [in Ukraine] is we should have listened to those who know Putin," von der Leyen said.

"To Anna Politkovskaya and all the Russian journalists who exposed the crimes, and paid the ultimate price. To our friends in Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, and to the opposition in Belarus. We should have listened to the voices inside our Union – in Poland, in the Baltics, and all across Central and Eastern Europe," she said, adding that "they have been telling us for years that Putin would not stop".

In the State of the Union speech, she said the Baltic states have acted on their warnings, ending their dependency on Russia, Lithuania's national broadcaster LRT reported.

Ursula von der Leyen Source: Twitter/@vonderleyen

Experts: It could have been written by an Estonian

Estonian experts were happy with the positions voiced in von der Leyen's speech, even going so far as to suggest they were so similar they could have been written by an Estonian.

"There were a lot of familiar ideas and positions partly taken from our talking points," said Kyllike Sillaste-Elling, undersecretary for Political Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

She highlighted that von der Leyen started and ended the speech with the topic of Ukraine, emphasizing support for Ukraine, the importance of sanctions and the need for their continuation.

The commission president also said a so-called frozen conflict must not be allowed to arise in Ukraine.

Kyllike Sillaste-Elling. Source: ERR

The Baltic's high profile was also mentioned.

Vivian Loonela, head of the European Commission's representative office in Estonia, said: "Never before have the Baltic countries been highlighted in such a way in a speech by the president of the European Commission."

She said, having listened to commission president's speeches for many years, that this year's could have even been written by an Estonian.

"That the president of the commission thinks so similarly to us certainly makes Estonia's activities easier," Loonela said.

Vivian Loonela. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

Both experts pointed out von der Leyen's strong support for Ukraine's efforts to join the EU, another of Estonia's foreign policy goals, and the need to repel Russia's attempts to divide Europe.

Additionally, a lot of attention was paid to China, said Loonela and Sillaste-Elling.

It was highlighted that the EU cannot afford to put itself in a position where it becomes dependent on the country, as it did with Russian energy.

The full speech can be read on the EU Commission's website here.

Official: We feel listened to

Secretary General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Jonatan Vseviov said von der Leyen's speech showed things are "moving in the right direction".

"It's never too late to do the right thing. Actually - all jokes aside - [Estonia] we feel listened to. Yes - progress can sometimes be frustratingly slow, but we're moving in the right direction: raising the cost of aggression, supporting [Ukraine] and ensuring there's no impunity," he wrote on social media.

Prime Minister Kaja Kallas reiterated her earlier statements and said this is not about saying "we told you so".

"It's about how we will go forward. Without fear. The Kremlin won't stop until it's pushed back and justice prevails," she wrote.

Editor's note: This article was updated to add comments from Kaja Kallas and Jonatan Vseviov.


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Editor: Helen Wright

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