Prime Minister Kaja Kallas' (Reform) speech to the Riigikogu on Tuesday about Estonian activity in the European Union was based largely on the consequences of Russian ongoing aggression in Ukraine, which she believes has more strongly united Western countries as well as obliterated Russia's international standing. In addition to security, the prime minister called more attention to energy and climate issues as well.
"I'll be honest — I've never felt such a strong sense of belonging to Europe, never been more proud of Europe, than when seeing this reaction and unity that Europe has manifested in connection with Russia's aggression," Kallas said in her speech in the Session Hall. "The EU's unity and solidarity, but also leadership has been a key factor in the mobilization of the entire Western world against Russia."
At the same time, Russia has lost the respect in the eyes of the world as well as friends, and the rest of the world will never see Russia as a trustworthy partner again, she stressed.
"Russia wanted to subjugate Ukraine and crush European unity," the Estonian prime minister said. "Instead, it got a stronger and more unified Europe than ever before in return. It also got in return a world in which nobody loves Russia. Some fear them, some take advantage of Russia, but nobody loves them."
Kallas highlighted the leadership shown by Estonia and other countries on Europe's eastern flank in supporting Ukraine and organizing international resistance, and stressed that the war cannot end with anything but Ukrainian victory, which must be followed by a legal assessment of the crimes committed by Russia and reparations for Ukraine.
"Russia must compensate for the damages caused to Ukraine; the war crimes and crimes of aggression must be punished," she stressed.
Speaking about the EU's activities in aiding Ukraine and mitigating the consequences of Russia's attack, Kallas highlighted the sanctions imposed on Russia's leadership and economy, the giving up of Russian energy as well as the more rapid transition toward the use of renewable energy.
"We also decided together to strengthen European defense and decided to open the European Union's doors to Ukraine for the first time," she continued.
"The turning point of the era has also been the granting of the perspective of EU membership to Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia and launching accession talks with North Macedonia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, but also Finland and Sweden joining NATO and hopefully the granting of Schengen membership to Romania, Bulgaria and Croatia as well," she listed.
For the first time in history, the EU has also funded the provision of military aid via its budget in the European Peace Facility (EPF), and a first-time agreement is likewise anticipated for the production and purchase of ammunition within the relevant joint instrument, the Estonian prime minister said.
"We can soon expect from the European Commission a medium- and long-term military capacity development initiative to consolidate Europe's military industry, to jointly develop key capabilities and to ensure that as much of the resources being added to defense serve joint defense as possible," she said.
"In cyberdefense, we expect a methodology for the evaluation of cyberinvestments based upon which to establish a sustainability target for information and communications technology (ICT) investments," she continued. "Also launching at the end of this year is the first internal EU military training mission in history, in order to support the Armed Forces of Ukraine."
The EU also supported Ukraine with the first ever implementation of its temporary protection mechanism, which facilitated the reception of war refugees in all member states.
"While 40,000 war refugees have seriously put Estonia's reception capacity to the test, without temporary protection, there would be well over 100,000 war refugees from Ukraine in Estonia today," Kallas said. "That's tangible EU solidarity."
In addition to military aid, the EU has also provided Ukraine with €7.2 billion in macroeconomic aid, and will be providing even more next year, she added.
"This aid should also be supplemented by the use of Russian state and oligarchs' frozen assets for the benefit of Ukraine in order to compensate the damages caused to Ukraine," she stressed.
Energy transition must be accelerated
According to Kallas, another consequence of Russia's aggression has been the faster than planned transition away from fossil fuels and especially Russian energy carriers and toward renewable energy.
"Over the past year, Europe has painfully learned that energy is a part of security, and that energy connections are on one hand our big chance, but at the same time we're also made vulnerable by our connections," she said.
"This vulnerability concerns energy connections with Russia in particular," she stressed. "With Russia, no one can ever be sure whether it will be energy or some ultimatum that arrives through that connection. Thus, the turnaround time in Europe also concerns the change in energy production, storage and consumption."
According to the prime minister, current rapid price increases have largely been the result of high energy and food prices that have been driven up by Russia's war.
"Thus, the phasing out of Russian fossil fuels has been rather too slow than too fast," she said. "Betting on cheap Russian energy instead of renewable energy development was wrong and ended up costing us dearly. Fortunately, these gas pipelines have not to date become the straw to break Ukraine and Europe's back."
New energy and climate projects
Kallas said that it was decided between regional prime ministers and the president of the European Commission to increase the volume of offshore wind energy on the Baltic Sea sevenfold by 2030.
"Estonia and Latvia's joint offshore wind farm project ELWIND was also added to Europe's list of priority projects this August, and we're working to ensure that Estlink 3 is added to it as well in order to resolve the external connections with Finland that are currently acting as bottlenecks," she said. "At the same time, we believe the opportunities provided by the REPowerEU initiative must be made available to already existing projects as well."
The head of government also said that within the framework of the EU's Fit for 55 plan, Estonia's target is to reduce its carbon emissions by 24 percent compared with 2005 levels by 2030, but is currently moving at 13-percent target pace.
"Not reaching this [target] could mean state budget commitments in the range of €225 million a year for the purchase of additional emission quotas," she warned.
Commenting on the land use, land use change and forestry (LULUCF) sector agreement, Kallas acknowledged that Estonia's activity in this sector to date has led it into a difficult situation insofar as the sector has by now gone from being a net carbon sequesterer to a carbon emitter.
"Despite tense negotiations, we achieved for Estonia an entire range of flexibility and compensation opportunities upon which to build our action plan going forward," she highlighted.
"Despite the flexibility achieved, however, it is nonetheless perfectly clear that we definitely cannot move forward going on as before," the prime minister stressed. "The sector must shift its focus from wood and fuel exports to carbon storage and increasing value added. We want Estonian nature and Estonian forests to last, so we have to choose how to make better use of the wood to come from our forests and produce products from this wood that also capture carbon, be those furniture or wooden houses."
At the conclusion of her speech Tuesday, Kallas expressed hope that the person to next deliver Estonia's European Union speech in the Riigikogu "will continue on the course of a strong Europe and won't have to start rescuing an Estonia in isolation."
In her speech, the Estonian prime minister used the word Vene/vene ("Russia" or "Russian") 44 times, Euroopa/euroopa ("Europe" or "European") 41 times, Ukraina/ukraina ("Ukraine" or "Ukrainian") 26 times and the word or word stem energia ("energy") 22 times in total.
Editor: Aili Vahtla