Indrek Kiisler: When will Estonia learn to say 'no' in the EU?

Indrek Kiisler.
Indrek Kiisler. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

We are fast approaching a point where the image of the European Union will start sinking also in the eyes of those who have so far held dear the considerable perks that membership holds. The EU has served as a framework of security and Europeanness for Estonia, while cracks in that frame are getting harder and harder to mend, Indrek Kiisler writes.

It is easy to be cross with anonymous Brussels, even though its collective apparatus is clearly becoming a thing in itself, churning out proposals which have increasingly little to do with reality. This week brought news of the utopian megaproject of residential renovations.

We are going to be electing the European Parliament again next spring, which begs the question of the mandate based on which the European Commission is proposing such impracticable ideas? Also, why is it so easy to steamroll positions shared by most Europeans? The Commission, which virtually functions as the European Union's government, acts like a think tank, churning out ideas and proposals the execution but also repellence of which has been left to Member States.

Surveys show that most Europeans do not support having a fixed deadline for the internal combustion engine ban, while commissioners hardly let it shake them out of their ideological rhythm. The [EU] plan for the rapid renovation of residential buildings is not simply ill-considered, it is crazy. Nevertheless, Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson was proud to report an unprecedented volume of support measures coming from the Commission. But while support sums are set to grow by leaps and bounds compared to past rounds, the money belongs to European taxpayers who should have a say in how it is used, and it is still a drop in the ocean compared to the cost of the grandiose renovation plan.

Simple democracy does not work here as the election of commissioners does not hinge on the opinion of citizens and they bear no personal responsibility. Kadri Simson serves as a good example of this. Her re-election in now way depends on how well she has done her job over the last five years. Instead, it depends on the sides to the incoming coalition. The position of European commissioner is an item of political horse trading pure and simple, next to other high-prestige jobs, such as that of the Riigikogu speaker and ministers.

That is how it works in all Member States. Next fall, the incoming Commission's members will convene to discuss how we should go down in history and find a new topic. Nothing will change and everything start anew.

In the European Parliament, delegates have personal responsibility and following ideological lines makes sense. Just as it is clear why Estonian MEPs from the Social Democratic Party (SDE) approved the utopian idea Wednesday. Sven Mikser and Marina Kaljurand represent a worldview according to which it is possible to manage society in a top-down fashion. However, they also bear responsibility. I am really looking forward to the two MEPs meeting people in a small town somewhere in Southern Estonia to tell them about the hugely expensive renovation requirement and look them in the eye after the European Parliament has helped do away with thousands of jobs in the area. After all, the Parliament greenlit the LULUCF proposal, which serves as another example of the Commission's arbitrary quotas turned into an obligation for Member States.

But cracks in the EU are not just the fault of anonymous Brussels bureaucrats. We are also to blame ourselves.

We have been too quick to adopt things the execution of which in Estonia and the region is questionable to say the least and oftentimes downright harmful. Our officials, diplomats and politicians feel uncomfortable when they should turn down certain proposals and stick to their guns.

It is also easy to justify going with the mainstream because of Estonia's small size. But look at how well tiny Estonia has made itself heard in security matters. Never before has what our prime minister has to say carried such weight. The same kind of forceful demeanor is required regarding initiatives the noble goal of which no one doubts but the execution of which is dubious or downright harmful. It needs to be said loud and clear and responsibility made tangible.

For example, our ruling parties' current claims of the insanity of the green transition come off hollow in a situation where the same forces greenlit the EU's plan of hitting climate neutrality by 2050 around Midsummer's in 2020. It was an easy promise to make as members of Jüri Ratas' cabinet will be retired come 2050. However, the rest of society will be trapped in the noose we've allowed to become tight ourselves.

We have no better solution than market economy with which to effectively solve environmental problems. Let us look at power generation – the peak prices of several winters have seen an explosion of wind and solar park developments, which are bound to drive down prices and do away with the need for pollutive oil shale plants. Growing utility costs force people to either renovate their buildings, tear them down or abandon them in some cases. But let us allow people to make those choices for themselves and the market to work. The green transition is too important to be turned into an example of the inefficiency of planned economy.

This may be an unpopular opinion when there is talk of austerity, but if our officials are unable to react, calculate and collect feedback due to their enormous workload, the capacity of ministries and the number of officials needs to be boosted as it is cheaper than allowing rank foolishness to be imported.


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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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