Politico: Estonia's EPF actions were 'completely legal'
A report Tuesday which stated that Estonia had been upgrading its own defenses at the expense of other European Union Member States does not mean that Estonia has acted in any way other than "completely legally", Politico, which published the initial article making the claims, said Wednesday.
At the same time, several MEPs are calling for a revision of the European Peace Facility (EPF), the scheme under which Estonia applied for reimbursement for military equipment sent to Ukraine.
Much of the equipment in question, such as 105mm howitzers sent to Ukraine last year, is dated, but the reimbursement has been calculated on the basis of new replacement equipment, rather than the much lower figures that the current market value of the older weaponry would entail.
At the same time, Estonia is only one of half-a-dozen EU Member States, including Finland and Lithuania, who have done the same, Politico itself states.
In its "Brussels Playbook" section, Politico notes that what Estonia has done, namely replacing older military equipment supplied to Ukraine with newer equipment, funded by the EPF, is "completely legal."
Politico, however, says the practice is being done "at the expense of" Estonia's allies, while some MEPs are calling for stricter regulation and more transparency.
The MEPs in question are from Renew Europe, S&D and the Greens – Renew Europe is the European Parliamentary group to which three of Estonia's seven MEPs belong – and have urged the EU to impose standard rules for how much countries can claim from the EPF, Politico reports.
One of the MEPs, Margarida Marques, who is vice-chair of European Parliament's budget committee, told Politico that though the EPF is an off-budget instrument, its use should be bound by principles of "sound financial management and transparency," while reimbursement should be based on a single calculation methodology, to ensure equality and transparency.
Another, Stéphane Séjourné – Renew Europe's leader in fact – told Politico he, too, favors harmonization and supervision, to ensure the same method for each member state in evaluating its military donations to Ukraine.
Rasmus Andresen, a Greens MEP and budget committee member said: "I call on the member states to establish the current value as a binding basis for calculation. Brand new equipment must be financed via other instruments."
Andresen added that the EPF has in general worked well in providing joint EU military support to Ukraine, rapidly, though proper parliamentary oversight by national legislatures is "urgently needed," he said, mainly as the EPF is an intergovernmental, rather than supranational, body.
Politico claims that it has never questioned the legality of Estonia's EPF claims, nor Estonia's high level of commitment to Ukraine's defense, but also says that if every country applied the same methodology as Estonia has, in particularly larger EU member states, the EPF scheme would quickly be overloaded – a situation which would in fact ultimately harm Ukraine.
Politico says that Germany has not asked for reimbursement on aging former East German materiel which it has donated to Ukraine.
Two countries more comparable with Estonia are Latvia and Lithuania, which, Politico says, have made "far lower" requests on the EPF, though their contributions are comparable (upwards of €400 million, Politico says).
Politico's Brussels Playbook is authored by Jakob Hanke Vela and Zoya Sheftalovich, and is also presented by Meta, Facebook's parent company.
As reported by ERR News, Politico said Tuesday that Estonia had, according to some sources, been renewing its military on the dime of other EU Member States.
At the same time, six countries have calculated their EPF claims based on the purchasing price of new, replacement arms rather than the current market value of that which has been sent to Ukraine.
These are: Finland (which has reportedly claimed 100 percent of the new purchasing price), Lithuania (93 percent), Estonia, (91 percent), France (71 percent) and Sweden (26 percent).
Ministry of Defense Secretary General Kusti Salm rejected the Politico claims as "malicious slander", while Peter Stano, leading spokesperson for the European External Action Service (EEAS), which falls under the European Commission's remit, says no evidence of wrong-doing on the party of Estonia has been established.
He said: "The EPF is an instrument in the hands of Member States. It is an intergovernmental instrument, which means the Member States own and manage it. Whatever the EPF is doing, or financing in this case, is in the hands of the Member States."
Estonia's two Reform Party MEPs, Andrus Ansip and Urmas Paet, sit with the Renew Europe group (formerly ALDE), as does the sole Center Party MEP, Yana Toom.
The EPF is a €7.9-billion fund which aims to expand the EU's ability to provide security for its citizens and partners and enables the union to provide all types of equipment and infrastructure to the armed forces of EU partners, in compliance with international human rights law and international humanitarian law, the EPF states on its own website.
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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Mait Ots