ERR in Brussels: Estonia tries to keep Ukraine in focus alongside Gaza

Estonia's prime minister, Kaja Kallas.
Estonia's prime minister, Kaja Kallas. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

A European Union leaders' meeting in Brussels on Thursday convened in response to the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, though Estonia also took the opportunity to try to keep Ukraine on the table too.

Just as opinions in the union at present differ on aid to Ukraine, so too do they on matters relating to Gaza, in the aftermath of the October 7 Hamas attack and Israel's response.

Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) was at the meeting, and, talking to ERR's Joosep Värk.

One example of concerns about Ukraine relate to issues with the implementation of the union's million projectile program.

Speaking to ERR, Kallas said: "This is becoming a problem."

"We have to fulfill all our pledges and obligations. There are indeed some countries that have not fulfilled this pledge in the way that Estonia has done, while it seems to me that they are also looking for any excuses for not doing so. I think that it is not the right way to go," adding that Estonia should push to get things back on track.

For many other European leaders, the situation in Gaza and Israel was uppermost, while views varied on what should happen next.

Spain's Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said: "I am definitely in favor of a humanitarian pause [in the fighting]. I think there is an urgent need for a pause. The suffering of the people of the Gaza Strip that we have seen through the media is not acceptable."

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz took a line more sympathetic to Israel alone, saying: "Israel is a democratic country guided by humanitarian considerations. For this reason, you can be sure that the IDF also follows international law in its activities. I have no doubt about that."

The Netherlands' Mark Rutte said: "We need to make sure that the normal people in Gaza - the Palestinians - who are suffering from Hamas as much as Israel and everyone else, that humanitarian aid to them will increase, exponentially via [the city of] Rafah. This is why we're probably going to agree on humanitarian aid pauses today.

At the same time, several topics concerning Ukraine are also being debated

Also taking part was Hungary's Viktor Orban, who said: "I think it's a very divisive issue here. I mean how to react to the terrorist attack of Hamas on Israel. So the opinions are diverging, and it will be a deep and serious discussion I think."

"We are very much and clearly in favor of the right of Israel to defend itself and carry out the necessary measures," the Hungarian leader went on.

ERR's Brussels correspondent Joosep Värk commented that the European Union is still debating the wording of the messages that should be given on Gaza, but at the same time the events there are constantly moving forward.

"At the same time, the rest of the world has actually already moved on on this; that is, some developing countries are disappointed in the EU as it has not used as many arguments appealing to international law in the case of Israel as it has in the case of Russia and Ukraine, leaving Israel and the U.S to do what they want in Gaza. So the EU is currently debating what could happen, while events are already moving forward," Värk told AK.

The initial attacks by Hamas via rocket attacks and a breakout on the ground from the Gaza Strip led to around 1,400 mostly civilian deaths on October 7, while counter-strikes by Israel on Gaza have reportedly killed thousands.

Thursday's meeting brought some of the differences noted above into sharp relief. AP reports that within the EU, Austria, Germany and Hungary are among Israel's top supporters, exemplified by their leaders' official visits to Israel in the aftermath of the attacks.

Some other countries such as Spain and Ireland often focus more on the plight of the Palestinians, though Hamas as an organization is on the EU's list of terror groups.

The BBC, the public broadcaster of non-EU nation the U.K. has also reportedly recently started to refer in its reports to Hamas, if not as a terror group, at least as a group referred to as such by the British government and other authorities,

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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Merili Nael

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