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Estonian MEPs discuss Europe's support for Ukraine

"Esimene stuudio" MEPs debate in Brussels. Source: ERR

During an "Esimene stuudio" debate that was broadcast from Brussels, Estonian MEPs agreed that Europe is not giving Ukraine enough support, as well as that opening up EU treaties in light of potential new members requires further debate.

Riho Terras (Isamaa) said that the next two weeks will be crucial in the Russia-Ukraine war as they will see the European Council meet and whether the U.S. can agree on a new package of support. The pressure on Ukraine to negotiate has been mounting. "The problem is that the Russian war machine is working in three shifts, and Russia is spending 6 percent of its GDP on the war," he said.

Andrus Ansip (Reform) remarked that support has been made available, also by the European Union. "However, it has not been enough to decisively shift things in Ukraine's favor. It is embarrassing that we are arguing over whether we can support Ukraine with another €50 billion over the next four years. Hungary is opposed, and another sudden obstacle has cropped up – funding problems in Germany," the MEP said.

Sven Mikser (SDE) said that there are two problems with the United States the longer-term of which has to do with presidential elections next year. The other problem concerns lines of force in the House of Representatives where an unfortunate impasse is holding and will likely not be overcome before Christmas.

Yana Toom (Center) pointed to a geographical trend in the European Parliament regarding delegates who might be less motivated to help Ukraine. "There is war weariness, even though I can see attempts not to notice it in the Estonian press," she added. Toom also said that while it is often suggested Ukraine's EU accession is within reach, this is a misconception and the Ukrainians are supplied with false hope instead of more aid today.

SDE's Marina Kaljurand suggested that the fact the EU and NATO have not managed to rally enough international support in the Ukraine war is another concern. "Yes, [countries] vote to support the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine, but when you go a step further – to what should be done with the aggressor, war criminals – members keep silent. There need to be punishments and responsibility. Efforts to create a EU court for crimes of aggression have also stopped short. A lot of such things, which come on top of military aid, have stopped short and are not looking as good as the should."

"I don't think people in this building really understand what peace means. Today, peace means Ukraine's capitulation, that Putin will not be punished or his regime held responsible. That is very much the wrong idea," Kaljurand said.

Urmas Paet (Reform) said that the way the European military industry works remains fragmented. Orders need to come from Member State governments that have not been demanding enough of their military industrial sectors in the context of the Ukraine war. While the desire to favor European defense industry is understandable, the combined production volume of these companies is far from enough today.

Mikser remarked that Russian propaganda according to which the West does not care about the lives of people in the third world like it cares for its own people is no longer falling on as many deaf ears since the start of the Israel-Hamas war, and it is very difficult to achieve the same level of support for Ukraine in the UN compared to a year ago.

Amending EU treaties

Expansion plans have raised the issue of whether and how to amend the EU main treaties.

Yana Toom pointed out that making promises to potential new members is at variance with being categorically opposed to amending the main treaties in failure to answer how the unanimity principle should be observed in the case of 36 member countries.

Paet suggested that switching from unanimity to a majority when making decisions in the EU would not be a negative development for Estonia. "It surprises me, in this context, that Estonia's foreign and security policy positions are very rigidly the same they were 20 years ago, as if nothing has changed."

The system was not designed to be what it has become today, Paet said, adding that he is in favor of amending voting principles for foreign and security policy matters. "I'm not suggesting we should change it [the decision-making mechanism] for everything, just vital security concerns."

Mikser said that the main treaties will likely not be amended in the coming years. "I believe that the process, should we ever come to it, will be so long, painful and unpredictable to make this an academic conversation. The main problem being that we have at least one country in the EU that is not observing the principles based on which the union was created."

Consensual action is the only way small counties are heeded, Terras suggested, adding that Estonia will lose any and all say it has in EU matters should the unanimity principle be abandoned. There is also no consensus for dropping unanimity. "We are wasting time discussing things that merely make us feel good having discussed them," he said.

Marina Kaljurand said when the moment comes to talk about expansion, the time will also have come to discuss the treaties. She agreed that the principles should be revised, while where and by how much should be analyzed by lawyers. The MEP added that its veto right is not the only reason Estonia is heeded and Estonia has not found itself standing alone [in the EU]. "We have always managed to find allies as we have refrained from saying foolish things that would leave us without friends," she said.

The debate over the main treaties revolves around values, while the treaties themselves do not protect values and rather serve as common market rules, Yana Toom remarked. "We need to decide whether we are on a common market where anything goes, including things we find reprehensible in terms of values. If we decide it is not acceptable, changes need to be made."

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Editor: Andres Kuusk, Barbara Oja, Marcus Turovski

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