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Tunne Kelam
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11.05.2007
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11.05.2007
Tunne Kelam

TUNNE KELAM: ESTONIA DEBATE IN EU

Estonia Debate in the European Parliament
Speech by Tunne Kelam on behalf of the EPP-ED Group
Brussels. May 9, 2007

Dear Colleagues

I am moved and comforted by your extraordinary demonstration of support and solidarity.

What is happening between the EU member state Estonia and the Russian Federation is not a bilateral case. It is a case for the EU as a whole – a test case whether the EU is really a political union, which is rooted in solidarity and unity. Today, the clarity, timing and unity of the EU reaction is being tested. What we are entitled to expect is a strong EU commitment to unconditional solidarity.

First of all, we need to be free of wishful thinking. The way the Russian Federation is treating a EU member state is clearly not an aberration. President Putin has presented a programme of a new, much more assertive Russian foreign policy in his Munich speech. This approach can be termed neo-imperial or revanchist. The Kremlin point is to regain at least partially its influence over the former Baltic colonies and also over the former Warsaw Pact part of Europe, relying on the current energy boom which has boosted Russian influence and importance, and misusing Russians abroad as tools of its policy. Mr. Putin claims that Russians living in Estonia, Latvia or other countries are his compatriots. He is mistaken. I consider Russians living in Estonia as my compatriots. And I am proud of them. I am proud that 99% of them remained loyal to the Estonian state, not to Mr. Putin.

However, the question is not only about solidarity. The key word is sovereignty of the new members of the European family. We can succeed in keeping it intact only when we shall speak with one voice and then also shall demonstrate unity in action. When a member state that decides to be clear about its own past, and does it in an open and dignified way, suddenly becomes the object of concentrated pressure from its huge neighbour - when its Embassy in Moscow is taken hostage for 7 days, when riots to destabilize law and order are being organized with the clear inspiration and assistance of a foreign state, when Russian officials and Duma members call for a democratically elected Government to step down, when an economic blockade is being implemented, when the web sites of the Estonian state institutions are being blocked by cyber attacks - an innovative form of propaganda war - then one has to be worried about the sovereignty of the state in question.

Estonia is not the first case. Latvia, Lithuania, Georgia, Moldova, Ukraine have also been targeted one by one. This is related to the notorious Russian "Near Abroad" strategy. The Soviet Union's former dependencies are still seen by Moscow as a special zone of interest. If we today hesitate to react as a political union, tomorrow the Czech Republic, Poland or any other country could become a target of such attacks.

The sovereignty of a nation has yet another dimension - the sovereign right to decide on its own destiny and to assess its own history. Under the Helsinki agreements, no country has the right to decide on the destiny of another country. In 2005, the European Parliament concluded the debate on the consequences of the World War II by declaring that for several nations the end of the war meant renewed tyranny inflicted by the Stalinist Soviet Union.

Today, there is still a divide of values, running across Europe. Whereas all democratic states are clear that the three Baltic states were illegally occupied in 1940 by the Soviet Union as a direct consequence of the Hitler-Stalin Pact, the successor to the Soviet Union continues to deny the fact of annexation, presenting the latter as a legal and voluntary marriage. Even more, it vehemently denies the right of its former colonies to assess their own tragic past. Such an approach to enforcing its own concept of history on the neighbouring states means implementation of the doctrine of limited sovereignty.

This is a priority challenge we have to address, and address in a united way.

Finally, the lesson of brutal intervention into Estonian internal affairs signals us that the EU cannot any more afford to continue business as usual, limiting ourselves to routine protests and declarations. One can achieve changes in Moscow's approaches only by making further development of mutual relations conditional on Russia's return to civilized behaviour. Behaviour to which Russia committed itself 11 years ago, when it became a member of the Council of Europe.





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