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5. September 2017
The people of Estonia are not alone - Op-ed in POSTIMEES
OP-ED OF MANFRED WEBER, CHAIRMAN OF THE EPP GROUP IN THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT
Original version published in Estonian in POSTIMEES on 5 September 2017
The people of Estonia are not alone
The European way of life is facing unprecedented threats and challenges: terrorist attacks on European soil, the worrying developments in Turkey and in Russia, the attitude of the new US administration towards Europe show us: As Europeans, we must increasingly rely on ourselves to defend our European way of life.
For the Estonian people, who remember Soviet occupation so vividly, the threat represented by Vladimir Putin’s Russia is one of the greatest subject of concern. But you are not alone: we, your European partners, are sharing your concern.
Making Europe safer will only be possible through better European cooperation. The best proof is this: all those who want to weaken the European Union are trying to break our unity.
Of course, the European Union has every interest in a good relationship with Russia, including cooperation in common areas such as the fight against terrorism, arms control, non-proliferation or trade. But we need to be aware of the fact that the behaviour of the Russian leadership is a threat to the European Union, because it is trying to divide the European Union. This is why European unity is needed on all aspects of EU-Russia relations.
On sanctions, the EPP Group’s position is very clear: the European Union will continue to support sanctions against Russia until the Minsk agreements are applied – and further breaches must be followed by further sanctions.
This is also why we need to strongly oppose the Nord Stream 2 project. Not only would an extension of the Nord Stream pipeline go against the efforts undertaken to reinforce the diversification of energy routes and suppliers; it would also expose and deepen the vulnerability of several Member States, and undermine the energy security of the European Union as a whole.
Another problem weighing on our relations with Russia is the communication war, including cyber-attacks, trolling and fake news, that Moscow is waging against us. No one knows this better than Estonia, that suffered a massive coordinated cyber-attack in 2007. The systematic propaganda from Russia’s state-owned media is no less dangerous than other forms of destabilisation attempts. We have to fight back against cyber-attacks, manipulation and disinformation.
Europe has to accept that the international security situation has changed. Therefore, it is time for us to answer: the European Union must grow up in defence matters. We must create a European Defence Union.
We do not need any more abstract plans, but we need to take our defence in our own hands by creating a European Army equipped with the latest technology and led by headquarters that can conduct EU military operations with personnel that can be quickly deployed.
Naturally, the EU must continue to be a strong pillar within NATO. By sharing common transatlantic values, we shall work side by side in reaching a stronger and more strategic cooperation. Extra money should be channelled to research and development as well as to programmes of strategic cooperation. Estonia sets a great example within NATO, as it has kept and even increased the national defence expenditure over the last years.
There should also be a stronger European participation in NATO’s high-tech programmes such as the follow-up system to AWACS and a future ballistic missile defence. And of course, national armed forces have to strive for better cooperation and better use of their existing capacities.
Within the European Union, we need a European Defence Fund that must be well equipped, enabling us to advance on the common development and acquisition in the fields of drones, space observation and cyber defence. A strong European Defence Fund must also be our guarantee to maintain a strong defence industry within Europe. If we want to stand as one within NATO, we must stand as one in our determination to realise the European Defence Union.
As always, crises can also be opportunities. We believe that building a common European defence is the way to make Europe safe against external threats again. European integration was set to be based on common defence. Let us achieve this project of our founding fathers.