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Adress by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Estonia Kristiina Ojuland to the Friedrich Naumann Foundation



The Perspectives for Liberal Cooperation in an Enlarged Europe

Dear liberal colleagues,
I am very happy to have this opportunity today to share with you my thoughts concerning the perspectives for liberal cooperation in an enlarged Europe. And it is a pleasure to see so many friends, and also people that I have cooperated with at the Friedrich Naumann Foundation.

Only thirteen years separate us from the time of the Berlin Wall and the Communist dictatorships that governed the eastern half of Europe, including my country Estonia. Today, less than half a year separates us from the principal step of the unification of Europe, the accession of ten new members to the European Union. At approximately the same time, Estonia and several other Central and Eastern European countries will also become members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and thereby join the transatlantic community. Historically, this realization of the idea, that the president of the United States, George W. Bush, characterized in his Warsaw speech as a “Europe whole and free and at peace”, is an enormous step forward for the cause of liberty. For the countries like Estonia, these past few years have been a time of great achievements, but also of great sacrifices. We have built up successful democratic societies and functioning market economies. Our societies are still markedly less well off than those of Western Europe, but compared to our recent past, the progress has been enormous. On the occasion of the presentation of the Liberal International’s Prize for Freedom to former Estonian President Lennart Meri, Dr. Otto Graf Lambsdorff said a few years ago, that Estonia is seen in Europe as a country that has initiated a bold programme of reforms, and as a model liberal government.

Estonian liberals have believed, since the restoration of Estonian independence, that the purpose of integrating Europe is to guarantee security and prosperity on our continent. Therefore, we consider the further integration of Estonia into the European Union to be a priority goal. Integration would also provide free access to the European internal market, and include Estonia in the solving of international problems. With the referendum of September 14, the people of Estonia made a concrete decision concerning accession to the European Union and displayed their firm commitment to the common values of Europe. As 67 per cent of Estonia’s citizens voted in favour of joining the European Union, there can be no doubt in the commitment of the Estonian people to the building of a new and better Europe. When acceding to the European Union and joining NATO next year, the people of Estonia will be ready to bear the responsibility for the future of Europe, together with the other states of this continent.

Estonia’s goal of joining both NATO and the European Union has not been an end in itself. Rather, it has been part of Estonia’s overall effort to create a political, economic, and institutional environment, in which our national interests can be properly developed. Estonians understand very well that Estonia’s accession to NATO and the European Union will not restrict the freedom , which every nation requires for its existence, but would actually expand it, thereby increasing the nation’s opportunities and security.
We expect to become active and constructive members of both the European Union and NATO. And we are convinced, that we also have something to contribute to this great project known as Europe. One of our contributions is certainly our firm belief in how crucial the freedom of choice and the freedom of enterprise are for creating a solid social foundation, which would be essential for ensuring that a unified Europe is successful on the world stage. I also believe, that Estonia’s positive experience in the field of social and economic reform could provide new ideas for liberals in old and established welfare states, including Germany.

It is in the nature of the leaders of the European Union, which is, after all, a community of very different nation states, to hope, that supposedly perfect institutional arrangements could be a miracle solution for problems such as a democratic deficit or lagging economic growth. Good institutions are of course essential for organisation such as the European Union. But if the institutions do not manage to reflect a true blend of rule from above and initiative from below, attempts to increase citizen participation in the political process or to speed up economic growth can often have disappointing results. As the great liberal philosopher Ludwig von Mises has shown, the growth of regulatory government agencies, and statism as such, do not have a positive impact on the economic growth and welfare of societies.

It has been in Estonia’s interests to join an effective Union, which assures equal opportunities for both big and small states. When planning to make institutional changes, it is very important to observe the principle, that all member states are equal. I believe, that it would be advantageous for the whole European Union, if it does not develop into a club-like system, which would differentiate between old and new members, but rather, into a system that appreciates the contributions of all members.

I think therefore, that the great task ahead of us, as European liberals in a European community of 25 states, is to find ways to bring more new ideas, more citizen activism and private initiative into the European decision-making process. We must keep in mind, that the unifying of Europe is not an aim in itself. A European integration policy makes sense only if it is capable of achieving two goals: firstly, influencing global policies, which will determine the future; and secondly, concretely and effectively contributing to the quality of life of every European. Integration can successfully achieve both goals only if it maintains and respects the identity of every single individual. This is a core value, which is the basis for all culture, creativity, and motivation. And without which, true progress would be impossible.

As an example of a new and mostly successful idea, I must mention the European Convention. In order to answer the central questions concerning the future of Europe, a broad forum was needed, where all relevant players from the member states, acceding states, and various European institutions were appropriately represented. The result of the synergy of ideas from so many different sources was the draft Constitutional Treaty. I believe, that the involvement of the acceding states in the Convention and the Intergovernmental Conference as full discussion partners demonstrated the legitimacy of the European Union to the citizens of these states. This was a crucial step that helped to achieve the overwhelmingly positive results in the referendums of the acceding states.

But every new idea has its limits. Many members of the Convention, representing both governments and national parliaments, were not happy with the way the final text of draft Constitutional Treaty was formulated by the Presidium. The inadequate representation of the views of a large number of the members of the Convention resulted in some proposals in the final text of the draft Constitutional Treaty, that, unfortunately not represent the views of a significant number of present and future member states. At the same time I would like to point out, that we considered 90-95% of the Convention´s draft Constitutional Treaty to be acceptable for Estonia.

And that is why, only after the governments participating in the Intergovernmental Conference have finished their deliberations and made necessary amendments to the new Constitutional Treaty, can we be sure, that the resulting text will be approved by all the peoples of Europe, and will create a solid base for the functioning of a European Union of 25 states. Some issues raised both in the Convention and the Intergovernmental Conference have a direct relevance to the idea of generating new solutions to the problem of perceived democratic deficit in European decision making. One great step forward, which was agreed upon in the Convention, and has been supported by the governments at the Intergovernmental Conference, is the public nature that the legislative work of the Council of Ministers will acquire in the future. Presently, ordinary citizens, far too often, see the European Union, through the lenses of the tabloid press, as a citadel from which incomprehensible rules originate, without much explanation being given. I do hope, that the increasingly public nature of European decision-making will improve the legitimacy of the European project in the eyes of Europeans. The other innovative solution proposed during the Intergovernmental Conference, is the establishment, in the future, of the team presidency system. This will make it possible to involve more than one country in the everyday governing of the European Union.

At the same time, one of the least successful proposals of the Convention was to establish a supposedly more effective “two tier” European Commission, with 15 voting and 10 non- voting commissioners. Strangely, the body most interested in the effective functioning of the European Union, namely, the European Commission itself, does not agree with this idea. The European Commission president, Romano Prodi, said recently, that the abandoning of the equality of all Commission members would destroy the basis for collective responsibility. He said, that there is no reason to assume that a Commission of 25 or more members would necessarily be inefficient. Many national governments have more ministers than that. It all depends on how they are organised. He also outlined a workable model for a Commission of 25 or more members, according to which, all commissioners would retain full voting rights, and they would be organised into groups of commissioners. Similar views are widely shared among many present and future member states, including Estonia. I find that the full representation of all small and big countries at the table where new European legislation is proposed and drafted, offers the only real possibility for injecting new ideas into the system. The commissioners from new member states bring with them the experiences acquired in the course of the successful economic reforms carried out in the last 15 years. They are probably less concerned with defending vested interests than might be some of their colleagues from Western Europe. The new commissioners would be orientated more towards the liberalization of markets, and to giving a role to new solutions and technologies. At the same time, they will defend and promote traditional common European values and interests just as vigorously as their colleagues from Western Europe. That is why we believe that all commissioners should be guaranteed participation, on an equal basis, in the decision-making process of the European Commission.

Estonia also supports the maintaining of the current minimum of the distribution of seats in the European Parliament so that each member state has at least five members in the Parliament. We believe that the right of member states to determine their own tax and social policies is a fundamental one. Thus, we insist that tax and social welfare matters continue to be decided by unanimity. We support the development of the European Security and Defence Policy. But we also believe, that the development of structured cooperation and closer co-operation on mutual defence and military matters should progress in a manner that is open to all member states, and does not harm our co-operation within NATO. We welcome the use of qualified majority voting, as a general rule, for legislative proposals, but insist that unanimity remain for any possible Treaty changes. We believe that the transition from unanimity to qualified majority voting, as a change of a constitutional nature, should be subject to a formal treaty amendment.

I am convinced, that we must see the whole world as an open marketplace for exchange of not only goods, but also of ideas. In this context, it is difficult not to be worried about the questions that have divided the Western world this year as a result of the Iraq conflict. Transatlantic relations have been strained, and opinion leaders from both sides of the Atlantic have been unwilling to appreciate the arguments of the other side and to conduct a proper dialogue. I believe, that it is important, not only for the peace and stability in the world, but also for the cause of liberty in general, to overcome those differences between Europe and America. Together, we could effectively work for the spread of democratisation and free trade in the world. Divided, neither cause will progress. I believe, that European liberals should do their share to improve the quality of the transatlantic debate. What Europe and the United States need is a debate on how to transform our democratic values into effective action in the world arena, into a strategy how to to handle different outstanding issues including threats coming from failed states. I find it striking, that although both European and American leaders shared the conviction that Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq violated the basic principles of human rights and democracy, they so miserably failed to find a common action plan for dealing with the problem.

At this point, I would like to bring forth the case of the bloody civil wars in former Yugoslavia, where the achieving of peace would have been impossible without both the European and American contribution. I believe, that in the process of developing a more concrete Common European Foreign and Security Policy, we should take into heart the lessons taught by these recent experiences, move forward in a way that increases our opportunities for making the world a better place. We must avoid policies that would limit our options due to strained international relations. I believe, that the adoption of the recent United Nations Security Council resolution, that foresees the rebuilding of Iraq with the participation of the United Nations, creates a good opportunity for using the combined resources and capabilities of democratic nations for a constructive purpose. Estonia, although a small country, has been active in both Afghanistan and Iraq by providing appropriate peacekeeping contingents.

The unimpressive results of the last round of World Trade Organisation trade liberalisation negotiations, in Cancun, proved that only good co-operation between the United States and the European Union can move the trade liberalisation talks forward. Globalisation is often portrayed as a natural force, but the rules of free trade are not something that will come into existence without the will of the statesmen involved. As a joint project of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation and the Estonian Reform Party, the Estonian edition of Johan Nordberg’s book about globalisation was published recently. I do hope, that the arguments presented in this book, in favour of globalisation as a great equalizing and liberating force, will help us to increase public awareness, in my country, about this essential matter. I clearly see trade liberalization as an issue that could unite European liberals in their work to improve the European Union generally. For example, the European Union’s agricultural policy is a matter of concern for not only European taxpayers. Among other things, it helps to cause price distortions on the world market, which makes life difficult for the most vulnerable nations. Therefore, the best thing that Europe can do for helping the world’s poor is to reform its own agricultural policy. The customs tariffs, especially high tariffs, are a hindrance to economic progress worldwide. This is an issue where we must work together in the future to improve European common commercial policy and to achieve the lowering of tariffs on WTO trade liberalisation negotiations.

I am sure that governments across Europe know, that they must embrace economic reform. But at a time when we need to make Europe's economies more responsive and nimble, the harmonising of tax or welfare systems would be a giant step in the wrong direction. Making everyone follow the same tax rules would quickly diminish Europe's competitiveness by killing jobs and stifling growth. The growing burden of an ageing population in Europe makes it necessary to carry out extensive pension and welfare reforms in the future. In such a situation it would be far better to allow every country to set its own taxation and welfare provisions. European countries need the freedom to innovate, to create bold and unconventional solutions. We must maintain that freedom, and encourage that creativity. It is essential for Europe to prosper in this age of globalisation.
The European economy certainly needs new solutions to overcome the economic stagnation it has entered at the beginning of the 21st century. One of the ways to move forward is to make use of the possibilities offered by the Lisbon process for finding new innovative solutions to our economic problems. The objectives established by the European Council of Lisbon, in March 2000, recognised the fact that European research and development must evolve until the European Union becomes the most competitive and dynamic economy in the world. The growing interdependency of the international economy calls for an overall strategy, which will bring to the existence a genuinely competitive market, in which knowledge, industry, and services are significant factors promoting economic development and employment. Estonia supports the ideas for eliminating the last obstacles to the cross-border provision of services; and those for creating conditions favouring the increase and consolidation of private investment, and the development of human resources and innovation. Estonia has decided, that our way forward is through the application of information technology and the development of biotechnology, including bioinformatics. Estonia has also made great efforts to establish a true E-state by, among other things, making all public services, as much as possible, accessible to the public via the Internet.

The enlargement of the European Union will bring home to most Europeans the reality of new neighbours in the East. Russia, earlier a neighbour only to the northernmost member of the European Union, Finland, will become the most important direct neighbour of the European Union to the east. Belarus, Ukraine, and Moldova will also be part of this area, which European Union plans to engage through Wider Europe - New Neighbourhood initiative. I am happy to see that European liberals have been active in proposing new ways for making this new border area a source of trade, not friction. At the beginning of this year, European Liberal, Democrat and Reform Party Group parliamentarians held a meeting in Tallinn discussing the opportunities arising from the Northern Dimension of the European Union. Many interesting ideas on how to develop cross-border relations in an enlarged European Union were proposed. These, no doubt, contributed to the formulation of the Second Action plan for the Northern Dimension, that was adopted in October by the European Union.

The activities of the Council of the Baltic Sea States clearly demonstrate how cross-border relations can be successfully developed. The Baltic Sea countries have a good potential for sustainable development, which would benefit not only their own people, but also the whole of Europe. Over the years, cooperation in CBSS has spread to all spheres of common interest – in addition to matters dealing with the economy, co-operation in connection with the environment, education, health, and the fight against crime and drug trafficking has grown in importance and scope. This steadily evolving co-operation of the past decade in our region is, to a large extent, the result of the efforts of two outstanding liberal politicians – Uffe Ellemann Jensen and Hans Dietrich Gensher, the foreign ministers of Denmark and Germany who, back in 1992, laid the foundations of the CBSS and envisaged its role and evolution. Estonia, as the current chairman of CBSS, will do its utmost to develop cooperation further and solve the problems that are constantly arising. For example, in the context of growing tanker traffic, it is vital that traffic by single-hulled tankers be terminated in the Baltic Sea. The European Union has already taken resolute step by prohibiting the entry of such tankers to its ports. We hope that Russia will follow suit.

Let me now turn to a subject, which is of special concern to those present here – the cooperation of liberal parties in Europe. As a former president of the LDR Group of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, I believe that international cooperation is the key for implementing liberal values in practice.

We all face one common problem and this is the fact that socialists and some others simply have “stolen” several important ideas of our liberal ideology starting with the individual liberties and ending up with the principles of free market economy. What to do in this situation? How to make difference? First, we of course should keep our basic values also in the future. However, I belive that we as a liberals should be able to look to the future more creatively and in more unconventional way. We should be the frontrunners of the new ideas. Europe is crying today for reforms and we liberals, should pick up this challenge. We should be the ones who propose the structural reforms, we should be the ones who demand the reform of the CAP, we should be the ones who restore the transatlantic relations. Actually, I belive that we, liberals should save Europe from the economic, social and intellectal fall. We, liberals, must give to our citizens new perspectives for the better future.

At this point, I would like to thank the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for its contribution to the development of liberal thinking in Estonia and Central Europe in general, and also for supporting the creation of a network of liberal parties throughout our region. Just recently, on the 15 October, the Friedrich Naumann Foundation celebrated its tenth anniversary of activity in the Baltic States and the tenth anniversary of its office in Tallinn. The support of the Foundation has made it possible for the Estonian Reform Party to learn from our cooperation partners, and to share our reform experience with our colleagues both in the East and the West. I recall the kind words of the president of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation, dr. Otto Graf Lambsdorff, stating that liberalism is strong in the Baltic states. I think that the support of the Foundation over the last ten years has greatly contributed to this success. I believe that my colleagues from the other Central European countries can express similar sentiments. I do hope, that this fruitful cooperation between the Foundation and the Estonian Reform Party continues for a long time to come.

Thank you for your attention!


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