Dr Charles Tannock

Member of the European Parliament for London

Estonia

Delivered in Plenary - 22nd May 2007

Mr President

Russia regrettably will not wake up to the new geopolitical reality that the so-called ‘near-abroad’, where it exercised total power for most of the last century, from the Caucuses to Ukraine, is no longer a reality. The Baltic States are now also proud, independent EU Member States and it is right and proper that the EU and NATO, which they have joined, should show total solidarity when Russia attempts to bully the smallest of them – Estonia – over what is entirely a sovereign internal matter of that newly independent republic.

Many might question the political wisdom of moving the statue of a so-called Soviet liberator. However, I, fortunately, come from a country that has never experienced the brutal Stalinist invasion and annexation that these countries have. One must appreciate that most Estonians do not see the Soviets as liberators but as tyrants, who extinguished the independence and freedom they enjoyed in the inter-war period.

The relocation of the statue and fallen Russian soldiers was conducted according to international law and it in no way justified the Duma resolutions calling for the resignation of the Estonian Government; the subsequent violent demonstrations; the cyber-attacks on Estonia’s sophisticated system of e-government; the outrageous use of Nashi , an extreme nationalist organisation, to harass the Estonian Embassy – in violation of the Vienna Conventions, and on the back of a similar strategy adopted against the British Ambassador, Anthony Brenton, who attended the Kasparov rally last year.

If it wants good relations after the summit with the EU as a whole and if it wants to negotiate a new PCA, Russia must appreciate that it has to respect all the EU Member States equally.

The cosy bilateral days of former Chancellor Schröder, now richly rewarded by President Putin with a cushy job after his retirement, are well and truly over. The new EU leaders, such as Sarkozy and Merkel, are going to get much tougher with Russia in future.