This content is not available in your region

"We need to give Ukraine hope...they are literally fighting for Europe" urges Estonia's PM Kallas

Access to the comments Comments
By Efi Koutsokosta
euronews_icons_loading
"We need to give Ukraine hope...they are literally fighting for Europe" urges Estonia's PM Kallas
Copyright  euronews

Defence, spiralling energy prices and EU enlargement look set to top the agenda as Europe's leaders hold talks at the Palace of Versailles near Paris.

The two-day summit is symbolic in that it offers the bloc another chance to show its strong solidarity with Ukraine following Russia's invasion of the country.

Away from the symbolism, however, there will be a number of clear priorities. Most notably, how to boost security and energy independence in the face of Moscow's aggression.

EU leaders are also likely to discuss the possibility of further sanctions against the Kremlin, though they will be mindful of the potential harm this could do to their own economies still trying to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic.

One EU country arguably more exposed than others to the ongoing war in Ukraine - given it shares a border with Russia - is Estonia.

Euronews' Efi Koutsokosta spoke to the country's Prime Minister Kaja Kallas.

...an attack on one is an attack on all...And I think this is too big a bite even for Russia to take.

Efi Koutsokosta, Euronews:

Prime Minister, let me get straight to the point. You're amongst some of the leaders strongly advocating greater military presence on your borders. Are you afraid that maybe you’re next if Putin succeeds in Ukraine?

Kaja Kallas, Prime Minister of Estonia:

"The correct question would be is NATO next when Putin succeeds in Ukraine? We are part of NATO, so we have Article Five in NATO that says an attack on one is an attack on all, which means that if we are attacked, then it also means that the US or France or Germany is attacked. And I think this is too big a bite even for Russia to take. So, we are not afraid, but we are preparing. We have in NATO so far, the deterrence posture. But now we have to move to the defence plan, how we really are ready to defend when or if it should be necessary."

...an attack on one is an attack on all...And I think this is too big a bite even for Russia to take.

...our goal is to end this war.

Efi Koutsokosta, Euronews:

"But is the risk of the conflict in Ukraine spilling over into Europe a reality?"

Kaja Kallas, Prime Minister of Estonia:

"Of course we are, I mean, trying to help Ukraine with all the possible means that we have in order for them to protect and defend their own country. And our goal is to end this war and do everything that this war is stopped and it doesn't go any further. Of course, none of us can see into the future - what is right or what is a wrong decision along the way. But this is what we try to do, to end this war in Ukraine and of course, that it doesn't spillover."

Efi Koutsokosta, Euronews:

"You said already in the European Parliament that the EU has a moral duty to make Ukraine a member state. But why? How would an EU candidacy help Ukraine in the middle of the war?"

Kaja Kallas, Prime Minister of Estonia:

"I said that we need to give Ukraine European perspective. We need to give Ukraine hope. They are literally fighting for Europe. So, we should also give them a tangible trajectory to, you know, join our European family. And this is what we will debate as well. Of course, it doesn't happen overnight. I mean, there are steps on the way. We have done this, so we know very much from the practice. But I think Europe benefits from a more prosperous, more stable, more rule of law-oriented Ukraine."

Efi Koutsokosta, Euronews:

"But not all of your colleagues actually have the same appetite for such an enlargement right now. Shouldn't this be clearly spelt out to the Ukrainians, rather than empty promises?"

Kaja Kallas, Prime Minister of Estonia:

"We shouldn't give empty promises. That's for sure, but to re-emphasise and give some tangible steps on the way to give hope to the Ukrainians. I mean, because hope gives also strength. Therefore, I think it's our moral duty to give that hope. You know, it's the least we can do."

Efi Koutsokosta, Euronews:

"We've seen during this crisis the EU taking unprecedented sanctions against Russia and being very united with allies, but how further measures can the EU afford to take? And what is on the table right now?"

Kaja Kallas, Prime Minister of Estonia:

"This is true that Europe has been very united and very quick also in acting and putting together the sanctions. I mean, Europe has not been a particularly nimble organisation so far. So I think we have surprised Putin. We have surprised the world, but we have also surprised ourselves being so strong and quick on this. Now it's already the fourth package on top of those sanctions that were in place already from 2014. So of course, we are exploring, you know, additional ways to put more pressure on the war machine of Putin and to take the finances out of this war machine so that he can't continue with this war. The sanctions are hurting, but we also need strategic patience in order for the sanctions to kick in and really have their effect."

...gas might be expensive, but freedom is priceless

Efi Koutsokosta, Euronews:

"But what is the price that EU citizens have to pay for all this? What would you say to them?"

Kaja Kallas, Prime Minister of Estonia:

"Well, one could say that gas might be expensive, but freedom is priceless. I mean, I'm coming from a country where we didn't have freedom. I mean, I was born in the Soviet Union. I know very well what it means. It is said that you understand the value of freedom when it's taken from you. So that's why it's very hard to explain to those countries or those people who haven't experienced this in the first place. But of course, it's going to be hard and we have to be honest with our citizens as well that the hard times lay ahead. And so far, I think we have been, our discussions in the European Union and have been focused on, you know, really targeting the war machine of Putin and not hurting the people so much because we also need the people's support behind the decisions. And if it is for the people something that they can't tolerate, it's also hard to keep the sanctions up." 


Efi Koutsokosta, Euronews:

"Prime Minister, did this conflict trigger tensions inside your country, given that there is a Russian speaking minority that for years has been complaining that it was not treated equally."

Kaja Kallas, Prime Minister of Estonia:

"Those complaints have not been, recently so vocal. We have like 300,000 Russian speakers, but they are not a homogeneous group. Majority of them are Estonian citizens and also feel the emotional tie with Estonia. Right now, due to this war, we also have the Ukrainian minority. So, we see tensions between those groups and we have to be very tentative about [whom] we talk about you know: it's Putin's war and it's the Kremlin who is doing this, not Russian speakers, we can't put an equation mark [equals sign] between Putin and the Russian people, and we have to keep this separate."