Tag Archives: environment

Why Nord Stream is another Mistral deal

The Nord Stream gas pipeline will empower Russia and harm Ukraine. The EU should act.
Published in Politico on 26.10.15

The decision of some German, Austrian, British, Dutch and French energy companies to do business with Gazprom must be severely lamented. Not only is it environmentally and economically wrong, it’s a brazen-faced dismissal of the principles of the intended European Energy Union, which are based on fair competition and solidarity.

Just a few years ago, the European Commission acted decisively and forbade the same companies to build a similar pipeline in southern Europe called South Stream. Now we are facing a lack of willingness to act because of the position of some member state governments; namely, Germany, France and Britain. That kind of majority would be difficult to challenge in the European Council, but it should be challenged nonetheless. A surprisingly heavy attack on the agreement made it onto the European Parliament plenary agenda thanks to the efforts of German MEP Reinhard Bütikofer, on October 7. But a resolution hasn’t yet been reached.

Germany, Europe’s economic powerhouse and one of the EU countries most addicted to Russian gas, came under siege from MEPs representing some of the smallest member states: Luxembourg, Cyprus and Estonia. Aided by a number of MEPs from Poland, Hungary, Romania, Greece, and Italy, they reproached the indifference of Berlin, Paris and London — and that of the European Commission.

How can these actors turn a blind eye to Nord Stream’s unambiguous goal to exclude Ukraine (and consequently Poland, Slovakia and others) from gas transit markets, delivering a quick and lethal blow to the survival of Ukraine’s already fragile economy, and indeed, to Commissioner Maroš Šefčovič’s efforts to facilitate a gas deal between Ukraine and Russia?

Economic data reveals that the Nord Stream pipeline is only working at half capacity because of a drop-off in demand for Russian gas. European energy companies have buckled under pressure from Gazprom — they only own 49 percent of the shares in the endeavor. To understand why they buckled, you have to consider the promises the Russians made, which probably include lucrative Artic drilling rights. Anyone can see that Gazprom’s reserves are too low to provide more gas than they are currently. Investments in research and infrastructure have been down for years and even with the best intentions, the Russian state-monopoly wouldn’t be able to invest because of its money being carelessly and relentlessly siphoned toward provocative military action in Syria. Hence their idea to apply some German-British capital to gas production in the Arctic.

Russian posturing around the North Pole may be attractive for business leaders, but they should take a closer look at the experience of British Petroleum in Russia. Assets can be declared the property of the Kremlin overnight. And, of course, they should bear in mind what happened to Khodorkovski. There’s no economic viability in the plan whatsoever.

We believe it’s not too late to apply common sense, and to return to the laborious, but worthwhile effort, of creating the European Energy Union, based on the diversification of energy supplies, energy efficiency and the increased use of European resources — especially renewable ones. But it will take determination from the European Council. That’s why we call on President of the European Council Donald Tusk to arrange a debate on this harmful project at the next meeting of heads of states and governments.

If he doesn’t, Nord Stream might present the same danger as the French plan to sell Mistral helicopter platforms to Putin. Russian admiral Vladimir Vysotskiy said that if he had had Mistral during the 2008 war in Georgia, the Black Sea fleet could have finished its mission in 40 minutes, instead of 26 hours. Within a year and a half, Nord Stream could see the end of Ukraine as an independent state.

Indrek Tarand is a Greens/European Free Alliance MEP. He previously served as the secretary-general of the Estonian ministry of foreign affairs.

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Environmental security

At their Summit in Strasbourg / Kehl on 3 and 4 April 2009, NATO’s Heads of State and Government tasked the Secretary General to develop a new NATO Strategic Concept. This exercise should be completed by the time of NATO’s next Summit, which is expected to take place towards the end of 2010.

NATO’s new strategic concept: link

The report can be found directly on the following link.

As the European Security Strategy recognises that predicted global climate change will have increasing impact on stability and security in many regions around the world and more particularly in Asia and Africa, and in the context of the forthcoming new NATO strategic concept, the set up of an environmental security strategy is more than needed.

It is important to analyse commonality of assessment between the EU and NATO of predicted global climate change as a factor of instability and insecurity in the most vulnerable places in the world, especially in terms of climate change as a driver of current or future conflicts. Climate change consequences like resource depletion, drought and floods, famine and mass migration, might have a direct impact on EU and NATO security interests.

The adequacy of existing NATO and EU capacities to respond to climate change driven catastrophes and the extent to which existing civilian, policing and military capabilities and assets could be deployed or adapted to meet these future challenges should be assessed.

It would be necessary to recommend measures and modifications to training – through NATO’s ACT described above – and to procurement policies, necessary to improve the EU and NATO’s ability to respond to such crisis.

Existing command and control structures and policies in the context of their applicability to the long-term nature of likely climate-driven crisis and conflicts should be reviewed.

The potential for burden-sharing and specialisation between the EU Member States and NATO allies to optimize resource allocation, civilian, policing and military assets which are required for crisis response and conflicts, whether climate driven or not should be explored.

At present, the climate change issue is only mentioned in the new report presented by the group of experts, chaired by Madeleine Albright.
Taking into account environmental security related to it in the new strategic concept would be a breakthrough.

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The Arctic

The Arctic is a vast area covering more than a sixth of Earth’s inland, covering all 24 time zones and over 30 million square kilometres. Most of the Arctic is a vast 14 million square kilometre ocean surrounded by treeless permafrost. The Arctic is a truly unique, yet vulnerable region.

There are now approximately 4 million people living permanently in the Arctic, including over 30 indigenous nations. The Arctic region includes the northern territories of the eight Arctic states- the United States (Alaska), Iceland, Canada, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Greenland (a territory of Denmark) and the Russian Federation. Five of the Arctic states are members of the European Economic Area (EEA), three of which are also Member States of the EU.

All eight states are members of an institution known as the Arctic Council (AC), founded in 1996. It is a high-level intergovernmental forum, and while not a law-making or resource-distributing body, the AC has produced important analyses and recommendations on environment protection, resource management and guidelines for shipping among others.

The Arctic region is still not regulated by multilateral agreements, because it was never considered that it would become a navigable waterway or that the region would be exploited for business purposes. However, today it can be said that the Arctic region’s geopolitical and strategic importance is growing. This is symbolised by the planting of a Russian flag on the seabed at the North Pole in August 2007.

Although scientists are still arguing over exactly how fast the Arctic’s ice will melt, one thing is clear- the effects of climate change are impacting the region more than anywhere else in the world. Arctic average temperature has risen by twice the global average rise in the past 50 years. The old, thick, permanent ice cap is retreating. In 2007, for the first time in modern history, the deeper-water, northern, more direct route opened for navigation by non-icebreaking vessels.

Such impacts threaten to destroy the already rapidly changing and fragile ecosystem network. The situation with a retreating icecap is perhaps the most worrying, as it affects directly the natural habitat of the region, e.g. posing problems for polar bears’ feeding habits.

Arctic is economically attractive for the AC member states in four main aspects:

  • the exploitation of newly accessible oil and gas deposits (and maybe other minerals)
  • Transit shipping
  • Fisheries
  • Tourism

In November 2008, the European Commission adopted a document (“The European Union and the Arctic Region”). In addition to setting out EU interests and policy objectives in the region, the text also proposes measures and suggestions for EU Member States and EU institutions to respond to the challenges. It is the first step towards an EU-Arctic policy. EU’s main policy objectives are as follows:

  • Protecting and preserving the Arctic in unison with its population;
  • Promoting sustainable use of resources;
  • Contributing to enhanced Arctic multilateral governance.

The Iceland’s EU accession negotiations are currently on. As EU’s presence in the AC would increase with Iceland becoming a Member State of the EU, it is a strategically great chance to play a more active and constructive role in the Arctic region, also contributing to the multilateral governance. It could also help to solve collective environmental problems and increase EU’s interest for the Arctic and for its protection on both regional and international levels.

For more information, please read:

EU Maritime Affairs: “The EU and the Arctic region – Overview”
“European Parliament resolution of 9 October 2008 on Arctic governance” (PDF)
Europa: “The Arctic merits the European Union’s attention – first step towards an EU Arctic Policy”
Arctic Council homepage

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About my activities


The European Parliament is directly elected institution, which represents about 500 million citizens and their interests which are of course very differing. The EP is in close co-operation with the European Commission and European Council; together they produce legislation on issues affecting our daily lives, for example environment protection, consumer rights, equality, transport and the free movement of people, capital and services. Not to mention human rights.

The subjects or topics I am engaged in are mainly connected to the committees and delegations I sit at, although these are rather close to my heart as well.

Among them is, for instance, Iceland, the country that 1st recognised the restoration of the independence of Estonia in 1991. Currently the negotiations on Iceland’s possible accession to the EU are being held. But does the small island-state itself event want to join? Recent polls have showed that people are rather sceptical, even the political groups in Althingi have been said to debate on the issue quite seriously. If Iceland were a Member State, its economic prospects might look better than they do currently in view of the so-called Icesave case, although the latter will not be tied to the negotiations. The EU on the other hand may have a stronger voice in the Arctic region. And this is a region that will attract very much attention in the years to come…

As former Chancellor of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Estonia, I was appointed the Green shadow rapporteur in AFCO regarding the European External Action Service report. Guy Verhofstadt (Belgium, EPP) and Elmar Brok (Germany, S&D) were jointly writing the report on how the new “Ministry of Foreign Affairs EU” must be constructed. This involved months of work on when and where to emphasise Human Rights, how to set up crisis prevention and management, who should be in charge of the delegations, how to deploy development aid, how much and in what areas should the EP have control over their budget and so on.

Of course having such an institution as the EEAS is vital if the EU will want to speak with one voice on a global level – or with its neighbours, for that matter. The issue of energy security is the first practical challenge that comes to mind…

This autumn the European Parliament adopted the Alejo Vidal-Quadras (Spain, EPP) resolution on security of gas supply, which calls for the EU to introduce a regulation in order to further secure gas and energy supply in Europe. The document contains several methods and ideas on how to prevent future gas conflicts as seen in the case of the Russian-Ukrainian problems in recent years. This regulation would provide preventive safety measures to ensure that nobody would be left in to the cold.

This reminds that one has to think beyond (but not excluding) its national borders in Europe. Internet freedom and intellectual property rights are issues that affect us all, especially when EU will introduce reforms in this field in the near future regardless whether you are a consumer or a provider of Internet content, be it written articles, music or videos. How should the EU respond to illegal file sharing? We are living in the 21st century and we all download a variety of things from the net. But what about the people that provide the content? If we chose to restrict downloading in today’s form, what measures can be taken? To what extent can we monitor peoples’ activities online? As anyone may guess, these questions affect us all.

Should there be introduced any directives or regulations on a EU level that the citizens will regard unsuitable, lacking or simply bad and they wish to change it – or even call for creating an entirely new EU policy – they have the chance to do so with the European Citizen Initiative. This is a project going to be launched next year, with the aim of giving EU’s citizens the right to introduce an idea for new legislation by the Commission; the latter has to respond and justify its answer and action that will or will not follow.

This is undoubtedly a big step in the development of the citizen society, moreover that all people from all Member States can have a say. This all will have to follow strict rules that are currently in the making. For example, according to the latest state of play, at least 1 million signatures have to be collected from at least 1/3 of the Member States, plus the number of signatures has to be proportionate to the population of that state. This opens up an even greater window of opportunity for small countries. As for now, the setting up of the system continues.

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