Tag Archives: russia

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.

Mistrali müügist

Olles küll pooleteist aasta jooksul Euroopa Parlamenti informeerinud oma seisukohast Mistrali müügi asjus, lisan siiski ses lootusetuna näivas asjas ühe kirjaliku küsimuse Euroopa Nõukogule.

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.

Internet freedom and the protection of intellectual property rights

The First Web War took place in Estonia in 2007 when different government institutions were overrun with cyber attacks that supposedly came from Russian computers and servers. Luckily no serious damage was inflicted and all ended well. About a year later, the NATO Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence was founded in Tallinn. This was a remarkable sign of trust and faith in such a little country to deal with an ever-growing 21st century challenge. Today the whole world has come to realise the seriousness and scale of the threats regarding the Internet – abuse and misuse can cause serious consequences for governments, private companies and ordinary citizens alike.

In addition to NATO, there are other institutions that have to deal with this problem, such as the European Parliament. A serious challenge consists of certain foreign countries who wish to block and censor (European based) websites. A more imminent problem might on the other hand lie in the domestic sphere as several EU countries wish to obtain more control over data online (e-mails, calls, chats, pictures, videos, etc). This raises questions about when and on what grounds would tapping Skype calls, for instance, be legal and justified. Downloading and sharing films and music is a known issue and has made the relevant industries take action; raising awareness on this issue even gave the Swedish Pirate Party 2 seats in the European Parliament elections.

In Autumn 2009 the EP scored a great success regarding the so-called “Telecom package” (EU’s plan for the reform of the regulatory framework for electronic communications) where a point that would have restricted the use and freedom of Internet users was removed. Instead, an amendment emphasising the need to respect and withhold the rights of Internet users as ordinary citizens was pushed through.

But how to regulate the handling and use of intellectual property, found on basically every step on the Internet? Member States have already started to update their legislation on this issue, supporting to the EU’s Intellectual Property Rights Enforcement Directive or IPRED created in 2004. The IPRED law in Sweden, Hadopi law in France and the Digital Economy Bill in Great Britain are a few examples.

In France there is the 3-strike system, meaning that the authorities will send a letter to a person who has been caught illegally downloading data; should he or she not comply, the measures taken will get more severe and a person can be deprived of his or her Internet connection and/or receive a fine. Belgium is expected to adopt a similar law in 2010.

There’s a heated debate going on in the European Parliament on IPRs. This year the so-called Gallo report was adopted. This IPR report, tabled by French MEP Michelle Gallo (EPP group) offers a variety of methods that could be used for enforcement of IPRs. This report proved to be a very controversial one, that led the Social-democrats along with the Greens/EFA to table their own alternative resolutions, as their view was that the report restricts citizens’ rights and puts downloading and sharing files on the same level with large scale piracy. Their concern was shared by Reporters Without Borders.

At the same time, however, different artist associations across Europe turned to the EP asking MEPs to adopt the report in its current form. The European Writers’ Council, European Visual Artists, European Federation of Journalists, Society of Audiovisual Authors, Federation of European Film Directors and the European Council of Artists wrote in their letters that the Gallo report emphasises the appropriate and necessary protection of IPRs from the point of view of the authors. Other associations’ letters followed. Furthermore, the alternative resolution tabled by Social-democrats and the Greens/EFA group as a sign of protest was widely condemned by the artists unions.

The views of artists as people directly involved with IPRs have to be taken into account. Nonetheless one should ask a critical question: do these associations reflect more the views of the artists or the industry?

Anyway the report has been adopted. The document calls upon the European Commission to harmonize the EU’s IPR laws and remove the obstacles from creating a single digital market; also, the report suggests the creation of IPR enforcement so-called helpdesks abroad, where EU companies would be able to receive help when exporting or doing business in India or Russia, for example.

At first, however, as the report puts it – a thorough research has to be carried out on the modern problems and possible solutions related to IPRs.

As file sharing, buying books and music affects us all, it would be useful to know your view, dear reader. Is there anything you would like to change in Europe or in your country with regard to IPRs, file sharing, downloading and uploading films, music, audiobooks, etc? There will surely be new reforms on IPR in the EU in the near future. Whatever the restrictions in this field (or merely changes) may be, they will be felt by both Internet users and artists providing the content for it.

For more information, please read:

The Economist special report on Internet security

The Web is dead?

Hillary Clinton’s speech on Freedom of the Internet

Studies on filesharing in the Internet

IPRED laws

About the IPRED law impact in Sweden

French Hadopi law

Belgian IPRED law

About the Digital Economy Bill

Ireland’s IPRED law

Gallo report

Reporters Without Borders on the Gallo report

La quadrature: About the Gallo report

European Parliament: About the Gallo report

“Disco and Atomic War”

On the evening of the 2nd of March this year, a documentary called “Disco and Atomic War” was screened in the European Parliament. This film, made by Estonian directors Mr Jaak Kilmi and Mr Kiur Aarma, tells the story of a unique, even strange information war across the Gulf of Finland during the Cold War. Although Soviet-occupied Estonia was cut off from the free world, a small window was left open in the form of Finnish TV and radio stations that transferred their frequencies from only 80km away. Disco music, roller-skates, “Dallas” and “Knight Rider” were all seen as an enormous threat to the whole communist empire back in Moscow…

Disko ja tuumasõda plakat

The film, which has won several awards in international festivals, attracted a bit more than 100 people that evening. A lively discussion followed the screening between the directors and the public, consisting of Finns, Swedes, Germans, Americans, French and Estonians about the events depicted in the movie, but also about how a similar thing took place on the borders of the once separated Germany.

For more information, please read:

Variety: “Disco and Atomic War”

IMDB: “Disco and Atomic War”


L’Arctique est une région immense qui s’étend sur plus d’un sixième du manteau terrestre, couvre les vingt quatre fuseaux horaires, et représente une surface de plus de trente millions de kilomètres carrés. Une grande partie de l’Arctique est composée d’un océan d’une profondeur maximum de  quatre km, mais il comprend également des terres émergées d’une superficie considérable. L’Arctique est une région unique autant que vulnérable.

La population de l’Arctique est de quatre millions d’habitants, dont trente peuples indigènes. Les territoires de huit Etats (États-Unis, Islande, Canada, Norvège, Suède, Finlande, Danemark/Groenland et Russie) s’étendent dans la région Arctique. Cinq de ces pays sont membres de l’Agence européenne pour l’environnement, et trois de ces derniers sont aussi membres de l’Union européenne.

Ces huit Etats sont tous membres du Conseil Arctique fondé en 1996. Ce conseil est un forum intergouvernemental traitant des problématiques rencontrées par les gouvernements arctiques. Sans pouvoir législatif, il a tout de même permis d’effectuer de nombreuses recherches sur la protection de l’environnement, l’utilisation des ressources et le transport maritime.

Jusqu’à présent, la région arctique n’a pas fait l’objet de législations multilatérales, car personne n’avait prévu que cette région puisse un jour être utilisée pour le transport maritime ou d’autres activités économiques. Or, la position géopolitique et stratégique de la région arctique ne cesse aujourd’hui de prendre de l’importance. Le drapeau russe planté au niveau du pôle Nord en août 2007 est symptomatique de cet engouement.

Bien que les scientifiques débattent de la vitesse à laquelle la glace fond en Arctique, il est certain que les effets du changement climatique sont ressentis plus fortement en Arctique qu’ailleurs dans le monde. Durant les cinquante dernières années, la température en Arctique a augmenté deux fois plus que la moyenne mondiale. La banquise arctique est en train de disparaître. Pour la première fois, pendant l’été 2008, les passages du Nord-Ouest et du Nord-Est ont dégelé pendant une période courte permettant le passage avec un simple bateau.

Passage du Nord-Ouest :

De tels effets, mettent en danger les réseaux d’écosystèmes fragiles de l’Arctique. La fonte des glaces constitue un phénomène très inquiétant, car les diverses formes de vie présentes au-dessus et en dessous de la glace sont toutes mises en danger par le réchauffement climatique.

D’un point de vue économique, quatre aspects rendent l’Arctique une zone attrayante pour les Etats du Conseil arctique :

  • Les réserves de pétrole et de gaz (et peut-être d’autres minéraux) qui n’ont pas encore étés découvertes
  • Le fret
  • La pêche
  • Le tourisme

En novembre 2008, la Commission européenne a présenté un document qui décrit les intérêts de l’Union européenne dans cette région et propose des mesures à prendre pour les États membres et pour les institutions de l’Union européenne. C’est le premier pas vers une politique qui vise l’arctique dans son ensemble. Les principaux objectifs de l’Union européenne sont les suivants :

– Protéger et préserver l’Arctique en coopération avec sa population ;

– Promouvoir l’utilisation durable des ressources naturelles;

– Contribuer à une gestion multilatérale plus efficace de l’Arctique.

Les négociations pour l’adhésion de l’Islande à l’UE sont en cours. Cette adhésion, en plus de renforcer la présence de l’UE au sein du Conseil arctique, constituerait une opportunité stratégique pour l’UE de jouer un rôle plus actif et constructif dans la région de l’Arctique et de contribuer à une gestion multilatérale dans cette région. Cela permettrait aussi de résoudre des problèmes environnementaux communs et d’accroître le rôle de l’UE dans l’Arctique et dans la protection de cette région aux niveaux régional et international.

Liens utiles :