Books on Estonia
Update No: 323 - (26/11/07)
There is no doubt that there is a Nordic communality of nations. They have
a common past and they hope a common future. There is a common constant - fear
Nordic and Baltic prime ministers meet in Oslo
The Estonian Prime Minister feels that everyone should be concerned about
developments in Russia. "Naturally I am worried about the way things are
developing in Russia. Only three years ago the state accounted for 50 per cent
of the Russian national economy: now it is 70 per cent." Andrus Ansip said
in the Norwegian capital Oslo, where the prime ministers of Estonia, Latvia, and
Lithuania met on November 12, along with their colleagues from the five Nordic
The leaders of the Baltic countries were nevertheless cautious in their
statements on how the possible accession of President Putin to the post of Prime
Minister after his presidency runs out might affect the situation in the Baltic
States. "Let's see what happens in March. Today we can only speculate, and
that is not the job of a prime minister", said Lithuania's Prime Minister
Gediminas Kirkilas. Latvia's leader was also cautious. "Nobody can predict
what will happen in the elections for the Duma and the Presidency. We are open
to cooperation", said Prime Minister Aigars Kalvitis. As it so happens, it
will not be his job to be so, as he became obliged by a domestic crisis to step
down on December 5.
Only Ansip would ponder the implications of Putin staying in power. "Some
say that it would bring stability to Russia, but I would prefer democracy",
Ansip says. "It is hard to talk about, say, freedom of the press in
connection with Russia nowadays." Ansip emphasised Estonia's desire for
good relations. "We would want good, pragmatic relations with all of our
neighbours, and I hope that some day we will have those kinds of relations with
Russia", Ansip said.
The topic of relations with Russia was not the main issue in the official part
of the summit meeting of eight countries. Climate change dominated a one-hour
discussion involving the prime ministers of the Baltic countries, as well as
those of Finland, Sweden, Norway and Iceland. Danish Prime Minister was at home,
taking part in his country's ongoing election campaign. A discussion on Russia
was scheduled for the dinner hosted later by Norwegian Prime Minister.
In recent years the prime ministers of the Nordic and Baltic countries have held
a meeting in connection with the annual meeting of the Nordic Council. Hundreds
of Parliamentarians, civil servants, and a number of ministers from the five
Nordic Countries convened in Oslo for the annual session.
Energy independence coming to Estonia
Estonia has shown itself less fearful of Russian control of energy than have
Latvia and Lithuania. One effect of the riots in Tallinn last May (which were
given tacit Kremlin support) has been a spectacular worsening of
Estonian-Russian relations. As a result, Estonia is developing a policy of
energy self-sufficiency that may serve it better in the long run.
It has already completed the Baltics' first power bridge, the EstLink cable to
Finland. In the words of European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso,
"Before EstLink, the Baltic states were an energy island."
Construction of a second EstLink cable has been confirmed, and Estonia is keen
to be a full partner when Finland builds an expected sixth nuclear power
station. Until then, Estonia theoretically could supply all its own electricity
Estonian Prime Minister Andrus Ansip said recently: "Today, we are an
energy island. Estonia's main energy source is oil shale. We produce enough
energy from oil shale to meet our own needs. And we are even able to supply our
neighbors with electricity. Thanks to oil shale, our overall energy dependency
is one of the smallest in the European Union. Indeed, we are not highly
dependent on Russian energy, as is commonly believed."
But burning shale oil produces high-level carbon emissions far above than the
quota allocated by the EU. So while Lithuania protests about having to shut down
its ancient nuclear plant, Estonia is defending its use of 'dirty' oil shale.
Another element of the energy debate is Nord Stream, a Russo-German project to
construct a 1,200-kilometer gas pipeline along the Baltic seabed. It is much
more expensive to build a pipeline underwater than it is on land. The Baltics
were not consulted about its pending construction. The obvious conclusion is
that Nord Stream is a Poland-Belarus -Baltic bypass, enabling Russia to cut off
supplies to the Baltics without affecting its bigger customers in the West.
Nord Stream also makes the EU's talk of a common energy policy look
questionable. From a Baltic perspective, it enhances the energy supply of some
EU states at the expense of others, placing national interest above collective
When Finland expressed environmental concerns about the route of the pipeline,
Nord Stream was forced to make a belated approach to Estonia for permission to
survey the seabed in the small country's exclusive economic zone. Estonian
politicians derived some satisfaction from giving Russia a taste of its own
medicine and refused.
The real irony now is that the Baltics' haphazard attempts to avoid being split
by Moscow's divide-and-rule strategy may end up having precisely that effect.
Estonia is disillusioned with the dithering over the Ignalina nuclear plant and
is looking north.