Pro-Kremlin youth movements protest near the Estonian embassy in Moscow, May 2, 2007.
Photo: Grigory Tambulov
Estonia Makes European Alliance against Russia
// Tallinn threatens to scuttle the EU-Russia summit
The Russian-Estonian conflict is no longer an interior matter of the two antagonistic countries. The EU openly sided with Estonia on Wednesday, demanding that Russia implement the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and secure proper protection for the Estonian embassy in Moscow. However, Tallinn intends to press Brussels for a tougher response to the anti-Estonia campaign in Russia, -- up to canceling the EU-Russia summit in Samara scheduled for May 18.
The European Union made it clear on Wednesday whom it supports in the current confrontation between Russia and Estonia. The European Commission interfered in the conflict, officially expressing concern over the situation near the Estonian embassy in Moscow. The embassy has been besieged by the activists of pro-Kremlin youth movements for almost a week now. “We share the concern about the growing tension around Estonia’s embassy, and demand that Russian authorities implement their obligations within the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations,” EuroCommission spokesperson Christiana Homan said Wednesday, adding that the EU’s stand on the issue has been made known to Russian authorities. According to Homan, the EU notified Moscow that a delegation of EU officials will come to Russia soon. The delegation intends to express their “concern about the escalating violence around the Estonian embassy” directly to Russian authorities.
The EU’s tough response to the recent events in Moscow-Tallinn relations is the fruit of Estonian diplomats’ active efforts. Estonia’s Foreign Ministry has mobilized all forces in the last few days to internationalize the Russian-Estonian conflict and to secure the backing by the EU. Estonia’s Foreign Minister Urmas Paet said at a press conference in Tallinn that the entire EU, represented by Estonia, underwent a violent attack by Russia. The minister said the issue of the Bronze Soldier and vandalism in Tallinn are Estonia’s domestic affairs. However, Moscow-run anti-Estonia activities are subject to the EU’s jurisdiction. Urmas Paet explained that it concerns not only the events around Estonia’s embassy in Moscow, but also hacker attacks against the websites of Estonian state agencies, which began last Friday and blocked access to many official websites. Estonian authorities claim the analysis of IP-addresses showed the attacks are coming from state agencies in Moscow.
Having accused Russia of unleashing the anti-Estonia campaign and of triggering civil disorders in a EU member state, Urmas Paet said that Estonia will raise the question of relations with Russia in the EU. Indeed, Tallinn has an opportunity to influence the EU’s decision-making. The country’s ex-Prime Minister Siim Kallas now serves as vice-president of the EuroCommission, also serving as European Commissioner for Administrative Affairs, Audit and Anti-Fraud. Besides, Kallas has the reputation of the founder and chief ideologist of the ruling Estonian Reform Party, headed by Andrus Ansip, the current prime minister, who initiated the removal of the Bronze Soldier. Thus, Estonian authorities have Kallas as a strong lobbyist in the EU in the current conflict between Moscow and Tallinn. That is why, perhaps, Estonian politicians claim that Moscow endangers the EU-Russia summit in Samara, scheduled for May 18, by its own actions.
Estonian government intends to thoroughly discuss on Thursday the ways to counteract Moscow. Estonia’s Foreign Ministry prepared a package of retaliatory measures against Russia, which Tallinn plans to suggest to the EU. “We consider it necessary that the European Union react in the toughest way to Russia’s behavior. It might imply suspending or canceling various negotiations. Postponing the EU-Russia summit should be seriously considered,” Urmas Paet said Wednesday.
“Estonia is now working actively inside the EU,” confirmed Marko Mihkelson, chairman of Estonia’s parliamentary committee on EU affairs. “We are waiting for an adequate response from Russian authorities. If they do not stop doing what they are doing, tougher measures will follow. I admit of a possibility that the EU-Russia summit might risk being frustrated.”
According to Kommersant’s information, Brussels has not yet discussed the question of sanctions against Russia. A source in the EuroCommission said that such issues fall within the competence of the EU chairing country, that is Germany. In other words, German Chancellor Angela Merkel will have the final say. The source said it is unlikely the EU-Russia summit in Samara would be cancelled, because “Russia has three weeks to settle the conflict with Estonia in diplomatic ways.” If the crisis is not settled by that time, Estonian issue might steal the limelight at the summit, the source said.
The office of Sergei Yastrzhembsky, the Russian president's special envoy to the European Union, refrained from giving comments on the possibility of canceling the summit in Samara. The office said that Yastrzhembsky is away on vacation now, and no one else is empowered to speak on the issue in his absence.
Russia’s Foreign Ministry believes the summit will not be frustrated. “They are obviously pitching it strong,” a high-placed source in the ministry said. “Although we should admit there are signs that Russia is violating the Vienna Convention. It is the responsibility of the receiving country to create conditions for embassy’s work.”
Anyway, the upcoming summit in Samara risks to become the second failure in a row for Moscow’s top-level meeting with EU officials. Russia, meanwhile, sees the EU as the priority partner, relations with whom are much better that with the U.S., for instance. Last summit in November 2006 in Finland was marred by the acute Russia-Poland conflict. Warsaw then vetoed Moscow-Brussels talks on the new partnership and cooperation agreement, in response to Russia’s vetoing the import of Poland’s meat to Russia.
Getting ready for the upcoming summit, Moscow and Brussels worked a lot with Poland to unblock the process of coordinating the key document in Russia-EU relations. Officials of both parties assured that all differences will be settled by the time of the summit in Samara. Now all those efforts might do down the drain: Estonian issue will probably eclipse all other issues this time. Tallinn is quite capable of following Warsaw’s last-year example, blocking the process of signing the key agreement.
All the Article in Russian as of May 03, 2007