Statement by President von der Leyen with Estonian Prime Minister Kallas

Thank you very much, dear Kaja,

I am glad to be here, back in Tallinn. Thank you very much for a very good bilateral meeting, which is basically the continuation of our ongoing dialogue that the two of us have all the time. Let me reflect on a few topics that you have mentioned.

The first one is indeed Ukraine. I must say that Estonia is an important player in our response to the Russian aggression. I really thank you for your determination and being so steadfast and staunch. We share the same understanding of the threat that Putin poses. I really want to thank you also for being one of the main drivers concerning the delivery of the eight packages of sanctions. As you said, it always needs unity but it also needs Member States like Estonia, which are driving the unity forward.

These sanctions are biting. We see by now the effect on the Russian economy. We will keep up the pressure to drain Putin’s war chest. What I also want to thank you for is the warmth with which the Estonian people have opened their hearts and their homes to Ukraine refugees. This is outstanding, this will never be forgotten. We support as much as we can through flexibilising funds. But the big gesture of human solidarity is outstanding and I really want to thank the Estonian people for that. We are in this together.

The European Union is the most important supporter of Ukraine, together with the United States. Since the beginning of the war, we have supported Ukraine financially, as Team Europe, with up to EUR 19 billion. This is not including the military capability and equipment support, which is mostly bilateral between Member States and Ukraine, but also supported financially by the European Peace Facility.

We have been discussing not only what we have done but also what has to be done. We have the goal that we will have a stable, predictable and flexible funding for Ukraine in these difficult months of war. Of course, we will be looking at the short-term recovery. For example now for the winter coming up, how we can support Ukraine in repairing the schools, for the schoolchildren, or proving shelter. This is a European task, on the European level to support Ukraine with the internally displaced people. And this has been one of the topics we have been discussing.

Moreover, we addressed the need to be vigilant regarding our external borders and visas for Russian citizens. We need rigorous controls. We will be at the border. This is why the European Commission provided guidance to our Member States to strengthen security checks.

We also need to be vigilant regarding the protection of our critical infrastructure. What happened to Nord Stream 1 and 2 shows that we have to be prepared for these new types of threats. The Commission has developed a five-point plan to enhance the resilience. We will present and discuss that at the Digital Summit. And we will soon then be present with recommendations for Member States on how to implement that and how to make it happen on the ground.

And then, the second big topic was of course the topic of energy. We have to protect European citizens from Putin’s war on energy. Putin is strongly manipulating the energy markets. It is because of Putin and his war that the energy prices are high – gas prices are high, electricity prices are high. That is the price he wants us to pay. And that is how he tried to divide us, in vain, he has not been successful, he will not be successful. We have already taken many steps in the past to address the skyrocketing prices. Just to give you a figure: We have been able not only to get rid of Russian coal overall, but also until the end of the year, we will wind down Russian oil to 10% of what we initially had. And if you look at the gas supply, the biggest factor: At the beginning of the war, of all imported gas, Russia had 40%, we are now down to 7.5% within seven months. So these were enormous efforts successfully done, diverting away from Russian fossil fuels towards reliable suppliers and invest in renewable energies that give us independence.

We have also been discussing together how we look at the gas market overall, with the skyrocketing prices. And indeed, we will come forward as the Commission in the next two weeks with proposals to tame the energy prices and to tame the electricity prices. The aim is to reduce the price to a certain level without endangering security of supply. But, as I have said, beyond this immediate action to intervene on the market and to limit the electricity and energy prices, the best way over time to get rid of any kind of blackmail from Russia is to accelerate the clean transition in renewable energy.

I know that Estonia has everything it takes to achieve this transition. And the European Union is of course here to support you in this transition towards renewable energy and to give you not only independence but also to do the right steps for our climate.

Finally, we will travel to Narva this afternoon to launch the Just Transition Plan for the Ida-Viru region. This is an investment plan of EUR 354 million from the European Union to support the region’s industrial transition and change, and to ensure that nobody is left behind in that region.

Russia’s war has confirmed the need for trusted partnership and trusted connectivity. Indeed, as you said, the Global Gateway strategy can help deliver this. I am very much looking forward to the Digital Summit.

Thank you for the attention.