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Debates
Wednesday, 3 October 2018 - Strasbourg Revised edition

Debate with the Prime Minister of Estonia, Jüri Ratas, on the Future of Europe (debate)
MPphoto
 

  Manfred Weber, on behalf of the PPE Group. – Mr President, I would like to welcome Prime Minister Ratas to the debate on the future of Europe in this House.

Prime Minister, it is good to have you here because we can be inspired by the history of Estonia and by the strength of its people. In the PPE Group, we are lucky to have one of your compatriots within our family. He is only one but he counts for ten. I want to thank our friend Tunne Kelam, who is with us. He fought the Soviet occupation at first hand and was not afraid to stand up against injustice despite the great risks. Together, he and all the people of Estonia achieved a lot: a Europe that fights back for what is right, a Europe that is strongly together against all the odds and a Europe that sticks to its values. Europe can learn a lot from the Estonians’ spirit.

Estonia is a small, innovative and courageous country. If there is no Europe which cares about the small Member States, there is no Europe at all. You said it, Prime Minister: diversity is what Europe is all about.

Estonia was reborn from the ashes. It was one of several victims of nationalism and brutalism. The Hitler—Stalin Pact meant oppression for more than 50 years. For Estonia, a united Europe means, first of all, freedom and security. Today, with Vladimir Putin on one side, Estonia needs a strong Europe; and with Donald Trump on the other side, Estonia also needs a self-confident Europe, which cares about security. In the same way that Europe is sticking to NATO, we also have to strengthen our defence union. You mentioned this in your speech, Prime Minister. In the future it could probably be a fascinating idea to guarantee the future security of the Baltic states with European troops present there.

Sadly, Estonia was also one of the first countries to know a brand new type of warfare. Back in 2007 it withstood one of the first cyberattacks. Today Estonia is a leading nation in cybersecurity at European level and also globally. Its experience could also be a starting point from which to create in the future a cyber-rearguard, defending the whole European Union in response to these modern challenges.

Today I want to focus on the question of the digital revolution. The new technologies are improving dramatically and we can all see this. Estonia has done a great job: 99% of all public services are already e—services; and, when you bear in mind that it is a country with six times more start-ups per citizen than the EU average, we can only congratulate Estonia on what it has done in this regard.

(Applause)

Estonia’s ambitions are a role model for Europe. Innovation is key and it is part of the European DNA. We now need to give a proper answer as to what our share is in this digitalisation, because it’s obvious that the USA is more of a frontrunner than we are, as Europeans, in the digital revolution. That is why we need to consider and discuss how we can now organise and use the opportunity of the next wave in the digital transformation which is ahead of us.

Let me underline one important point for us. We don’t think that creating legislation on copyright or data protection means creating a burden for the innovative sector. For us it’s clear that this is about creating a level playing field for a modern innovation policy.

A second important point is that we have to take people’s concerns people seriously. When a waiter feels that an iPad is taking over his job or a truck driver fears the self-driving vehicles which will be on our streets in the future, then we have to give an answer in terms of a digital social market economy. How we organise this is one of the big challenges ahead of us.

The third thing I want to underline is the gap between advanced regions and those which are still catching up. Improving the digital infrastructure in the European Union is a key issue for keeping Europe together. That’s why I think we must invest a lot in the next EU Multiannual Financial Framework and especially in the idea of broadband for everyone. Because technology does not shape the people – it is the people who shape technology – our European way of life has all the ingredients for us to succeed: firm values, a fair social market economy, creative capacities, lively regions and stable democracies.

That is why we need to start now to build up this digital revolution with the European spirit. The future of Europe will not be written only through interinstitutional reforms. Investing in innovation and digital infrastructure to ultimately improve European citizens’ quality of life is what matters most. The PPE Group is ready to stand with all those who want to go into the future.

(Applause)

 
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