“The Brussels Diary With Yana Toom”: What Do We Expect From The EU This Year?


I often hear the classic remark that we, meaning politicians, are disconnected from people. For this reason, we decided to change the Brussels Diary format. In the first days of January, my bureau team interviewed some passers by on what they expect from the European Union this year:


“What do I expect? Personally? Help, friendship and support I would say.”


“I don’t think I can expect anything. You have to rely on yourself.”


“Nothing!” “Why so?” “Nothing will come from...there.”


“Nothing. I have no thoughts on this. Just to survive this year really.” “Why so?” “Because, as you know yourself, 2020 was what it was and everybody is already so fed up – I would just like to live peacefully this year... Live peacefully.”


This is one unhappy picture. However, I think the reason is that everybody has become tired; they also got tired of reading and watching the news. Nevertheless, there is positive news and there is also what to expect from Brussels. This year, the most important initiative of last year will continue: the transformation of the European Union from an economic union into a socio-economic union. The European Commission made a proposal on the European minimum wage. True, it was late and not as originally planned, but the beginning is always the most difficult.


The Germans who have been at the EU helm for half of year have done an excellent job. Under their governance, the European Union elegantly tamed Hungary and Poland, which had decided to blackmail everyone else. Under their governance, we reached an eleventh-hour agreement with the British preventing a catastrophe, i.e. a no-deal Brexit. Sadly, Brexit did not pass without causing harm. The UK left the Erasmus+ programme and our students can no longer study in London, Cambridge and Oxford. Nevertheless, I have a feeling that this situation will not last long.


We should also not forget Nord Stream 2, which is being constructed despite all hindrances, and the relationships with Russia that did not develop into a full-blown Cold War.


There is one small detail that I agree on with Vivika...


“It seems to me that if we had not become part of the European Union we would not have coped. Yes, when we are together then... Together we can cope with anyway.”


I am of the same opinion that if Estonia had not acceded to the European Union then we would not have been able to cope with what this past year has thrown at us. We would have had to buy the vaccine if not from Pfizer then from Russia. However, we would have obtained it later and the keyword here is “would have”. Without the European Union, we would be poorer – throughout all these years, Brussels has returned us more funds than we pay into the euro budget. Without the European Union, nobody would have allocated resources at the peak of the crisis to prevent economic meltdown in Estonia. Not to mention participation in the European restoration programme. Now we are also queuing for the financial vaccine that should heal the economy of the continent and make it even more ecological, technological and social.


There is something else – the rights of minorities. The European Commission undoubtedly can and must do more, including resolving the problem of stateless persons. Everything could have been worse but it will not get worse due to the European Union. The Brussels shadow already forces our nationalists to act more carefully or to keep silent.