Estonia and the European Union: Pro and contra in the Estonian press

Mait Talts & Aksel Kirch



The article deals with the problems of the EU discussion held in Estonian printed media during the first half of 1997. The main task of the brief survey was to give an overview of the problems concerning Estonia's integration into the E U. Special attention was focused on the expectations and fears most frequently mainfested in the media discource as well as on the argumentation used to defend positive or negative attitudes towards the union.

The most characteristic feature of Estonian EU discussion is first of all the deficiency of relevant and sufficient information concerning the EU, which leads to several kinds of speculations. The main political forces of Estonia are quit e confident that Estonia has no alternative to the EU and their attitude is accordingly generally quite favourable to the EU. As the public opinion polls indicate the scepticism among the ordinary people is still growing as the price of Estonia's EU acces sion becomes clearer. Though it is quite complicated to predict what exactly is going to happen in Estonia's economy. The position of some Estonian political leaders that the question of Estonia's EU membership cannot be debated does not actually promote the discussion about the costs and benefits of the EU accession.

The article also pays attention on the factors that are claimed to slow down the pace of Estonia's eurointegration. Among them various speculations concerning the geopolitical and other hidden motives of EU enlargement must be mentioned . The necessity to speed up the harmonisation of Estonia's legislation with the requirements of EU legislation was also very often pointed out as well as the problems with the integration of the Russian minority, border, crime and refugee problems.

The bulk of the article describes the expectations usually related to Estonia's EU accession. Among the positive expectations the most frequently mentioned are: expected general economic growth (due to extra investments from the EU coun tries as well as due to the oppurtunities to get direct aid from EU for modernization of Estonia's economy) and expected improvement in the field of military security. Estonia's EU accession is very often associated with expected changes in Estonia's soci al policy as well as with the improvement in the position of non-citizens. The relations between the Estonians and the Russian living in Estonia are also expected to improve.

Joining the EU Estonia would acquire at least a slender possibility to influence the decisionmaking process in the EU. EU membership is also believed to improve Estonia's political status internationally, especially regarding the relati ons with Russia. Estonia's EU accession is acknowlegded as Estonia's final re-unification with Europe, often seen in the light of the theories by Samuel Huntington as the enlargement of Western civilization to its "natural" boundaries.

The most significant negative expectations related with Estonia's EU accession are the following: diminishing of Estonia's sovereignty; growing bureaucracy and retardation of the decisionmaking process. The prices and the taxes are also feared to be growing. Some intellectuals have opinion that the EU accession could be a threat to the Estonia's culture, while some economists express the fear that the social politics that Estonia has to adopt joining the EU could exceed the possi bilities of Estonia's economy.

At present it is still unclear what will happen in Estonia's agriculture. On the one hand Estonian farmers will get an access to the EU inner market and the possibilities to get direct subsidies from EU's budget, but on the other ha nd the quality of Estonian agricultural products may not correspond to the EU requirements. If EU will not change its agricultural policy in the nearest future, the accession would rather be beneficial for Estonia's agriculture.