Opening remarks by Prime Minister Kaja Kallas at the Riga Conference, 15.10.2021

18.10.2021 | 15:41

Prime Minister Kaja Kallas spoke at the high-level conference on security and foreign policy in Riga.
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Ladies and Gentlemen,

We live at times of multiple crisis and transformations. The COVID-19 pandemic exposed several troubling global trends, including increasing authoritarianism, economic protectionism, and threats to human rights and civil liberties. According to Freedom House, freedom has been in decline for the past 16 years and COVID-19 pandemic has further worsened this decline. At the same time international security environment has become increasingly tense.

We see constant ongoing attacks that are more complex and more interconnected: for example cyber and influence operations against the United States and other Western democracies have escalated. Cyber-attacks, use of disruptive technologies, spread of disinformation are blurring the boundaries of peace and conflict.

Attacks on democratic institutions are on the rise: dictators are interested in disrupting free and open societies. They see liberal democracy as a potential threat, dangerous ideology that threatens their power and needs to be defeated. For achieving their goals they are willing to deploy corruption, propaganda, and even aggression.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
Let me emphasize few points regarding the way forward.

First, our security is determined by the unity and health of our democracies.  World order is one of those things people don’t think about until it is gone.

But this is true also about the democracy. We tend to take it for granted. Our democracies are not only challenged by the outside influence. Chancellor Merkel has recently said that democracy has to be protected, but people should also respect democracy itself.  Hence the important question of our times - how can democracies deliver real results for people in a rapidly changing world? How to keep people´s faith in it?

Second, democracies must come together and decide how to unite the free world via safe and digital global infrastructure. Digital technology forms a backbone of each and every infrastructure we build on the 21st century - modern connections, be it bridges, highways or energy flows rely on technology and data. This means that those who control the technology and data, can also disrupt our democracy. So the key questions of the 21st century are:

  • how to keep the technological advantage and build digital security so that democracies prevail in competition with authoritarian regimes?
  • What is the best response to the competition between authoritarian and democratic capital?
  • How to secure the development of new technologies based on democratic values?

The shared democratic values of the free world —openness, transparency, and the protection of individual rights—form the ideological basis for the set of rules and policies which Estonia suggests to brand under the term Trusted Connectivity.

Third, we need strong deterrence– military as well as political. Unity among the Allies, strong transatlantic bond and US engagement forms a backbone of this policy.

History shows that negotiation and dialogue is often not sufficient with authoritarian regimes. Safeguarding us from hostile regimes also demands military deterrence. NATO Allies have strengthened its military posture at its eastern flank. Solid military presence of the US, UK and Canada in Europe is of utmost importance. NATO’s posture in the Baltic region and in Estonia has grown much stronger since 2014. There are 4 multinational battle groups in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, led by the United Kingdom, Canada, Germany and the United States respectively – and 18 more allies contributing. This demonstrates the strength of the transatlantic bond.

In conclusion, I am a firm believer of the EU and transatlantic relations. In fact, Estonia is among the most pro-EU nations. And there is no contradiction between being pro-NATO, pro-transatlantic and pro-European. Therefore, let us nurture the Atlantic community with democratic governments on both shores united by common strategic objectives and by the commitment to an open economic and democratic political system - it has benefited all of us.

Thank you!

Government Communication Unit