German formin presents Estonian PM with Walther Rathenau Prize

  • 2024-03-20
  • BNS/TBT Staff

TALLINN - Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas was awarded the Walther Rathenau Prize by German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock in Berlin on Tuesday.

Kallas received the prize for finding a common language in Europe and maintaining a clear position on the war in Ukraine, government spokespeople said.

In her speech at the award ceremony, the prime minister said that everyone must continue to do everything they can so that Russian aggression ends and Ukraine wins.

"Some believe there's a shortcut to ending Russia's war against Ukraine. They say if the Americans don't give money and weapons, along with the Europeans, then the war will be over. This is to say that if Ukraine stops fighting, the war will be over," Kallas said. "History has proved the opposite. Letting tyranny march through Europe is the road to unfreedom. It would be the breakdown of human values and norms."

"Pope John Paul II has said: 'If you want peace, work for justice'," she added. "There was no justice for victims of Soviet terror after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Russian crimes in Ukraine make it brutally clear why accountability matters -- unless punished, it continues over and over again."

Kallas also highlighted that Estonia is celebrating 20 years of NATO and EU membership this year.

"Estonia together with many other Central and Eastern European countries set an amazing example of EU and NATO enlargement. As a reminder, allow me to illustrate our journey with a few figures. In the beginning of the 1990s, our GDP was about 3.7 billion US dollars. Twenty years later, our GDP is ten times higher -- about 37 billion dollars. Since the early 1990s, the average salary in Estonia has increased 45 times and the average pension 60 times," the prime minister said.

The prime minister added that these telling figures show that joining the EU has grown the economy of the new member states, which has benefited Europe as a whole.

In her speech, Kallas also warned against the Kremlin's disinformation and various influencing operations.

"The frontline of Putin’s so-called shadow war runs through the hearts of our own democracies: universities, parliaments, media and other institutions. The aim of influence operations is to create distrust and change our policies, they aim to deter our societies from supporting Ukraine, spark domestic divisions, and influence democratic decision-making -- including the decisions we make at the ballot boxes," she said.

According to Kallas, a world with disinformation, content created by artificial intelligence and fake news is a daily reality today.

"For example, on the messaging platform Telegram, disinformation is spreading openly and completely unchecked today. We see it as a platform with a wide enough reach, so similar due diligence obligations should apply to it, as with other very large online platforms, such as Facebook, X, YouTube, and others," she added.

"Now, as artificial intelligence has entered our focus, our primary goal is to foster intelligent and educated members of society who can successfully navigate a complex information environment. It’s hard to overstate the importance of media and information literacy in today's world. The sooner we start systematically teaching it to our children, the safer the society where we live in the future will be," Kallas said.

On Tuesday, the prime minister also met with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, with whom she discussed support for Ukraine, the need to increase investments in European defense, and developing the relations between Estonia and Germany.