TALLINN - Estonian legislators followed Latvia and Lithuania by voting in favor of ratifying the European Union Constitutional Treaty on May 9, becoming the 15th nation of 25 to accept the charter. Prime Minister Andrus Ansip said the Treaty would provide Estonia with a greater voice in European affairs without eroding its national identity and culture.
Those concerned about the potential loss of identity, he added, should be heartened by the experience of the past two years. "Our access to the European Union has benefited the Estonian economy... Be happy with what we have," Ansip said.Joseph Borrell, president of the European Parliament, welcomed the ratification, noting the symbolism of the event taking place on Europe Day. In his words, Estonia has shown itself to be a country that thinks about the future of Europe.
The vote comes after a months-long lull in treaty ratification that was sparked by rejections in France and the Netherlands. Although there were countries that adopted the treaty afterwards 's particularly Latvia 's momentum has slowed to a near standstill. Some even argue that even if one country rejected the constitution it is pointless for the others to bother with ratification.
A small group of protestors gathered outside Estonia's Parliament carrying slogans such as "Treaty = Treason."Of the 101-seat Parliament, 73 members voted in favor of ratifying the Treaty and one against, while 10 abstained and 17 were absent.Foreign Minister Urmas Paet (photo) said the 'yes' vote would have been stronger had the handful of members not been absent. In his words, the treaty's ratification would provide Estonia with a louder voice and stronger opportunity to influence fellow members of the EU. Paet also expressed hope that the two nations who rejected the document by referendum would one day rethink their positions. "In the countries that said 'no,' I hope it will be possible to continue this debate, and that they will come back," the foreign minister said.
All 25 EU members must ratify the Treaty for it to become effective. Seeing as other nations, such as Belgium, are currently debating the issue, Ansip said the Treaty's future success could not be guaranteed. "We cannot be certain that the treaty will enter into force in the near future. Nevertheless, I believe that by approving the Treaty, [Estonia] has made an important contribution to the future of the European Union as a whole. We have demonstrated our desire to participate in the process of shaping Europe's future," he said.
Ansip likened the decision to that of French foreign minister Robert Schuman, who 56 years ago proposed to create the European Coal and Steel Community, which eventually transformed into the European Union. "I am fairly certain that Schuman's proposal would have been rejected if it had been put to a referendum. But Schuman made the proposal believing then, as we do today, that peace and stability in Europe can be achieved only through cooperation."