TALLINN - Revealing a guarded view of the country's military alliances, Estonia's candidate to the European Commission, ex-Prime Minister Siim Kallas, said that the bloc would have to accept that it was the junior partner of the United States before trans-Atlantic cooperation could be deepened.
Once this attitude is in place, it will be possible to build up further cooperation," Kallas said on Feb. 2 in response to questions from former Foreign Minister Toomas Hendrik Ilves in the daily Eesti Paevaleht.
"If the goal were to oppose the United States, then it would be harmful for Europe and especially for Estonia," he said.
"It would be extremely regretful if there was a row within that camp," Kallas added.
Estonia, along with the vast majority of the other seven ex-communist countries on course to join the EU on May 1, strongly backed the United States in the Iraq conflict, annoying EU members France and Germany.
Estonia and Latvia and Lithuania are on course to join NATO in the first half of this year.
These U.S.-allied future EU states have shared Washington's wariness at plans to give the European bloc an independent military planning capacity.
Kallas, whose nomination to the EC is subject to approval by Commission President Romano Prodi, said the EU's defense plans should be based on cooperation with NATO.
"I believe the European Union could leave military activity largely to NATO to take care of," he said.
In December the EU adopted plans for an independent military planning cell proposed by Britain, France and Germany, which would seek to enhance the bloc's abilities to respond to U.N. requests to intervene in global hotspots.
The unit will be based with the EU's existing military staff in Brussels, where NATO also has its headquarters.