TALLINN - In his speech focusing on the future of the European Union before the European Parliament on Wednesday, Estonian Prime Minister Juri Ratas said that Estonia does not wish for the European Union to be redesigned in a way that could lead to a lesser role for smaller nations.
"I would like to paraphrase former Estonian President Lennart Meri, who once said that small nations in Europe are the glue, the oil and the cement in the European construction. Therefore, allow me to express here modest enthusiasm when it comes to grand institutional designs in Europe which could lead to lesser role of smaller nations in our common institutions. Less diversity will also result in less Europe," Ratas said in his speech.
Europe's core strength is its diversity, Ratas said. "Being European adds a rich layer to one's identity. Nothing represents this better than the fate of small nations in the European family," he added.
"The European Union cannot assume that our values and interests are self-evidently protected. We must stand up for them together, because the impact we can have on the rest of the world is important for our future. The European Union must actively defend its citizens and member states, but also the citizens and member states must stand for the European Union," the prime minister said in remarks published before departure on Tuesday.
On Wednesday morning, Prime Minister Ratas met with President of the European Parliament Antonio Tajani. After the meeting, the prime minister gave a speech on the future of Europe before the plenary session of the European Parliament, which was followed by a debate with members of the European Parliament and President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker.
Prime Minister Juri Ratas is the tenth head of state or government of the European Union to participate in a parliament debate over the future of the European Union.
Previous heads of state and government leaders who have made a similar speech at the European Parliament include Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic, Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa, French President Emmanuel Macron, Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel, Luxembourg's Prime Minister Xavier Bettel, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki and Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras.
Ratas has previously appeared before the European Parliament ahead of the Estonian presidency of the Council of the European Union in July 2017 and later when summing up the presidency in January of this year.