As I prepare to depart my mission as U.S. Ambassador to Estonia in a few days, the future of European unity — economic, political, and perhaps most importantly, emotional, remains hotly debated by our friends in Estonia and the rest of the continent. Governments, parliaments, and supreme courts are passing judgments. Their sovereigns — the people of Europe — are expressing their views forcefully. In a determined effort to emerge from the current economic crisis, European leaders are seeking to put systems in place to heal current ills and prevent future disease.
With its decision last week, the Estonian Supreme Court supported Estonian Government’s participation in the European Stability Mechanism (ESM), designed to create a rescue fund for ailing economies. Despite the burdens such participation places on his country’s finances, Estonian Prime Minister Andrus Ansip is quoted as saying:”I have always believed that our interests are protected through cooperation. In the last 20 years, Estionia’s primary foreign policy goal has been integration with ….European institutions.”
The firm and politically courageous (and risky) statement by this European statesman again demonstrates the model role Estonia continues to play in European affairs today. One of the smaller members of the Union, Estonia is also one of its most courageous and most committed. Courage and commitment in support of European cohesion — and correction — are exactly what is needed right now, along with further swift action. The U.S. position is clear: we support a strong and united Europe and any and all actions in support of this unity and common success.
Clearly failure is not an option. Errors of the past matter only in so far as they inform future success. Stakes are too high for both sides of the Atlantic, as are the opportunities for greater prosperity of our 800 million people in the U.S. and Europe. It is at times like this that as an American diplomat I am reminded of our first, and infinitely more emminent American diplomat, who in a wholly opposite context spoke words that nevertheless have some meaning in Europe today:
“We must, indeed, all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately.”
– Benjamin Franklin, in the Continental Congress just before signing
the American Declaration of Independence, 1776.