The three reasons for Spain’s fear of Estonia (Opinion)
VILAWEB – Article by director Vicent Partal
The Spanish government talked about the independence of Catalonia in the preparatory meetings for the Estonian presidency of the European Union, which will start on the first of July.
This was something truly extraordinary. Suffice to say that the Catalan question used to be purely a Spanish domestic affair and now it is the Spanish government that talks at the heart of the European Union and calls upon Estonia not to move one inch away from Spain’s official position. Obviously people are nervous, and in this case they have reasons of different natures, which I will try to explain below.
But a warning first of all. Of the three Baltic countries, at the present time it is only Estonia that maintains greater intransigence over the position called for by Spain. I can say this personally because I have talked to representatives of the Estonian government and both their official and extra official attitude is very tough in unconditional support for Spain, which is not the case of Latvia and Lithuania.
Why then has Spain given the warning it gave, precisely to Estonia? Surely because there are three reasons that cause the Spanish government to mistrust.
The first seems to me to be out of place, but is circulating. There are Spanish diplomats who maintain that one of the reasons why Catalan independentism wants to wait until September is that it hopes that the Estonian presidency is more favourable than the present Maltese. I have no reason to believe that this might be so, but in the Spanish government there seem to be those who believe it.
If it is important whether it be one country or the other that holds the presidency it is because they are responsible for organising and presiding all of the meetings of the Council of the European Union. In other words Estonia, depending on what happens in September, might oblige the Union to come out over the independence of Catalonia, whether Spain wants it to or not. But it must be remembered that this half-year presidency period was the turn of the United Kingdom and Estonia was reserved for January, but it is also true that Spain did not trust either of them.
The second reason is more interesting and real. Although the present Estonian government is favourable to the Spanish position, even if it is just for the military support, Spain mistrusts the Estonian public opinion and even more so the country’s parliament. The Estonian parliament is one of the five European parliaments that already created a support group for Catalonia. Just five days ago, the president of this group, Artur Talvik, showed support for a unilateral referendum after a meeting with president Puigdemont.
What does Spain fear? Well, something very basic; that no matter how much pressure you can put on a foreign government, any foreign government is always more fearful of the pressure of its own public opinion. Estonia might be on Spain’s side at the start, but if Estonian public opinion turns in favour of Catalonia, especially if Spain plays the card of repression, things might change very fast. Estonia has only been independent for twenty-five years and most of its inhabitants know better than anyone what it means to become independent. They can therefore not look at the Catalan case with the coldness with which they look at the Portuguese or the Italians, for instance.
And the third and last reason for the Spanish suspicion is a delightful story that we told here in VilaWeb a few days ago. In the nineteen eighties, Estonia’s traditional ally was Finland, but when the process started along the path to independence, Finland came radically out against it, but only in public. Because, from what we know now, Finland was diverting a lot of money and clandestine support towards the Estonian independentists while it made out that it was totally opposed to the country’s independence. Everyone can understand that, in the end, this is a worrying precedent for Moncloa.