Dear President of the European Commission, dear ministers, dear distinguished guests,
It is my honour to welcome you all here in Tallinn today.
When times are hard, we must stand united. United in solidarity with the people of Ukraine. Russia may be testing us and trying to divide us – but we can show that it is mission impossible for Putin.
We are not here today to talk about the past or the present. We are here to talk about the future.
We have received a reality check. We have had to face Russia’s war against Ukraine and the COVID-19 lockdowns. An increasing rivalry with authoritarian countries. Physical and cyber attacks against vital infrastructure.We see what happens when we connect ourselves to partners who weaponize our trust.
We became overreliant for our essential needs on countries who do not share our values. But the era of such dependencies has come to a close.
Now we have entered a new era of globalization that prioritizes economic security over economic efficiency. We need to rethink existing political and economic alliances. We have NATO for collective military security. But where can we turn for economic security? And what should a trusted economic architecture fit for the 21st century look like?
Instead of waiting for solutions to come to us, we should offer them. That is how we operate in Estonia.
And that is why we are here today. To harness our economic power and our moral leadership. Articulate a vision for a future that is free, open, secure, and prosperous. A future where Europe and its partners lead in solidarity and with competitive advantage. A future defined by trusted connections and trusted partnerships.
The foundations of this future are trusted connectivity and the Global Gateway.
Estonia, owing to its history and geography, has long been wary of unreliable partners. It was our conscious decision many years ago to decouple ourselves from Russian energy. This came at a considerable cost. Today, Estonia is one of the European countries least reliant on Russian gas. We knew that prevention was better – and far less costly – than the cure.
This is why, at this same venue one year ago, Estonia introduced trusted connectivity – a conceptual framework for organizing political and economic relations among trusted partners. Namely, trusted partners across the world who are committed to upholding the rules-based order and to protecting human rights and individual freedom.
The proposition of trusted connectivity is straightforward: to connect like-minded countries through trusted partnerships – based on shared interests and values and the highest standards – thus reinforcing trust in global political and economic relations across the free world.
The European Union’s Global Gateway is the embodiment of trusted connectivity in practice. It is Team Europe’s positive, values-based offer of cooperation to developed countries and emerging economies alike. It is an offer to deliver economic and energy security and to bridge digital divides. Governments, financial institutions, and the private sector all working together to boost our competitiveness, deliver benefits to our partners, and empower local communities.
The Global Gateway also advances Europe’s strategic autonomy, being a reflection of our trailblazing legislation on critical raw materials, batteries, and semiconductors. And it is already delivering on the ground in Africa, the Western Balkans, Latin America, the Caucasus and Central Asia, with many more projects soon to follow.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The free world’s united front against authoritarianism is being tested – and it is growing stronger for it.
We have seen the recent introduction of many trusted connectivity initiatives. Not only the Global Gateway, but also the G7’s Partnership for Infrastructure and Investment. The Three Seas Initiative. The United Kingdom’s Clean Green Initiative. The Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity. Africa’s Agenda 2063.
These will allow us to build partnerships, not dependencies.
It is trusted connectivity that ties these many initiatives together. As a concept, it clearly expresses the values we hold dear. As a framework, it enables practical interoperability across these initiatives by creating mutual understanding. And it offers the necessary context for engaging with authoritarian regimes.
Trusted connectivity informs our decoupling from unreliable partners, replacing these with trusted alternatives – whether we talk about global value chains, submarine cables, finance, or new technologies.
And this is vital. Because it is connectivity – digital and physical infrastructure – that is at the heart of our moment in crisis. Connectivity links up national, economic, energy, and cyber security. It links up the digital and green transformations. It links up trade and supply chains. Connectivity is the smartphone in your pocket, the lights in this room, and the tax return you submit online. It is the source code of our e-government and the software in our 5G networks. And thus, our digital existence also reflects our values and standards.
There is immense global demand for infrastructure. We cannot let autocracies be the ones who respond to this demand uncontested. We have seen where this leads – a “synergy of failures.” Investments from autocracies corrode good governance and pollute the environment. They drive the recipient country into a debt trap. This is the high cost of dependence, and the most harm is suffered by those most vulnerable.
We stand strongest when we stand united. The European Union responded to our moment in crisis with solidarity and resolve – all together, as Team Europe. NATO and the wider transatlantic community are stronger than before. Our offer to the world of positive, values-based trusted partnerships is a message that rings louder than before. And I strongly believe we are more ready to rise to the occasion than before.
As we respond to our shared challenges today, we are tracing a path to a brighter tomorrow. On this path, we need to ask ourselves: are we willing to pay a premium for trust or are we not.
I think the answer is clear: trust may come at a price – but it is a price worth paying.
We cannot let the sacrifices Ukraine has made be in vain. We have to learn the lessons of overreliance and interdependence. We have to ensure that freedom, prosperity, security, and democracy prevail.
So let us stand together. Let us show we are in it for the long haul. Let us build a better tomorrow, together. Alongside our friends from the United States, the G7, the Indo-Pacific, Africa, Latin America, and beyond.
This is the promise of trusted connectivity and the Global Gateway.
I am glad to welcome Ursula von der Leyen here with us today to tell us about the positive vision of the Global Gateway. I commend her personal leadership and commitment to the initiative.
I welcome all of you who are here in person and those watching online.
We will not resolve all our problems in these two short days – but laying the groundwork begins here and now.
This is what the Tallinn Digital Summit is all about – a platform for the Global Gateway and other trusted connectivity initiatives to convene and coordinate – to mobilize our collective power across our collective efforts.
And I am positive Tallinn will continue to offer a crucial meeting place for European and global leaders to make trust, not dependency, a key part of the future we’re building.