Trusted Connectivity: How Global Gateway Will Lead Us to a Free and Open World

Joint op-ed by Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission and Kaja Kallas, Prime Minister of the Republic of Estonia.

The fragility of the global economy has been laid bare by Russia’s war against Ukraine, the COVID-19 pandemic, and physical and cyberattacks against critical infrastructure. For the security and the wellbeing of our citizens, we need to replace unsustainable dependencies with balanced partnerships. We need to do business with partners we can trust, not those who weaponize our trust. And we need to stand strong together as democracies against autocracy, to defend our values and shape the global economy’s future.

This is the commitment of Global Gateway, the European Union’s the EUR 300 billion investment package to help re-anchor the international and economic rules-based global order. Launched nearly one year ago, it embodies an approach Estonia has championed much earlier than many others: trusted connectivity. An approach that has assumed an even greater urgency with Russia’s unjustified aggression and gross violation of international law.

We are replacing Russian fossil fuels with resilient supply chains that enable the green transition and avoid new dependencies. We are promoting an open, secure, and human-centered digital society that reflects our democratic values and standards. And we continue to engage our partners who want to join us in building a free, prosperous, and sustainable future. On this path, we face a choice: are we willing to pay a premium for trust, or not? Europe’s message is clear: trust may come at a price—but it is a price worth paying. Freedom is priceless.

From Words to Action

The three Baltic States, and others across Central and Eastern Europe, have understood Putin’s real intent for years, warning others that Russia is no reliable energy partner. Estonia, together with Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland, began decoupling from Russian energy long before the Kremlin’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. These countries have invested in renewable energies, LNG terminals or interconnectors. Now with RePowerEU, all of Europe is following their example, to end our dependence on Russian fossil fuels once and for all.

The present crisis has revealed the inner strength of the European Union. We have acted with unity, speed, and resolve. Our sanctions on Russia are crippling its war economy, and Ukraine is making gains on the battlefield. NATO and the transatlantic security alliance are stronger today than ever before. But the war is far from over. To ensure Ukraine’s victory against the invader, the EU and its allies must bring to bear the necessary clout to guide the geo-political and economic order towards openness, cooperation, and freedom, and adherence to rules that reflect these values. Global Gateway as the embodiment of trusted connectivity is the right tool for the job.

Towards Trusted Partnerships

Global Gateway is Europe’s promise to make a positive, values-based offer of cooperation to our neighborhood and global partners. Whereas autocracies look to create spheres of influence, to deepen rather than reduce unhealthy dependencies, we want to build partnerships based on shared values and visions for the future. We want to build the digital and green infrastructure of tomorrow’s economy, to connect our partners to Europe – including our eastern neighborhood – and us to the diverse and dynamic Global South.

Global Gateway is already delivering on the ground. For example, the EU is financing new economic corridors and energy infrastructure to connect the Western Balkans closer to our Union and enable their European dream. With investments into renewables, green hydrogen, and raw material values chains, we are building win-win relationships with countries like Namibia and Chile – for their sustainable growth and our energy security. Or with the construction of digital infrastructure, like a new fiber-optic submarine cable under the Black Sea, we are diversifying internet access across the Caucasus and Central Asia. Global Gateway is also supporting the construction of mRNA vaccine manufacturing plants in Rwanda and Senegal, and soon in Latin America, to promote global health through advanced technology transfers and regional resilience.

It is important to present a united front against the growing assertiveness and aggression of autocratic regimes. That is why Global Gateway has teamed up Europe’s closest partners and other trusted connectivity initiatives. With the G7’s Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment for instance, to leverage not just our investments, but also our know-how and standard-setting power. Together we can shape a new era of globalization, one that values economic resilience alongside economic efficiency, and our values alongside prosperity.

A Platform for Coordination

We are experiencing a decisive moment—a moment of truth. It is imperative to continue rising to the challenge and to build a strong coalition for progress, against historical revisionism. To help facilitate our cooperation, Estonia developed the Team Europe Partnerships Portal for the European Union and its Member States to engage its partners as part of Global Gateway. This year’s Digital Summit in Tallinn is a call to action for democracies to deliver together trusted connectivity, to uphold liberty and democracy, and to demonstrate that we are in it for the long haul – for Ukraine, for peace, and the future of our open and fair international order.