The European Commission has adopted an investment package for Estonia worth almost 4.9 billion euros, including 3.5 billion euros in EU investments.
The program, called "Operational Program for Cohesion Policy Funds 2014-2020," covers the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), the Cohesion Fund, and the European Social Fund (ESF) in one package, with the goal of an integrated approach to raising the competiveness of Estonia’s economy.
Corina Cretu, EU Commissioner for Regional Policy, said the 4.9 billion euro pacakge will enable Estonia to "address some of its most pressing challenges with concrete projects."
"It will drive research and innovation, improve international transport connections, reform the education network, and assist the growth and internationalization of SMEs," Cretu said. "Those vital investments are necessary to secure Estonia's competitive situation in Europe and beyond."
EU funding is earmarked to strengthen research and innovation in the country, and help to increase research and development spending to 3 percent of the GDP by 2020.
The funding also puts an emphasis on promoting environmentally friendly transport. One of the goals of the EU is to double the annual number of passengers taking the train in Estonia, from 4.2 to 8.4 million by 2020.
The EU program also looks to improve the competitiveness of Estonian small- and medium-sized businesses, with the aim of increasing their export capacity and growth potential. The goal is to increase the number of businesses exporting on international markets from 11,000 to 16,000.
The investment package, announced Wednesday, also foresees concrete measures to increase the employment rate in Estonia to 76 percent, as well as reduce the rate of people at risk of poverty to 15 percent in 2020. Another important goal is to reduce early school leaving rates, reform the general education network and improve access to high-quality education.
Marianne Thyssen, the EU Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs, Skills and Labor Mobility, said that she has happy to see that investments for jobs, social inclusion and a youth focus.
"I am also pleased,“ she said, "that the European Social Fund in Estonia is placing particular emphasis on facilitating reforms covered by the Country Specific Recommendations, specifically the work capacity reform and further improvement of public services as well as on investments in education, skills and lifelong learning".
Operational Program Budget Breakdown:
Total value: €4,891,748,878
Total European contribution: €3,534,560,285
- €1,874,261,393 billion allocated to the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF)
- €586,977,010 million allocated to the European Social Fund (ESF)
- €1,073,321,882 billion allocated to the Cohesion Fund
The main focus for the Estonian investment package is in:
- Research, technological development & innovation: €642 million ERDF
- Sustainable Transport: €476 million Cohesion Fund
- Investing in education: €218 million ERDF + €195 million ESF
- Promoting Employment: €228 million ESF + €166 million ERDF
- Social Inclusion: €254 million ERDF + €134 million ESF
- SME competitiveness: €301 million ERDF
- Shift to a low-carbon economy: €247 million Cohesion Fund + €49 million ERDF
(Source: European Commission)
Editor: S. Abel