The Estonian government is preparing for the eventuality that in connection with Britain's exit from the European Union the period of Estonia's EU presidency will change, Prime Minister Taavi Roivas said on Monday.
"We have thought about it, we've prepared for it and we'll cope with it," Roivas said at a public sitting of the parliamentary European Union Affairs Committee at which consequences of the UK referendum on EU membership and preparations for the European Council meeting beginning on Tuesday were under discussion.
However, there is no such decision yet that Britain will not take up the EU presidency, the prime minister stressed.
Roivas said he intends to meet with his British counterpart David Cameron in the course of the Council meeting taking place in Brussels on Tuesday and Wednesday to speak about this topic.
"Clearly we don't have much time - we'd like to have clarity within a couple of weeks," the prime minister said. In his words, the question needs to be discussed with European Council President Donald Tusk and Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat as well.
According to present plans Estonia should hold the EU presidency in the first half of 2018, with Malta the presiding country in the first half and the UK, in the second half of 2017, immediately before Estonia.
But after the referendum it's hard to believe the Brits would be willing to take up the presidency. "All signs show they'll pass it up. Why make expenses to the tune of 75-100 million," a well-informed source told BNS on condition of anonymity.
Roivas underlined at the same time that bringing Estonia's EU presidency forward by six months is not the only possibility but that there are also other options.