Government confirms priorities of Estonia’s EU presidency
Prime Minister Jüri Ratas said that Estonia would be taking over the presidency in challenging times. “We need to find common ground and unity among member states, and maintain the European Union’s capacity to make decisions,” Ratas was quoted by the Government’s Press office.
Estonia would be able to raise subjects that it considered particularly important, start debates with a broader impact, and increase Estonia’s visibility on the international stage. “This is a real challenge, but I’m sure that with politicians and officials cooperating in every way possible, we’ll be able to handle it,” Ratas said.
The Government Office’s EU affairs director, Klen Jäärats, pointed out that Estonia would be leading the legislative work between member states during its presidency, but that there was room for its own priorities as well.
The priorities set by the government defined the direction of the presidency, though a much more detailed program was being prepared for June, when Malta’s presidency was about to end. Before its publication consultations would take place both with the broader public as well as with the Riigikogu, Jäärats said.
According to the government’s press office, the following priorities have been set:
An open Europe with an innovative economy. Developing a business environment that supports growth and competitiveness. Focus points are:
- Defending and developing the four freedoms of the EU’s single market (free movement of capital, goods, services, and people)
- Simplifying the provision of services, starting a business in the EU, and going ahead with trade negotiations
- Creating new ways of financing business and supporting a stable environment of banks
- Supporting a stable and working electricity market and more diversity in consumers’ choices
- Guaranteeing honest competition by preventing tax evasion
A secure and well-defended Europe. Only a united Europe with coordinated foreign policy can guarantee security to its people and play a role internationally. Goals are to include people’s wellbeing, peace, and stability. Focus points are:
- Fighting against terrorism and organized crime, strengthening internal security and the EU’s external borders through cooperation and the use of state-of-the-art information systems
- Managing the migration crisis and reforming the asylum system
- Supporting the EU’s Eastern partners and bringing them closer to the union
- European defense cooperation, increasing defense spending, and improving relations between the EU and NATO
A digital Europe, and the free movement of data. Europe needs to keep up with technological developments that are changing the everyday life of people, businesses, and states. Focus points are:
- Developing cross-border e-commerce and e-services for consumers, producers, and companies
- State-of-the-art electronic communications across Europe that are secure and available to all residents and will make it possible to offer new services
- Cross-border public e-services to simplify and speed up processes
An inclusive and sustainable Europe. Creating equal opportunities for the improvement of skills, to work, and access services. A sustainable Europe cares about and contributes to a clean environment. Focus points are:
- Renewing rules to support the free movement of employees and people
- Guaranteeing equal opportunity in the labor market and in social life
- Ensuring a cleaner and more economic living environment
More information about Estonia’s upcoming EU presidency — though not as yet including these priorities — is available on the designated website of the Government Office.