Estonia likely to take over EU council presidency sooner, subsequent terms to be brought forward six months
Estonia will likely take over the UK’s EU council presidency in the second half of 2017, the EU Observer reported after member states ambassadors discussed the issue on Wednesday.
The final decision is expected in the next couple of days, but the idea is to continue with the current term schedule instead of having a new country take over, a source told the EU Observer.
The rotating presidency of the EU is currently held by Slovakia, with Malta scheduled to take over in the first half of 2017. Estonia was due to follow Britain in the first half of 2018, but will likely begin earlier due to the outcome of the UK’s EU membership referendum.
Citing EU officials, the Financial Times wrote that Belgium had been eager to take over Britain's slot, but that this move was blocked by an alliance of eastern European countries.
Prime Minister Taavi Rõivas said on Tuesday that Estonia would prefer to take over the EU presidency as scheduled, that is, in the year of the republic’s centenary.
“I repeat that while Estonia is ready to move its presidency forward if necessary, our preference is to take on the presidency of the EU in the jubilee year of the Republic of Estonia. A decision in favor of Belgium would definitely make the preparations we have begun already easier,” Rõivas told BNS.
Official: Estonia is ready to start sooner than planned
Meanwhile, Kristo Põllu, deputy director of the European Union Secretariat at Estonia's government office, said that if required, Estonia was ready to start its presidency earlier than originally planned.
Põllu said that the issue didn’t only affect Estonia, but that there was a good chance that all presidencies would be brought forward by six months.
“From our point of view, the most important thing is to have a clear agreement among countries as soon as possible, so we can go ahead with our preparations. The optimistic expectation is that the decision will be made next week,” he added. Though it was a pity that the coincidence of the presidency and the Republic of Estonia’s centenary would be lost this way, they were nevertheless ready to take over sooner, he stressed.