Estonia to assume EU presidency six months early
It was conclusively confirmed on Tuesday that, following Brexit, Estonia's presidency of the EU will no longer coincide with the country's centennial during the first half of 2018 as originally scheduled but rather take place half a year earlier, during the second half of 2017.
Estonian Prime Minister Taavi Rõivas said that Estonia will take over the Presidency of the Council of the EU during a time when the union is faced with making fundamental choices regarding its future.
"We will manage the coordination of the EU presidency occurring half a year early just fine, and we will not make any concessions on quality," said Rõivas.
Shortly following the UK's decision to leave the EU, popularly referred to as Brexit, Estonia notified that it would be ready to move up its scheduled presidency if needed. Preparations were immediately begun for the new period as well.
"The presidency [of the EU] is not something with which to play hot potato or haggle with its timing due to domestic affairs — if necessary, then it must be done," stated the prime minister. "Now we have some final clarity and we can continue with already initiated preparations at an accelerated pace."
On July 20, the UK announced its decision to waive carrying out its scheduled presidency of the EU during the second half of 2017. Estonia had been scheduled to take over the presidency following the UK, or for the first half of 2018.
Since a consensus could not be reached regarding the possibility of Belgium taking over the UK's scheduled presidency, a proposal was made to shift all scheduled presidencies of the EU forward by six months.
According to the new schedule, Estonia will be taking over the presidency from Malta, and will be followed in 2018 in turn first by Bulgaria, then by Austria.