In remarks released on Friday, the United Kingdom's last day as a member of the European Union, Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Center) stressed that the U.K. will always be a part of Europe and that it will remain Estonia's very close friend and ally in international cooperation as well.
"Our friendship has lasted more than 100 years already," Ratas said in a press release. "We are connected by history, trust and and long-term cooperation, as well as a common responsibility for the security of Europe. I believe that Estonia and the U.K.'s close friendship and cooperation will deepen even further in security, defense, cyber and digital cooperation as well as in the field of education and research. I emphasized this at our meeting with British Ambassador Theresa Bubbear."
The U.K. is home to several Estonian startups, and thousands of Estonians live and study there as well, the prime minister highlighted. "Therefore I consider it very important that the cultural, educational and research relationships that connect our people remain strong," he added.
Ratas also highlighted the longtime and special relationship between Estonia and the U.K. in the defense and security fields.
"Close defense cooperation has linked us with the Brits since the time of the War of Independence," he said. "We highly appreciate the U.K.'s contributions in the Baltic Sea region to ensuring all of NATO's security. The members of our defense forces have also served together on difficult foreign missions both in Afghanistan and in Mali. Our countries are close allies in NATO and cooperate in the UN Security Council as well."
One of the biggest contingents of British troops to serve outside of the U.K. is stationed in Estonia.
According to Ratas, Estonia and the U.K. still have untapped potential in digital and cyber cooperation. "I have invited my colleague Boris Johnson to attend the digital summit to be held in Estonia this fall, as well as to a meeting beforehand of the heads of government of the Nordic and Baltic countries and Ireland to discuss cooperation for the finding of solutions in the field of e-health together," he said.
Transition period begins
Regarding the future of relations between the U.K. and the EU, the Estonian prime minister stressed the need to do everything possible to ensure that it is a very substantive and strategic partnership.
"Looking to the future, I believe that the U.K. should become a very special partner to the EU," Ratas said. "We are working toward this. We want close cooperation in the future first and foremost in the fields of security, foreign and defense policy and in trade relations."
The EU and the U.K. finalized the conclusion of the treaty on the withdrawal of the U.K. from the Union on Thursday. The treaty took effect on February 1, as of which date the U.K. will no longer be a member of the EU. A transition period has now begun that will last through the end of the year, during which time the U.K. and the EU must reach agreements regarding future relations.
During this time, nothing will change for citizens or businesses; all prior rights and rules for travel and residency will continue to apply.
Editor: Aili Vahtla