Budget commissioner encouraging green revolution in Estonia

European Commissioner for Budget and Administration Johannes Hahn.
European Commissioner for Budget and Administration Johannes Hahn. Source: ERR

Negotiations over the European Union's seven-year budget are gaining momentum, and while the main arguments are taking place between government leaders, the European Commission is trying to keep things balanced and also inject some green optimism into the process. European Commissioner for Budget and Administration Johannes Hahn is encouraging Estonia to undergo a green revolution.

Hahn has served as Austria's representative in the European Commission since 2010, first serving as commissioner for regional policy, later responsible for EU neighborhood policy and enlargement negotiations, foreign current events program "Välisilm" reported on Monday.

The fact that the Estonian public is increasingly pessimistic regarding Rail Baltic and that most properties along the railroad's future path have yet to be purchased have not yet gotten to the budget commissioner.

"I have worked with such projects for ten years already," Hahn said. "Very often these initial plans are ambitious, which is good, because you have to be ambitious. If you consider the big picture, then this project has gotten pretty far. Of course, there are some problems."

One broad concern is the gap in the budget left following the United Kingdom's withdrawal from the EU, which has sparked classic debates over which member states will have to pay more, and which will see more benefits in the budget.

The budget commissioner is calling to move past the concepts of net contributor and net recipient, as several new investment principles will actually allow benefits for entrepreneurs and societies in general in wealthier countries as well.

"We have new policy fields and priorities that must be addressed," Hahn said. "For example, climate change, digitalization, external border defense. These need to be adequately financed. Which is why the Commission is offering a compromise. We will be taking into consideration the fact that the U.K. is leaving and each member state has to contribute a bit more in order to achieve our common goals."

The most ambitious goal is the new European Commission's Green Deal, which is intended to steer the entire European economy toward climate neutrality by 2050, meaning an environmentally friendly Europe with low CO2 emissions and the just transition to clean energy.

A dedicated Just Transition Fund is meant to soften the blow to be dealt to old-fashioned branches of industry and their employees who are slated to lose their jobs. In Estonia's case, this means the oil shale energy field.

The European Commission is prepared to pay Estonia €125 million via the fund, a sum that has already been laughed at by Estonia's oil shale businessmen.

"I believe that Estonia will receive 19 times the minimum that we are offering member states for similar activities," Hahn said. "This is the biggest amount per person. These things cannot be solved within a couple of years, but we must begin with these changes. This initiative can be seen as a jump start to the transition, offering seed capital."


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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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