Agriculture and Rail Baltic Estonia priorities in EU long-term budget plans

Minister of Finance Martin Helme (EKRE).
Minister of Finance Martin Helme (EKRE). Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

Reactions to the European Council President Charles Michel's budget proposals for the 2020-2027 period have remained at a critical level, according to a report on ETV current affairs show "Aktuaalne kaamera" Monday night.

The 2018 European Commission proposed a budget worth 1.11 percent of of EU GNI, the European Parliament asked for 1.3 per cent, but the net contributors are were not willing to go beyond 1 percent. Michel's figure currently stands at 1.074 percent.

Following Brexit, around €15 billion must be found to make up the hole left by the departure of the second-largest net contributor to the budget, for the long term period.

Charles Michel has offered more flexibility within the Common Agriculture Policy (CAP) and more money to less developed regions in lieu of a larger budget, but has still met with opposition.

Farming subsidies, co-financing rates in cohesion support policy, and funding for the high speed Rail Baltic project, are top of the list of priorities for Estonia, the report said.

The most important issues for Estonia are the follow-up of direct payments to farmers in Western Europe, the rate of co-financing of cohesion policy support and Rail Baltic funding, according to finance minister Martin Helme (EKRE), in Brussels on Monday.

"A budget amenable to all is probably never going to appear, but from an Estonian perspective, some sections are more important than others," Helme told "Aktuaalne kaamera".

"The first consideration is that our agricultural sector should be treated as in line with western Europe in terms of subsidies as is possible," Helme said.

Helme also noted a desire on the part of Estonia to temper increases in the rates of co-financing of European grants, to make them more accessible to Estonia.

He also raised the issue of Rail Baltic funding.

"What we could agree on and what is being offered now are two very different things," Helme saiud.

The new budget proposal was discussed for the first time on Monday by the General Affairs Council, where Estonia was represented by Foreign Minister Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa).

"Net contributors were in the most combative mood as of this time; emotions were through the roof. We now have the first moment of reflection; a more equal treatment for our farmers [is requried], and we definitely want to see Rail Baltic clearly fixed," Helme added.

Member states will meeting in Brussels for a special summit from February 20, with a view to reaching an agreement on long-term strategy.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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