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UK and Estonian European Council presidency: Still no answer

Prime ministers Taavi Rõivas (Reform) and David Cameron in Brussels, June 2016
Prime ministers Taavi Rõivas (Reform) and David Cameron in Brussels, June 2016 Source: (Riigikantselei)

As the UK’s presidency of the European Council in 2017 immediately precedes that of Estonia in 2018, a post-Brexit withdrawal of the UK would force the Estonian government to speed up its preparations. But the UK itself is still far away from a decision.

For British prime minister David Cameron, this was the last European Council meeting. He’ll step down in autumn, and announced on Wednesday that he intended to leave the decision whether or not to withdraw from the UK’s 2017 council presidency to his successor.

Estonia’s permanent representative to the EU, Matti Maasikas, wrote on his blog that he was “slightly bothered” by the fact that Cameron hadn’t been clearer about it. He pointed out that the government would find itself under pressure if it couldn’t be made clear in July at the latest whether or not Estonia would need to take over sooner than scheduled.

“Nothing new from Cameron. He won’t initiate Article 50, and won’t make any other decisions concerning membership,” Maasikas added. Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union states that a member state determined to leave the EU has to officially notify the European Council - which the UK hasn’t done yet.

Malta, which will hold the presidency of the European Council before the UK’s scheduled stint of July to December 2017, would prefer it if Estonia could take over six months ahead of time. Malta’s prime minister, Joseph Muscat, said his government was also ready to discuss alternatives, e.g. extending Malta’s own time heading the council.

According to the EU Observer, there are officials in the union that think that other member states could come to either country’s aid to cover the unforeseen costs such an extended presidency could incur.

Editor: Editor: Dario Cavegn

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