Estonia is prepared to lose access to European Union cohesion funds if it means Ukraine becoming a member state, Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) says – in effect transforming the country from a European Union net beneficiary, to a net contributor, British paper the Financial Times (FT) reports.
The FT reports that Kallas has said the Estonia is prepared to lose access to cohesion funds "in the long run."
"Eventually it will happen, but not immediately," Kallas told the FT, which last week reported that an internal EU study puts Ukraine's EU funds allocation, were it to accede to the union, at almost €190bn over a seven-year period, as things stand.
This would mean several current net beneficiaries, including Estonia, being converted to net contributors to EU coffers, an eventuality which Kallas said the Estonian state is ready for in due course.
Kallas also called on other EU countries to start work on the budgetary reforms that would enable Ukraine's accession.
So far, this topic has been touched on only "lightly," Kallas added, expressing a hope to the FT that all member states get heard on the matter, and not just the big hitters.
EU expansion could include as many as eight more new member states on top of Ukraine, over the coming years, including the Western Balkan nations, and Moldova; Russia's invasion of Ukraine, itself in part an effort to forestall that country ever becoming an EU or NATO member, has in this sense concentrated minds on hastening the very goal that Russia would avoid.
However, the reforms needed to achieve this are vast, and would include major changes to the budget-sharing regime.
Ukraine as a major agricultural nation would also receive nearly €97 billion in Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) subsidies over a seven-year period if it were to join, but this would need to be preceded by a "a complex reassessment" of policy here, Taras Kachka, Ukraine's deputy economy minister, noted last week.
This would lead to cuts of around 20 per cent in payouts to existing member states, in addition to the loss of access to cohesion funds on the part of Estonia and six other member states as mentioned in the recent EU council paper.
The topic was in fact discussed for the very first time with all EU27 member states' representatives together at last week's Granada summit in Spain.
Kaja Kallas stressed that it was "not the idea" for member states to simply see the EU as a cash cow, the FT reports, comments echoed by the Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar.
The FT says its report on the Council enlargement was widely referred to in the course of the Granada meeting.
Estonia joined the EU in 2004 along with Latvia, Lithuania and six other new members, principally in the Central and Eastern Europe region. Three countries have joined since then, the last being Croatia in 2013, and one country, the U.K., has left the union, in that time.
Editor: Andrew Whyte