The European Union could set a time frame for future expansion to encourage candidate countries – although accession would ultimately depend on reforms, Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) said on Tuesday.
"Nothing would show our credibility and commitment more clearly than to say when we are ready to welcome up to 10 new members," she said in a speech on the government's European Union policy in the Riigikogu on Tuesday. "It is true that we cannot promise a deadline for accession, because the homework still has to be done by the countries themselves. This call does not mean naivety regarding the necessity of changes to policies, power relations, and the basic values of the rule of law, but encouragement to start,"
She suggested 2030 could be the enlargement date.
"2030 would be a very logical time for such a choice, as this is when the new long-term EU budget could actually be implemented and the new post-electoral institutions of 2029 would be formed," the prime minister explained.
Discussions about Ukraine and Moldova's accession process will take place later this week in Brussels.
European Union needs reforms
Kallas also discussed reforming the EU's budget and policies.
"Clearly, reforms and changes are needed in agricultural policy, as well as in cohesion policy," she said.
Additionally, the budget should be even more closely related to joint policies, such as the internal market, the euro, Schengen, digital and green reforms, as well as the establishment of European energy, transport and communication networks, Kallas suggested.
"However, the government's position on amending the Treaties remains unchanged – enlargement on the scale foreseen is possible under the current Treaties," the prime minister said.
Estonia does not support majority voting
Kallas reiterated Estonia does not support the EU changing its rules to allow majority voting in areas such as foreign policy and taxation rather than unanimity.
"We do not support the desire expressed by the current European Parliament to open up a wide-ranging treaty reform process, because we do not see the link between enlargement and the large number of issues raised by the Parliament. Nor do we see a link between enlargement and the move from unanimity to majority voting in the areas of foreign and security policy and taxation policy," she said.
"The debate on what is the common foreign and security policy, defense policy, or on what aspects of fiscal policy should or should not be harmonized, should still be entirely substantive and separate from enlargement. The speed of decision-making, the substance of decisions, and the enforcement of decisions are inseparable, and problems cannot be simplified or reduced to a question of unanimity."
Kallas also questioned whether member states would actually implement decisions adopted by majority vote if they had voted against them.
The prime minister also highlighted two enlargement issues important to Estonia.
"Member states should not misuse areas of unanimity for blackmail on other issues," she said, in what could be seen as a veiled reference to Hungary.
"It is also important that what we have been able to agree on will also be acceptable to the new member states, and in particular we intend to emphasize this during the accession negotiations, especially in the area of foreign policy," Kallas added. EU candidate country Serbia has not yet fully joined the European Union's restrictions against Russia.
The prime minister also emphasized the need to continue supporting Ukraine, to promote the internal market in the European Union, and to abolish the exceptions granted to countries that distort fair competition
Editor: Mait Ots, Helen Wright