Commenting on the official notice of the U.K. to leave the EU, triggering Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, Estonian Prime Minister Jüri Ratas said that Europe must retain its determination and move on.
"We accept this notice with regret in our hearts and will discuss further steps on April 29, the date that President of the European Council Donald Tusk has called an extraordinary European Council for the adoption of political guidelines on how to continue with the proces with the 27 [remaining] member states," said Ratas, adding that the most important and urgent issue was minimizing uncertainty and damage felt by citizens, companies and other EU member states.
"The priority of the EU before and during negotiations is to reduce the insecurity of the people and companies that could be influenced by the U.K.'s withdrawal," the prime minister emphasized.
According to Ratas, Estonia's attitude regarding the U.K.'s future relations with the EU is open and constructive. "Good and close relations in the future are in the interests of both the U.K. and the EU," he said.
"We cannot allow ourselves to be paralyzed by Brexit; we must decisively move on together," he continued. "We must keep in mind that our common values — democracy, peace and stability and economic welfare — are the historical achievement of a united Europe and must be preserved and developed. In the name of these values, we must stick together even in these complicated times.
Ratas likewise expressed hope that the U.K.'s departure from the EU would progress as smoothly as possible. "The European Commission has a leading role in exit negotations, but we will cooperate closely daily during negotations and in preparing political decisions," he explained.
"During our presidency, we will do everything we can so that Brexit will go according to the rules and we hope that we will have the opportunity to discuss future relations very soon," Ratas added.
Ratas said that it is Estonia's duty during its Presidency of the EU Council to keep the EU united.
Editor: Aili Vahtla