Rata discusses challenges awaiting EU with Greek prime minister

Prime Minister Jüri Ratas with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras in Athens on Monday. May 29, 2017.
Prime Minister Jüri Ratas with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras in Athens on Monday. May 29, 2017. Source: (Ave Tampere/Government Office)

Prime Minister Jüri Ratas met with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras in Athens on Monday, where the two discussed the priorities of Estonia's upcoming Presidency of the Council of the EU, bilateral relations and Estonian-Greek cooperation, including in the relocation of war refugees.

"Estonia and Greece have shown remarkable cooperation in terms of relocating war refugees," Ratas said according to a government press release. "Estonia has relocated 130 refugees, i.e. 64 percent of its share arriving from Greece, which is significantly higher than the average contribution of EU countries. He added that the reason for this lies in the successful cooperation between government agencies.

"The EU-Turkey agreement is a success story that has brought migratory pressure on the Western Balkan route to nearly zero," commented the Estonian prime minister, adding that the European perspective given to Western Balkan countries continues to be a key factor in the region's security, development and stability.

Ratas confirmed that one of the focal points of the Estonian presidency of the Council of the EU will be the strengthening of border control measures and reforming the asylum system on the European level.

On the subject of economic relations, Ratas noted that Greece is a popular travel destination for Estonians, highlighting the fact that last year, over 40,000 Estonians visited Greece and tourist numbers continue to grow.

According to Ratas, the biggest growth potential in Estonia and Greece's bilateral relations lies in the ICT field. "Estonia is ready to share its knowledge and experiences with developing an e-state with Greece," he told Tsipras.

On the subject of the goals of the upcoming Estonian presidency of the EU, Ratas explained that the country aims to build and support a Europe with an open and innovative economy, keep Europe secure, promote a digital Europe and the free movement of data as well as ensure that the activity of the EU is inclusive and sustainable. According to the prime minister, one of Estonia's most important tasks after it takes over the presidency will be to maintain unity and quorum within the EU.

The head of government of the incoming EU presidency typically visits a number of member states beforehand in order to present and promote the priorities and program of their country's presidency and discuss opportunities for closer cooperation.

Ratas will also visit Cyprus on this trip before returning to Estonia on Monday night.

Editor: Aili Vahtla

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