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Chief Brexit negotiator gives overview to Riigikogu committee members

Michel Barnier, the EU's chief negotiator for Brexit.
Michel Barnier, the EU's chief negotiator for Brexit. Source: (Reuters/Scanpix)

The European Union's chief negotiator for Brexit, Michel Barnier, gave an overview of the timetable and priorities of the Brexit negotiations to members of the Estonian parliament's EU and foreign affairs committees on Thursday.

At the meeting, Barnier introduced the timetable of the negotiations, according to which the first phase of the negotiations is to start on June 19. The aim is to reach an agreement on the principles concerning the rights of citizens and questions related to financial and border issues by the end of this year, which is also when Estonia will conclude its EU presidency, spokespeople for the Estonian parliament said. According to the timetable, the agreement should enter into force definitively by spring 2019.

As the fundamental principles of the Brexit negotiations, Barnier emphasized the need for transparency and the inclusion of the public, fair competition conditions and legal clarity. He said that the United Kingdom also needs the unity of the member states, as the agreement needs to receive the approval of 27 member states.

"The unity of the European Union is important," Barnier said. "During the negotiations we will first and foremost focus on the rights of citizens and the financial obligations of the United Kingdom. There will be no aggressiveness at the negotiations, but it is completely evident that the United Kingdom will have to respect those obligations and the whole process needs to be in balance."

In what regards the content of the negotiations, the chief negotiator highlighted the need to ensure the rights of the citizens. He said that in light of Brexit it is important to try and tell citizens what is positive in the European Union and what the member state will miss once outside the union.

Marko Mihkelson, chairman of the Estonian parliament's foreign affairs committee, said that Estonia wishes to keep the unity of the 27 member states of the European Union and retain close and friendly cooperative relations between the United Kingdom and the European Union. "We clearly adhere to the same position regarding these issues, which need to be discussed in the first place," Mihkelson said, referring to the importance of the rights of citizens and the budget of the European Union.

Estonia as the presidency has an important role to play in the negotiation process, as Estonia will lead the sittings of the General Affairs Council and the work of the Committee of Permanent Representatives, Barnier said in his answer to a question from the chairman of the European Union affairs committee, Toomas Vitsut, on how Estonia as the EU presidency can contribute to the success of the negotiations.

Participants in the meeting included Marko Mihkelson, chairman of the parliament's foreign affairs committee; Keit-Pentus Rosimannus, vice chairman of the foreign affairs committee; Andres Herkel, member of the foreign affairs committee; Toomas Vitsut, chairman of the European Union affairs committee; and members of the European Union affairs committee Tiina Kangro, Oudekki Loone, Aivar Soerd, Kalle Palling, Tiit Terik and Johannes Kert.

The EU General Affairs Council adopted a decision on May 22 authorizing the beginning of talks with the UK following the notification of its intention to leave the EU, and gave the European Commission concrete negotiation instructions or a mandate. The European Commission will hold the negotiations according to the guidelines of the European Council and the negotiation instructions of the General Affairs Council. The chief negotiator on behalf of the EU is Michel Barnier.

Editor: Dario Cavegn

Source: BNS

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