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Ratas meets with Benelux, Nordic, Baltic leaders in the Hague

Benelux, Nordic and Baltic leaders met in the Hague on Wednesday night. June 21, 2017.
Benelux, Nordic and Baltic leaders met in the Hague on Wednesday night. June 21, 2017. Source: (Ave Tampere/Government Office)

Prime Minister Jüri Ratas participated in a high-level meeting of the Benelux, Nordic and Baltic countries in the Hague on Wednesday evening, where he called for intensifying cooperation on the creation of the European digital single market.

"Europe is one of the world's largest economies and a single market of some 500 million consumers that represents one of the most substantial accomlishments of the union," Ratas said according to a government press release. "However, the internal market is not yet complete in the fields of cross-border connections, energy, capital and services, for example."

The future European economy will clearly be digital, Ratas said. "A digital single market would contribute €400 million to the European economy and create thousands of new jobs," he highlighted. "This is an untapped opportunity."

Ratas explained that a digital Europe and the free movement of data would thus be one of the major themes of the upcoming Estonian presidency of the Council of the EU, which begins July 1.

According to the Estonian prime minister, a digital single market is based on the free flow of data within Europe. "Today, data is as valuable as gold, coal or oil has been in the past," he said. "The deployment of ultra-fast next-generation internet connnections and uninterrupted modern electronic communications is the prerequisite for sound growth. Moreover, we need to ensure the security of the free flow of data and enhance users' trust in e-services. The readiness of governments and society to adapt to these changes is no less important as well."

At their meeting on Wednesday evening, the leaders of Belgium, Estonia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Latvia, the Netherlands, Sweden, Finland and Denmark discussed social matters, the European Economic and Monetary Union, the migration crisis and defense cooperation. Relations with Russia and Turkey as well as future cooperation with the U.K. following its withdrawal from the EU were also discussed.

As a preparatory foreign visit of the Estonian presidency of the council of the EU, Ratas met on Wednesday afternoon with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte. During their meeting, Ratas highlighted close cooperation between Estonia and the Netherlands in IT- as well as cyber- and defense-related matters.

The Netherlands has been the third largest investor in Estonia, following Sweden and Finland. It is also Estonia's most important cooperation partner in the field of defense procurements as well. Ratas also thanked Rutte for the Netherlands' contributions to NATO's Baltic Air Policing mission.

While in the Hague, Ratas also presented his colleagues with the priorities of the upcoming Estonian presidency of the Council of the EU and invited them to the summit dedicated to digital technology scheduled to take place in Tallinn on Sept. 29.

Editor: Aili Vahtla

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