Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Center) said on Tuesday that at the turn of the year, Estonia will hand off responsibility of the presidency of the Council of the EU with contented hearts and the knowledge that Estonia did its best in connection with many important decisions made during the six-month period.
Providing an overview of the government's EU policy in the Riigikogu on Tuesday, Ratas was quoted by government spokespeople as saying that Estonia as the presidency, with its purpose and determination, practical mind, fast action, and clever solutions, has reaffirmed to both itself and others that Estonia is a capable and committed member of the European family.
"The Estonian presidency was successful thanks to the advice and actions of our officials, politicians, and private and third sectors, and with the support of the hospitality of the people of Estonia," Ratas said. "Every one of us not only looks and acts like Estonia in Europe, but often also looks and acts like Europe in the world."
According to the prime minister, although a tailwind is blowing in the sails of the EU today, thunderclouds were on the horizon and a strong storm was expected as Estonia was preparing for its EU presidency.
"After the Brexit referendum, political fluster characteristic of crises as well as existential questions were up in the air," Ratas said. "Today we have conquered hectic weather conditions, reestablished control over the ship and set a course ahead."
Thus political aims set in Bratislava, Malta, Rome and at the Tallinn Digital Summit on Sept. 29 have helped Europe overcome more difficult moments, Ratas said. "Things done during crises have by now shown the strength of the common decisions of the EU — the euro area is stable, the migration crisis has come under control, and the EU has proven that it is prepared for difficult Brexit negotiations," he highlighted. "The concerns of European citizens regarding security, migration and economic instability will of course remain in the focus of the institutions of the EU in the future."
In addition to the everyday concerns of its citizens, Estonia has also handled solutions that have a noteworthy structure and long-term impact, the Estonian head of government said. "Without wanting to diminish other important achievements, some of the most important for Europe are definitely the signing of the agreements necessary for implementing the Paris climate agreement, approval of the European Pillar of Social Rights, and developments in the EU's defense cooperation," he noted.
Ratas also said that the Estonian presidency has entirely justifiably been called the digital presidency, as this was Estonia's predominant priority. "Not only telecommunications infrastructure, market and cyber security, but also legal cooperation, transport, energy, internal security, defense cooperation, agriculture, education and many other fields were driven by the idea that our common future is digital," he said.
The prime minister added that following the Estonian presidency, Europe will hopefully be slightly better, more full of hope, more united and more balanced, but added that Estonia is also a different country following these six months.
"We are smarter, more experienced, and more confident than before," Ratas said. "We have learned, and made efforts, and we have done it. And what is perhaps most important — we are better understood in all of Europe, and we have more friends than before."
The Estonian head of government concluded by thanking all officials, politicians, journalists, cooperation partners and volunteers who contributed toward the success of the presidency.
Estonia will hand off the presidency of the Council of the EU to Bulgaria.
Editor: Aili Vahtla