Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Center) attended the European Council in Brussels on Thursday and Friday, the last of the Estonian presidency of the Council of the EU, which draws to a close at the end of the month. ERR News has reproduced Ratas' statement to the press in full.
This last summit of the year has been a perfect fit for the Estonian presidency. We have, over the last two days, delivered on all of our main priorities that we set out in July.
First, on the number one concern of our citizens — security. Closer defense cooperation, as launched yesterday, is going to make Europe more secure for our people. It should also inspire our industry to innovate and cooperate across borders and sectors, avoiding costly duplication. One good example of this is the idea to create a military Schengen [area].
Second, we wanted to revive the idea of a more social Europe. As seen in Gothenburg and yesterday, this is now a matter for the leaders. As the [EU] presidency, we are very happy to highlight the European Pillar of Social Rights and the agreement reached on posted workers. We have also finished the work in the Council needed to turn the Paris climate agreement into a reality.
Migration is still a very sensitive issue in Europe. However, even here we are now talking about prevention and management — rather than fire-fighting and crisis response. We can focus again on long-term solutions, based on responsibility and solidarity. The [Estonian] presidency has contributed with its proposal, and I hope that this can be a basis for an agreement among all member states by next June.
This morning, we talked about European Monetary Union (EMU) reform. This is still a long and winding road, but again, the European economy is stronger than at any time in [the past] decade; we have growth in all member states.
Confidence is at 17-year high. Our companies are doing well, and unemployment is down. Today we are far from the doom and gloom experienced just 18 months ago.
Finally, Brexit was not on our priority list, but is still very much in our hearts. A divorce is always sad and difficult. Moreover, it will have an impact on us all. I am very pleased that we have achieved sufficient progress in our negotiations to start discussing our future relations as well.
The unity of the EU27 in these negotiations has served us — and the U.K. — well. My very sincere hope is that we, as the EU27, can demonstrate this unity in other areas when energizing the EU over the years to come as well.
When Estonia took over the presidency in July, we did not have any illusions that these six months could solve all the problems of the EU, but we had a clear wish in our hearts that our presidency would result in a slightly better Europe — a Europe that is more hopeful, more unified and more confident.
Today, I can say with utmost sincerity that Estonia will pass on the responsibility of the presidency to Bulgaria with a calm state of mind, knowing that we are seeing that Europe is back again.
Let me thank everyone who has made this possible — it is in the end a collective effort: the member states, the Commission, the Parliament and the Council who has supported us in our every step, and of course a special thanks to you, [President of the European Commission] Jean-Claude [Juncker] and [President of the European Council] Donald [Tusk].
This statement was originally published on the Estonian EU presidency homepage.
Editor: Aili Vahtla