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Estonia hands EU presidency off to Bulgaria

The Estonian presidency of the Council of the EU has drawn to a close.
The Estonian presidency of the Council of the EU has drawn to a close. Source: (Annika Haas/EU2017EE)

The six-month Estonian presidency of the Council of the EU is drawing to a close, with the Bulgarian presidency set to begin on Jan. 1.

"Six months is not exactly a long time in the EU to leave a mark, however I believe that Estonia succeeded in doing so," Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Center) said, expressing his gratitude to all the members of the Estonian presidency team — officials and also ministers, who worked committedly and tirelessly in Tallinn and Brussels alike for the sake of the second presidency of 2017.

"We did not shy away from even the most complex of topics, and achieved tangible results thanks to good work and the skill to make use of the existing situation," Ratas said. "The image of Estonia as a digital state was definitely established, and with our presidency we left a significant digital footprint in Europe."

The prime minister said that what was achieved in the digital field during the Estonian presidency will have a direct effect on the competitiveness of the EU. For instance, the next steps were agreed upon in developing e-government on the level of the EU, 5G, and the digital single market.

Europe also definitely became more united and secure. An important next step was made in defense cooperation, as a result of which Europe today is more capable in traditional and cyber defense cooperation alike, Ratas said.

He described the ongoing migrant crisis as a difficult and burning issue on the table of the Estonian presidency in which the root causes of migration had to be resolved and migration flows reduced at the same time. A decision was made to develop in the EU information systems that strengthen control along the entire EU border.

Third, all necessary agreements were concluded for the implementation of the Paris climate accord in the European Union.

"These decisions that will bring with them big changes in the recycling of waste, directing the electricity market toward renewable energy and toughening pollution regulations will start to influence every European already in the coming few years," Klen Jäärats, director for EU affairs at the Government Office, said in a press release.

Piret Lilleväli, head of the Estonian EU presidency organizing team, pointed out that the presidency brought to Estonia more than 27,000 foreign guests, including the leaders of 27 member states, who discussed how to make Europeans' lives better.

While the focus of the EU presidency will now be shifting to Bulgaria, the showcasing of Estonia globally will continue within the framework of the Estonia 100 program marking the 100th anniversary of the Republic of Estonia. Estonia's EU presidency moving forward by six months following the Brexit decision also meant that the centennial's international program also kicked off six months earlier as well.

The homepage of the official website of the Estonian presidency of the Council of the EU, which announced the passing of the baton to the Bulgarian EU presidency already, will remain online through 2020.

Editor: Aili Vahtla

Source: BNS

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