Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Center) commented the European Commission's budget proposal for the 2021 to 2027 period, saying that Estonia's priority is to invest EU money where it contributes to making Estonia economically self-sufficient to the point where the country can handle itself without support.
"The EU budget, to which taxpayers of all Member States contribute, is meant to boost development and new initiatives. The most important thing is what we spend on, how investments affect the economy, if they will stimulate growth in the future, and if the well-being of people and the security of the countries will increase," Ratas said in a government press release.
The prime minister added that Estonia's economic self-sufficiency is the priority in its decisions where and how to use contributions out of the EU's budget. The term is shaping up to become a major slogan in the campaign for next year's Riigikogu elections, as the Reform Party's new chairwoman and effective prime-ministerial candidate, Kaja Kallas, also made Estonia's ability to make ends meet on its own a core point of her party's platform.
Rail Baltica, fairer payments to farmers, weaning regions off EU support
According to Ratas, Estonia has three main objectives in the upcoming EU budget debate. The first is the construction of Rail Baltica, and the synchronization of the Baltic states' electricity network with Europe. The second, balancing direct subsidies for farmers under the EU's Common Agricultural Policy, creating fairer conditions for Estonia's farmers.
The third point, in line with comments made about Estonia's self-sufficiency, is to make sure that support for the union's regions is phased out gradually, and leaves them enough time to replace that money with solutions that can function independently.
"I'm glad to see that cross-border connectivity is clearly prioritized. Rail Baltic will allow the transportation of goods from Northern Scandinavia to the Mediterranean countries and to the North Sea. It will also connect the Baltic countries to the ports of Rotterdam and Northern Germany," Ratas said.
"Payments of the Common Agricultural Policy to Estonia from the EU budget have increased more than 2.5 times over the years. While in 2004, €83 million was allocated to Estonia's agriculture, €220 million was allocated in 2016. However, direct payments to the Baltics are among the lowest in the European Union. For example, in 2020 the EU’s average level of direct payments per hectare will be €242, while in Estonia only €177," the prime minister pointed out.
Estonia ready to contribute more
Though Ratas also stressed that Estonia has been among those member states benefitting the most from the EU's shared budget. "Estonia is one of the fastest-growing areas in the EU. Our gross domestic product per capita, taking into consideration our purchasing power, has increased from 54 per cent of the EU average in 2004 to 75 per cent in 2017," he said.
Ratas called the expectation that taxpayers elsewhere in the EU could be expected to foot the bill for what is happening in Estonia "selfish," and said that Estonia understands that "areas poorer than ours must benefit more from the shared budget, and new major challenges such as migration, strengthening the external borders, and defence cooperation need more resources."
The EU's common budget should not decrease by more than the direct contribution of the United Kingdom after the latter leaves the union, Ratas said. "The larger the EU budget is, the better the possibilities for funding to reach our joint goals. Estonia is willing to increase our contribution to the EU budget."
Editor: Dario Cavegn