The Estonian government on Thursday endorsed the initial positions of Estonia for the negotiations on the European Union's next long-term budget, according to which the government is prepared to increase Estonia's contribution to the EU budget.
The Estonian economy has been developing at a good pace and the standard of living has increased, and as a result, Estonia will not receive the same amount of EU support in the upcoming period as it does in the current budget period. Nevertheless, Estonia is set to receive several times more EU money than it pays into the EU budget also in the upcoming period.
The government supports increases in the budget in the priority areas put forward by the Commission, as well as the new priorities such as the financing of security, defence, external cooperation, and neighbourhood policy. At the same time, the government finds that the reduction in the budgets of cohesion policy, rural development and common agricultural policy should not be too big.
The government is also prepared to increase Estonia's contribution to the EU budget to mitigate potential cuts proposed by the European Commission to the financing of cohesion policy and agricultural policy. Thus, the government is in favour of the size of the new long-term budget being as close as possible to the current one, which means that the budget for 2021–2027 should be bigger than the initial proposal tabled by the Commission.
The position of the Estonian government is that when standard of living increases, the reduction in subsidies should not be as steep as put forward in the current proposal.
While a moderate increase in the rate of own contribution supports the well-considered spending of money, the increase in the rate of own contribution for countries becoming a transition region should be smaller and not threefold as suggested in the Commission's proposal. Decisions regarding what to use EU funding for should be made on the regional level and in consideration of their development needs.
Just as for Latvia and Lithuania, transport and energy infrastructure projects connecting all of Europe are of significant importance for Estonia in the budget talks. The government supports the Commission's proposal to go on financing priority cross-border transport projects at a rate of up to 85%, in as great a volume as possible.
The Commission's proposals will facilitate and modernise the Common Agricultural Policy. Member states will be given greater rights to decide about how and where they wish to place their budgetary instruments. The evening off of the levels of direct support among member states will continue. The sum total to be allocated to Estonia will increase by 26%, while the total budget of EU direct support will shrink by 3.9%. According to the Commission's proposal, direct support for Estonian farmers would reach a level of 76% of the EU average by the end of the period.
The position of the Estonian government is that direct agricultural support should ensure equal competition conditions on European markets for agricultural producers of all member states. The evening off of the levels of support must happen faster than envisaged in the Commission's proposal, especially considering that the costs of agricultural production in Estonia are higher than in the EU on average.
Sufficient EU funding must be provided, along with a smoother reduction in the rates of support than proposed by the Commission, for the implementation of rural development policy. Rural development policy is the most suitable tool for solving important challenges to agriculture and to rural regions more broadly, as well as making a contribution to achieving climate and environment policy goals.
Estonia supports the reaching of an agreement as quickly as possible both among member states as well as with the European Parliament to ensure a smoother transition to the new arrangement of the use of budgetary instruments. The Commission's proposals definitely stand to change in the course of negotiations, the Estonian government said.
Editor: Aili Vahtla