On the first day of the European Council on Thursday, heads of state and government of the EU confirmed their will to reach an agreement regarding the EU's next multiannual financial framework (MFF) by autumn 2019, spokespeople for the Estonian government said.
At the discussion of the EU's next MFF, Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Centre) emphasised that the union's future is in the hands of member states themselves, and that the budget has to help ensure this.
"The future budget has to support even more a more united and stronger Europe," he said. "We need a budget focused on productivity, competitiveness, and investments supporting connections. The financing of research, innovation and the youth field must not be reduced." He also emphasised the importance of supporting digital development as well.
According to the prime minister, the budget has to address people's concerns regarding migration, defence, climate change, internal and external security, the protection of EU's external border, and the stability and security of the region's neighbourhood.
Ratas also said that the EU has to continue supporting and developing transport and energy network infrastructure projects.
"Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania need fast and sustainable connections with the rest of Europe that will help us better integrate with the single market," he said. "This means the establishment of cross-border connections." He cited the construction of the Rail Baltica railway as an example thereof.
Ratas against rapid decrease in Cohesion funding
According to Ratas, the Cohesion Policy is the EU's most important investment tool, which in the next MFF must also help increase the economic welfare and competitiveness of EU member states and various regions.
"Our experience demonstrates that the Cohesion Policy is an excellent tool for carrying out necessary reforms," he highlighted. "Regardless of Estonia's rapid economic growth, the decrease in Cohesion Policy funding and the increase in own funding has to be smoother for us as a result."
Equal competition terms must be established for all EU farmers on the single market as well, he continued.
"Direct agricultural support for Estonia and other Baltic countries is the lowest in the EU," the prime minister noted. "With the proposals currently on the table of the European Commission, this would also reach just 76% of the EU average per hectare by 2027. At the same time, our farmers' production costs are well over the EU average."
According to Ratas, this kind of unfair treatment is very concerning. "Prior to the European Council, I met with farmers who demanded equal competition terms at a demonstration held here [in Brussels]," he said. "We believe the harmonisation of the rate of direct support should take place significantly faster, and the current Commission proposal is not enough."
Ratas also added that in order to achieve joint goals, means have to be found for maintaining the current budget volume in the future as well.
Editor: Aili Vahtla