Ratas: EU leaders focused on internal market, migration, climate change ({{contentCtrl.commentsTotal}})

Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Centre) at the second day of the European Council in Brussels on Friday. 14 December 2018.
Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Centre) at the second day of the European Council in Brussels on Friday. 14 December 2018. Source: Government Office

On the second day of a meeting of the European Council in Brussels on Friday, EU heads of state and government focused on the issues of the internal market, migration and climate change.

Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Centre) described the single European market as the union's main tool for increasing economic growth and creating jobs.

"We need to move forward with developing the single market," Ratas was quoted by spokespeople as saying. "In particular, we must focus on developing the cross-border services sector, where very many untapped opportunities still exist. We also have to make better use than we currently do of the opportunities offered by the free movement of data and new technologies such as artificial intelligence."

The Council called on the European Parliament and the Council to agree before the end of the current Parliament's term on as many proposals important to the development of the single market as possible. EU state leaders emphasised the need to remove the remaining obstacles to the functioning of the internal market, first and foremost in the services field. Also highlighted were the need for a data-based economy and a greater role for the service economy, along with opportunities for improved connectivity and the transition to a greener economy.

The European Council is due to discuss the future of the single market in greater depth next March.

Illegal migration back to pre-crisis levels

The EU has managed to reduce illegal immigration to Europe to pre-crisis levels, and the general downward trend continues.

"This is the result of intensified cooperation with countries of origin and countries of transit that has been going on in recent months," Ratas noted. "This work has to be continued in order to more effectively control migration in the future as well."

EU leader will continue discussions to find the most practical solution for reforming the EU asylum system.

EU leaders hailed significant progress made in the fields of security and defence, including improving military mobility and implementation of the European defence industrial development programme. The summit also adopted conclusions on climate change as well as decided to agree on the EU's longer-term climate strategy within the next year.

The summit demanded rapid action in combatting disinformation, particularly in light of the upcoming European Parliament elections next May. The EU leaders also condemned anti-semitism, racism and xenophobia, and stressed the importance of combatting intolerance.

The EU leaders were presented a report on the Citizens' Consultations held with citizens on the future of the EU, which contained a summarised report from each member state on the situation in their country. The consultations are aimed at identifying residents' priorities, concerns and ideas with a view to improved inclusion and helping develop Europe.

"In Estonia, for instance, a proposal was made in the course of the consultations for a single pan-European system of bottle deposit to be established for the collection of empty bottles," Ratas explained. "In addition, people pointed out that for them, the opportunity to travel, study, work and live in any member state is important. Bureaucracy and the absence of fast transport interconnections were cited as concerns."

Discussing the future of the EU with citizens was an initiative introduced by French President Emmanuel Macron in January.

Eurozone summit

A summit of the eurozone also took place in Friday, where a reform of the economic and monetary union was discussed.

The leaders of eurozone states endorsed the proposals of the ministers of finance for a reform of the European Stability Mechanism (ESM).

"Implementation thereof will provide us with the assurance that the European Stability Mechanism is better positioned to interfere with a view to preventing future crises," Ratas said. "It also serves as an assurance that the banking sector's crisis resolution works and is reliable."

The ministers of finance must next draw up amendments to the treaty on the stability mechanism.

The meeting was also attended by President of the European Central Bank Mario Draghi and Portuguese Minister of Finance Mário Centeno, president of the group of eurozone finance ministers.

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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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