In a video message on the occasion of the 15th anniversary of Estonia's accession to the European Union, Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Centre) said that the country's years as a union member have been its best.
At no point in history before Estonia's accession had the country's voice been heard like it is heard now, Ratas said in his video message (link in Estonian). "We are taking things for granted today that we didn't dare dream about just a few decades ago," he added.
According to the prime minister, Estonia's accession to the EU on May 1, 2004 meant the realization of some of Estonia's biggest wishes and goals. "In the important time that followed our regaining our independence, Europe was here for us, and welcomed us," Ratas said. "After World War II, the generations that followed understood only too well the meaning of war, and remembered its horrors. Because of that, peace, freedom, and the cooperation of countries is Europe's greatest achievement."
Ratas stressed that belonging to the EU has lastingly affected Estonia's development for the better, and improved the lives of people as well as the reality of businesses. "Our opportunities to learn, work, travel and to do many other things are greater than ever before," he added.
Access to a single market of more than 500 million people, as well as investment coming in, has helped Estonia change and grow, and to improve the lives of all Estonians. "Our economy has grown by more than two and a half times, the average salary has tripled. The positive influence of the European Union is visible all around us. The development of our regions has experienced a boost as well, we've built roads, hospitals, schools, developed business and science, and done many things more," Ratas said.
Membership in the EU has also meant a chance for Estonia to share its own knowledge and experience. "For instance, Estonia has been an advocate for the development of the information society, which has made life easier for businesses as well as for people across borders," the prime minister said.
Ratas also pointed out that there is a clear need to invest in the union as well. "With freedom and opportunity comes responsibility, and the need to invest in cooperation," he said. "We need to find solutions for difficult questions together, and decide together with other member states over our future. That is why it is all the more important that we feel that we are Europeans ourselves, and that we see the EU as something that affects all of us," the prime minister said.
"One important way to do this are the European elections that take place already at the end of May," he added.
Estonia joined the European Union on May 1, 2004, along with Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Slovenia, Malta and Cyprus. Bulgaria and Romania followed in 2007, Croatia in 2013.
Editor: Dario Cavegn