Estonia in the European Union
- Treaty of Lisbon
- The Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region
- European Neighbourhood Policy
- IT agency
- Financial perspective
- Estonians in European institutions
Since the spring of 2004, when Estonia became a member of the European Union, Estonia has demonstrated that it is an active and constructive partner and continues with these pragmatic policies in its further integration into the EU. European Union membership is an invaluable factor in raising Estonia's political and economic profile, so a strong and well-functioning EU that is politically influential and competetitive on the world stage is in our best interest. This goal is reflected in the Estonian government's European Union Policy for 2011-2015, which keeps in mind the broader interests and developments in the EU and presents Estonia's proposals for coming to terms with the challenges standing before the European Union.
The following gives a brief overview of Estonia's positions, as well as issues in the European Union that Estonia will be focused on in the near future.
Estonia has been extremely successful in its re-integration with Europe. We joined the European Union in 2004, and slightly less than 7 years later (namely on 1 January 2011), we have adopted the common currency of the European Union – the euro. When we acceded to the European Union, Estonia accepted within the framework of the accession agreement the obligation to join the economic and monetary union as well, when the country’s economy met the Maastricht criteria. In 2010 Estonia sustainably fulfilled all the necessary requirements, and the decision-making process regarding Estonia’s membership in the monetary union proceeded successfully. The final positive decision regarding Estonia’s accession was made on 13 July 2010, when the EU finance ministers confirmed an accession date and exchange rate for Estonia.
Estonia joining the euro zone is undoubtedly a positive sign in terms of the entire euro zone’s vitality and sustainability. In addition, expansion of the euro zone based on the fulfilment of certain requirements will motivate Central and Eastern European states to implement responsible and sustainable fiscal policies. Estonia’s transition to the euro zone is beneficial to Estonia as well as the entire euro zone.
The renewal of the fundamental document of the European Union came about primarily from the need to ensure the effective functioning of the Union and to update the Union's goals in a rapidly changing world. Another goal of the Treaty of Lisbon is to bring the European Union closer to the people.
The Reform Treaty was signed on 13 December 2007 at the European Council in Lisbon, after which the ratification process began in the parliaments of the member states. The Riigikogu ratified the Treaty of Lisbon on 11 June 2008. The only country to hold a referendum on the treaty was Ireland, where the document was rejected for many reasons on 12 June 2008. At the European Council in June 2009 a packet of legal guarantees to be promised to Ireland was approved. An agreement was also made that every member state would retain its representative position in the Commission. A repeat referendum took place in Ireland on 2 October 2009. The final member state to ratify the Treaty of Lisbon was the Czech Republic, which did so on 3 November 2009. The Treaty of Lisbon came into effect on 1 December 2009.
The Treaty will unify and simplify co-operation among the member states so that movement and business within the European Union will be understandable and simple for all European Union citizens. The Treaty of Lisbon will make the European Union more democratic, improving relations between the EU and its citizens by offering the possibility of motions made by citizens as well as more rights for national parliaments to join in on discussions. A permanent institutional framework for the Union will also come into effect along with the Treaty. The Treaty of Lisbon has notable significance in terms of shaping the European Union's role in the world and guaranteeing a strong Europe, which is a requirement for meeting the challenges of a globalising world. On the world scale, we are a significant partner only if we are a unified union, not a group of member states with different interests.
Estonia sees the EU's enlargement policy as an opportunity for nations who want to share the same values with us—values based on democracy and a free-market economy, innovative views, and a society that looks to the future. We gladly share the reform experiences we gained when joining the EU with any nations that are interested.
We are interested in long-term stability in the Balkans, and as an EU member state we would like to do everything possible to achieve this. Keeping Turkey on the reform path is one of Estonia's priorities. We also feel it is essential to explain the benefits of enlargement to the public more clearly than before.
Currently the European Union has five official candidate states, of which Croatia and Turkey have been involved in accession negotiations since 2005, negotiations were opened with Iceland in July 2010, and Macedonia is awaiting the opening of accession negotiations. In December 2010 Montenegro also received candidate state status. Applications for accession have also been presented by Albania (28.04.2009) and Serbia (22.12.2009).
The conclusions of the European Council in 2007 called on the European Commission to develop a Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region. A corresponding resolution was approved in the European Parliament a year earlier.
In general the goal of this new EU internal initiative is to draw together previous policies to address the specific needs of the Baltic Sea region, particularly problem areas that impede the region’s development. The effort will be made within the framework of the strategy to have more purposeful co-operation in the region, making it more focused and concentrated on only the most essential topics. The consensus reached during the course of consultations organised by the European Commission over the last year is that the condition of the Baltic Sea maritime environment is still not acceptable and although the competitiveness of the macro-region as a whole is good, there are shortcomings in the infrastructure and, to give one example, issues with the implementation of the four freedoms of the EU internal market. Through the Baltic Sea Region Strategy, we want to increase the competitiveness of this region and of the entire European Union.
The statement prepared for the Commission in June 2009 clearly outlines the topics that the strategy addresses. There are four primary points—the environment, competitiveness, infrastructure, and the safety of the maritime environment. Based on these points, the action plan for the strategy has been divided into 15 policy areas, under which have been distributed the specific projects that will start to be implemented.
Estonia’s goal is to implement the strategy as smoothly as possible one project at a time as well as the active launching of the projects, including in the internal market sector, which is under Estonian co-ordination. Being the leading nation in a certain sector entails monitoring the policy sector to see how the implementation of concrete projects is progressing, ensuring better ties with the commission and among participating member states by creating the necessary contact network, and regularly uncovering problem spots that arise in the implementation of the action plan.
The external aspects of the EU's internal Baltic Sea Strategy are covered in the project-based Northern Dimension, which has been active since 1999. Its members are the European Union, Russia, Norway, and Iceland as equal partners. We are active in the Northern Dimension's cultural partnership and act as observers in environmental partnership.
Read more about the Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region here:
Web page of the European Commission
On the issue of international climate policy, Estonia supports a strong global agreement for reducing greenhouse gases. It is clear that due to its size, Estonia is not capable of being the impetus behind global change. This is precisely why we value the opportunity to discuss matters and act within and as part of the European Union. Estonia would like to be a productive participant in the European Union and, where possible, one that offers potential solutions. We believe that the member states must support the European Union’s role as a spokesman for climate matters. Therefore it is very important for the Union to have internal unity and the solidarity of the member states.
In the beginning of 2008, the European Commission proposed a legislation packet with the goal of establishing the framework for European Union climate policy until the year 2020. Another goal was to show the EU’s leading role in battling climate change and to work out concrete measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and facilitate the European economy’s transition to more environmentally friendly technology. At the end of 2008, the European Parliament and Council reached an agreement on the so-named “climate action and renewable energy package”.
Along with the package, the European Union accepted the responsibility to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20% by the year 2020 compared with 1990 levels. In addition, a conditional obligation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30% was also established, assuming that other industrialised nations accept equivalent and comparable responsibilities and responsibilities are also taken on by developing nations.
European Union climate policy is closely tied to global developments. The Kyoto Protocol, which has the goal of slowing climate change and reducing global warming, will expire in 2012. As a result, there is a need for a new global climate agreement. The 17th meeting of parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change will take place in Durban in the Republic of South Africa at the end of 2011. The new global agreement should be as comprehensive as possible, involving all developed nations as well as developing ones. The most important component of the new agreement should also be the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. In order to achieve this common goal, every nation needs to make an effort to meet its own reduction target. The European Union’s established goal to reduce emissions by 20% and the conditional promise to reduce them by 30% will hopefully set an example for our global partners.
Estonia is prepared to contribute to both reducing greenhouse gases and to the financing the future Kyoto agreement. Although in the short-term the climate policy will mean greater expenditure while focusing on environmentally friendly technology and developing new solutions, in the long-term perspective we will win economically and in terms of environmental policy. A climate-friendly policy is an investment into the future which will pay off exponentially. Estonia believes that accepting climate obligations is not purely an environmental policy goal. It will also provide assurance to businesses that are investing in technologies that are nature-friendly and based on renewable energy or participating in development activities for such solutions.
Safe, secure, sustainable and economical energy that would help to increase Europe’s competitiveness is a priority for Europe. For this the EU requires a fully-functioning, connected and integrated internal energy market.
In order to increase the European Union’s energy security it is necessary to develop a functioning internal market and establish additional energy connections. For Estonia one of the most important aspects of this is the Baltic Energy Market Interconnection Plan (BEMIP), which was approved by the European Commission and the eight member states located along the Baltic Sea in June 2009. In order to increase the energy security of the Baltic region, it is necessary to both establish new energy connections and develop a common Nordic-Baltic energy market. In order to do away with the isolated “Baltic energy island”, the BEMIP foresees an action plan that includes establishing a second cable between Estonia and Finland (Estlink 2) as well as connections between Lithuania and Sweden and Lithuania and Poland. The political support put down on paper in the BEMIP as well as the allocation of 100 million euros within the framework of the European Economic Recovery Plan ensure that the Estlink 2 cable will be completed in the year 2014. The first step in creating a joint Nordic-Baltic energy market is the launching of the Nordic electricity exchange NordPool for the Estlink market area on 1 April 2010. In order to support the uninhibited functioning of the market, we must continue to harmonise electricity trade regulations.
The European Neighbourhood Policy is one of the EU's most vital policies, which can be used to influence the development of the EU's new neighbouring states in areas such as political and economic reform, institutional development, drafting of new legislation, etc.
It is in Estonia’s interests to continue to give momentum to the European Union’s co-operation with its close southern and eastern neighbours through the European Neighbourhood Policy’s regional initiatives—Eastern Partnership and the Mediterranean Union. The goal of intensifying co-operation is to speed up reforms, conform legislation, and advance economic integration in partner states.
In the case of Eastern Partnership, Estonia feels it is important to further develop the initiative in accordance with the Eastern Partnership goals expressed in the Prague Declaration and to continue developing relations between the European Union and its Eastern partner states. We also emphasise that the Eastern Dimension must be flexible enough to allow an individual approach to partner nations, permitting the EU to move more quickly with the nations that are prepared for it.
In Estonia’s view, Eastern Partnership must become a concrete and comprehensive policy that serves as an effective and wide-reaching means for partner countries to grow closer to the European Union and includes the European Union’s support and resources, including association agreements, economic integration, visa freedom, and practical co-operation in energy and transport matters. One good device for implementing Eastern Partnership plans is having multilateral platforms by sector. A forum for multilateral communication between member states and eastern partners will help the region as a whole grow closer to the European Union.
In 2008 the southern partnership, which had until then been known as the Barcelona Process, transformed into the Mediterranean Union. The goal of the Mediterranean Union is to implement big regional projects. A Secretariat of the Mediterranean Union is being created, which will serve to help implement the projects of the Mediterranean Union. Criteria for the presentation of projects are also being prepared. It is essential to move forward with the Middle East peace process in order to create an atmosphere that facilitates co-operation and speeds up the regional integration of partners. The European Union will continue with a varied approach to building up relations with its southern partners, based on the concrete progress made by each nation and interest in intensifying co-operation with the European Union. A closer goal is the further liberalisation of trade with all Mediterranean partners. Although we have more contacts and experiences with our neighbours to the east, we believe the EU's co-operation with neighbours to the south is equally important.
In the area of development co-operation, Estonia will continue its co-operation with its priority partner countries Georgia, Ukraine and Moldova. We believe that the process must be two-sided—an aspect of European Eastern Partnership must be included in Europe’s development co-operation policy, and European Neighbourhood Policy must take into account the goals of the European Union’s development co-operation policy.
A critical facet of the EU's Neighbourhood Policy is the degree of the EU's willingness to furnish the philosophy of its four main freedoms to its neighbouring nations. A sectoral approach would be a good method for disclosing these main freedoms to our partners. Neighbouring states should have clarity and perspective regarding what will occur once they reach a certain goal or milestone. Estonia also believes that the most important factor of all is the commitment shown by the neighbouring state.
Estonia believes that it is essential to ensure that financing for Eastern Partnership is allocated equally between the southern and eastern facets of European Neighbourhood Policy.
(Official name: Agency for the long term operational management of large-scale IT systems in the area of freedom, security and justice)
On 2 November 2010 the European Union interior ministers decided to endorse France and Estonia’s joint proposal to establish the headquarters of the agency for the management of large-scale IT systems in the area of justice and security in Tallinn. Currently the process of approving the regulation based on the joint decision of the Council of the European Union and the European Parliament is drawing to a close. In accordance with the joint proposal, the headquarters of the agency will be located in Tallinn, since the data centre that contains the information systems will remain in Strasbourg. If these information systems require the existence of backup servers, in the future these will continue to be located in Austria in St. Johann im Pongau.
The new agency will be responsible for the more efficient, better co-ordinated and safer management of the information systems and will begin to manage the existing large-scale systems (the second generation Schengen Information System SIS II, the Visa Information System VIS, and the European fingerprint database EURODAC).
In addition to these systems, there are many other new information systems that are being drafted for use in European Union border management—for example, the Entry-Exit System, the Electronic Travel Permit, and so on. The new IT agency will also be responsible for managing these systems.
In accordance with the proposal approved by the government of the Republic of Estonia, Estonia is prepared to guarantee an appropriate headquarters building for the first year and an office building for at least 100 workers after that. The country is also ready to invest in creating educational opportunities for the children of agency employees in accordance with the curriculum of the European School. This would make it easier for international families with school-aged children to come live in Estonia.
The soon-to-be-created IT agency is an important step for Estonia towards greater integration with the European Union. The concrete co-operation that already took place between Estonia and France during the application process to become the home of the agency, which will begin working in 2012, created fertile ground for further development and co-operation.
The financial perspective is a budgetary framework set for seven years that the European Union uses as the basis for its annual budgets. 2007 marked the beginning of a new 7-year budgetary period for the EU. The financial perspective for 2007-2013 focuses on the integration of a common market and the development of economic, social, and environmental policies.
During the budgetary period, Estonia will get over 4.5 billion euros from the EU budget (2004 standing price; estimated nominally 4.8 billion euros), of which close to 3.3 billion will go to regional aid, about 0.6 billion to rural life, and about 0.5 billion to support agriculture. Estonia will contribute about 0.9 billion euros to the EU budget over 7 years.
The EU’s new long budgetary period will begin in 2014 and negotiations for this period will begin in the summer of 2011. Negotiations about the principles and scope of the financial framework will on one hand give member states a chance to influence the EU budget, and therefore also their own cost-benefit systems, for the first time in many years. On the other hand, the EU faces a challenge: how to jointly change the budget so that it answers to the needs of a Europe whose economic circumstances have changed.
In light of the debt crisis of the past few years, it has become clear that the existing economic system is no longer adequate and that Europe needs a more effective economic space than before. Within the new financial framework the EU has set as its priorities energy, internal market, economic growth and reform of the financial system. They will focus on measures that support development and economic growth like funding essential infrastructures, developing the internal market, a knowledge-based economy, innovation, etc. These principles also suit Estonia, although our particular area of interest is certainly projects related to the Baltic Sea region and cross-border energy and transport infrastructure (like Via Baltica, Rail Baltic, and Estlink2).
Many arguments will certainly come up over EU agricultural support. The agricultural support that currently makes up over 40% of the EU budget can vary greatly by region, so during the negotiations they could be distributed more evenly between Eastern and Western Europe. Estonia supports equalising agricultural support, since our farmers currently receive less support than those in some other EU states. In addition, means must be found within the new financial framework for funding the European External Action Service and many large Europe-wide projects.
Europe is divided when it comes to the size of the new financial framework. The European Commission supports increasing the size of the budget, since the final stages of many Europe-wide projects will fall in the next financial period and the EU must be capable of seeing them all through – if not, it will be a harsh blow to the trustworthiness of the Union. On the other hand, most nations (including Estonia, Finland, France, and Germany) are against increasing the budget against the backdrop of the current debt crisis, since that would mean that countries that are already working with tightened budgets would somehow have to find the money to make larger contributions.
Currently the lion’s share of the EU’s budget funds comes from the contributions made by states, not the EU’s own funds. For this reason the Commission is trying to propose new sources of own funds with which to increase the budget. One opportunity would be to implement a “Europe-wide tax”, which is a feared proposition but which would actually help to reduce each state’s contribution to the EU budget. Those in favour of a budget increase want for nations to be able to agree on the contributions they are making to the common budget, not just the money they receive from the EU to meet their own needs. This sort of attitude would strengthen European solidarity considerably.
The new financial framework is first and foremost important for the former Eastern European countries that would like to quickly catch up to the development of the “core countries”. For these countries, the EU’s long budget period means an opportunity to plan their expenses and resources years in advance.
European Union support funds have been very important for Estonia, particularly during the recent economic crisis years. Estonia has also utilised the support more actively than almost any other country in the EU. In the current financial framework there are funds totalling over 3.4 billion EUR for Estonia that are being used in very different sectors, from education to agriculture. A necessary EU-wide agreement in the energy sector was reached recently: that it will be possible to, in the future, fund the gas and energy connections of the Baltic states from the EU budget. In addition, Estonian entrepreneurs have benefited greatly from the European Union internal market. During the new EU budget period we will try to focus on increasing Europe’s competitiveness with the help of the EU budget.
Polls carried out regularly in Estonia by TNS Emor have shown that support for the EU among Estonian citizens has within the past years remained consistently high, staying between 70-85%.
In 2004 Commissioner Siim Kallas was nominated from Estonia to start work in the European Commission. Until 2010 his areas of work included administrative affairs, auditing, and anti-fraud. Siim Kallas was also one of the five vice presidents of the European Commission. In 2010 Siim Kallas will continue his role as vice president of the European Commission responsible for European Union transport.
The second European Parliament elections for Estonia took place on 7 June 2009. For the first time in Estonia it was possible to cast one’s European Parliament vote over the internet during the advance voting period. Nearly 15% of voters took advantage of this opportunity. Compared with the European Parliament elections in 2004, voter participation rose from 26.8% to 43.2%.
Estonia has 6 representatives in the European Parliament: Mrs. Siiri Oviir and Mrs. Vilja Savisaar of the Centre Party (Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe); Mrs. Kristiina Ojuland of the Reform Party (Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe); Mr. Tunne Kelam of the Pro Patria and Res Publica Union (European People's Party); Mr. Ivari Padar of the Estonian Social Democratic Party (Socialist Group); and independent candidate Mr. Indrek Tarand (Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance).
The work of the Parliament takes place in various committees. Currently, there are 20 permanent committees in the European Parliament. Among Estonian envoys, Tunne Kelam and Kristiina Ojuland belong to the Foreign Affairs Committee, Ivari Padar belongs to the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs, Siiri Oviir to the Committee on Women's Rights and Gender Equality, as well as to the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs, Vilja Savisaar to the Committee on Transport and Tourism, and Indrek Tarand to the Committee on Constitutional Affairs.
In 2004 Mr. Uno Lõhmus was nominated from Estonia as a judge to the European Court of Justice, and in 2009 his term was extended for another 6 years. Mrs. Küllike Jürimäe has been named a judge to the Court of First Instance and in 2010 her term was also extended for another 6 years.
The representatives of different fields of Estonian economic and social life are members of the European Economic and Social Committee, and Estonian local governments participate in the work of the Committee of the Regions. Estonia has 7 members in both committees. The composition of the committees is renewed every four years.
The Estonian representative in the Court of Auditors is Ms. Kersti Kaljulaid, whose mandate lasts until 2016.
Estonian Permanent Representation to the EU
Estonian Government's European Union Policy for 2011-2015