The celebrations of the 60th Anniversary of the EU foundation held in Rome during the last weekend, gives us the opportunity to talk about Estonia, as we promised in our previous articles, from an european point of view.
As we mentioned, Estonia is holding the Presidency of the Council of the EU in the second half of 2017, starting from july, and taking over this job from Malta. This means that Estonia will be responsible for defining the Council’s positions, while taking into account the interests of all member States and remaining neutral at the same time.
Estonia will act as the first country of its &trio&, in partnership in the next 2018, with Bulgaria and Austria. We described what the &trio& in other previous occasions. This estonian &european& task will end while the country will start its centennial anniversary in the mentioned 2018 (in effects, Estonian consider the period under the Soviet Union like a military occupation; and also a good part of the international community recognizes that their history, as an indipendent State, never stopped during that period).
While new legislation is normally initiated by the European Commission, it is negotiated and adopted by the Council of the European Union, which represents the governments of member states, and the European Parliament: national ministers from each country meet at Council meetings to take decisions at the political level. The most important rule is that the meetings are chaired by the Minister of the country holding the EU presidency, and this procedure also works at the strategical groups level and at the techinical subgroups level (the so called working parties).
During the presidency, Estonia will be responsible for leading the work of nearly 200 working parties in both Brussels and Tallinn, organizing the work of the Council and working parties, developing agendas for meetings, trying to achieve common positions trough the single different opinions, while chairing the meetings and negotiating. As leader of the Council, Estonia will have to face the Commission and the Parliament in negotiations.
All the issues which the Presidency will focus on comes from the past; but each Presidency generally tries to add something more, something specific that should be remembered at the political and legislative level.
From official sources, we read that the Baltic republic will focus on the single and digital markets, the energy union and the closer integration of the Eastern partners into Europe. They also want to promote and disseminate e-solutions across the Union and support the information society in EU policy areas (as we said, in our first intervention, Estonia is the most “e-educated” country in Europe).
It has been planned that approximately 20 high-level meetings will be held in Estonia, during the semester (JHA and defense/security events included). In addition, while the majority of meetings and working meetings will take place in Brussels, on the other hand, Estonia is going to host nearly 200 different events, whose scale of levels will be different, with an expected total of 20,000 to 30,000 international guests. So, it’s a fact that this future and temporary leader will increase its visibility in the fields of culture, business, information technology, tourism, education and research, raising in the meanwhile all issues which are important for Estonians.
Organizing the Presidency also means increasing the country’s capacity to have a say and assert its interests and objectives in Europe and elsewhere. The Government already declared that the semester will not be an one-off effort, but the work done and the related investments are supposed to bring long-term benefits for the country.
This strategical work starts from the past. Since 2012, the Government of this smart and high-technological country formed a commission responsible for the preparations for the presidency, chaired by the Secretary of State and started to recruit and train the necessary staff, organizing the above mentioned unofficial ministerial meetings and other high-level events.
Together with the Committee of Estonia 100, which is not obviously related to the semester, they prepared the political and legislative time table of the Presidency, with the aim to earn time and save money and efforts in order to jointly implement an international programme in foreign countries to introduce Estonia and Estonian culture.
Approximately 100 officials and support staff will supplement the existing staff of the Estonian Permanent Representation to the European Union in Brussels.
This demonstrates that this IT-high-specialized country, formerly governed by the Soviet Union, is now playing an important role in its history and in all the European main issues. What we’ve tried to show in these chapters is that Estonia represents a modern country, available to host international institutions, open to new fundamental political experiences, like the Presidency and the celebrations of its centennial anniversary.
In the next chapter we will focus on the NATO in Estonia, and the “estonian NATO” seen by Russia.