(last updated: 13.11.2015)
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.
Estonia will receive 5.89 billion euros from the European Union budget for the next seven years (2014-2020). Estonia pays around 1.4 billion euro into the EU budget. Hence, Estonia will receive 4.5 billion euros more from the EU than it pays in the following seven years.
More information: Budgetary Framework of Estonia in 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 competitive on the world stage is in our best interest. This goal is also reflected in the “Estonian government's European Union Policy for 2011-2015” (PDF) (PDF), 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.
At its meeting in the summer of 2014, the European Council agreed on five priority areas to guide the EU's work over the next five years: 1) a Union of jobs, growth and competitiveness; 2) a Union that empowers and protects all citizens; 3) towards an Energy Union with a forward-looking climate policy; 4) a Union of freedom, security and justice; 5) a Union as a strong global actor.
Further information: A strategic agenda for the EU
The following gives a brief overview of the opinions and topics wherein the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will be engaged in the nearest future within the framework of a strategic agenda for the EU.
Economic and Monetary Union
The decision to form an Economic and Monetary Union was taken by the European Council in the city of Maastricht in December 1991, and was later enshrined in the Treaty on European Union (the Maastricht Treaty).
Economic and Monetary Union takes the EU one step further in its process of economic integration. It means coordination of economic policy-making between Member States, a common monetary policy and adoption of the common currency of the European Union – the euro. Whilst all 28 EU Member States take part in the EMU, some countries have taken integration further and adopted the euro. A total of 19 countries make up the euro area:
Joined in 1999
Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Portugal and Spain
The Economic and Monetary Union and the single currency are the pillars of a single Europe for both economic policy and general policy reasons. The safe single currency euro and the Single Market in financial services (relying largely on the single currency) are the underlying providers of the efficiently functioning EU internal market and free movement of resources and consequently the most important prerequisites for achieving the social and economic goals of the European Union. Hence the strong euro area and Estonia forming part of its core are fundamental for the development and economic security of Estonia.
The major objective of Estonia’s EU policy is to do the utmost to strengthen the euro area further. This must be done in conjunction with further deepening of the Single Market and the strengthening of the financial system and the Single Market in financial services.
Further information about Estonia’s opinions on the EU economic and monetary policies (PDF)
Energy security currently lacks a common definition as well as a methodology for its evaluation. Although its meaning varies between different countries and organisations, in general it is used to signify some of the following:
- reliability of supply;
- security of infrastructure;
- stability and diversity of suppliers;
- diversity of energy sources.
Energy security is being discussed in various international organisations and forums, of which the most important for Estonia is the common European Union Energy Policy.
Establishment of the EU Energy Union is a part of the Strategic Agenda for the Union that was agreed by the European Council in June 2014. The goal of the Energy Union is to update the EU energy policy by integrating the goals of climate policy and energy diplomacy. Energy Union concentrates on the enhancement of the European Union's security of supply, competitive internal energy market, energy efficiency, decarbonisation of energy sources, as well as research, development and innovation. Diversification of energy sources and suppliers and reducing dependency on Russian natural gas have assumed a prominent place in the EU’s energy policy. One essential factor for the enhancement of the EU’s security of supply is the Southern Corridor that should bring to the European Union gas supplies from the Caspian Region.
In order to enhance the energy security and develop a functioning internal market it is necessary to 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 eliminate the isolated “Baltic energy island”, the BEMIP foresees an action plan that includes establishing a second cable between Estonia and Finland. Estlink 2 was opened in February 2014. It is intended to complete NordBalt, the energy connection between Lithuania and Sweden, by the end of 2015. The energy connection between Lithuania and Poland is currently under construction. The first step in creating a joint Nordic-Baltic energy market was the launching of the Nordic electricity exchange NordPoolSpot where Estonian price area was started on 1 April 2010. In order to support the uninhibited functioning of the market, we must continue to harmonise electricity trade regulations.
One option to diversify European energy sources is a wider use of liquefied natural gas (LNG). Next step towards the development of regional gas market is to develop a physical connection between Estonia’s and Finland’s gas networks and construct a regional LNG terminal in the Gulf of Finland area. Estonia and Finland have reached an agreement to build together the “Balticconnector” gas pipeline by 2019 and terminal by 2020.Both projects have been added to the list of the EU projects of common interest and are likely to get financial support from the EU’s financial programme Connecting Europe Facility (CEF).
It is important for Estonia that the EU prioritises also the development of domestic energy sources.
Further information about the BEMIP programme is available at the homepage of the European Commission.
Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications
Trade and Development Policies
See the Ministry of Foreign Affairs webpage on trade and development
European Union Climate Policies
2030 framework for climate and energy policies was approved by the European Council in October 2014. The Council agreed on a binding target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40% compared with the level of 1990; increasing the share of renewable energy to at least 27% of the EU's energy consumption; a proposed target to increase energy efficiency by at least 27% compared with the level of energy consumption in 2007. The last target will be reviewed in 2020 having in mind a higher target.
As regards international climate policy, Estonia promotes entry into a legally binding global climate agreement that includes all the countries. Estonia wants to play a constructive role in the European Union and offer solutions, where possible. Estonia is of the opinion that the member states must support the role of the European Union as a global spokesperson for climate issues. Internal unity of the Union and solidarity of the member states are key factors here.
European Union Climate Policies are closely related to global developments. Kyoto Protocol, which had the goal of slowing climate change and reducing global warming, expired in 2012. As a result, there is a need for a new global climate agreement. In 2011, the parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change started negotiations on a new global climate agreement in Durban, in order to reach an agreement that includes all the countries at the Climate Change Conference which will be held in Paris in December 2015. The new agreement is expected to take effect from 2020.
Hopefully, the European Union’s target to reduce emissions by 40% sets an example for global partners. Climate-friendly policy is an investment in the future which will pay off abundantly. 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.
Baltic Sea Strategy
See European Union Baltic Sea Strategy (LMS)
The enlargement of the European Union is one of the EU key policies that facilitates the strengthening of peace, democracy and stability in Europe. Estonia is continuously supporting the enlargement policy and stands for strict and fair enlargement terms, and for achievement-based progress in the enlargement process.
At present, the accession negotiations are being held with Montenegro, Turkey and Serbia. The accession negotiations focus on areas pertaining to the rule of law, with emphasis on economic governance and public administration reform. In case of Serbia, additionally, particular attention is paid to the normalisation of relations with Kosovo. The negotiations with Iceland have been put on hold at the decision of the state's government.
Macedonia has received, for the sixth time already, a recommendation from the EU Commission to start the accession negotiations; however, due to the lack of consensus at the Council of the EU, the relevant decision has not been made yet. Albania received the status of a candidate country in 2014, and is aiming to start with the negotiations as soon as the compliance with the terms will be achieved. The slow progress of Bosnia and Herzegovina in conducting the reforms recommended by the EU caused a new approach, that will enable them, hopefully soon, to enforce the Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) with the EU. The progress made by Kosovo in improving their relations with Serbia is opening them an opportunity to sign the SAA soon that will take them a necessary step further in the integration process with the EU.
See in addition Directorate-General for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations.
European Neighbourhood Policy
During the current half of the year, it is planned to review the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP).
The ENP was established in 2004 with a purpose to accelerate the political reforms, further the economic integration and harmonise the legislation in 16 neighbouring countries of the EU: Algeria, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Egypt, Georgia, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Moldova, Morocco, Palestine, Syria, Tunisia and Ukraine. The policy has two geographical dimensions — eastern and southern — and in both dimensions, the activities take place in two lines: bilateral cooperation of the states with the EU, and regional cooperation of the eastern and southern neighbours with the EU (correspondingly, in the framework of the Eastern Partnership and the Union for the Mediterranean). The last renewal of the ENP took place after the Arab Spring, when the EU introduced the "more for more" principle in the policy, and made an effort, through different initiatives, to pay even more attention to the development of the democracy and the economy. It will be important also in the future, that the ENP, as one of the key policies of the European Union, would be able to adapt to changing circumstances in the neighbourhood of the Union, and to find new opportunities to support the neighbouring countries and help them to cope with the challenges they face.
Estonia's point of view is that the ENP, as a common framework for the two dimensions — eastern and southern — is good and worth keeping, however, in the future, deeper differentiation is necessary, that would recognise the ambition and profile of the countries. The sense of ownership of the partners and the visibility of the EU should be increased, for which it is important to achieve the results that are essential for the citizens of the partner countries, and to communicate effectively. Mobility is one of the key areas, as well as trade and energy. Proceeding from the mutual interests, the values important for the European Union, as well as the certain conditionality that forms the basis of the "more for more" principle, should not be forgotten.
Concerning the Eastern Partnership Estonia considers important to develop the initiative further in accordance with the objectives formulated in the Joint Declaration of the Vilnius Eastern Partnership Summit, and to continue the development of bilateral relations between the European Union and the eastern partner countries (Georgia, Moldova, Ukraine, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus). At the same time we emphasise, that the Eastern Partnership should be sufficiently flexible, in order to allow for individual approach to partner countries, i.e. to move on quicker with those countries, that are ready for that.
In the opinion of Estonia, the Eastern Partnership should develop into a concrete and all-embracing political strategy, that would serve as an efficient and far-reaching instrument for the target countries for convergence with the European Union, embracing the support and resources from the European Union for implementation of the association agreements and for strengthening the economic cooperation, also the substantive cooperation in energy and transport areas, the mobility partnership and visa dialogue. The multilateral sectorial platforms serve as a good measure for implementation of the intentions of the Eastern Partnership. The multilateral communication between the Member States and eastern partners facilitates the convergence of the region as a whole with the European Union. Estonia contributes actively to the preparation of the Eastern Partnership Summit that will take place in Riga, in spring 2015.
With its activities, the Estonian Center of Eastern Partnership contributes towards achieving the EU’s Eastern Partnership policy goals and developing the bilateral relations with the partner countries. The Estonian Center of Eastern Partnership is a unique agency, which comprises a training centre for the eastern partners, as well as a think tank dealing with topics concerning the Eastern Partnership.
Estonia considers important to continue the support by the European Union also to the political transition processes taking place in the southern neighbourhood, and perceives the neighbourhood policy as a focal instrument for that. Bilateral association agreements between the European Union and eight southern partners (Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, the Palestinian National Authority, and Tunisia) have entered into force; with Libya, a bilateral framework contract has been concluded. With seven of the aforementioned countries, (excl. Libya and Algeria) bilateral action plans have been agreed upon, in which plans related to political and economic reforms have been set for short and medium terms. Estonia considers important that the universal values (democracy, rule of law, human rights) would be pursued when implementing the action plans, being flexible on that. As concerns the cooperation, it is important to pursue from the readiness of a particular partner country for advancing with the democratic reforms, and to consider the differences between the southern neighbours.
In the Southern Partnership, a central role has been gained by the Union for the Mediterranean, consisting of 43 members (where Estonia belongs to together with the other Member States of the European Union and 15 countries from the North Africa, the Middle East and South-East Europe). The Union for the Mediterranean has an important role to play in advancement of the regional and trans-regional integration, which complements the bilateral communication of the European Union with its southern partners.
Internal and justice matters
In the Mediterranean region, the migratory pressure continues to grow, the central part of the Mediterranean region being under the main pressure. According to the EU border administration agency Frontex, the number of illegal border crossings in 2014 was 276 000, which is 2.5 times more than in 2013 (107 000). This is the most complex refugee crisis since the Second World War.
Managing migration pressures in the Mediterranean is a problem for the entire European Union and Estonia will continue to contribute to the alleviation of the problem by its financial and technical assistance. In addition to the growing migratory pressure in the Mediterranean region, the attention should be paid also to other regions, to the EU external borders (e.g. the Ukraine and the eastern border of the EU, the Western Balkans) and to the potential dangers arising from there.
The EU cooperation with the third countries is also important, in order to fight against the smuggling of illegal migrants. It is important to help the countries of origin and transit in such areas as human rights, readmission, voluntary return, creating cooperation networks, as well as in fight against the human trafficking and organised crime.
Frontex is one of the most important agencies for Estonia as an EU border country, and during the last 10 years Estonia has contributed to the work of Frontex by assigning experts, as well as by contributing to the operations, training and capacity building measures of Frontex. Noteworthy is the Estonian contribution to RABIT (Rapid Border Intervention Team): in 2008, the Estonian experts formed 10 % of the staff. The joint operation Triton is a joint operation initiated by Frontex that began at 1.11.2014. Estonia contributes to the Triton with experts and a speedboat.
Fight against terrorism
The fight against terrorism was the main topic at the informal Justice and Home Affairs Council meeting, held on 29.01. The meeting adopted the Declaration of Ministers, that emphasises the need to prevent the radicalisation that spreads via the Internet, to cooperate with the Internet service providers, to participate in the Belgium-led advisory board for strategic communication with Syria (SSCAT), to draft an anti-radicalisation communication strategy for the European Union, to make more effective efforts in order to prevent the spread of illegal firearms, and to exchange information more effectively (incl. by using better the resources of Europol, Eurojust and Interpol). In addition, the Declaration also underlines the need for conducting more effective checks on travellers at the external borders of the European Union, for renewal of the Schengen Borders Code, for adoption of the directive related to the flight passengers name records (PNR), as well as for enhancing cooperation with international partners, especially the United States and Canada. The same topics were discussed at the informal meeting of the European Council on the 11th of February 2015.
In the fight against terrorism, Estonia considers important to prevent the radicalisation by using different measures, including taking measures for stopping the radicalisation that spreads via the Internet. In order to improve the information exchange between the Member States, the systems possessed by Europol, Eurojust and Interpol should be put into use that is more effective. We support measures to strengthen the external borders of the European Union. The compensatory measures of the Schengen area should also be enhanced. The implementation of the European Union's PNR system is of most importance. We support the preparation of effective regulations to prevent the trade in illicit arms, including through the Internet, for example, by wider use of the firearms database of Europol.
The European Union's institutions
Mainly the following institutions are involved in the European Union's legislative processes:
European Parliament – represents all citizens of the EU
Council of the European Union – represents the governments of the Member States
European Commission – represents the interests of the European Union as a whole
Information on the European Commission is available on the website of the European Commission Representation in Estonia
The following institutions have also an important role:
Court of Justice –– monitors compliance with the European law
European Court of Auditors – controls the funding of the EU activities
European Economic and Social Committee – is an advisory body to the institutions of the European Union, which represents the civil society and protects their economic, social and cultural interests
Committee of the Regions – is the voice of the regions and cities of the European Union. The Committee comprises 353 members, whose representatives have been elected from local and regional governments.
See additionally Official website of the European Union. The page provides a comprehensive overview of the functioning of the European Union, its institutions and topical issues.
Estonians in the European institutions
In 2014, significant changes took place in the European Union institutions, and a new five-year institutional work cycle began.
In summer, the new, composed of 751-members, European Parliament was elected. In November, the new composition of the European Commission began work under the leadership of the President Jean-Claude Juncker. The former Italian foreign minister Federica Mogherini was appointed to the post of the first Vice-President of the European Commission and the High Representative for Foreign Policy. In December, the European Council President exchanged and the former Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk became the new President.
In 2010-2014, Siim Kallas was the Vice President and Transport Commissioner of the European Commission. On November 1, 2014, the new European Commission took office and Andrus Ansip started to work as the Vice President in the area of the digital single market. There are also three senior Estonian officials in Ansip's eight-member cabinet - Juhan Lepassaar (Head of the Cabinet), Hanna Hinrikus (e-society issues) and the Aare Järvan (economic and financial affairs). In November 2013, Henrik Hololei, Head of the Cabinet for the Transport Commissioner Siim Kallas, was appointed the Deputy Secretary General of the European Commission. One of the main responsibilities of the Deputy Secretary General of the European Commission is to maintain relations with the Council of the European Union and with the European Parliament, and to represent the European Commission in negotiations with representatives of the Member States.
Estonian diplomat Riina Kionka started the work as a Foreign Policy Adviser to the President of the European Council D. Tusk, in December 2014.
On the 25th of May 2014, already the third European Parliament elections took place in Estonia. 36.44 % of eligible voters went to vote in elections, so the turnout was lower than in previous elections, in 2009. (43,2 %). Six deputies in the European Parliament represent Estonia. Kaja Kallas (Reform Party), Urmas Paet (Reform Party), Yana Toom (Centre Party), Tunne Kelam (Pro Patria and Res Publica Union (IRL)), Marju Lauristin (Social Democratic Party), Indrek Tarand (independent candidate).
In the European Parliament, the work is done in various committees: there are 20 standing committees and 2 subcommittees.
Estonian MEPs are represented in the political groups of the EP as follows:
Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe
Yana Toom –, Committee on Employment and Social Affairs (EMPL), Committee on Culture and Education (CULT), Committee on Petitions (PETI), Delegation to the EU-Russia Parliamentary Cooperation Committee (D-RU);
Kaja Kallas – Industry, research and energy (ITRE), Delegation to the EU-Ukraine Parliamentary Cooperation Committee (D-UA), Vice-Chairperson; Delegation to the Euronest Parliamentary Assembly (DEPA);
Urmas Paet – Committee on Budgets (BUDG), Delegation to the EU-Kazakhstan, EU-Kyrgyzstan, EU-Uzbekistan and EU-Tajikistan Parliamentary Cooperation Committees and for relations with Turkmenistan and Mongolia (DCAS);
Group of the European People's Party (Christian Democrats)
Tunne Kelam – Committee on Foreign Affairs (AFET), Subcommittee on Security and Defence (SEDE), Delegation for relations with the United States (D-US);
Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament
Marju Lauristin – Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE), Delegation to the EU-Ukraine Parliamentary Cooperation Committee (D-UA), Special Tax Rulings Committee (TAXE);
Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance
Indrek Tarand – Committee on Budgets (BUDG), Delegation for relations with the countries of the Andean Community (DAND), Delegation to the Euro-Latin American Parliamentary Assembly (DLAT); he is an alternate member of the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE) and of the Subcommittee on Security and Defence (SEDE)
At present nine Estonian officials work in the European, 2 of them as heads of delegations: Aivo Orav is the Head of the European Union Delegation to Macedonia and Tiina Intelmann is the Head of the European Union Delegation to Liberia.
Küllike Jürimäe is a judge in the Court of Justice, and since autumn 2013, Lauri Madise is a judge in the European General Court.
The representative of Estonia in the Court of Auditors is Kersti Kaljulaid, whose mandate has been extended until the year 2016.
Estonia's Presidency of the EU Council in 2018
All European Union Member States chair the Council of the European Union according to an agreed schedule of six-month periods. Estonia will hold the Presidency of the EU Council in the first half-year of 2018. Before Estonia, the United Kingdom holds the Presidency, and after Estonia follows the last member of the three-Presidency team — Bulgaria. The three-Presidency team prepares a common programme for the time of their Presidencies, and then each country will take care of its implementation during their own half-year.
The Presidency will be an opportunity for Estonia to learn more about the European Union, and thus protect the interests of Estonia more effectively, and to secure our belonging to the European core countries. To that add the opportunities to introduce the country holding the Presidency more widely in Europe and in the world, to host tens of thousands of visitors in Tallinn and its vicinity. The main responsibility of the Council Presidency is to direct the legislative process and to develop the policies. The Council Presidency arranges the discussions on the proposals with the European Parliament and represents the Council in relations with the other EU institutions, third countries and the public. After the Lisbon Treaty took effect, it is the European Council (where Estonia is represented by the Prime Minister), that heads the selection of the strategic topics and political priorities, and steers the pace of negotiations. Under the administrative area of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs fall four sectorial formats of the Foreign Affairs Council: foreign affairs, general, development and trade ministers' councils.
While holding the Presidency for six months, Estonia has to chair the work of approximately 200 working groups of the Council of the European Union, prepare the proceeding of 500–700 drafts, and arrange 1600–2000 meetings on the level of the Council of the European Union. This also comprises the coordination of interaction between the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union and finding compromises. In addition to that, in the home country, the Presidency arranges approximately 200 different events, including high-level meetings and conferences, that would bring here, expectedly, 25 000–30 000 visitors from abroad. The Presidency year will luckily coincide with our country's 100th birthday, and the cultural program to be prepared for that will give us an opportunity, in addition to the above-mentioned, to introduce during the Presidency, through various events and exhibitions, our country and the people — to an unprecedentedly wide audience. Before and during the Presidency, hundreds of foreign journalists will arrive in Estonia, who will take their impressions and experiences not only to their homes, but also before hundreds of thousands readers-viewers-listeners.
In order to carry out all that during one half-year, the Presidency team will consist of nearly 1000 people, who will be responsible for the substantive tasks, and of 300 people, who will assist in order to provide the necessary organisational support. All Estonian government agencies cooperate both at home and abroad, and, of course, enterprises and people both from the private and third sectors will be involved, as the Presidency and its successful realisation is an opportunity for the whole Estonia, that is — for all of us.
Lithuania and Latvia have successfully fulfilled the role of the Presidency already (in the second half of 2013 and first half of 2015).
The current Presidency of the EU Council is held by Luxembourg.
Additional information about the Estonia's Presidency see from the website of the Government Office.
Presidencies of the EU Council in 2004-2020
 Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia
 Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia