More Europe is fine but keep our interests in mind

The Estonian government’s priorities for the French Presidency are stipulated in a document approved on July 10th 2008.[1] In general, these priorities are in favour of ‘more Europe’, aligning quite well with the objectives of the French government. However, Estonia has specific concerns in a number of areas.
 
In general affairs, the most important objectives of the Estonian government for the French Presidency are to “find a constructive and satisfying solution on how to proceed with the Lisbon Treaty” and to ensure the “active continuation of the EU enlargement process according to previously agreed principles.”[2] The Estonian government continues to hope that the Lisbon Treaty will take effect on January 1st 2009. With regard to enlargement, Estonia continues to actively support Croatia’s, Turkey’s and Macedonia’s membership aspirations.
 
Energy security is high on Estonia’s agenda. Expectations for the French Presidency include reaching agreements related to legislative packages of the internal energy market, climate change and energy.[3] Estonia generally supports the positions of the European Commission concerning the internal energy market as well as energy and climate policies. The diversification of energy sources and supply channels, as well as the development of a clear and concrete foreign policy concerning energy, are regarded as essential priorities. However, Estonia has a number of specific concerns. These include the demand that equal access to the transmission networks be ensured for all market participants. The development of new energy infrastructure should be carried out “in a spirit of true cooperation, so as to secure supplies for all of Europe, not just for individual states.”[4] Estonia also claims that the differing characteristics of the market, and the uniqueness of the energy sector of each member state must be recognised. For instance, the system for trading the permissible quantities of greenhouse gases should take into account the unique characteristics of Estonia’s oil shale energy. The government also insists that the European Union implement the same competitiveness and environmental standards for the firms of third countries in order to avoid possible market distortions and to reduce energy security risks. Estonia also has strong concerns about the environmental consequences of the growing transport of Russia’s gas and oil to Europe, relating, in particular, to the Baltic Sea.
 
Developments in the field of migration policy are of great interest to Estonia. Priorities for the French Presidency include minimum harmonisation of rules at the EU level regarding the migration of highly qualified workers from third countries. Estonia continues to defend the position that the degree of opening of labour markets to third country nationals should remain a decision of individual member states. Estonia also supports the establishment of sanctions at EU level against employers of illegal third country nationals.
 
Immigration is a sensitive issue in Estonia, given the country’s history with massive influxes of Russian-speakers during the Soviet period, the integration of whom into the Estonian society continues to pose problems. The pooling of immigration-related competences at the European level has given rise to concerns (expressed, mostly, by critics of the government) that Estonia might, again, be subjected to ‘externally-directed demographic policies’ involving, in the worst case, EU-level decisions on immigration quotas for specific member states and the relocation of immigrants to the new member states in order to disperse the immigration pressure.[5] In this context, the possible introduction of visa-free travel between Russia and the EU is also seen as a threat to Estonia.
 
Estonia supports the completion of the Common Agricultural Policy’s health check together with necessary adaptations to the measures of the policy for the period 2009-2013. In the long term, Estonia finds it important that all EU agricultural producers are treated on equal terms. The Estonian government wants to specify the definition of less favoured areas and insists that compensation for agricultural activities must be based on objective criteria. The final aim of the reforms, according to the Estonian government, should be the abolishment of market organisation measures (including milk production quotas).
 
In the realm of defence and security, Estonia aims for a more unified European security and defence policy and the further development of EU military and civilian crisis management capabilities.[6] Estonia calls for more attention to unresolved regional conflicts in the EU’s neighbourhood, to a common external policy to ensure energy security, and to the further enhancement of EU-NATO co-operation. A new priority of the Estonian government is combating cyber warfare. This agenda draws its rationale from the massive cyber attacks on Estonia’s IT infrastructure during the spring 2007 crisis in relations with Russia. Estonia has already successfully pushed this topic onto NATO’s agenda: a cyber defence centre, funded by seven NATO allies, was set up in Tallinn in spring 2008. Cooperation within NATO is not enough: Estonia argues that the EU should develop a broad and coherent policy for fighting cyber crime.
 
With regard to competitiveness and economic growth, Estonian priorities for the French Presidency include reaching an agreement on the “Small Business Act” that would strengthen growth and competitiveness of small and medium-sized enterprises, reaching an agreement on an EU-wide community patent system and developing better cross-border health services by clarifying the regulations regarding reimbursement and improving the availability of these services to citizens.
 
In principle, Estonia supports the search for new approaches for developing co-operation with the Mediterranean partners. However, it claims that these forms of cooperation must be consistent with the agreed-upon objectives and methods of the European Neighbourhood Policy. The financing of projects focusing on the Mediterranean Partnership from the European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument (ENPI) should not lead to redistribution of funds among regions or the reduction of funds available to the Eastern dimension of the European Neighbourhood Policy.[7]
 
Strengthening the foreign policy making capacity of the EU is a key priority for Estonia. The government has started to discuss the implementation of the provisions of the Lisbon Treaty that pertain to the new post of a High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and for the creation of a European External Action Service (EEAS). According to Foreign Minister Paet, the High Representative should “become one of the world's leading spokespersons for democratic values.”[8] Regarding the EEAS, the preference seems to be for a broad mandate, including not only Common Foreign and Security Policy but also other external activities such as development aid and enlargement. However, the government emphasizes that all member states must be included in the building up of the service and that all large and small states, as well as geographical regions, must be fairly represented. “For us, it is extremely important, that in this action service, just as in other international organisations, Estonians are also employed,“ said Paet.[9]


[1] Estonia’s priorities in the European Union during the French Presidency, available under: (last access: 1st of September 2008).

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Estonian Minister of Foreign Affairs Urmas Paet: Address to the “Riigikogu” on behalf of the Government of Estonia, 21st of February 2008, available under: (last access: 1st of September 2008).

[5] Anti Poolamets: Lissaboni leping kinnistab liitriigistumist, Eesti Päevaleht, 16th of June 2008.

[6] Estonia’s priorities in the European Union during the French Presidency, available under: (last access: 1st of September 2008).

[7] Ibid.

[8] Estonian Minister of Foreign Affairs Urmas Paet: Address at the “Eidgenössiche Technische Hochschule” in Zürich, Switzerland, on 7th of April 2008, available under: (last access: 1st of September 2008).

[9] Estonian Minister of Foreign Affairs Urmas Paet: Address to the “Riigikogu” on behalf of the Government of Estonia, 21st of February 2008, available under: (last access: 1st of September 2008).