The second half of 2017 is here and Estonia has begun its Presidency of the Council of the European Union. During the period, significant effort will be dedicated to achieving consensus amongst the member states of the EU. It’s a time where, for 24 hours a day, our focus will be on joint European interests and goals.
Estonia has been preparing for its Presidency with a sense of mission for the last five years. As we began preparations in 2012, the Eurozone was in a crisis that shook the common currency, although we came out of it stronger than before. Three years later the migration crisis broke out, and last year the UK voted to exit the European Union. This means that the political environment of the EU remains challenging.
In the case of all of Estonia’s priorities – an open and innovative European economy, a safe and secure Europe, a digital Europe and the free movement of data, an inclusive and sustainable Europe – the main emphasis is on their impact on people’s daily lives. We aim for a simple and clear business environment; for equal opportunities on the labour market and the balance between work and home life; for safety and security, which have become increasingly significant; for the management of the migration crisis and the reform of the common European asylum system, and for the strengthening of border controls. Our focus is also on our eastern neighbors and bringing them closer to the European Union. In addition, Estonia has a positive image factor – the digital society which runs horizontally through each focus area and directly impacts everyday life. This includes topics such as the digital single market, free movement of data, e-privacy and data protection rules, and abolishing geoblocking, We have made our programme as clear, simple and understandable as possible, without creating an endless list. As the old Estonian saying goes – speak less, do more.
The Presidency of the Council of the European Union will be the most complex international task in Estonia’s history. But it will also be a time for every one of us to consider what depends on us, and what we can do to make life better and more secure – something so important for both Estonia and the entire European Union.
It promises to be an interesting and busy period and we are happy to share this time with you. This presidency is about all of us and we will do our job as well as we can and perhaps even a little bit better.
This article was originally published on Life In Estonia n°46, 2/2017.