Policy progress of the Estonian Presidency in November

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  • 01/12/2017 11:09

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The Education, Youth, Culture and Sports Council
In November, the calendar of the Estonian Presidency of the Council of the EU was tightly filled with meetings and decisions at a number of levels (photo: Tauno Tõhk/EU2017EE)

In November, the calendar of the Estonian Presidency of the Council of the EU was tightly filled with meetings and decisions at a number of levels. Among other outcomes, the most important, as well as the most difficult discussions, resulted in an agreement on the EU budget for the next year and on the emissions trading system.

Significant steps were taken on the EU defence cooperation: 23 member states signed a joint notification of intention for creating a permanent structured cooperation (PESCO). A joint declaration  for strengthening future cooperation together with 20 practical goals was also signed between 21 EU member states and five Eastern Partnership countries. Additionally, the EU-ESA ministerial meeting on space took place in Tallinn under the Estonian Presidency in November where the discussions focused on the increasing use of satellite data and its impact on the European digital economy.

An overview of the progress made in November according to the priorities of the Estonian Presidency:

An open and innovative Europe

An open and innovative European economy means developing a business environment, which supports knowledge-based growth and competitiveness. The Estonian Presidency aims to move towards a more unified and harmonised single market. Under this priority, the following progress was made:

  • In the Economic and Financial Affairs Council and in the reconciliation meeting concerning the budget, the Council of the European Union and the European Parliament reached, on 18 November, an agreement on the budget of the European Union for 2018. The 2018 budget focuses on boosting growth and employment, strengthening security, and tackling the problems related to migration. The budget for next year amounts for €160.1 billion of commitments and €144.7 billion of payments. The European Parliament and the Council approved the final common text on 30 November. This is the last time for budget to be adopted ‘in a normal situation’ before Britain leaves the EU.
    Ministry responsible: Ministry of Finance
  • Unfortunately, the updating of the e-commerce VAT package was not approved in the Economic and Financial Affairs Council meeting on 7 November, but hopefully a decision will be made in the December meeting. The aim of the package is to simplify, as of 2019, the payment of VAT for businesses when providing transnational e-services, and on the cross-border selling of goods as of 2021. To reduce VAT fraud and guarantee equal conditions for competition to EU enterprises in comparison to third countries’ companies, the VAT exemption for goods costing less than 22 euros that are bought from third countries will be eliminated
    Ministry responsible: Ministry of Finance
  • On 8 November, the ambassadors of the EU countries approved an agreement with the European Parliament to extend the duration and increase the size of the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI) on behalf of the Council. The proposed regulation would extend the duration of the EFSI, the financing period of which would otherwise end in the middle of 2018, until the end of 2020 and would increase its investment goal from €315 billion to €500 billion. 
  • Increasing the size of the EFSI will have a positive impact on the economy, and especially on the SMEs. This means that in the coming years both entrepreneurs as well as those in the public sector of the European Union can still apply for investments under more favourable conditions than what would otherwise be possible. 
    Ministry responsible: Ministry of Finance

A safe and secure Europe

A safe and secure Europe means an EU that acts together and preserves its unity on the global stage, keeping its citizens safe and promoting peace, prosperity and stability on the global stage. Under this priority, the following progress was made: 

  • As one of the most important outcomes of the Estonian Presidency, during the meeting of the EU defence ministers on 13 November, 23 member states signed a joint notification of intention for creating a permanent structured cooperation (PESCO) on defence. The aim of PESCO is to increase defence cooperation between member states and to improve Europe’s capability, including in NATO.
  • Joining PESCO is an important step for Estonian security and defence policy. Member states that have joined PESCO will strengthen the defence cooperation with binding commitments, which will not have an impact on member states’ sovereign right to decide over its defence. PESCO allows EU member states to cooperate more and in a more systematic way by increasing spending on defence, making units accessible for EU operations, creating joint military capabilities, and strengthening the military industry. 
    Ministry responsible: Ministry of Defence
  • On 24 November, the Eastern Partnership summit took place in Brussels with 21 EU member states and five Eastern Partnership countries participating. During the summit, it was discussed as a group as to how to strengthen cooperation, economy, governance, connections, and society. The EU leaders agreed on a joint declaration where they affirmed their commitment to the Eastern Partnership and emphasised its importance for them. As a result of the summit, the participating countries signed a joint notification with 20 practical goals on how to strengthen the economy, connections and environment, governance and society until 2020.
    Ministry responsible: Ministry of Foreign Affairs
  • The African Union – EU Summit took place from 29 to 30 November in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire, and celebrated the 10 year anniversary of the adoption of a joint strategy for Africa and the EU. The African and EU leaders discussed developing African-EU relations and a focus was given to the future of African youth - a priority topic both for Africa and the EU, given that 60% of Africans are under 25 years old.
  • Other important topics of the partnership were also discussed, including peace and security, governance practices, aspects of democracy, human rights, migration and mobility, as well as investments, commerce, developing skills, and creating jobs. A high-level breakfast ‘Digital for Development, Champions Breakfast’ also took place during the summit under the guidance of Estonia, with EU and African heads of state as well as Vice-President of the European Commission Andrus Ansip participating. The breakfast discussion was one of digitally inclined states, focusing on developing digital solutions in Africa.  
    Ministry responsible: Ministry of Foreign Affairs

A digital Europe and the free movement of data

A digital Europe and the free movement of data mean that Europe must exploit the benefits of the technological progress that is resulting in constant change for citizens, businesses and governments. Under this priority, the following progress was made:

  • On 7 November, the ministers responsible for space from the member states of the European Union and the European Space Agency met in Tallinn to discuss future viewpoints regarding Earth Observation. The ministers called on ensuring a stable future for the Copernicus programme after 2020. Copernicus satellite data is becoming the driving force of the European digital economy and this potential needs to be developed further. The ministers met under the auspices of European Space Week, which looked at policies as well as business opportunities related to space. In addition, more than 10 events were held, most of which were aimed at businesses, startups and innovative ideas related to the field of space.
  • During the European Space Week, the first European Space Agency Business Incubation Centre of the Baltic States was opened in Tallinn. The conclusions of the mid-term evaluation of the EU Earth Observation programme Copernicus are to be adopted on 1 December, the second day of the Competitiveness Council.
    Ministry responsible: Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications
  • On 20 November, EU ministers adopted conclusions at the General Affairs Council on the European cybersecurity strategy. Further actions relate to the Council's operational programme, which is to be completed by the end of the year. The conclusions and the operational programme have been added to the agenda of the Transport, Telecommunications and Energy Council, held on 4 December.
  • At the Competitiveness Council, held from 30 November to 1 December, discussions focus on the regulation for a single digital gateway. The regulation aims to create an EU-wide online portal where all important service owners (state institutions, local governments) have to publish information about their services, requirements and rights in at least two official EU languages. Also, 13 service owners (for example, those who allow you to apply for a VAT number, register a car, or apply for social benefits) must start accepting the authentication means of other member states and, at the request of a citizen, exchange information through a EU-wide data exchange layer.  
    Ministry responsible: Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications
  • On 20 November, the European Parliament, the Council of the EU and the European Commission reached a political agreement to ban unjustified geo-blocking on the internal market. The geo-blocking regulation will ban location-based denial of access to products and services in online shops (such as rerouting from an online domain without consent or registering users). The regulation does not introduce a delivery obligation and its field of application does not include audiovisual products or services. The regulation will be applicable 9 months after its publication in the EU's official journal. This leaves small traders time to adapt to the new system. 
    Ministry responsible: Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications

An inclusive and sustainable Europe

An inclusive and sustainable Europe supports equal opportunities for development of skills, high-quality education, employment and access to services. A sustainable Europe cares about and is committed to achieving a cleaner environment. Under this priority, the following progress was made:

  • On 22 November, after long discussions, the ambassadors of the member states of the European Union approved the reform of the EU emissions trading system. The ETS reform will help the EU deliver on its target of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40% by 2030, as agreed under the 2030 climate and energy framework and the Paris Agreement. The industry and energy sectors make up slightly less than half of the greenhouse gas emissions of the European Union and several funds are created to help these sectors in transitioning to a low-carbon economy. Estonia can also benefit from these funds and update its economy to make it more competitive. Now that the member states have endorsed the bill, the European Parliament will vote on it for final approval at the Council.
    Ministry responsible: Ministry of the Environment
  • At the Social Summit held in Gothenburg on 17 November, the Estonian Presidency, representing all 28 member states, the President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker and President of the European Parliament Antonio Tajani signed the proclamation establishing the European Pillar of Social Rights. The Pillar of Social Rights sets out 20 principles that aim to ensure that people have better access to the labour market, fair working conditions and social protection. 
  • The success of the implementation of the Social Pillar of Rights, in other words - the social welfare of people in member states, will be measured by a scoreboard with indicators from 12 areas. Agreeing on a text of the European Pillar of Social Rights with the Council of the European Union, the European Commission and the European Parliament has been one of the aims of the Estonian Presidency.
    Ministry responsible: Ministry of Social Affairs
  • At the UN Climate Change Conference (COP23) held in Bonn, Germany in early November, the Estonian Presidency represented the positions of the European Union in the discussions on composing the rules required for the implementation of the Paris Agreement. The rules must be agreed upon by next year.
    Ministry responsible: Ministry of the Environment
  • On 20 November, the Education, Youth, Culture and Sports Council agreed over its position on a Commission proposal on the European Solidarity Corps. The Solidarity Corps offers young people the possibility of volunteering and traineeships, and working in projects that aim to benefit the people and communities of Europe. The Council also adopted conclusions on smart youth work regarding digital innovation in the youth field.
    Ministry responsible: Ministry of Education and Research

Contacts

Piret Seeman

Piret Seeman

Government Office EU Secretariat / Spokesperson

info@eu2017.ee

Greete Kempel

Greete Kempel

Government Office EU Secretariat / Spokesperson

info@eu2017.ee

Olga Korneitšik

Olga Korneitšik

Government Office EU Secretariat / Spokesperson

info@eu2017.ee

Maris Hellrand

Maris Hellrand

Government Office EU Secretariat / Foreign Media Adviser

info@eu2017.ee

Annikky Lamp

Annikky Lamp

Permanent Representation of Estonia to the EU / Spokesperson (Coreper I)

+32 22273910 permrep.eu@mfa.ee

@AnnikkyLamp

Jüri Laas

Jüri Laas

Permanent Representation of Estonia to the EU / Spokesperson (Coreper II)

+32 22273910 permrep.eu@mfa.ee

@jurilaas