Estonian Deputy Minister for European Union Affairs Matti Maasikas presented the priorities of the Estonian Presidency of the Council of the EU at today’s Conference of Committee Chairs of the European Parliament in Strasbourg, and emphasised that the main focus is on achieving tangible results that make a real difference to the lives of citizens.
On the subject of an open and innovative European economy, Deputy Minister Maasikas said, "a simple and predictable business environment is certainly an impetus for economic growth and job creation, which will contribute to a better use of different single market opportunities, and thus also to improving people’s living standards". Estonia is ready to take forward the Services Package and to launch discussions on the company law reform package. Attention will also be paid to work-life balance and equal opportunities in the labour market.
The Estonian Presidency is characterised in various ways by digital topics. The European Council has set a target to complete all single market packages by 2018 and Estonia would like to move forward with the digital single market strategy, the Audiovisual Media Services Directive and the Electronic Communication Code, along with other initiatives. "Free movement of data is also important to us and we aim to make progress both on the Regulation on e-Privacy and on EU internal data protection rules. At the same time, we intend to launch a discussion on e-governance," Deputy Minister Maasikas added.
Above all, though, security and safety are what the citizens expect most from the EU. According to Deputy Minister Maasikas, there are no easy solutions. The migration crisis demonstrated that we cannot ignore the events outside our borders. "Internal and external security are two sides of the same coin, they are indivisible, which means that we must find common ground and viable solutions. It is important to improve both the Schengen Information System as well as use modern IT solutions for the exchange of information and protection of external borders."
Estonia will put a high emphasis on defence cooperation and the Commission’s European Defence Action Plan that will provide incentives for cooperation through EU funding. An enhancement of EU and NATO cooperation is also planned, including tackling hybrid and cyber threats.
In his speech, Deputy Minister Maasikas also emphasised the importance of the Eastern Partnership, referring to the summit taking place in Brussels in November and to a series of related side events in Tallinn dedicated to digital topics, by saying that the EU must affirm its political interest in the Eastern Partnership countries which are immediate neighbours, whose wellbeing is in all EU member states' interest.
During the question and answer session that followed the presentation, the Committee Chairs of the European Parliament expressed interest in the development of free movement of data, problems related to safety and migration, and issues of consumer protection, the European Pillar of Social Rights, transport, environment, and energy, related to the Estonian Presidency.