As a result of the outcome of the referendum held in the United Kingdom, Estonia held the Presidency of the Council of the European Union for the first time in the second half of 2017 and not in the first half of 2018, as was initially planned.
The preparations for the Estonian Presidency started in 2012, but due to the time period of the Estonian Presidency changing, some of the last decisions regarding the organisation of the high-level meetings, personnel, budget and political goals were made in the beginning of 2017. As a result of the change of the time of the Estonian Presidency, a close practical cooperation with Malta became necessary (including taking over the steering of two of their planned Council meetings), as well as a trio partnership with Austria, in addition to Bulgaria.
In the framework of the Estonian Presidency, a total of 27 meetings took place in Estonia, bringing about 27 000 foreign guests to the country, including foreign journalists. Of the meetings, the Tallinn Digital Summit that took place in September was the biggest, with 27 heads of state and government, as well as the presidents of the European Council, European Commission and European Parliament participating.
Additionally, 10 informal ministerial meetings, 10 high-level conferences, 226 expert-level meetings, about 20 visits and 6 Presidency events of the parliamentary dimension took place in Estonia. Two events also take place in the beginning of 2018. In Brussels, 31 Council meetings were held during the Estonian Presidency. The permanent representatives to the EU met 19 times as Coreper II and 26 times as Coreper I, as well as 11 times to discuss Brexit. The Estonian Presidency held 137 trilogues with the European Parliament. In total, 1 300 people were involved with the Estonian Presidency and an additional 330 temporary positions were created. The budget of the Estonian Presidency was approximately €79 million; the estimated surplus is €7 million (The exact cost of the Estonian Presidency will be clear in the second half of 2018 as the Parliament of Estonia (Riigikogu) still has Presidency-related follow-up events both this as well as next year).
The programme objectives of the Estonian Presidency (the programme of the Presidency, thematic Council work programmes as well as thematic sheets) were approved by the Government at its 29 June 2017 meeting. The four priorities of the Estonian Presidency, which received the most attention in the work done within the 6 months, included more than 100 legislative proposals, strategies, communications, initiatives and discussions. In total, 377 legislative proposals were dealt with during the Estonian Presidency.
During its Presidency, Estonia firmly kept the issue of fundamental rights and freedoms as well as the rule of law, which were discussed at the annual rule of law dialogue in the General Affairs Council, in focus. Estonia also promised to always keep the better regulation principles in mind. To this end, a memo on how to take the better regulation principles into account was composed for the EU working party chairs, the text of the Council impact assessment framework template was agreed on, and the use of digital solutions in legislative process was analysed.
Estonia achieved most of the objectives that it set for itself for the Presidency. In Tallinn, a follow-up to the Bratislava process began – the Leaders’ Agenda, devoted to the future of the European Union, with summits taking place in the country holding the Presidency. In many cases, we managed to achieve more than our set targets. Given the efforts made to reach the objectives and the push given to move forward with things, even the rare cases where the expected result was not achieved during the Estonian Presidency, it should be deemed mostly as a success.
ACHIEVING THE OBJECTIVES OF THE ESTONIAN PRESIDENCY PROGRAMME
I An open and innovative European economy
During its Presidency, Estonia focused on developing a business environment that supports stability, knowledge-based growth and competitiveness. Our goal was to develop the legal framework of the European banking union risk reduction measures, contribute to moving forward with trade agreements, take the EU single energy market into focus, and to deal with both the EU budget negotiations during this period, as well as with the preparations for the discussions for the next period.
Under the guidance of Estonia, the Council reached an agreement with the European Parliament on two legislative proposals for the banking risk reduction measures package, which regulate the hierarchy of creditors in case of insolvency, and the transition principles for the measurement of expected losses of financial instruments. The progress report and the compromise text of the legal act on the remaining four drafts proposals of the package, as well as on drafting the deposit guarantee scheme were presented to the Council, and therefore we have achieved the goals that we set for ourselves. The Estonian Presidency also focused on developing the capital markets, on which Council conclusions were adopted. We contributed to the debate on the future of the euro area by discussing the connections between deepening the economic and monetary union with EU financial instruments in the informal meeting of financial affairs ministers in Tallinn.
As the holder of the Presidency, Estonia was responsible for EFSI 2.0, that is, the extension and increasing of the financial capacity of the European Fund for Strategic Investments, established on the initiative of Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission, a political agreement with the European Parliament was also achieved on this. Additionally, Estonia actively continued with discussions on the free movement of companies, but unfortunately our readiness to start negotiations between the member states on the reform package of EU company law did not materialise as the European Commission postponed the presentation of the draft until the beginning of 2018.
The taxation of the digital economy also became an important priority. At the Tallinn Digital Summit on 29 September, a goal was set to change the tax rules at the international level and to adjust the EU tax rules in such a way that the income earned digitally in the EU would be taxable in the EU and in the state where value is created. As the Estonian Presidency, we achieved the adoption of the Council conclusions, which include the common position of the EU to launch international negotiations. From the objectives set out in the Estonian Presidency programme, approving the EU list of non-cooperative jurisdictions in taxation matters and adopting new rules in the Council on the legislative package on modernising VAT on cross-border e-commerce were also achieved. Unfortunately, we did not manage to resolve the differences between member states regarding the proposal on reduced VAT rates for e-publications, and the proposal was not adopted during the Estonian Presidency. According to our set goals, we started discussions between the member states on the definitive VAT system package and took forward the discussions in the working party on mandatory provisions for financial advisors and intermediaries for reporting on tax evasion schemes and their automatic exchange between tax authorities.
Estonia successfully led to an agreement the negotiations on the 2018 EU budget of €160 billion. We reached a preliminary political agreement with the European Parliament on simplifying the rules for using EU funds, or what is also known as the omnibus regulation, the last details of which will need to be specified by the next Presidency. Nevertheless, the agricultural part of the omnibus regulation was adopted during the Estonian Presidency. In the discussions over the interim evaluation of Horizon 2020, the goal of Estonia was to focus on matters such as the impact of high-level science and innovation partnerships. The adopted Council conclusions strongly reflect multiple priorities of the Presidency. The aim of the Presidency was also to agree on the common position of the ministers for transport regarding future investments in transport infrastructure. The objective was achieved on 5 December when the ministers adopted the related Council conclusions. Due to the fact that the European Commission only published the 7th Cohesion Report in October, it wasn’t possible to base the aimed Council conclusions on it, but under the leadership of Estonia, the self-initiated Council conclusions ‘Synergies and simplification for cohesion policy post-2020’ were drawn up.
Within the Estonian Presidency, the creation of the European Public Prosecutor’s Office, to enhance efficiency of reacting to offences and VAT fraud against the Union's financial interests, was also agreed upon.
As the holder of the Presidency, Estonia also aimed to be the spokesperson for an open economic environment, as well as free and rules-based trading system. A political agreement between the EU and Japan on a free trade agreement was achieved, and the work with Australia and New Zealand on launching negotiations continues during the Bulgarian Presidency. Free trade agreement negotiations were also launched with Chile. The negotiations with Mexico and Mercosur also progressed well during the Estonian Presidency and will continue with both partners in the next half of the year. We reached a political agreement with the European Parliament on the new methodology for calculating dumping, as well as on the proposal to modernise trade defence instruments.
Our objective as the holders of the Presidency was also to make progress in the negotiations over the proposals of the Services Package. Unfortunately, the member states did not reach a common approach on the European services e-card and we were unable to start trilogues on the directives on notification of requirements related to services and on proportionality tests regarding professional qualifications, as the Parliament’s reports were only concluded in the middle of December.
Estonia promised to deal with all aspects of the Energy Union during its Presidency and our goal was to move forward with the proposals of the clean energy package. We achieved a general approach in five of the eight proposals (governance framework for the Energy Union, renewables directive, electricity market regulation, electricity market directive, regulation on the risk appetite of the energy sector), which is considerably more than initially planned. Additionally, a political agreement with the European Parliament was achieved on the energy performance of buildings directive, also part of the package.
II A safe and secure Europe
The altered security environment demands a European Union that is more decisive in moving towards goals in order to protect its citizens. As the holders of the Presidency, we successfully contributed to this. Modern information systems and cooperation between member states will primarily help to strengthen internal security and control external borders. To this end, we reached an agreement with the European Parliament on the Entry/Exit System and agreed with the member states on the European Criminal Records Information System (ECRIS).
A general approach between the member states was also achieved regarding the review of the Schengen Information System and we considerably took forward negotiations between member states to change the Schengen Borders Code. In internal security, one of the important objectives was to develop the EU-wide interoperability of information systems and to have the European Commission submit a proposal on this. This goal was also achieved. We also wanted the EU to set a standard for protecting mainland external border. The necessary preliminary work was done and a legislative proposal from the European Commission is to be submitted this year.
In promoting the fight against terrorism and crime, our goal was the fight against radicalisation and to develop a respective EU policy. During the Estonian Presidency, we contributed to preventing and stopping radicalisation via two main activities: strategic communication on the web and introducing best practices in the fight against radicalisation. Another course of action was our objective to develop the ATLAS network of special intervention units and thus to increase rapid reaction capability and assisting the member state in need. This objective was fulfilled in the form of Council conclusions adopted by ministers for interior in December. To limit terrorist funding, we hoped to arrive at a political agreement on a proposal for a directive on the fight against money laundering with criminal law, but we did not manage to come to a common position and therefore couldn’t start negotiations with the European Parliament as the holder of the Presidency of the Council of the EU. To facilitate the recovery of criminal assets, we achieved in the Council, by the end of the Estonian Presidency, an agreement between the member states regarding a proposal for a regulation on the mutual recognition of freezing and confiscation orders. We also actively continued discussions over e-evidence and hoped to have the European Commission submit a respective proposal during the Estonian Presidency. Currently, the proposal is to be submitted in the beginning of 2018. As another important subject, we rose repeatedly at the meeting of ministers for justice and home affairs, is the issue of storing telecommunications data and as a result, the European Commission is to present guidelines on the retention of telecommunications data in 2018.
As the holders of the Presidency of the Council of the European Union, Estonia wanted to inform the member states about the internal security situation in Ukraine and its impacts on the European Union. Several discussions held on the subject resulted in Council conclusions, adopted in December.
Progress made in most of the proposals regarding the reform of the Common European Asylum System definitely contributed to managing the migration crisis. It was already clear beforehand that the drafting process of the Dublin regulation would not be easy. We did not reach a political agreement and this task has been handed over to Bulgaria. As the holders of the Presidency of the Council of the European Union, we presented our compromise proposal to the member states in November. According to the set objectives, we arrived at a general Council approach and started negotiations with the European Parliament on the proposals belonging to the Common European Asylum System reform package such as the reception conditions directive, qualifications regulation, and the resettlement regulation, and we continued negotiations on regulations on Eurodac and the European Union Agency for Asylum. At the working party level, we took forward, as planned, the discussions on asylum procedures regulation. As the holder of the Presidency of the Council of the European Union, we also prioritised enhancing the return policy and connecting it with the EU visa policy. Regarding the EU Blue Card Directive, which deals with the free movement of highly skilled third-country nationals within the EU, we arrived, as planned, at an agreement between the member states and took forward, as much as possible, negotiations with the European Parliament.
In the domain of common foreign and security policy, we focused on a comprehensive practical cooperation with the Eastern Partnership countries and candidate countries in every policy area. We actively participated in the preparations for the Eastern Partnership Summit as well as the African Union - EU Summit.
As part of the EU global strategy in the field of defence, the permanent structured cooperation (PESCO) was launched. With the changes made to the instrument contributing to stability and peace, which we concluded during the Estonian Presidency, the EU can for the first time support from its budget, its military partners in the procurement of non-fatal equipment. Estonia also focused on improving the deployment possibilities of the EU battle groups by increasing their co-financing by the member states. We also set a goal to reach a political agreement on the revision of the rules for financing of common costs related to EU military operations and battle groups (the Athena mechanism), which needs unanimity of the member states, but due to objection raised by one member states, the objective was nevertheless not achieved. According to the set objectives, a general approach was reached regarding the European Defence Industrial Development Programme, which belongs under the European Defence Fund as part of the Commission’s European Defence Action Plan (EDAP). It is hoped that the first projects are to be launched in 2019 and due to the effective work of the Estonian Presidency; it is possible to do so. To improve countering hybrid threats, the member states agreed on a survey for identifying capability gaps.
Estonia organised the first cyber exercise, EU CYBRID 2017, for the EU ministers for the defence in Tallinn. The secretary-general of NATO also participated in the exercise, providing an impetus for deepening the EU-NATO cooperation both in the field of cybersecurity as well as exercises.
III A digital Europe and the free movement of data
One of the main priorities of the Estonian Presidency was a digital Europe and the free movement of data. We, therefore, put a special focus on proposals that support the development of cross-border e-commerce and e-services, available and secure electronic communication all over Europe, and improving the accessibility of cross-border e-services. At the Tallinn Digital Summit in September, we arrived at a mutual understanding that a digital Europe is not just a priority of the Estonian Presidency, but a priority of all of Europe. At the Tallinn Digital Summit, goals were set up to 2025 towards a digital Europe.
The free movement of data is a precondition for the development of the digital single market and information society. Under the guidance of Estonia and like-minded member states, the Commission submitted, in September, a legislative proposal on the free movement of non-personal data, upon which the member states agreed on in record speed right before the end of the Estonian Presidency. High-speed internet connectivity is one of the foundations of a data-led economy, which was confirmed by a 5G declaration, signed in Tallinn by the ministers of 28 member states and Norway, as well as by the 5G roadmap agreed in the Council, which serves as a precondition for developing 5G connection in Europe. Additionally, an agreement of the member states was reached on the electronic communications code, the BEREC regulation and on the single digital gateway, and Council conclusions were adopted regarding the digitalisation of transport.
The precondition of well-functioning e-commerce is, among other things, the protection of consumer rights regardless of the geographical location of the consumer. After complicated negotiations with various parties, Estonia succeeded in reaching an agreement on the geoblocking regulation, resulting in the partial abolition of unfair location-based restrictions on goods and services bought from the online shops of other member states by Christmas 2018, and hopefully on copyright-related content by the end of 2020. Additionally, e-commerce is also boosted by the political agreement with the European Parliament on cross-border parcel delivery services. This increases the transparency of service rates and allows the regulators to ensure that both consumers as well as retailers can use reasonably-priced delivery and return services across the EU.
The contract law package goes hand in hand with e-commerce, and it should ensure legal clarity and certainty for businesses and consumers in cross-border trade. In the case of the regulation on digital content, we aimed to begin trilogues and despite the delays by the European Parliament, we had time to complete two political trilogues. In the case of the distance sales of goods directive, it was more difficult to set goals, as the issue of the scope of the bill arose – should the bill apply only to the distance sales of goods or to any cross-border trade. Estonia diligently moved the discussions forward and as a result, the European Commission presented a new bill that now applies to all sales transactions. It is very positive that the worst-case scenario was avoided, which would have meant putting the digital content directive on hold until the member states have agreed on the [distance] sales of goods bill.
When we were setting our presidency priorities, it was clear that copyright reform would be one of the most difficult challenges. In the case of the directive that deals with copyright laws in the digital single market, we set our objective at continuing discussions in the working party, including looking for compromises on various parts of the text, which we succeeded in doing. A plan for follow-up action has been composed, providing a basis for the Bulgarian Presidency to continue this work. In the case of the regulation regarding the copyright laws of public broadcasters, Estonia exceeded its goal and, shortly before the end of the Estonian Presidency, reached an agreement among the member states to begin trilogues. Discussions on the audiovisual media services directive turned out to be somewhat more complicated, and unfortunately, no political agreement was reached with the European Parliament, the Bulgarian Presidency will continue the trilogues.
The common understanding of member states on how to make eGovernment an efficiently functioning reality in Europe was confirmed in October with the Tallinn Declaration on eGovernment. A reference to this declaration was also made at the European Council in October, calling on member states to apply the declaration and bring the public sector into the digital age. Estonia also aimed to start discussions to promote cooperation and coordination on e-health among member states, in order to create the necessary preconditions for the safe and more extensive cross-border use of health data. Estonia met its target, adopting the Council conclusions to that effect.
In the development of the digital society, we placed great emphasis on the aspect of trust and security. During the Estonian Presidency, Council conclusions were adopted on a renewed cybersecurity strategy and an implementation plan for the strategy was approved. Also, our aim was to make progress on the ePrivacy Directive, updating it to meet current needs and the aims of the data protection reform. After complicated and time-consuming negotiations, Estonia presented the progress report of the regulation at the Telecommunications Council, which was the objective of the Estonian Presidency.
In addition to the above, we created practical digital solutions for the Council presidency and helped to digitalise the work processes of the European Union institutions. At Estonia’s initiative, the first EU legislative act was electronically signed in October.
IV An inclusive and sustainable Europe
In addition to encouraging the European economy, we considered it equally important to ensure an inclusive and sustainable environment and to provide equal opportunities for everyone in Europe; where the focus would be on good education, the development of skills, working opportunities and working conditions on the labour market of an information society, as well as high-quality services.
A contribution to this has no doubt been made by the signing of the European Pillar of Social Rights, but also the agreement between member states to create the European Solidarity Corps, the successful conclusion of talks over Europass and a breakthrough at the Council (general approach) on the Posting of Workers Directive. A partial, general approach was achieved on the regulation concerning the coordination of social security systems in the chapters on family benefits and long-term care benefits, and an agreement was reached in chapters that were not completed by Malta: the equality of treatment and posting of workers.
Both social and market issues had a prominent place in the mobility package bills that focused on the transport market, published before the Estonian Presidency. The Estonian Presidency paid great attention to mapping the challenges and possible compromises of this very political package. Our intense work resulted in the adoption of the progress report on the package, which is a good basis for future negotiations.
In an inclusive Europe, it is important to consider people with special needs, and provide them with more opportunities to take part in society. Estonia made great efforts to achieve this in the negotiations on the accessibility directive, which have lasted for two years in total. In December, Estonia reached a general approach at the Council on starting trilogues with the European Parliament.
During the Estonian Presidency, Council-level discussions began on the directive on work-life balance for parents and carers. Discussions mostly concentrated on paternity leave, parental leave and carer's leave, the level of benefits, and issues of equality. Discussions culminated with the adoption of the progress report, which was the objective of the Estonian Presidency.
Looking ahead, we started discussions on new ways of working. In Tallinn, the high-level conference 'Future of Work: Making It e-Easy' brought together top leaders and policy makers from the labour, social, education and e-state sectors to discuss how to capitalise on the opportunities offered by digitalisation and automation and the readiness to shape work in a way that benefits employees, employers and society as a whole. The results of the discussion were adopted as Council conclusions, which should become the input for the European Commission when it works on its labour policy.
Broadening opportunities for youth encourages the development of a strong society and, therefore, the Council adopted conclusions on smart youth work concerning digital innovation in the field of youth work.
Estonia has expressed its full commitment to the implementation of the Paris Agreement and its wish to continue with the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. European climate and waste policies saw complicated and intensive negotiations. Estonia achieved an agreement with the European Parliament on all climate files on the table (the emissions trading system of the European Union, the Effort Sharing Regulation, the regulation on the emissions from Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry), and on the waste package. It can be said that thanks to Estonia's perseverance and skilful cooperation with other member states as well as EU institutions, the European Union serves as a role model for the rest of the world in fighting climate change.
For ensuring both a sustainable living environment as well as economic growth, Estonia considered it important to aspire towards a resource-efficient circular economy, and eco-innovation is an essential part of this. Member states adopted Council conclusions on this subject and have great expectations for further actions that support the introduction of eco-innovative products to the market and the further development of a comprehensive product policy.
In the context of developing the circular economy, we also paid attention to the regulation on CE marked fertilising products that aims to increase the production of innovative fertilisers and the diversification of fertilisers supplied to farmers, thus making the production of food more cost- and resource-efficient. As a result of complicated and time-consuming negotiations, we achieved an agreement with the member states to launch trilogues.
To ensure better public and animal health, we made great efforts to process the animal medicines package, achieving an agreement with member states to start trilogues with the European Parliament. This means that in the future, the rules for allowing animal medicines on the European Union market shall be more harmonised, therefore increasing their availability. Also, regulations on using antimicrobial drugs on animals made stricter to reduce the threat to public health from antimicrobial resistance. Legislative acts concerning medicated feed also apply to the feed of pets, creating better opportunities for the treatment of animals. Among other things, the package brings processes related to the central marketing authorisation of medicinal products for human use in line with the Lisbon treaty.
When it comes to agriculture, one of the objectives of Estonia was to pay more attention to the state of agricultural soils and to raise awareness about their protection. Currently there are no legal regulations, nor a common approach, in the European Union for the sustainable management of soils, which is why the high-level conference 'Soil for sustainable food production and ecosystem services' held in Tallinn and the subsequent Presidency conclusions at the Agriculture and Fisheries Council provided important input to the European Commission in preparing the new Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).
An overview of the organisation of the Estonian Presidency
Preparations for the organisation of the Estonian Presidency of the Council of the European Union began in 2018. The first Presidency action plan was approved by the government in January 2014, and it was updated twice in the following years. A commission was compiled for the preparation of the Estonian Presidency, headed by the Secretary of State and including undersecretaries, and the commission met 36 times. The activities and organisation of the Presidency was coordinated centrally, through the European Union Secretariat of the Estonian Government Office. In addition to the programme and action plan of the Presidency, the training plan and communication strategy were also adopted. State Real Estate Ltd also conducted an audit on the premises of the Permanent Representation of Estonia to the EU in Brussels to assess the building's capacity for admitting nearly three times as many employees than usual. The greatest changes to activities outlined in strategies were made due to the fact that the Estonian Presidency was held 6 months earlier than planned. The visual identity of the Presidency was created in conjunction with the identity of the centenary celebrations of the Republic of Estonia. The concept was based on Estonia as a digital country with a clean living environment. The Estonian Presidency motto, 'Unity through balance', was expressed both in visual communication as well as how policy aims were reached. The Estonian Presidency logo, supported by graphic elements based on the binary code, directly expressed a balance between the digital world and nature.
There were 1 228 working party meetings, 31 meetings of ministers, 56 meetings of the Committee of Permanent Representatives (Coreper) and 137 trilogues held in Brussels and Luxembourg.
Additionally, two new permanent representative positions were created for the Estonian Presidency, as well as the position of the Deputy Minister for EU Affairs who represented the Council at the European Parliament and had the mandate to stand in for the Minister for Foreign Affairs at the meetings of the General Affairs Council, and a special representative was also appointed to the annual budget negotiations with the mandate to stand in for the Minister for Finance at the Ecofin meetings on the budget.
In the second half of 2017, Tallinn hosted 273 Presidency events: 1 summit, 10 informal meetings of ministers, 10 high-level conferences, 20 visits, 226 expert-level meetings and 6 parliamentary events; 2 more parliamentary events are coming up in 2018. A total of 36 events were held at the Estonian Presidency venue, the Tallinn Creative Hub (Kultuurikatel).
The summit, informal meetings of ministers, high-level visits and most high-level conferences were organised centrally by the Estonian Government Office, the events of the Parliamentary dimension were organised by the Chancellery of the Riigikogu, and expert meetings were organised by the ministries of relevant fields or their agencies.
Meetings in Estonia were mostly held in Tallinn, but more than 18 events also took the guests outside the capital. For example, there were visits to the Kolgaküla community centre, Viru bog, Vihula manor, and the city of Tartu, as well as the 1st infantry brigade of Tapa and the allied forces serving there.
Of the events held in 2017 in Tallinn, there were four that had the highest security level:
- the Tallinn Digital Summit
- the informal meeting of economic and financial affairs ministers
- the informal meeting of defence ministers and foreign affairs ministers
- the informal meeting of justice and home affairs ministers
Nearly 800 policemen were in charge of security during the Tallinn Digital Summit.
One of the aims of the Estonian Presidency was to make Estonia better known abroad. The 1 300 people involved with the Estonian Presidency were working towards that aim. Most of the people employed by the Estonian Presidency were already working in the state sector, and 319 additional people were hired temporarily. For holding a successful presidency, a special training programme was composed for civil servants. There were 100 liaison officers in total to accompany the guests of the Estonian Presidency.
A highlight was the Digital Expo held during the Tallinn Digital Summit, presenting various accomplishments of science and development to illustrate the effect of technology and digital development on society. On the day of the Summit, EU leaders visited the expo, and on the next day, the exhibition was open to the general public.
In addition to all of the above, the Estonian Presidency presented a good opportunity to show a variety of sides of Estonia to guests. The catering for high-level events was led by Chef Peeter Pihel and included several leading Estonian chefs who primarily used local ingredients. Estonian artists performed for guests, and tours of Tallinn’s Old Town and other sites were offered.
The Estonian Presidency communication efforts took advantage of all modern channels, such as the four-language website (Estonian, English, German and French) www.eu2017.ee, which featured all of the news related to the Estonian Presidency, the calendar and agendas of events, as well as complementary materials as texts, images, infographics and videos. The website received more than a million visits. The majority of visits came from Estonia, followed by Belgium, Germany, the United Kingdom and France. Social media provided an even quicker channel for relaying information, and content was provided by both Tallinn and Brussels.
To make the policy issues of the Estonian Presidency more accessible, infographics were made before major meetings and for summaries, these videos were awarded the Clear Message Award by the Institute of the Estonian Language (in Estonian). An important role in bringing meetings and conferences to audiences was played by the broadcasts of the Estonian Public Broadcaster (400 hours in total), the official host broadcaster of the Estonian Presidency, as well as the production of videos and photos in real time. For international broadcasts, the Estonian Presidency cooperated with EbS (Europe by Satellite), and the footage broadcast by the EbS was used for 2 813 television news stories in 196 channels in other countries. All of this was supported and framed by the unified visual identity of the Estonian Presidency.
One of the main objectives of communication was to actively explain policy issues and organisational aspects to Estonian and international publications. Thematic briefings, monthly summaries and outlooks, press releases and press visits, meetings and interviews are a selection of some of the most widely used methods. According to a study by the Baltic Media Monitoring Group, the Estonian media published more than 25 000 news items on the Estonian Presidency over the period of 6 months. The Estonian Public Relations Association presented the communication team of the Estonian Presidency of the Council of the EU with the Public Relations Team of the Year award for 2017.
The budget of the Estonian Presidency of the Council of the European Union for 2014-2018 was €74.9 million, with an additional €4 million for the Tallinn Digital Summit. The projected surplus is about €7 million.