Reede, 01 September 2017 19:00
Laas Leivat - Eesti Elu Nr. 35 2017
A total of 4,588 experts in various fields were brought to Estonia in July during its first month as president of the Council of Europe. That's over 150 per day to participate in ministerial meetings, expert commissions and conferences, and to make the EU guests' contribution meaningful and productive. It also means bold initiative and first-class organizational ability to gain the necessary benefits from this intense co-operative effort in coping with complex issues.
(One has to remember that due to the Brexit refefrendum, the UK withdrew from its scheduled term of presidency of the Council of Europe and thus Estonia was faced with assuming the position six months before its intended period and being fully prepared to take on the necessary work load. It was a challenge the country handled with total competence.)
Finding consensus among participants that represent a wide spectrum of interests and needs can be a complicated process. In spite of the drastically shortened preparation time, Estonia handled the chairing of the numerous meetings and consultations with confidence and was able to steer discussions towards agreement on issues such as the immigration crisis and the adoption of a joint declaration on developing high-speed 5G internet connections.
Some other accomplishments, by priority area, achieved during busy July: In moving toward an open and innovative European economy – a quick agreement reached on the EU budget position with further negotiations with EU Parliament in October and November; trade agreement reached between Japanese and EU leaders, enhancing bi-lateral trade and economic partnership with continuing work on implementing documents.
Regarding a safe and secure Europe: Home ministers meeting in Tallinn approved action plan for alleviating migration problem in the central Mediterranean; agreement on regulating the qualification standards, and equal rights/responsibilities of refugees; agreement on a "Blue Card Directive" dealing with highly qualified third country workers; bill meant to increase EU competitiveness and attract qualified workers and transformers by offering them such things as EU-wide residence and work permits.
In developing a digital Europe and free movement of data: EU and Norwegian telecom ministers signed 5G declaration on super-fast internet connections, technology, and the 'Internet of Things'; field experts discuss free movement of data, increasing European competitiveness through a well-functioning digital society.
Moving toward an inclusive and sustainable Europe: EU ministers reaffirmed commitment to the Paris Agreement; Estonia and the next two EU presidency holders signed a declaration on progressing toward gender equality in the EU.
"According to member states, our priorities are very relevant and require immediate action," stated Klen Jäärats, Director for European Affairs of the Government Office. "We are particularly happy that we have reached specific agreements in the first month of our presidency."
Prior to assuming the responsibilities of the Presidency of the Council of Europe, Estonia, adopting the motto "Unity through balance", emphasized that Europe has plenty of common purpose to jointly face all the challenges and gain all the ensuing opportunities. "Our role is to find a balance between the different views, traditions and interests in Europe today to achieve the best possible outcome for European citizens. ... There is much more that unites us than what divides us. ... Finding this balance ensures that we also find the best way to go forward and deliver concrete solutions for our citizens."
It's hard to refute that Estonia made many substantial gains during its first month in advancing toward the initial goals it set before assuming the Council's Presidency.Laas Leivat