Estonia has participated as a full member in the Union’s decision making processes since joining the European Union on 1 May 2004.
The Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications observes, for the purposes of activities related to the European Union, the framework document, Estonia’s European Union Policy for 2011–2015, and the strategic competition programme, Estonia 2020, which complies with the trans-European programme, “The European Union 2020”. This serves as the continuation of the Lisbon strategy and is supposed to allow the European Union to recover completely from the crisis and move, fast, towards a knowledge-based and environmentally sound economy.
The Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications organises the representation of Estonia in two European Union Councils and more than 32 Council work groups.
Estonia as the European Union Presidency in 2018
Activities aimed at the preparations for the Presidency of the European Union are co-ordinated by the European Union Secretariat of the Government Office.
Co-ordination of the European Union affairs
The Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications participates in the European Union decision making process via the Council of the European Union.
The Ministry represents Estonia on two councils:
- Transport, Telecommunications and Energy Council
- Competitiveness Council (internal market, manufacturing, research and space); the Ministry of Education and Research and other ministries also take part in the co-operation
The Minister or Deputy Head of the Permanent Representation of Estonia to the EU will represent Estonia at the sessions of the Council.
The Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications will represent the positions of the Government of the Republic of Estonia in the European Union affairs at the Council of the European Unions, when these require the modification of Estonian legislation or have material influences, as provided by the Procedure for Processing of the European Union Documents.
Officials of the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications from Tallinn or the representatives of the Ministry at the Permanent Representation of Estonia to the EU will represent Estonia at the working groups of the Council of the European Union, COREPERs and at the councils.
The officials also participate in the Comitology Committees, where the issues related to the legal instruments of the European Union directives or regulations or the implementation of such documents (implementing provisions or delegated instruments are adopted within the framework of comitology proceedings.
Participation in the sessions of the Competitiveness Council of the European Union is co-ordinated by the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications and the Ministry of Education and Research.
Other ministries will also contribute to the work of the Competiveness Council, depending on the agenda.
At the sessions of the committee, the ministers of the European Union will mainly discuss, of the issues administrated by the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications, economic issues, including the common European Union market – manufacturing, entrepreneurship, innovation, competition policies, consumer protection, technical harmonisation, improved legislation, construction, tourism and space matters. The agenda also includes state aid and intellectual property issues.
The responsibility area of the Ministry of Education and Research includes research and development and innovation issues. On average, six sessions of the Council take place every year (unofficial meetings included).
Increasing the competitiveness and economic growth of the European Union will strengthen the European Union and the euro zone. Knowledge based economy and common market development and supporting activities are the key issues. Common economic space would support securing the budgeted expenditures of the member states, contributing to greater economic growth.
Ensuring the four fundamental freedoms
The general common market framework needs to be updated for complete ensuring of the four fundamental freedoms – free movement of people and services, free movement of goods and capita and free movement of payments within the European Union.
Simplified business environment and infrastructures
It is important to simplify the business environment to allow the development of a common and free market – by diminishing administrative burden and preferring market surveillance to ex ante checks for the purposes of establishment of new regulations. Trans-European infrastructures (transport, energy and telecommunication infrastructures) play an important role in the development of the European Union common market, as they represent the prerequisites for ensuring connections between regions or smooth operation of the market.
Common digital market
Smooth operation of the European Union common market is important for enhancing the competitiveness of Europe. Therefore, Estonia pays special attention to Internet issues and the common digital market that we hope to achieve in 2015, allowing citizens and entrepreneurs to use electronic services anywhere in the European Union. For that purpose, a common approach to digital entity and trust-based services (electronic authentication platform and submission of e-invoices) will be required.
It is our aim to ensure, in the future, support for the establishment of a broadband infrastructure for fast data communication, using the European Union financial instruments and diminishing the administrative burden that result from state aid rules.
Transport, Telecommunications and Energy Council
A great many legal acts that affect the economic space of Estonia are approved at the sessions of the Transport, Telecommunications and Energy Council (TTE).
Apart from sphere-related legislation, funding and terms and conditions for the implementation of large infrastructure projects (like Rail Baltic, LNG Terminal) and trans-European digital service platforms are developed and adopted at the sessions of the Council and its sub-committees.
On average, ten sessions (including unofficial meetings) of the TTE take place every year.
One of the prerequisites for the functioning of the common market is improved trans-European infrastructure and connections between different regions of the European Union; both the support from the European Union and political will of the member states is required for that purpose.
Transport Policy White Paper of the European Commission has established a provision of connections between the eastern and western transport areas of the European Union as one of the goals. It is important to complete the Rail Baltic and Via Baltica projects to establish modern connections between the Baltic states and the rest of the European Union.
The established Connecting Europe facility will support the development and integration of the internal market and more sustainable transport system. Attention should also be given to connections between the European Union and neighbouring areas.
Apart from physical infrastructures, regional transport policies also need to be developed to ensure improved integration of the European Union’s transport market.
Road transport sector
The internal road transport market needs to be opened to cabotage to achieve free provision of services.
Cabotage means the provision of road transport services by a carrier in member states that are not the carrier’s country of establishment. Right now, cabotage is restricted (carriers are allowed to perform three cabotage operations within seven days, following international carriage) and this represents an obstacle to the functioning of the common market and increases the expenses incurred to the European Union providers of transport services.
The issue is also important within the climatic and energy policy context: a reduced number of unladen journeys will help to save both the environment and energy.
Rail transport services sector
In the railway sector, a common European railway region needs to be developed and promoted to abolish the need to exchange locomotives on state borders, as a consequence of different technical specifications, or complicated access to depots services, resulting from the protectionism of countries. The described situation interferes with the smooth provision of services and is not economically feasible.
As for the aviation sector, the Common European Sky action plan needs to be completed, followed by extension of the common European aviation area to the neighbouring countries.
The conclusion of contracts with third countries, mainly in Asia, must be continued within the framework of the open sky agreements.
Estonia considers the implementation of the Single European Sky ATM Research (SESAR) by 2020 and participation in related development efforts as important.
At the moment, we can only speak about the international not the European Union internal market in the marine sector, as the vessels travelling between the member states are given treatment equivalent to the treatment available to vessels arriving from third countries. Customs proceedings must be abolished in all the European Union member states to ensure the functioning of the common market.
It is important to support common Baltic Sea ice breaking policies, transnational operative co-operation and efficient utilisation of resources available to ensure the functioning of marine connections all around the year.
Sustainable environment, clean technologies
The transport sector, being one of the largest sources of exhaust gases, must become adapted to the goals of the European Union climatic and energy policies; for that purpose, investments must be made into innovation, for the implementation, for example, of intelligent transport systems and municipal transport e-solutions (e.g. e-parking) and stronger regulatory pressure must be applied.
For planning purposes, this will mean transport demand management and the better organisation of land use.
One of the trends that will probably be implemented in the future will be based on the Polluter Pays and User Pays principles.
The transport sector’s dependence on oil must be decreased.
The location of different regions with respect to the central areas of the European Union and population densities must also be taken into consideration, to avoid damaging competitiveness, when developing the respective European Union policies.
Digital Europe Agenda, consisting of 13 goals and 101 activities, which are divided between seven columns, is developed to achieve the common digital market.
According to the estimates, this would increase the European Union GDP by 4 per cent and result in the creation of 30,000 new jobs per annum.
The main interests of the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications for the purposes of common European digital market development are related to electronic identity, promotion of implementation of cross-border trust-based services and e-services and the availability and use of fast and ultra fast fixed and mobile Internet.
Common rules on the import of electricity from third countries must be established for efficient functioning of the European energy market and ensuring energy independence.
Equal competition in energy market
Estonia is interested in enhancing energy security by providing energy connections and creating equal competition conditions for the energy producers of the European Union, which are not applicable to countries outside the European Union.
Framework conditions must be established at the level of the European Union to decrease the general resource intensity of the economy, as this is the only approach to avoid competition distortions in the energy market.
Environment and energy performance
Increasing the proportion of renewable sources of energy in final consumption volumes and enhanced energy performance are important elements of the European Union energy and climatic policy, contributing to a secure supply and diminished environmental impacts.
PCI - energy infrastructure
According to the new regulation 347/2013 on guidelines for trans-European energy infrastructure, the European Commission approved a list of 248 key energy infrastructure Projects of Common Interest (PCI). With the PCI marking, these projects can use faster and more effective licencing procedure. They also have access to the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) financial support (max 75%), as part of this 5.85 billion euros have been assigned for trans-European energy infrastructure from 2014-2020.
PCI - energy infastructure, Estonia's contact info:
E-mail: Jako.Reinaste [at] mkm.ee
The European Union Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region
The Baltic Sea Strategy is an initiative of the European Union, aimed at finding solutions for the main bottlenecks that interfere with the development of the area.
The strategy has three general goals:
- Protecting the Baltic Sea
- Connecting the region
- Increasing the welfare of the region
The Baltic Sea Strategy concerns 85 million people (17% of the population of the European Union) and eight European Union member states: Sweden, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland.
The Baltic Sea Strategy does not duplicate the current co-operation in the region, as it is a cross-policy document and focuses on the most urgent problems: how to improve the competitiveness of the region, establish new transport and energy connections, protect the environment, promote co-operation in research and ensure the safety of both people and the environment.
For Estonia, the strategy is, above all, an opportunity to:
- Enhance the competitiveness of the region
- Promote the internal market
- Improve transport and energy connections
All the different institutions involved must co-operate more closely to achieve these objectives.
The Rail Baltic railway project is one of the most important elements of the agenda of the strategy for Estonia.
Implementation of the strategy
The Baltic Sea Strategy consists of 17 policy spheres, including:
- Improvement of internal and external transport connections
- Promotion of tourism
- Fighting cross-border crime
- Improving access to energy
- Energy security and improved energy performance
Different member states and organisations are responsible for the co-ordination of different areas; co-operation is also pursued with the Russian Federation.
New institutions have not been established for the implementation of the Baltic Sea Strategy; instead, existing organisations and structures will be used. Strategic activities are co-ordinated by the European Commission’s General Directorate for Regional Development, European and Trans-Atlantic Co-operation Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Estonia, which runs a working group that consists of representatives of different ministries and authorities.
Estonia as the leading country for the Internal Market chapter of the Baltic Sea Strategy
Estonia co-ordinates, under the responsibility of the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications, the removal of obstacles from the internal market and related key project, "Identification of the Barriers to the Implementation of Cross-border e-services in the Baltic Sea Strategy Countries". The terms of reference for this project require identification of the main difficulties that may interfere with the implementation of cross-border e-services.
Estonia is interested in promoting the use of digital signature in the European Union internal market, suggesting various methods for easy implementation of the cross-border e-services.
In Estonia, these issues are handled by the Estonian Information System’s Authority (EISA), which is also developing methodologies for measuring and comparing security levels of different authentication methods (e-authentication, password-based solutions, PIN cards and calculators).
Estonia’s partners within the framework of business portal’s cross-border service project are Belgium, Lithuania, Finland and Portugal. Both Estonia and Portugal have mutually opened their business portals to allow Estonia to use the Portuguese business portal with digital signature and vice versa. Estonia has opened its business portal, unilaterally, to its other project partners – Belgium, Lithuania and Finland – to allow them to enter the site with digital signature; Lithuania can also gain access, using mobile ID.