Estonia’s priorities in the European Commission work programme for 2017 are the development of the digital single market and quick proceeding of relevant legal acts.
Next year is a very important one for Estonia on pan-European level – for the first time, the country will take over the rotating European Union (EU) presidency for six months, in the second half of 2017.
Originally, Estonia was expected to hold the European Council presidency in early 2018, but due to the United Kingdom’s post-Brexit decision to withdraw from the EU, Estonia took over the UK’s slot.
The presidency’s function is to chair meetings of the council, which represents the executive governments of the EU’s member states, determine its agendas, set a work programme and facilitate dialogue both at council meetings and with other EU institutions.
“The fifth freedom of the EU”
According to Matti Maasikas, Estonia’s special representative to the EU institutions, the country’s priorities in 2017 are the development of digital single market and quick proceeding of relevant legal acts.
Maasikas has also emphasised that the free movement of data on the EU level is extremely important. “To achieve it we have to abolish unnecessary barriers, introduce co-ownership of data and implement the once-only principle in the whole Europe,” he said in a statement.
Estonian government has for years pushed for “the fifth freedom of the EU” – the free movement of data. All Estonian leaders, including president Toomas Hendrik Ilves, prime minister Taavi Rõivas and former prime minister, current vice president of the European Commission, Andrus Ansip – have been enthusiastic promoters of the idea.
“If we don’t have free movement of data across borders, our economy will slow down. You can have a car running on computers – not even a self-driving car, but computerised – and then you can get all the way to the German-French border, but if there is no data transfer, your car stops right there. That is not a reality, but a metaphor, but unless we resolve what I call the fifth freedom of the EU, which doesn’t exist yet, we will run into trouble,” Ilves predicted in an interview earlier this year.
Other topics that Estonia would certainly like to add to the pan-European programme are EU-NATO relations, including hybrid threats and cyber security, cross-border transfer of companies and placing importance on foreign relations with close European neighbours in the east and south of the continent.
Cover: the flags of Estonia and the EU side by side (Postimees/Scanpix).