Bratislava, 29 November 2018 – In today’s meeting in Bratislava with the prime ministers of countries supporting a strong budget and the Cohesion Policy of the EU, Prime Minister Jüri Ratas emphasised that in the next long-term budget, we must provide more support for reforms, investments, and new challenges as well as the usual common policies, such as research, the internal market, cohesion, and agriculture.
“The next draft budget plan of the EU will show what kind of a shared future we wish to see. Its goal must be a more united, stronger Europe, which offers more opportunities for our citizens and companies,” said Prime Minister Jüri Ratas. “Despite Estonia’s rapid economic growth, the decrease in financing through the Cohesion Policy and the increase in self-financing should be less sudden. This way, we can continue with the required investments in the infrastructure of transportation and the social, education, and health areas as well as in the development of rural life and a knowledge-heavy economic model.”
In order to increase the competitiveness and productivity of the European internal market, the next draft budgetary plan must continue to include support for infrastructure projects and the construction of transport connections. “Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania require quick and sustainable transport connections with the rest of Europe, which would promote our integration with the internal market. Rail Baltica will bring Latvia and Lithuania as close to the Estonian people as Finland is right now; in the future, the transportation of goods from the Nordic region and the Baltics to everywhere else in Europe will be streamlined. We must also seek sustainability and future solutions in road transport without limiting the freedom of movement of people,” said the prime minister.
According to Ratas, Estonia is also concerned about the unequal treatment of farmers in the internal market due to the differences in the amounts of direct payments. “The proposal of the European Commission to decrease the differences in the rates of direct payments for farmers is not enough. The direct payments for farmers of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania are among the lowest in the EU, while production costs are significantly above the EU average,” said Ratas. According to the proposal of the Commission, direct payments in Estonia would reach 76 per cent of the EU’s average direct payments by 2027. “We believe that the harmonisation must take place much faster. Our farmers must be ensured competition conditions equal to those in other Member States in the European markets,” said Prime Minister Ratas.
According to the prime minister, the next budget plan of the EU must include the required reforms and investments to allow to deal with difficult future issues together. “Our people expect us to solve issues together that the countries cannot handle alone. Such issues include, for example, digital transformation, climate problems, migration, and the defence and security of Europe. We must invest in technology and social preparedness as well as the protection of external borders and military mobility to ensure European security,” the prime minister said.
Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia took part in the Friends of Cohesion summit. The summit was also attended by Maroš Šefčovič, Vice-President of the European Commission, and Vazil Hudák, Vice-President of the European Investment Bank. A joint statement was approved at the meeting.
The need to reach an agreement over the next long-term budget in time to ensure that the goals are achieved as efficiently as possible was emphasised at the meeting.
The aim of the European Cohesion Policy is to decrease inequalities between the Member States, increase their competitiveness, and integrate the internal market. During the 2014–2020 budget period, Estonia will receive 3.5 billion euros from the structural funds of the Cohesion Policy as well as 1.8 billion euros in agriculture, rural development, and fisheries aid. Based on the proposal of the European Commission, Estonia would be provided 3 billion euros from the structural funds of the Cohesion Policy in 2021–2027 and nearly 2 billion euros in agriculture, rural development, and fisheries aid. The decrease is mainly brought on by Estonia’s rapid economic development, to which the previous EU support has contributed. In addition, the total budget of the Cohesion Policy to all Member States will decrease by ten per cent or 37 billion euros due to the United Kingdom’s departure from the EU.