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Prime Minister Andrus Ansip gave an overview of the activities of the Government in implementing the European Union policies to the Riigikogu today. Ansip said that there are big changes taking place in Europe, and a time of changes in international relations is a time of difficult choices for small countries. “There is a choice we will soon have to make. We have to choose whether we go along with the Europe that is increasing its cooperation, or whether we refuse to do so. This is a process that will probably take decades to complete,” Ansip continued, and he mentioned that President of the European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso had called for the formation of a federation of nation states. The Prime Minister noted that the European economic and monetary union is undergoing repairs, and, under these circumstances, today the European Commission has considerably greater rights in analysing the economic situation of Member States and making recommendations to them on how to improve this situation. Legislation has been enforced that gives us the levers to deal with those who breach financial discipline as well as to prevent the occurrence of such breaches. The Riigikogu is currently analysing the so called fiscal compact, which requires all its parties to adhere to a conservative budget policy – as we have been doing in Estonia for the past 20 years,” the Prime Minister added. He stated that those countries that had been badly shaken by the crisis had managed to improve their budgetary position considerably, and the competitiveness of those states is improving – slowly, but it is improving. Ansip warned in his report that there is no doubt that the current economic crisis will not remain the last, and the eurozone, and the European Union as a whole, must be ready if and when the next crisis occurs. “Europe’s solution, based on the integration experience of six decades, is to increase cooperation,” he emphasised. The need to develop cooperation concerns mainly four areas: banking, budgeting, economic and political union. Various opinions have been expressed in all of these areas, and Estonia now has to form its positions on these. “The final positions of Estonia on these issues must be formed by the Riigikogu,” Ansip stressed. The Prime Minister believes that Estonia should be among the leaders in expanding European cooperation to guarantee that our national interests are protected. The speaker stated that that was why the Government had decided to join the group of states that wish to initiate enhanced cooperation for the establishment of the financial transaction tax. The decision on whether or not Estonia will establish such a tax is yet to be made; however, this step allows us to defend our positions and influence developments. “It is not right to reduce the benefits of Eurozone membership to money alone. However, let me bring out once again that the total share of guarantees and contributions given and to be given by Estonia via European Financial Stability Fund and the European Stability Mechanism is more than five times smaller than the total support Estonia has already received or will receive from the EU budget in the next seven years,” the Prime Minister stated.

Ansip also spoke of the negotiations about the new budgetary framework of the EU, democratic control over Europe’s decisions, and the strengthening of internal legitimisation of our European policy. In conclusion, the Prime Minister suggested considering an amendment of the Riigikogu Rules of Procedure and Internal Rules Act in regard to the participation of the Head of Government in the work of the European Union Affairs Committee of the Riigikogu.

The Chairman of the European Union Affairs Committee of the Riigikogu Taavi Rõivas who spoke on this issue stressed that being part of the European Union means being part of a common space of values. In his report, Rõivas touched on three issues: the developments of the monetary union, the domestic market and the need to invest in it becoming open, and the work of the Riigikogu. Rõivas stated that the European Union Affairs Committee has traditionally caused a headache for ministers and heads of agencies by meticulously following the effectiveness and purposefulness of the use of the European funds. “We now wish that the Riigikogu have an active say in setting the priorities for the next period and in developing national plans,” Rõivas said. In the opinion of the Chairman of the EU Affairs Committee, the competences of the Riigikogu in the European Union affairs should be updated. In addition to the post-European Council overview, for example, the participation of the Government in Eurogroup meetings also needs a clearer mandate. “A Bill on Amendments to the Riigikogu Rules of Procedure and Internal Rules Act is being prepared and we are expecting the results of the working group already by the end of this month. Outside the rules of procedure, it is very important to find opportunities for open, engaging discussions. The future of the European Union is our common future, and the discussions of the Riigikogu on European Union issues can and must be as open and engaging as possible,” Rõivas said.

Comments were presented by Marko Mihkelson, Marianne Mikko, Kalle Palling and Jüri Ratas.

Due to the end of the working hours of the sitting of the plenary assembly, the first reading of the Bill on Amendments to the State Funeral Benefits Act (235 SE), initiated by the Estonian Centre Party Faction, was adjourned. The deliberation will be resumed tomorrow, at the plenary sitting beginning at 2 p.m.

For more details, read the verbatim record of the sitting (in Estonian):

The sitting ended at 2 p.m.

The Riigikogu Press Service