Prague, Czechia, 5 November 2019 – Today in Prague, Prime Minister Jüri Ratas met with the prime ministers of the countries that support a strong European Union budget and Cohesion Policy. At the summit, the prime minister stressed that the volume of funding for cohesion policy should not be reduced in the next long-term budget, as it would mean less Europe. He also affirmed that the investment must benefit all residents of the Member States. “With the support of the budget of the European Union, we will increase freedoms, protect the environment, reduce difference in living standards, and develop science, agriculture, transportation infrastructure, and security,” said the prime minister.
According to Ratas, cohesion policy has helped to significantly improve the standard of living of the people of Estonia and it is important that the funding is continued. “We will continue to support economic growth and creation of jobs through EU investments to improve the lives of our people and entrepreneurs. Continued funding will enable us to undertake more reforms and contribute to security, the development of the internal market, better connections, the digital revolution, and achieve climate goals,” said Prime Minister Ratas.
Ratas said that despite the rapid development of the Estonian economy, the decrease in cohesion funding and the increase in self-financing must be more gradual than what was proposed by the European Commission. Ratas also highlighted the continued support for infrastructure projects and building of connections, mentioning Rail Baltic as an example. The prime minister also expressed concern about the unequal treatment of Estonian farmers in the single market, as the level of direct payments varies from country to country. He considers it important to ensure a level playing field and speed up the harmonisation of direct payments.
According to Ratas, the current long-term budget is a recession budget – we have already recovered from the economic crisis and there are important issues that Europe needs to tackle together. These include our comprehensive security, environmental issues, protection of the external borders of the EU, migration, as well as achieving climate goals and the technological process where Europe wants to be at the forefront. Therefore, Estonia does not want cuts to the next long-term budget of the EU because it would mean that Europe would have less ambition,” said the prime minister.
Ratas also noted that the next EU long-term budget must support Member States in tackling climate issues.
At the summit, representatives of the Friends of Cohesion group comprising 17 Member States adopted a joint declaration stressing the importance of maintaining the volume and flexibility of use of the Cohesion Policy budget in the next long-term budget of the EU. The joint declaration underlines the importance of Cohesion Policy as the main investment instrument in the budget of the union. In the joint declaration, the Member States also emphasise the importance of Cohesion Policy in responding to new challenges, which includes meeting climate goals, innovation, and demographic issues. The Member States stress the need to keep the funding of Cohesion Policy at the current level.
In addition to Estonia, the meeting was attended by Bulgaria, Spain, Croatia, Italy, Greece, Cyprus, Lithuania, Latvia, Malta, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Czechia, and Hungary. Günther Oettinger, European Commissioner for Budget, also attended the meeting.
The aim of the Cohesion Policy of the European Union is to reduce economic and social disparities, increase the competitiveness of countries, and integrate the internal market. Cohesion Policy has been important to Estonia since its accession to the EU. For Estonia, it is one of the most important policies and sources of investment funded by the budget of the EU. Cohesion Policy supports upgrading the Estonian school network, healthcare, tourism, water management infrastructure, construction of transportation connections, and entrepreneurship, innovation and research.
In the 2014–2020 budget period, Estonia is to receive 3.5 billion euros in structural funding from the Cohesion Policy in addition to the 1.8 billion euros in agricultural, rural, and fisheries subsidies. The European Commission proposed that in the future long-term budget for 2021–2027, the structural funds allocated for Estonia would be 3 billion euros plus almost 2 billion euros in agricultural, rural, and fisheries subsidies. The reduction is mainly due to the rapid economic development of Estonia, to which the EU has also contributed. The total budget of the Cohesion Policy will shrink by 10% .