Satisfied with France, hopeful with regards to the Czech Presidency

The Estonian government considers the French Presidency to be a successful one, recognizing that it had to deal with many extraordinary events and managed to “address them very well”.[1] In particular, Estonia appreciates the active role that the French Presidency took in mediating the Russian-Georgian crisis, and securing the cessation of military activities relatively quickly. At the same time, there was a wide-spread impression that France was too eager to normalize relations with Russia after the latter had withdrawn its troops from Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

Other French successes, according to Foreign Minister Urmas Paet, include the EU military operation off the Somalian coast in response to pirate attacks (Estonian sailors have repeatedly been held captive by pirates and their fate has been followed closely by the media) as well as rapid reaction to military conflict in the Gaza sector. Estonia also appreciated the fact that important agreements were reached in the field of energy and energy security during the French Presidency.[2]

Five shared priorities

According to Foreign Minister Paet, Estonia shares the objectives of the Czech Presidency and the positions of Estonia and the Czech Republic coincide “on all important issues”.[3] Estonia also regards the Czech Presidency as a good opportunity “to reduce the still-persisting prejudices regarding the capacity of countries that joined the EU in the two recent rounds of enlargement”.[4] Estonia’s priorities for the Czech Presidency include the following:[5]

  1. Progress in accession to the Eurozone and better implementation of the structural funds: Estonia aims to fulfil conditions to adopt the single currency in 2010. During the Czech Presidency, Estonia seeks to secure a positive assessment of the government’s renewed convergence program. Estonia has not been particularly effective in implementing the structural funds and needs to improve its performance in this respect.
  2. Energy security: Estonia would like to see progress within the framework of Strategic Energy Review, European Economic Recovery Plan and Baltic Interconnection Plan. Estonia hopes to reach an agreement on the criteria on EU financing for energy infrastructure projects.
  3. Development of the Baltic Sea strategy: Estonia looks forward to the Commission’s communication on the issue, due in June 2009. Estonia supports the strategy that concentrates on development of the internal market both in the region and the EU, and promotes free movement of knowledge.
  4. Development of a common IT-strategy in the field of Justice and Home Affairs. Estonia hopes that such a strategy will help strengthen the security of the Schengen area.
  5. Further development and strengthening of implementation measures of the European Neighbourhood Policy and especially the Eastern Partnership.

In non-governmental circles, expectations for the Czech Presidency also include promoting the integration of the historical experience of Eastern Europe into the dominant pan-European historical narrative and making sure that the victims of all totalitarian regimes receive equal status, equal sympathy and solidarity. Tunne Kelam and Marianne Mikko, both Estonian Members of the European Parliament, have expressed hopes that Prague will be successful in condemning the crimes of communism. Kelam wants Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek to achieve the recognition of 23 August (anniversary of the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact) as a memorial day of the victims of both communism and Nazism. He also calls on the Czech Presidency to initiate a process that would lead to “giving a pan-European moral and political assessment to crimes committed under totalitarian communist regimes”. [6]

 

 

 

[1] „Paet peab Prantsusmaa eesistumist edukaks,” Postimees, 2 January 2009, available at: http://www.postimees.ee/?id=64255.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Ministry of Foreign Affairs Press Release, “Paet kohtus Euroopa Liidu järgmise eesistujaga,” 4 December 2008, available at: http://www.vm.ee/est/kat_42/10424.html?arhiiv_kuup=kuup_2008_12.
[4] „Urmas Paet: tšehhid lõhuvad eelarvamusi, Postimees, 26 January 2009, available at: http://www.vm.ee/est/kat_45/10582.html?arhiiv_kuup=kuup_2009.
[5] „Estonia’s priorities in the European Union during the Czech presidency,“ approved on 22 January 2009, available at: http://www.riigikantselei.ee/failid/CZ_eesm_rgid_EN.pdf.

[6] „Kelam: Tšehhi peab saavutama 23. augusti ühise mälestuspäevana,” Postimees, 14 January 2009, available at: http://www.postimees.ee/?id=69359.