The majority of issues that need to be resolved will be handed down to us by the preceding presidency. However, it is up to us to decide which themes we want to keep in focus. Those themes are included in the presidency programme.
We can discuss the priority themes for Estonia at unofficial ministerial meetings and also at high-level conferences and workshops to be held in Estonia.
The Estonian presidency programme should be based in particular on the work plans of the EU institutions and Estonia’s EU policy. Preparations for putting together the programme have already started; specific priority themes will be identified shortly before the start of the presidency, after discussions with the Estonian public sector and the public.
Priorities of the European Commission
While new legislation is normally initiated by the European Commission, it is negotiated and adopted by the Council of the European Union and the European Parliament.
At the start of the Commission’s new mandate in 2014, the President of the Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, published policy guidelines, highlighting the Commission’s general objectives for the subsequent five years. The Commission’s policy guidelines are, in turn, based on the strategic action plan of the European Council, consisting of the heads of state or government of the member states. Thus, Estonia did not participate in identifying those objectives.
Besides the Commission’s objectives and work plans, the priorities of the country holding the presidency or the themes to which its wishes to accord greater weight also have a significant role.
The country holding the presidency can decide which themes require more intensive work, while taking into account the wishes and interests of other member states. The final content of agreements depends on other member states and institutions.
For Estonia, the focal themes are the single market and digital market, energy union and closer integration of our Eastern partners to Europe. We also want to focus on the promotion of e-solutions and information society in various EU policy areas.
The Trio Programme
In order to ensure the consistency of the Council’s work, three successive EU Presidencies draft an 18-month joint programme which helps to ensure for all three countries that important themes remain in focus not only during the short term of their own presidency but over an 18 months period.
Estonia works in a ‘trio’ with the Bulgaria (scheduled for the first half of 2018) and Austria (scheduled for the second half of 2018). Joint action by the Trio Presidencies generates the necessary synergy for important themes and decisions.
By the end of 2016 we shall agree with our trio partners upon the topics that we wish to promote together on the European Union level. Each state can itself set suitable emphases for their Presidency. Such an organisation shall help ensure consistency in the work of the European Union, but shall also enable each state to deal more with topics important to it.
Development of the programme
The EU presidency is a great opportunity for Estonia as a whole; therefore we invite the Estonian public to think about the programme themes. Preparing for the presidency is a good reason to initiate a value-based debate on EU-related issues and to think how to develop the image of Estonia in Europe.
We started mapping various themes in 2016. We expect to propose first specific themes for the programme in early 2017 to leave us enough time to discuss the themes with the Estonian public.
The general principles of the development of the substantive goals and the programme of the presidency are described in the Action Plan for Preparing for the Estonian Presidency of the Council of the European Union.
Keep yourself updated on preparations for the presidency!