Estonian presidency’s opening act

EPA/VALDA KALNINA

President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker (L) and Estonian Prime Minister Juri Ratas (R) attend the opening event of the Estonian Presidency of the Council of the European Union at the Tallinn Creative Hub (Kultuurikatel) in Tallinn, Estonia 29 June 2017. 

Estonian presidency’s opening act


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Planning ahead for the next semester, European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker and European Council president Donald Tusk, presented along with Estonia’s prime minister Jüri Ratas their insights and priorities for Estonia’s first ever rotating Presidency.

 Estonia’s efforts and the success of its digital solutions at the state level had turned the country into a world leader and model at this point. “Today we can easily call your country the leader of the IT revolution on a global scale. You would be tempted to ask: how is it possible that so few people have achieved so much?”, president Tusk said.

But even the digital revolution and technology is just not the same for everyone. EU executive chief Juncker has admitted during the opening press conference of the “digital member state’s” presidency that he doesn’t own a smartphone.

“I shouldn’t say but I have to say it, I still don’t have a smartphone,” said the 62-year-old Juncker. “So I couldn’t become prime minister of Estonia, this would be totally impossible,” Juncker said alongside Ratas. Juncker added that the Estonian premier was aware of the fact that he does not own a smartphone, and that was the reason he sent him a postcard prior to his visit at the Berlaymont, the European Commission headquarters in Brussels.

EU’s “fifth fundamental freedom”

 Luxembourg’s long former prime minister still uses an old Nokia phone, but sure has plans for Europe’s future.

Both he and the Estonians agree that this is what matters, to plan and discuss Europe’s future. “Even without being a techie I know that our future is digital. Digital is the DNA of your country and it needs to become part of the European DNA,” said Juncker.

According to a senior Estonian official, this is even more important than Brexit talks, that will keep going for all the time that Estonia will chair the Council of ministers of the EU.

EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier and his counterpart Brexit minister David Davis are already on the negotiations table, but not too far:

“The discussion of the EU’s future will be more important than where Barnier and Davis have arrived in their rounds of talks,” a senior Estonian official told reporters in Tallinn. 

Talking about Europe’s future, Ratas expressed the wish that free flow of information to become the EU’s “fifth fundamental freedom”, after the bloc’s set of four fundamental freedoms: freedom of movement for people, goods, capital and services, the pillars of the 28-nation bloc’s single market, privileges that the UK will give up as soon as Brexit is complete.

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