Strengthening Europe through digitalisation

Estonia's Prime Minister in Berlin Strengthening Europe through digitalisation

Chancellor Angela Merkel has assured Prime Minister Jüri Ratas of Germany’s support during Estonia’s Presidency of the Council of the European Union. One main thrust will be the digitalisation of Europe. Angela Merkel declared her conviction that progress will be made on the digital agenda in view of Estonia’s pioneering role.

Chancellor Angela Merkel and Estonia's Prime Minister Jüri Ratas on the terrace of the Federal Chancellery

It was the first time that the Chancellor had welcomed Estonia's Prime Minister Jüri Ratas to the Federal Chancellery

Photo: Bundesregierung/Kugler

At their meeting, Chancellor Angela Merkel and Prime Minister Jüri Ratas discussed primarily the projects on which Estonia’s EU Presidency will be focusing. On 1 July Estonia will take over the rotating six-month Presidency from Malta.

But bilateral relations too were on the agenda. Following their talks, Angela Merkel stressed that relations between the two countries are excellent. Estonia and Germany, she said, have a "wonderful partnership and friendship".

Project for the future - digitalisation

In view of Estonia’s pioneering role in digitalisation, the Estonian Presidency has set itself the goal of pushing ahead with the digital agenda. It plans to realise the projects laid out in the Rome Declaration.

The Eastern Partnership and migration were further points discussed. The Chancellor assured Estonia’s Prime Minister of her support. "We, on the German side, will do all we can to support the Estonian Presidency and ensure that it is successful," she declared.

A special day for the people in Europe

The Chancellor pointed to the significance of today for the people in Europe, with two projects to celebrate that are really important for the people of all member states – the 30th anniversary of the EU’s Erasmus programme, and the end of roaming charges throughout Europe.

"Hundreds of thousands or even millions of young people have forged contacts over the last 30 years because of this European programme," said Angela Merkel speaking about Erasmus. "I think that it has brought Europe together."

The fact that from today roaming charges will no longer apply for telephone calls within Europe is also "good news for the many contacts we have with one another".

The Republic of Estonia has been a member of the European Union since 2004. It joined the euro zone in 2011. German-Estonian diplomatic relations were interrupted by the Soviet occupation of Estonia and only restored on 28 August 1991.

Estonia’s first EU Presidency

The small state in north eastern Europe is now taking on the Presidency of the Council of the European Union for the first time since joining in 2004. Under normal circumstances it would have taken over at the helm in the first half of 2018, which would have coincided with the 100th anniversary of the founding of the country. In the wake of the UK’s Brexit vote, however, Estonia will take the place of the UK as of July 2017. Estonia thus forms a trio with Bulgaria and Austria.

The Presidency of the Council of the European Union rotates among EU member states, with each state holding the Presidency for six months. During this period, the relevant country chairs the meetings and consultations at all levels of the Council. Since 2009 the member states holding three successive Presidencies have collaborated closely over a period of 18 months in groups of three, known as presidency trios. They draw up long-term goals and elaborate a common programme for the Council for an 18-month period. On the basis of this programme, each of the three countries produces its own more detailed six-month programme.