Cohesion policy has helped develop in Estonia and Estonia has been a good investment for the European Union, said Toomas Tõniste, Estonian Minister of Finance, Toomas Tõniste at the opening of a seminar dedicated to the future of EU cohesion policy funding in Tallinn.
“EU cohesion policy has been a great support to us in the successful development of electronic government, in bringing clean drinking water to more than 100 000 people, and in bringing the infrastructure for research and development in Estonia to a European standard,” said Minister of Finance Toomas Tõniste. “We have helped thousands of people return to the labour market or increased their competitiveness. These investments have been great for Estonia.”
European Commissioner for Regional Policy Corina Crețu and Minister of Finance Toomas Tõniste opened the seminar on EU cohesion policy for the years from 2021-2027 and the effects of the changes in the policy on Estonia held in the Telliskivi Creative City quarter in Tallinn on Tuesday.
The discussion was moderated by Matti Maasikas, Deputy Secretary General of European Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The panelists included Lena Andersson Pench, Director of European Territorial Cooperation, Macro-regions, Interreg and Programme Implementation of the Directorate-General for Regional and Urban Policy; Manuela Geleng, Director of Social Affairs of the Directorate-General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion; Klen Jäärats, Director for EU Affairs of the Government Office of Estonia and Märten Ross, Deputy Secretary General of the Ministry of Finance.
According to Tõniste, Estonia is a great example of how the purposeful use of EU cohesion policy funding, accompanied by reasonable economic policy, leads to the economic growth and increased standard of living.
Estonia has been one of the regions with the highest growth rate of the European Union: GDP per capita in purchasing power standards has grown from 54 percent of the EU average to 75 percent in 2017, the Minister pointed out. “Estonia has been a great investment for the European Union,” Tõniste said.
Minister of Finance Tõniste and Commissioner Crețu also had a bilateraal meeting on Monday to discuss the proposals of the European Commission for the Multiannual Financial Framework for the 2021-2027 period. The Government of Estonia will establish its position on the proposals in the coming weeks.
According to Tõniste, Estonia and the European Union agree on several important issues. „We welcome the fact that the European Commission has taken on board the wishes of member states and has presented proposals that enable significantly simplify the use of funding and cut the red tape both for the beneficiaries as well as for the state,“ Tõniste said.
“What we are most concerned about regarding the proposal of the European Commission are the significant restrictions and requirements at Union level which limit the flexibility in channelling the funding to the challenges and reforms most in need of funding,” Tõniste said. Another aspect that is important for Estonia, according to Minister Tõniste, is the possibility to plan and implement different European cohesion policy funds in an integrated manner. This will create better conditions for the more efficient use of European taxpayers’ money and will cut red tape. We are looking forward to the simplification of the use of financing instruments, as right now their use is more complicated than that of non-repayable grants.“
Although it is natural that funding to Estonia will decline, in our opinion the decline should be smooth, Tõniste said. “We cannot be satisfied with the prospect of having the support to Estonia decreased the most among EU member states as proposed by the Commission.” He stated that the proposal of the European Commission is a good starting point for further negotiations.