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On 01 July 2017, Estonia took over the rotating Presidency of the Council of the EU, starting off the Trio with Bulgaria and Austria. The main focus of the Trio will be jobs, growth, and security.
Although energy is not part of Estonia’s main priorities, climate and energy goals do make an appearance. The Baltic State wants to focus on establishing the “Digital Single Market for All” by the end of 2018, and also the timely implementation of a number of energy and climate-related Directives and Regulations.
The Rotating Presidency
The Presidency of the Council of the EU rotates every six months. To ensure continuity and stability, each Presidency is part of a Trio with a common programme that was established as part of Lisbon Treaty. Usually, the Trios are made up of “old” and “new” Member States. The current Trio is made up of two “new” Member States – Estonia and Bulgaria – who joined the EU in 2004 and 2007 respectively, and who will hold the Presidency for the first time.
Estonia, Bulgaria, and Austria Trio Presidency started on 01 July 2017 and ends on 31 December 2018.
On 20 June, the three States presented the Programme of the Trio Presidency, in which they outlined five priorities for the next 18 months:
- A union for jobs, growth and competitiveness;
- A union that empowers and protects all its citizens;
- Towards an energy union with a forward-looking climate policy;
- A union of freedom, security and justice; and
- The union as a strong global actor.
At the General Affairs Council in Luxembourg on 20 June 2017, Matti Maasikas, the Estonian Deputy Minister for European Union Affairs, said that his country would focus on digitalisation. The Minister for the Bulgarian Presidency, Liliana Pavlova, stated that the country would focus on solidarity between the Member States, while the Austrian Secretary-General for Europe, Michael Linhart, identified citizens as the main focus.
The Estonian Presidency
The main goal of the Presidency, according to Matti Maasikas, is “to be revolutionary” and to deliver on the “Digital Single Market for All”. The Estonian Presidency outlined four priorities in its Programme:
- An open and innovative European economy;
- A safe and secure Europe;
- Digital Europe and the free movement of data; and
- Inclusive and sustainable Europe.
Although energy is not listed as a separate priority, it is part of the goal to create an open and innovative European economy, as well as in the inclusive and sustainable Europe goal.
According to the Estonian Programme, the country will “strive for an open and innovative European economy by developing common energy, climate, environmental and economic policies”. Furthermore, the Presidency will focus on working towards reaching the EU goal to cut emissions by 40% below 1990 levels by 2030.
The Estonian Presidency will also focus on enhancing the role of consumers as a vital part of the energy market. To do this, the country aims to facilitate the adaptation of retail markets and distribution networks to the needs of customers and “prosumers”. This is linked with one of the main aims of the Austrian Presidency – to deliver tangible results for the European consumer.
When it comes to energy markets, the Estonian Presidency states that it will strive to enhance the principle of cooperation between Member States, which could potentially increase energy savings. This could also be linked to the Bulgarian goal of enhancing solidarity between the EU States.
As an important focal point, Estonia declares that it “will make a strong contribution to the EU’s efforts to develop energy markets that encourage energy efficiency and investments into energy production and connections”.
Finally, the Estonian Presidency Programme reasserts the commitments under the Paris Agreement and the aims to work towards a European environmentally sustainable economy. In order to achieve this, Estonia suggests that the current EU ETS system should be revised to include sectors “falling outside the ETS, such as transport, agriculture, small-scale energy production, and waste management”. The Baltic State also commits to continue working on the proposed European energy efficiency Directives (see Policy News of 06 February 2017: “Energy Efficiency Directive“).
Since the main role of the Presidency is to broker a deal between the Member States and to drive forward the Council’s work on EU legislation, in a time of extensive drafting of Regulations and Directives, it could play a crucial role for their timely implementation. However, in addition to a first time Presidency, energy is not Estonia’s main focus, and to some extent nor is it the focus of the Trio as a whole. Although the attention is mainly on digitalisation, a continued streamlined process for the implementation of the proposed energy and climate-related legislation can nevertheless still be expected.