TALLINN – Estonian parliament speaker Juri Ratas met with European Parliament President David Sassoli via video bridge on Thursday to talk about the vaccine distribution plan and the Digital Green Certificate, which would enable the free movement of people to be reopened.
Ratas gave an overview of the pandemic situation and the current state of vaccination in Estonia. "The situation is very serious, we have quite big restrictions, as elsewhere in Europe, but thanks to them, the infection rate is falling and it provides an opportunity to discuss how to start exiting the restrictions," Ratas was quoted by Riigikogu spokespeople as saying.
Ratas thanked the European Union for its cooperation in the joint procurement of vaccines. "The European Union has done a lot and has shown a willingness to cooperate," Ratas said. "Joint procurement of vaccines was a very right decision. The joint procurement agreements gave all member states equal access to vaccines with limited worldwide production and demand." He added that the Eastern Partnership countries should also be considered a priority area under the vaccine distribution mechanism.
According to Ratas, Estonia supports rapid processing and implementation when it comes to the digital vaccination certificate. "It is important for Estonia that the interoperability of the European Union solution with the vaccination certificate system created by the World Health Organization (WHO) is also ensured," he added.
Sassoli confirmed that the EU will continue to work together to solve vaccine supply problems and move forward with vaccine certificates, regarding which data protection risks must also be mitigated.
The distribution of grants from the European Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF) was also discussed at the video meeting. Ratas emphasized the importance of a speedy recovery from the health and economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. According to him, support measures must be well targeted and focus on digital and green investments and strengthening the single market and competitiveness. He pointed out that we can invest around one billion euros from the RRF in the green revolution, further digitalization and healthcare investments.
Speaking about the new sources of income for the EU, Ratas said that Estonia does not support new sources of income for financing the EU budget and the RRF and prefers the continuation of the existing system. "We consider it important that the European Union maintains unanimity in deciding tax issues and that there is no movement towards tax harmonization," Ratas said.
Within Europe, the parties considered it important to hold a conference on the future of Europe so that people could have a say in matters that matter to them.
Ratas invited the president of the European Parliament to visit Estonia in August, when Estonia celebrates the 30th anniversary of the restoration of its independence together with Latvia and Lithuania.
Thursday's meeting was the first bilateral meeting between the speaker of the Riigikogu and the president of the European Parliament.