TALLINN - Estonian Prime Minister Juri Ratas is ready for the option that Estonia will start paying more into the budget of the European Union in the future than it is doing now, it appears from a quote sent by the government press office to BNS.
"Estonia stands for more Europe, but a smaller budget would be counterproductive for this purpose. Therefore, the size of the next budget of the European Union should remain as large as the current one," Ratas said at a meeting with the EU budget commissioner Gunther Oettinger on Oct. 31, where the drafting of the EU's multiannual financial framework (MFF) was discussed.
A debate over the size of the input of Estonia into the EU budget erupted after Matti Maasikas, Estonia's deputy minister for EU affairs, said in an interview with public broadcaster ERR on Monday that Estonia is ready to make a bigger contribution to the EU budget to help bridge the gap to be left by the exit of Britain from the union.
The remarks by Maasikas drew criticism from the opposition, with deputy chairman of the Estonian Conservative People's Party (EKRE) Martin Helme and Reform Party MP Maris Lauri in particular calling bigger payments by Estonia into question.
"The aim of the long-term budget of the European Union should be a stronger and more connected Europe. A better-functioning internal market would increase both the welfare of the people of Europe and the profits of companies. To achieve this goal, contributions to infrastructure projects connecting different areas of Europe, such as Rail Baltic and the synchronization of the Baltic electricity system, are necessary," Ratas said at the meeting with Oettinger on Oct. 31.
According to the prime minister, Estonia also puts emphasis on cohesion policy, harmonizing the direct payment levels in the common agricultural policy, and the consistent attaching of importance to digitalization in the new long-term budget of the European Union.
The European Commission is scheduled to present the proposal for the next MFF in May 2018.
The current EU budget, covering the years 2014-2020, is worth approximately one trillion euros, equivalent to one percent of the gross domestic product of the EU 28.