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TALLINN - At a meeting held in Brussels on March 26, EU heads of state agreed on the objectives for the new European employment and economic growth strategy. The new strategy focuses on areas where specific steps have to be taken to increase competitiveness, productivity and economic growth in Europe.
Discussion at the European Council, which lasted for two days, addressed the “Europe 2020” action plan aimed at increasing the EU’s competitiveness, climate policy, priorities at the upcoming G20 summit and the financial situation of Greece.
Prime Minister Andrus Ansip considered it very important for agreement to have been reached on the principal objectives for the growth strategy. “Agreement being reached on the principal objectives for the new strategy gives people a strong signal of the resolve of the European Union to take its economy to a new upturn,” Ansip said. “Economic growth, in turn, will mean a reduction in unemployment.”
Europe 2020 aims for a 75 percent employment rate in the 20-64 age group, investments in research and development activities of at least three percent of GDP, accomplishment of objectives in the energy and climate policies of the EU, increasing the number of people with a higher education, a reduction in the dropout rate at institutions of learning, and combating poverty. In view of these objectives, member states will set their national action plans specifying the measures they intend to use to implement the new strategy.
Another important topic the EU leaders focused on was how to provide new impetus to the international climate talks. The EU leaders stressed their previous commitments to combat climate change. “The European Union must continue to be active on climate policy,” Ansip said. “We should now be focusing on providing clarification of our views. In this respect, the European Commission ought to be given the greatest possible role.”
During the Council meeting, Ansip took part in several bilateral meetings. The Prime Minister met with Jose Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission, whom he briefed on Estonia’s efforts to join the euro zone. Ansip introduced the efforts made by Estonia towards fulfilling the Mastricht criteria required for joining the eurozone. “Our journey towards the euro has been facilitated by the fact that Estonia’s budget policy has been conservative,” said Ansip. “We will continue with the same consistent fiscal policy in the future as well.”
According to Ansip, Estonia has sustainably fulfilled all criteria serving as prerequisites for eurozone accession. Barroso praised Estonia’s economic policy and added that all these efforts will bring Estonia closer to the euro. “I share Prime Minister Ansip’s wish that Estonia would join the eurozone in 2011,” said Barroso. “I believe that Estonia is moving in the right direction.”
He also noted that Estonia’s wish to join the eurozone is a specific example of how important the euro is for everyone in the EU.
The new strategy for increasing the competitiveness of the European Union was discussed in detail. At the meeting, Ansip said that Estonia generally supports the five main strategic goals provided by the European Commission.
Both Ansip and Barroso declared that the cooperation between Estonia and the European Commission has been close and fruitful.