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TALLINN - “The problems that the euro area is facing today teach us how to make our monetary union stronger. This includes influencing the economic and budgetary policies of our member states, if appropriate. This also means well-defined rules to curb the budget deficits of member states and abiding by these rules,” said President Toomas Hendrik Ilves at his meeting with Herman van Rompuy, the president of the European Council.
“Should the crisis mechanism serve as the ‘last resort’ or a solidarity fund? Estonia is in favor of the former,” President Ilves emphasized, assuring his support for the establishment of a permanent crisis management mechanism for the euro area.
The Estonian head of state also spoke about the Common Agricultural Policy of the European Union, where the detachment of direct aid from production volumes of the past is highly important. “Today’s direct aid system distorts internal competition within the European Union,” said Ilves. “Our main goal is to level out the differences in direct aid to agriculture in the EU member states and ensure the granting of aid to those entities that are actively involved in the production of agricultural produce.”
President Ilves, who also spoke about the establishment of the foreign service of the European Union, emphasized that a common EU foreign policy cannot be pursued if it is only directed in one part of Europe.
On Dec. 9, he met with Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the Secretary General of NATO, and the vice president of the European Commission, Siim Kallas, the European Transport Commissioner as well as Neelie Kroes, who is also the European Digital Agenda Commissioner.
“The resolutions have been passed by NATO’s summit in Lisbon; the alliance has properly balanced its main functions - collective defense, crisis management, and cooperation with partners - in its new strategic concept and now the main focus must be on the implementation of the Lisbon resolutions,” said Ilves at his meeting with the NATO Secretary General.
One of these is the establishment of the alliance’s cyber strategy, in which Estonia wants to participate actively, and the NATO Center of Excellence for Cooperative Cyber Defense, which can be used, powerfully, for the development of new solutions. Many members of the alliance have already joined the center, said the Estonian leader.
“Cyber defense should be treated as one of the common military capabilities for which clear objectives need to be set,” said Ilves. “NATO’s cyber strategy should not merely concern devising defense for the so-called large system of the alliance, but it should also defend the important infrastructure of member states.”
The Estonian head of state emphasized the importance of the visibility, credibility, and internal solidarity of NATO, saying that both the organization of exercises in the member states of the alliance and, for example, the continuance of the air security mission in the Baltic states play an important role to this end. “We want this mission to be continued until 2018 and beyond,” said President Ilves. “The contribution of the alliance and many of its members in keeping the airspace of the Baltic States clean has been successful, and this has been proven by a considerable reduction in the number of border violations.”
According to Ilves, Estonia is willing to increase the expenditures of host countries, which demonstrates the intent to participate, more and more, in defending NATO’s air space.
The NATO Secretary General thanked Estonia for its strong contribution in Afghanistan, where more than five hundred and fifty Estonian defense force members are serving in one of the most dangerous areas, the southern province; additionally, Estonia is coordinating the rebuilding of the health care system in Helmand province.
The gradual transfer of security responsibility to the Afghan authorities, training programs for the local security forces in Afghanistan, and the civil contribution of NATO and partner countries to building a safe Afghanistan were discussed at the meeting. “According to NATO’s plans, transferring the security responsibilities should be completed in Afghanistan by 2014; however, it’s quite obvious that in view of the current situation the west will not repeat its mistake and will not leave Afghanistan on its own after the cessation of current military activities,” President Ilves stressed.
At his meeting with the vice president of the European Commission, Ilves admitted that the European Union is not utilizing many of today’s information technology opportunities, as it was established before the onset of the Internet age.
He noted that today, only one-fifth of on-line sales and less than one tenth of on-line purchases are made cross-border, and more than half of the attempts to buy goods or services from another country fail. “Even if the large member states of the EU are not acutely sensing the need to act in response to their domestic market, smaller member states and cross-border e-solutions on the edges of the European Union will contribute to closer integration within our common economic space,” President Ilves argued. “This will create new opportunities for both consumers and entrepreneurs, who will turn the European Union internal market into a home market for all of us.”
According to the president, a legal framework of the European Union that abolishes any obstacles must be created to avoid national borders interfering with the development of the digital economy. He also emphasized the importance of copyright, consumer rights regulation, and data protection, where the word “digital” should not create any inaccurate associations with regard to the protection of the weaker parties. He added that the possibilities for introducing cross-border digital signatures and authentication, and cross-border cooperation alternatives for commercial registers and e-procurement systems, should be established.
President Ilves acknowledged the efforts of Commissioner Kroes in promoting the issues of a common digital market in the European Union. “Thanks to your efforts, the European Commission is a good partner for e-minded EU member states. We do have a clear objective: to establish an extensive and successfully operating digital market in the European Union by 2015.”