Dear Madam Chair Cecilia Wikström, honourable members of the CCC, Ladies and Gentlemen
It is my great honour to be back here to give an update of the Estonian Presidency, the results achieved and progress made halfway into its term, but also to mark some of the topics that need further attention.
In June at CCC I underpromised in the hope of overdelivering. We are now in the mid-term review, and you can decide whether and what we have delivered. Before I get to the Joint Declaration priority files, two words about inter-institutional matters that I am responsible for.
We have had the first political meeting about the international agreements (para 40 of the IIA), I am confident we can soon resume talks. We had kick-off meetings on the delineation criteria of delegated and implementing acts and on the transparency register. Again not overpromising, I hope to get the Council position on both of them during the Estonian Presidency.
Now, I will go through the files according to Estonian Presidency priority areas.
Let me start with the open and innovative European Economy.
To move forward with the completion of the Banking Union, we will continue working towards the political agreement with the Parliament on the risk reduction package and we have started and will start tomorrow with the trilogies on two files.
The Economic and Financial Affairs Council on 11 July adopted conclusions on the Commission´s review of the Capital Markets Union action plan.
We are working hard to finalise the negotiations between the Council and the Parliament on extension and reinforcement of the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI).
We are making efforts for reaching political agreement on the VAT e-commerce package in November.
It is our aim to progress swiftly with the EU financial regulation and the whole so-called Omnibus regulation negotiations. I am glad we have reached a provisional agreement with the Parliament on the agricultural part of the Omnibus proposal (on 12 October). I trust it will also facilitate reaching an agreement on the remaining parts of the proposal.
The Estonian Presidency is committed to advancing the EU´s trade agenda. On the bilateral front, I am proud to report that provisional application of the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement between EU and Canada started on the 21 September. A political agreement was reached with Japan and we aim to conclude the negotiations by the end of the year. Work is ongoing with the Mexico and Mercosur trade agreements and on the mandates to start negotiations with Chile, New Zealand and Australia.
I am very happy to note that the negotiations with the Parliament have led to a recent political agreement on Europe´s New Antidumping methodology. Work is progressing on modernisation of Trade Defence Instruments, with the next trilogue on 7 November.
We have continued the work on the Clean Energy initiatives with a remarkable dedication, paying attention to all elements of the package. The Presidency is eager to start trilogues with the Parliament on the energy performance of buildings directive.
On type approval regulation, I think that after the first two trilogues, the first reading agreement is within reach.
With great pleasure I note that the European Public Prosecutor's Office (EPPO) has now been established (12 October) by the Justice and Home Affairs Council.
Our second priority is Safe and Secure Europe.
The situation in the neighbourhood as well as globally remains challenging. We have held substantial discussions on the most pressing international issues such as North Korea, the situation in the Middle East and Africa.
During our Presidency, several important decisions have been taken on the EU´s restrictive measures. The Presidency has developed a new digital tool – the EU Sanctions Map. This will be handed over as our gift to the EU institutions.
We have worked towards highlighting the political importance of the Eastern Partnership, both through government-to-government cooperation, and by engaging the civil society and business community. The negotiations on the Summit’s Joint Declaration are currently ongoing with partners.
We believe in credible enlargement perspective for the Western Balkans and continue to work towards progress on this file, including opening new negotiating chapters with Montenegro and Serbia.
There have been major steps forward in the EU´s defence policy. Member States have been actively preparing for the launch of Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO).
We intend to finalise the Council’s discussions on the European Defence Industrial Development Programme as part of the European Defence Fund by the end of the year.
In cooperation with the European Defence Agency we organised „EU Cybrid 2017“ in Tallinn – the first table-top exercise on cyber defence for EU´s defence ministers. It was the first time for NATO Secretary General to participate in an EU exercise (as an observer).
The trilogies to amend the Instrument contributing to Stability and Peace for Capacity building in support of Security and Development have reached a final phase. We are working together with an objective to conclude this important file by the end of the year.
Our joint efforts to respond to the migration and refugee crisis have led to tangible results recognised by the European Council last week. The continuous implementation of the EU-Turkey Statement, the Partnership Framework with third countries, the EU Trust Fund for Africa, the emergency relocation and resettlement schemes, the strengthened capacity of the European Border and Coast Guard, the improvement of returns policy, and our joint actions taken on the Central Mediterranean route have significantly reduced the number of irregular arrivals and relieved pressure on the frontline countries.
We are putting great effort into the reform of the Common Asylum System. There are three files currently in discussion with the Parliament – the EU Asylum Agency (EUAA), Eurodac and the qualification regulation. Two of the files – reception conditions directive and the resettlement regulation – are moving towards reaching a Council position, which would allow to start the trilogues. The Asylum Procedures Regulation is progressing at the technical level. On the most important issue – how to find a right balance between responsibility and solidarity and to ensure the resilience of our common European Asylum System to future crises – we are continuing in the Council working with the highest priority on the basis of the work carried out by the previous Presidencies. In this context, I congratulate you, Cecilia, on the excellent job done with the Dublin regulation report! Estonian Presidency intends to come out with compromise proposal in mid-November.
We continue to put emphasis on return policy. With Bangladesh we have a first successful case of using visa policy as leverage to influence the implementation of readmission agreements. We will continue with the trilogues and work towards a political agreement on the EU Blue Card directive by the end of this year.
We will continue to work towards interoperability of different IT systems and databases. We have already reached a balanced agreement on the Entry-Exit System (EES) and we are hoping for positive vote in the plenary tomorrow (25 October). We are about to start the first trilogue on the European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS) on 25 October, and trust that we will reach an agreement by the end of the year. In the following weeks, we aim to reach a general approach in the Council and start the trilogues on the Schengen Information System package.
Work is ongoing with the aim to agree on a general approach on the European Criminal Records Information System (ECRIS) by the end of the year.
We aim for swift negotiations with the Parliament on the draft directive on combating money laundering by means of criminal law. The Council is working hard on the regulation of mutual recognition of freezing and confiscation orders aiming at a general approach in December.
A digital Europe and the free movement of data are the overarching goals of the Estonian Presidency.
At the Tallinn Digital Summit on the 29 September, EU heads of state and government reached a common understanding, confirmed by the European Council last week, that a digital Europe is not only a priority for the Estonian Presidency, but for Europe as a whole. One good example of it is the – some may say, long overdue – highly political and substantive discussion of digital taxation. We are aiming at having ECOFIN conclusions on this subject in December.
It is easy to support everything digital at the political level; of course we all agree. But when it comes to concrete legislative proposals, things get complex and sometimes bogged down. This is why the European Council last week called for fast track treatment for several Digital Single Market files.
As a follow-up to the Tallinn Digital Summit and European Council, an extraordinary TTE/Telecom Council is being held today.
I hope the European Parliament will very soon enter negotiations with the Council on the digital content directive. On geo-blocking, our aim is to continue the negotiations with the Parliament with a view to reaching an agreement at first reading by the end of this year. On the Audiovisual Media Services directive, both co-legislators have made significant compromises. I hope this can be recognised and further progress made at the next trilogue scheduled for 7 November. The Council is ready to start negotiations with the Parliament on the Electronic Communications Code (EECC), which will prepare the EU for the era of 5G; the first trilogue is scheduled for 25 October. On the BEREC regulation, the Presidency aims at reaching a general approach at TTE Council in December. On Parcel Delivery, we count on your help in concluding these negotiations by the end of this year. As for the reform of EU Copyright regime, it is loaded with very complex and sensitive issues. We are aiming for a general approach by the end of Estonian Presidency, but it is not sure whether it is feasible.
The Presidency has already started to work on the regulation on the free movement of non-personal data. We are also planning to adopt Council conclusions on the Commission´s cyber-security package at the General Affairs Council on 20 November.
Moving on to our final priority area of inclusive and sustainable Europe:
I am very glad that we reached an agreement at the (EPSCO) Council yesterday regarding the revision of the Posting of Workers Directive. As you all know, reaching a balanced text acceptable to the majority of Member States was not easy. We are now ready to start negotiations with the co-legislator.
We also managed to reach a partial agreement on social security coordination regulation.
As regards the inter-institutional proclamation on the Pillar of Social Rights, I am very happy that the three institutions reached an agreement on the text and that we are ready to sign the Joint Proclamation.
We have successfully moved on with the Europass proposal and I am pleased to note that the trilogue negotiations are underway. We are also moving on with discussions in the Council with the Accessibility Act and the European Solidarity Corps.
I am glad to note we reached the agreement on Emission Trading System (ETS) aviation regulation at the trilogue on 18 October. On the main Emissions Trading Systems (ETS) directive revision, we were very close at the last trilogue, it is fair to say we are almost there. We hope to conclude this agreement at the trilogue on 8 November. On the Effort Sharing Regulation (ESR), the Council on 13 October reached a general approach. I note positively that the first trilogue is scheduled already this Thursday. On LULUCF (land use, land use change and forestry), again a general approach was achieved in October and the first trilogue has already taken place.
On waste management package, the trilogues are currently ongoing, we are counting on your constructive approach in reaching agreement.
And the Road Transport initiatives have been years in the making. Now they are proposed by the Commission and the Presidency has prioritised discussions on the package. We aim for a substantial progress report on market and social issues at the TTE Council on 5 December. However, I recognise we all need to work hard in order to achieve solutions by the end of this legislative cycle.
And now, I know that we are in a hurry. You will next discuss the Joint Declaration for 2018-2019 with President Tajani. The Commission will present its work programme in one hour´s time. As for the Council, we will have a discussion at the General Affairs Council meeting November 20th, and then will be ready to engage with you.
Let me just once again praise the good cooperation with the European Parliament that we have had and I look forward to your questions and suggestions on how to achieve as much as possible for the benefit of our citizens.