At a moment when Europe is facing unprecedented challenges due to the pandemic of Covid-19, France and Estonia have decided to strengthen their cooperation in order to help Europe come out of this crisis united and stronger. To this end, Ms. Amélie de Montchalin, French Minister of State for European Affairs, visited Tallinn on 1 July 2020 to meet with Mr. Urmas Reinsalu, Estonian Minister for Foreign Affairs, as well as Mr. Märt Volmer, Under-Secretary of State for European Affairs.
Overcoming this crisis together requires an ambitious European recovery plan, based on solidarity and providing support to the most affected sectors and regions. France and Estonia welcome the Commission’s proposal and call for a quick agreement on the recovery plan and the MFF, in July. The recovery plan should include 500 billions of grants to reflect the necessary solidarity and the extent of the socio-economic consequences of the crisis. It should be consistent with our European priorities such as in particular the digital transition and the European Green Deal in view of achieving carbon neutrality in 2050.
The next MFF must also reflect this ambition and solidarity, in order to contribute to the recovery without sacrificing our common long-standing priorities such as the Common Agricultural Policy, as well as cohesion policy, programmes contributing to European defence and cross-border connections to support Single Market integration. All aspects of the budget should be consistent with our European priorities especially climate goals.
The Union will need to draw all lessons from this crisis. In particular, we will need to strengthen European resilience and preparedness to health crises and enhance EU autonomy in key medical, industrial and agricultural sectors. Citizens should be closely involved in this reflection and that is why France and Estonia call for the Conference on the Future of Europe to be officially launched as soon as possible.
France and Estonia reaffirm their common commitment to the multilateral system and readiness to work together for European and transatlantic security. Our two countries cooperate closely on international issues, including in the United Nations Security Council, where Estonia currently holds a seat of a non-permanent member. They jointly contribute to the defence of the Baltic area, including through including through NATO’s Baltic Air Policing Mission and NATO’s Enhanced Forward Presence and are jointly deployed in the Sahel, including in the framework of the Barkhane Mission and the Takuba Task Force. Our two countries take an active role in the European Intervention Initiative and will continue to work together to strengthen European defence.
Estonia and France will continue looking for cooperation possibilities in the EU’s neighbourhood. Democracy, prosperity and stability in the neighbourhood is our common concern. The Eastern Partnership remains a key vehicle for promoting democracy and rule of law, enhancing stability and resilience of our neighbours and delivering tangible results for citizens of these countries. We also call for a strengthening of the EU Southern Neighbourhood policy.
France and Estonia reiterate their support for the European perspective of the Western Balkan countries. We call for the full implementation of the new enlargement methodology as endorsed by the Council in March 2020, aiming for a credible EU accession process based on fundamental democratic, rule of law and economic reforms and on fair and rigorous conditionality. We also expect from the Western Balkans partners a clear commitment to the European perspective as their firm strategic choice.
France and Estonia also cooperate closely on digital issues. We call for progress towards the establishment of a digital single market ensuring that the digital transition benefits all players, enables European technology companies to grow and scale up in the whole common market and strengthens European technological autonomy. In this context, France and Estonia advocate for fair taxation of digital companies. Furthermore, France and Estonia have made cyber security issues a strategic priority at multilateral and European level. We have adopted today a joint statement to deepen our cooperation in this area. At the European level, we encourage the Commission to put forward proposals to ensure the protection of European democracies from cyberattacks, foreign interferences and disinformation.
France and Estonia also stress that rule of law is a core value underpinning the European project. We look forward to the new Commission annual report and will work more closely together on this topic.
Finally, France and Estonia are committed to a deep and balanced future relationship between the EU and the United Kingdom. We reiterate our full support to the Union negotiator and to the mandate adopted by the Council. In this negotiation, our two countries pay special attention to the level playing field, the rights of EU citizens in the UK, access to UK waters for European fishermen, robust governance and close cooperation on foreign policy, security and defence issues, while preserving the autonomy of the Union’s decision-making.
On the occasion of this visit, the Ministers confirmed the willingness of France and Estonia to step up our cooperation, in the pursuit of our shared European priorities. In this perspective, France and Estonia agree to negotiate and conclude a strategic partnership, which will give new impetus to our bilateral relations and our joint commitment to a stronger, more cohesive, resilient, and efficient Europe, which works to protect its citizens.