Brussels – At a meeting in Brussels, the heads of state and government of the European Union gave their approval to a comprehensive package of economic policy measures aimed at turning the corner on the financial crisis and laying the groundwork for new sustainable economic growth.
“Estonia supports a package of reforms that will bring us closer to financial stability, promote economic growth and create jobs,” said Estonian Prime Minister Andrus Ansip at the European Council. “Without reforms and sustainable economic policy, it will be difficult to achieve new growth.”
The Euro Plus Pact approved by Estonia at the extraordinary session of the Council on 11 March was also joined by Bulgaria, Lithuania, Latvia, Poland, Romania and Denmark, which are not members of the euro area. The EU member states that join the pact are committed, on the basis of the indicators and principles contained in the pact, to announce concrete actions to be achieved within the next 12 months.
“It is beneficial to the entire European Union that the Euro Plus Pact is joined by as many member states outside the euro area as possible,” said Ansip. “And, at the same time, it is important that all participants shoulder ambitious national obligations.”
A number of member states have already announced the first actions to be taken. Ansip said that Estonia plans to provide more specific information regarding its actions in the framework of Estonia’s National Reform Programme to be submitted in April.
Ansip said at the meeting that carrying out reforms is important in the context of both Europe 2020 and the Euro Plus Pact and called his colleagues to take the goal seriously. The prime minister made mention of the coalition programme recently agreed upon in Estonia and the agreement on goals such as achieving a budget surplus by 2014, implementing reform of special pensions and public service, reducing taxes on the workforce and increasing the number of participants in lifelong learning.
“In fulfilling our obligations, we must not forget that development of the internal market plays the greatest role of all in increasing competitiveness,” emphasized Ansip. “A strong domestic market is the basis for a strong Europe.”
Earlier this month, the heads of government of the Nordic countries, the Baltic states, Great Britain, the Netherlands and Poland sent a letter to the leaders of the European Union in which they called for the full opening of the internal services market, the establishment of a Digital Single Market and the completion of establishing uniform regulations for the energy market. Ansip said he was pleased that the conclusions of the European Council took these positions into consideration.
The European Council also approved the terms and conditions for the European Stability Mechanism. The Stability Mechanism is a financial institution designed for granting loans to countries facing debt crisis. The contributions to the mechanism – a total of 80 million euros – will be made by the member states in equal instalments over five years starting in 2013. Compared to the previous timetable the financial burden related to the contributions are more evenly distributed and over a period one year longer.
The European Council also discussed the situation in Libya and Japan as well as issues related to the safety of nuclear power plants. The heads of government repeated their demand that Gaddafi relinquish power so that Libya could start a transition to democracy through broad-based domestic dialogue. The European Union is prepared to advance this dialogue and support the new Libya economically and in building new institutions.
As for Japan, in the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami, the European Union pledged additional assistance if requested. In connection with the nuclear accident in Japan, the European Council called for a review of the safety of European nuclear power plants on the basis of a thorough risk and safety assessment. The European Union envisions the conducting of such “stress tests” worldwide.
Prime Minister Andrus Ansip also informed his colleagues at the meeting of the abduction of seven Estonian bicyclists in Lebanon. Ansip thanked all those who have assisted Estonia and who have contributed to the search for the missing bicyclists. He had a separate conservation on this topic with the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton, Prime Minister of Great Britain David Cameron and French president Nicolas Sarkozy.