Estonian President Ilves: Baltic Sea integration to overrule protectionist tendencies i EU

One of the founding fathers of the Baltic Sea Strategy, Toomas Hendrik Ilves, President of Estonia, in an exclusive interview with BDF, is calling for more integration to match the protectionist tendencies in the European Union. “The countries around the Baltic rim are willing to do it, and I think it will make life better for the citizen and decrease the friction to do business”.

Estonia president Toomas Hendrik Ilves with BDF chairman Hans Skov Christensen and director Hans Brask

What will become of the Baltic Sea region – seen from your presidential chair?

I have more hopes now than before. Simply because that the protectionist tendencies within the European Union which only will harm Europe`s development. We should as an area open up even more. Our region is the most dynamic area and has been for many years should be more open. And it is my firm belief that with even more dynamic projects – for instant in it sector – and using that we are the most advanced on innovation and have a very open attitude towards trade – we can enhance the integration of the region – even if there are these protectionist tendencies elsewhere. Countries around the Baltic Rim should continue with all kind of projects – I think that these countries are willing to do it and  are interested to go on integrating.

What is your opinion on the new EU budget?

I would have liked to see even much more reform coming up inside the EU budget. And I think it is maybe a little embarrassing for the Danish Presidency that – on the common agricultural direct supports -  Denmark´s and Holland´s farmers will get 6 times higher subsidies pr. acre than in Estonian farmers. That’s certainly a market distorsion. That’s not a functioning internal market.

Instead of pumping more money in there you should be opening up the internal market- for instant on services. We clearly are looking for something to get the European economy going then you need to liberalize the services as was guaranteed back in 1956. I have not seen anything giong in that direction. Now that would be a good relief.

Give an example on future integrating measures?

The outlines from the EU task force on E-health I have attended here in Denmark are all durable both laterally and bilaterally in most of the Baltic countries.

For instant – both Estonia and Denmark have digital prescriptions, so one of the first things we should do is making them mutually acceptable, so when Danes come to Estonia – and Estonians come to Denmark and get sick they just can go and get their prescriptions. And when so many more people are travelling in the Nordic and Baltic area, all kinds of integration of this sort will only make life better for the citizen and decrease the friction of doing business.

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