Speech/statement | Date: 2017-05-09 | Ministry of Foreign Affairs
By Former Minister of EEA and EU Affairs Frank Bakke-Jensen (Tallinn, 9 May)
Minister of EEA and EU Affairs Frank Bakke-Jensen gave this statement when he signed the new cooperation programmes with Estonia.
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Minister, Dear friends from Estonia and Norway,
Good morning, tere hommikust
It's a great pleasure to be here in Tallinn with you today, on Europe Day. Norway and Estonia enjoy a close and excellent relationship. We are allied countries and we are partners working for a strong and united Europe.
As such, celebrating Europe Day in Tallinn, together with the incoming EU presidency and by signing an agreement that will foster new cooperation for the good of our relationship and for Europe, is very timely.
This year, all eyes will be on Estonia. You have a great task at hand. In a few weeks, you take over the EU presidency. And you will do this six months ahead of schedule.
I have never doubted that if there's one country who can pull this off, it is Estonia. Efficient, responsible and agile. That's you. My meetings with Sven Mikser and Matti Maasikas yesterday fully confirmed this.
Norway also holds a presidency this year. We are chairing the Nordic cooperation and we are coordinating the Nordic-Baltic cooperation. There is considerable overlap in our presidency priorities and yours. The best example is perhaps our joint focus on digitalisation.
Two weeks ago, I had the pleasure of meeting Urve Palo in Oslo, where she and several other Estonians participated at the Digital North conference, which we hosted as part of our Nordic presidency. Together with her Nordic and Baltic colleagues, Palo signed an ambitious declaration on regional digital cooperation. Together, we agreed to take the lead in order to fully establish a digital single market and to strengthen cross-border digital cooperation in both the public and private sectors.
This will be good for our citizens, our companies and for Europe. I also believe that the milestone in regional cooperation that we reached in Oslo can be useful for Estonia when you push the digital agenda forward as presidency of the EU. We are ready to be with you as a partner and as a support, as you continue to lead in this field.
We are here today both to celebrate the closing of a very successful chapter in our cooperation and to open new chapters.
The EEA and Norway Grants have two objectives: To reduce economic and social disparities in Europe and to strengthen the bilateral relationship between the donors and the beneficiary countries. The grants contribute to a green, inclusive and competitive Europe.
As such, the cooperation with Estonia has been a model partnership.
I don't know if you are already tired of hearing that Estonia is "best in class" when it comes to management of the funds.
But it is true. Furthermore, Estonia is also on the forefront in terms of creating excellent partnerships between people, institutions and companies who are involved with the grants. This has fostered real exchanges of experiences between Norway and Estonia, both ways, it has created value for companies who have developed commercially viable products and services, and it has given our relationship further depth because we know and understand each other better.
The MOU that we will sign in just a few minutes will give us a framework for cooperation full of exciting opportunities.
We have agreed to create a flagship programme for business development, innovation and small and medium sized enterprises. Twentythree million euro has been allocated to this area. The contents will be developed over the next few months, but it's safe to say that we are establishing a forward-looking tool for creating innovative, green solutions that will enable the companies to be technological leaders. We have also agreed to explore the inclusion of cyber security here. In my view, this program will be a major component in our digital cooperation. Furthermore, innovation is closely linked to research, which will have a separate programme.
I am also pleased to note that we will continue to work together for the benefit of the most vulnerable groups. Under the umbrella programme for local development, we will cooperate on children and youth at risk, public health challenges, domestic and gender-based violence, work life balance and youth participation in the labour market. I believe that this programme will play an important role in supporting the Estonian government's efforts and strategies, also when it comes to integration issues.
Support for civil society is a very important part of the EEA and Norway Grants. This is acknowledged in the MOU, where we have agreed to go beyond the minimum requirement and allocate four million euros to the NGO-fund. This sends a strong signal about our governments' joint views on the importance of NGOs for developing a diverse, inclusive and responsible society.
Finally, we are continuing our joint efforts in the climate and environment sector. I believe that it is a great strength of the Grants that they are relevant for the most pressing concerns of our time. Europe is leading the campaign against climate change and our cooperation can play a part.
In short, we have very exciting times ahead. The programmes have never been more politically relevant, in a bilateral, regional or European context. We have the advantage of starting from a very solid foundation from the previous period. Partners on both sides are ready to go.
I thank all of you for making the period 2009-2014 such a success. And I wish you all the best for making the new period even better.
Thank you for your attention.