Estonia in the Working Groups of the European Union Council of Ministers
The Estonian School of Diplomacy was commissioned by the Riigikogu to conduct a survey on Estonia’s representation and participation in the working groups of the European Union’s Council of Ministers.
The full-text version of the study, including an electronic survey form and results, along with the list of those orally interviewed, can be accessed on the Riigikogu website at http://www.riigikogu.ee/?id=46186 (Estonian-language link). The study’s conclu-sion identified issues on which the Riigikogu’s European Union affairs committee could in future focus the attention of Estonia’s political decision-makers. Estonia’s representation in the European Union, including the Council of Ministers working groups, is described most precisely by the category of member state strapped for resources. Estonia’s EU coordination is centralized, operating through the State Chancellery’s European Union secretariat. Estonia’s representation in Brussels is undergoing reform. To this point, the activity of Estonia’s permanent mission to the EU was coordinated solely by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, but in future, the State Chancellery will start coordinating the COREPER I fields and the foreign ministry will be in charge of the COREPER II fields.
The main institution through which Estonia influences the European Union’s decision-making process is the European Union Council of Ministers. Estonia’s capability to influence the legislative process in its beginning phase – in the European Commission – is weak and there does not appear to be any vision of how to make cooperation with the EC closer and more effective. In conclusion, the authors of the study suggest that the Riigikogu’s European Union affairs committee should focus the attention of political decision-makers on strength-ening Estonia’s institutional role in the early stages of the European Union decision-making process. For this purpose, they recommend investigating possibilities for making Estonia’s connections to the EC closer as well as analyzing the effectiveness of Estonia’s representa-tion on higher levels of the Council of Ministers (in COREPER and on the ministers’ level); to consider how to increase the everyday contacts between the ministries and the European Commission and other EU ember states (ministries’ lobby officials); to discuss with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs possibilities of strengthening the benefit factors of Estonian embassies located in the capitals of European Union member states (especially Paris, Berlin and London) with regard to Estonia’s participation in the EU decision-making process; and to pay attention to the need to strengthen Estonia’s high-level political representation in the European Union. Attention must also continue to be paid to raising Estonia’s analytical ca-pacity to conduct impact analysis for EU legislation, including considering the opportunities of intensifying cooperation between ministries and other government authorities on one hand, with universities, research institutions and think-tanks on the other hand. Among other things, Estonia’s preparations to assume the presidency of the European Union in 2018 could contribute to the above.