The European Union and Estonian Social Policy Discourse
After entering into the Association Agreement in 1995, Estonia started making preparations for harmonisation of its legislation with the European Union’s acquis communautaire. In reply to The White Paper: Preparation of the Associated Countries of Central and Eastern Europe for Integration to the Internal Market of the European Union, an action plan of the Government of the Republic was developed in 1996 for Estonia’s integration into the European Union (known also as The Blue Paper). The action plans of the subsequent years also rely on the structure of The White Paper.
The topic of the research “Aspects of Development of the Estonian Social Politics Discourse in the Light of Accession to the European Union” was the extension of the social policy discourse of the European Union in the Estonian documents considering social policy trends. The issues of what the social policy of the European Union actually contains in itself and what kind of concepts system the Union’s social policy discourse includes where explored. Another aim was to compare the changes in the contents of the Estonian social policy documents.
As a result of analysis of the Estonian action plans, it became evident that although their discourse is indeed approaching the social policy discourse of the European Union, they still do not reflect the underlying aims of the documents. The Government’s action plans constitute a strategic plan of harmonisation of the European Union’s acquis, and the relevant categories have actually been represented. At the same time it becomes evident from the Estonian specific harmonisation plans that Estonia has also acknowledged the broader goals of the Union. It is definitely good that Estonia has acknowledged the broader objectives of the European Union at its accession to the Union, although the action plans are primarily technical auxiliary documents that define the plan of harmonisation of the acquis through specific instructions for action.
The aim of Estonian development plans is the formation of sub-fields of social policy. It may be presumed that in connection with the decision of the Government of the Republic to join the European Union the general objectives that are acknowledged throughout the Union will also be reflected in the general development plans of Estonia.
It may be concluded from the results of the research that although the Estonian development plans perceive the need for supportive factors at attaining the goals, the acknowledged broader aims of the European Union have still not been either recognised or acknowledged. The development plans analysed in this research work, however, focus more on the particulars of the specific spheres, and any setting of broader goals cannot be seen yet.
While developing Estonian social policy, it is important to recognise the need to set broader goals, and in the context of accession to the European Union, also to be knowledgeable of the broader goals of the Union. Thus the future is in the hands of the experts in the given field who must have good knowledge of both the principles of formation of Estonian and European Union social policy. The final decision, however, will still be made by the people.