At the invitation of the Social Democrats in Estonia, the S&D Group president Hannes Swoboda visited Tallinn on Monday. After meeting the Estonian president – former MEP Toomas Hendrik Ilves – the prime minister, the speaker of the Estonian parliament and the Estonian Social Democratic party leadership, Hannes Swoboda expressed full support for key Estonian interests, especially in the context of the current long-term budget discussions.
Commenting on his visit, Hannes Swoboda said:
“Estonia needs financial support to continue its economic restructuring. Having implemented vital financial reforms – with severe budget cuts but maintaining a socially balanced approach – Estonia has shown solidarity with other eurozone countries. Now it is time for Europe to show solidarity with Estonia.
“It is particularly strange that the financial assistance for Estonian farmers proposed in the EU budget plans is much lower than for farmers in many other countries. I support the Estonians’ call for more justice and equality for Baltic farmers.
“In addition, the demand for a special Baltic rail link – put forward in the Connecting Europe programme – is totally in line with the S&D priorities for the next budgetary period. The Baltic region needs improved infrastructure and should be much better linked to the rest of Europe.”
Commenting on the situation in Estonia, S&D MEP Ivari Padar said:
“Estonian grass is as green as in the rest of Europe. Estonian milk is as white as European milk elsewhere. The speed of harmonising farming subsidies between the member states needs to be faster. The Commission’s current position, offering Estonian farmers 58% of the European average level by the end of the new financial framework is clearly too low and distorts free competition.
“The main issues for Estonia in the new budget are pan-European transport connections, the use of cohesion funds and agricultural policy.”
Hannes Swoboda closed by stressing that the Social Democrats were the strongest force for integration:
“After meeting the leadership of the Estonian Social Democrats, I am happy to see that this party is the strongest force for integration in Estonia. This is the only party that unites members and voters from all groups in society, including the Russian-speaking community.
“The S&D Group fully supports the Social Democrats’ fight for more gender equality. The huge pay gap – far above the EU average – and the low representation of women in top jobs – including the government – needs to be tackled with a serious gender equality policy.”