It is becoming increasingly likely that Estonia's EU presidency will be pushed forward and should this plan receive final confirmation Estonia will be ready, deputy director of the European Union Secretariat at Estonia's Government Office Kristo Pollu said.
The British government disclosed today that it relinquish its turn in the rotating EU presidency, which it was expected to start in the second half of next year prior to the Brexit vote.
Revising the order of presidencies after the UK’s announcement was a topic of discussion at Wednesday's meeting of EU ambassadors, stated Pollu, and the situation does not solely affect Estonia but also all future presidencies. "Regrettably, consensus was not yet achieved today. But the probability is growing that this question will be solved by bringing ours and subsequent presidencies forward by six months," he told BNS.
"From our point of view, the most important thing is to have as soon as possible a clear agreement between countries so we can push ahead with our preparations. The optimistic expectation is that the decision will come next week," Pollu said.
According to the official, Estonia has maintained that it could handle an expedited presidency if need be, thanks to thorough preparation. "Of course, the concurrence with the country's centenary will then be lost, but if our taking up the presidency sooner is in the EU's interest we'll cope with it," he noted.
The rotating presidency of the Council of the EU is held by Slovakia at present, with Malta scheduled to take over in the first half of next year. Estonia was expected to follow the UK in the first half of 2018.
Citing European Union officials, The Financial Times said that Belgium had been expected to take over Britain's slot but this possibility was blocked by an alliance of eastern European nations.
Prime Minister Taavi Roivas said as recently as Tuesday that Estonia would prefer to take on the EU presidency as scheduled, that is, during the country’s centenary year.
"I repeat that while Estonia is ready to move its presidency forward if necessary, our preference is to perform the presidency of the EU in the jubilee year of the Republic of Estonia. A decision in favour of Belgium definitely would make the preparatory work that we have begun already easier," Roivas told BNS.
Prime Minister Theresa May informed European Council President Donald Tusk of the country’s decision to relinquish its planned presidency in a phone call on Tuesday, a spokesperson said.
"The prime minister suggested that the UK should relinquish the rotating presidency of the council, currently scheduled for the second half of 2017, noting that we would be prioritising the negotiations to leave the European Union," a Downing Street spokeswoman said.
"Donald Tusk welcomed the prime minister's swift decision on this issue which would allow the council to put alternative arrangements in place."