(Source: European Commission)
Thank you very much, Prime Minister, dear Kaja,
Thank you very much for the very warm welcome here in this outstanding environment – so innovative. And indeed, I have been here several times, in Tallinn, and it is for me amazing to see the progress. You have always been a front-runner in the digital sector, but important is to always stay ahead. And that is exactly what you do and what you did. And it is fascinating also to see the plans on Rail Baltica, the terminal. So, if one day it is reality, I would love to come back and have a look at it.
And this is what NextGenerationEU is all about. We are reshaping our continent for decades ahead. We are making the European Green Deal a reality. And we are investing in the digital as never before. It is unprecedented.
And I am very happy to announce today that the European Commission has given its green light to the Estonian recovery and resilience plan. It follows a thorough assessment and an excellent cooperation. We have been working very hard – and many thanks to the teams on both sides to have made that happen. It is really an excellent cooperation between our teams.
I want to commend you that you invest 42% of the whole recovery plan in Estonia into the green objectives. This is very good, you are better than the required 37% – 42% is really good. It will be invested in the renovation of nearly 2,700 homes, to make them more energy-efficient for example; or the electrification of railways; more cycling paths. I very much like that your plan supports prominently sustainable mobility, which will be crucial to reach our climate goals. And indeed, we have been in the autonomous driving bus. For me, it was the very first time in my life that I was a passenger in an autonomous driving vehicle – and it was a good experience, so I want more of that, really to recommend.
And indeed, the investment in Rail Baltica is also outstanding. It will be the starting point of the railway to better connect the Baltic countries with the rest of our Union. And therefore, it perfectly reflects the spirit of NextGenerationEU. And the spirit is: the closer our Union, the greater our shared prosperity.
And the Estonian plan dedicates an important part to our other key objective, too, and that is digitalisation. Here, you are investing 22% of your plan in supporting digital objectives that will give a boost to Estonia’s digital transformation. You are anyhow a front-runner, so fascinating to see the cutting-edge research and development you have here. The plan will invest in very high capacity networks in rural areas to break down the digital divide. And it will help Estonia to sustain its position as, not only an EU leader, but also a world leader for digital public services. This is – I have heard a few examples – fascinating to see the future happening here already in Estonia.
Finally, the COVID-19 pandemic has shown us the importance to improve the resilience of the healthcare sector. And therefore,
I commend you for addressing that topic in, for example, addressing the shortages of the health workers, very important; strengthening primary care all over the country; and improving the support for children with higher care needs. All those are very important social elements and healthcare elements in the plan.
The plan will also support the digitalisation to make quality healthcare available all over the country. I know by experience that you had already started, of course, on this project, but any improvement is very much welcome. And your plan foresees an important investment to build a new hospital in Tallinn as a centre of excellence serving the whole region. And being trained as a medical doctor, I know how important it is to have the balance: To have on one hand primary care, but also important is to have a centre of excellence. So in specific cases and in high-end medicine, really to focus and concentrate the knowledge in one place. Patients are willing to take more travel time to be then in a centre of excellence. And this combination, that invests in a new hospital but also invests in the development of primary care all over the country, is outstanding.
Finally, as you know, we have in our NextGenerationEU the combination of investments on one hand, and reforms. This is the requirement. And I commend you for addressing the gender pay gap and the increase in wage transparency. You will address skills shortages on the labour market, and you will prominently invest in the training for the jobs of the future. So all the topics of the lifelong learning are covered here. You will reinforce the social safety net. For example, you will expand the duration of unemployment benefits in periods of high unemployment. Let us hope that it will never be necessary! And we will look forward to continue working with Estonia on strengthening your social policies.
So it is the day of approval, today, an important milestone towards the disbursement of EUR 970 million over the next years. It is by no means the end of a journey but it is the beginning of very close cooperation what implementation is concerned. And I am happy to hand over to you now the envelop for NextGenerationEU.