Politicians in Estonia, including Prime Minister Mart Laar, expected a "tough but fair" assessment of Estonia for "2000 Regular Report from the Commission on Estonia's Progress towards Accession," and indeed that is exactly what the country received. Estonia was clearly placed on the higher side of all thirteen candidates that received such reports, but was also criticised at length over various shortfalls. However, there were no real "alarm" signals or words that characterised the reports of several other candidate countries.
One clear vote of confidence was for Estonia's economy, which was one of few to get the "is a functioning market economy" designation (alongside Cyprus, Hungary, Malta and Poland). The Report was notably positive in describing Estonia's macroeconomic stability, restructuring and reforms in various sectors (such as finances and energy) and external competitiveness of local enterprises, and it even made positive comments about regulatory framework and its enforcement. However, the large current account deficit was cited as a major problem, and the lack of containment of public spending—especially in local governments—was singled out as a problem. In fact, regional policy, both in control and reform, faced plenty of mild criticism in the Report.
As normal, Estonia's administrative capacity was criticised, with the Report suggesting slow progress in that area. The Report placed emphasis on the need to better co-ordinate activities among institutions and training of officials as "highest priorities." The Report said that "substantial efforts" are still needed for the acquis communautaire to be implemented effectively by the administrative sector.
Tough but fair
In issues relating to ethnic minorities, the Report worded a caution for officials to remain vigilant on keeping language and citizenship policies on track and in good practice and for integration programmes to continue in intensity. The Report pointed out some accomplishments in the area, but mostly served as a warning for the country not to deviate from the progress. There was no hard criticism of policies relating to minorities, unlike in some other candidates' reports.
Progress in various areas, such as harmonising legislation with the acquis communautaire, in the environmental, technical and audio-visual sectors, fisheries and other areas, though again the Report calls on continual
The Report also pointed out progress in addressing various short-term priorities to the 1999 Accession Partnership, saying goals in fields such as transport, telecommunications, standardisation, veterinary, employment and occupational health and safety have been met. However, the same section noted that priorities such as procurement, market surveillance, penal law and others "have not been met."
All in all, the Report was a fair yet critical assessment of Estonia's EU integration. Various weak areas were pointed out, but at a detailed level akin to the reports of the so-called "Luxembourg group." It was not unduly tough, just enough to wake up legislators and officials in Tallinn for some new priorities to be made in the coming year's legislative plan.
Mel Huang, 13 November 2000
Also of interest:
- The 2000 Progress Reports in full
- CER update on accession candidates, May 2000
- CER commentary on the 1999 Progress Reports
- The 1999 Progress Reports in full
- Archived CER articles on EU affairs
- Browse through the CER eBookstore for electronic books
- Buy English-language books on Estonia through CER
- Return to CER front page