The commissioner nominee for Estonia, Siim Kallas, comes with solid credentials for the job – a former prime minister and finance minister, he was also responsible for finalising the country’s negotiations with the EU.
Full interview with commissioner nominee for Estonia, Siim Kallas. For a shorter version, read the
You will start in Brussels in as position as commissioner without portfolio. What are your plans for your first six months as commissioner and what do you hope to achieve in this period?
During the first six months, the important thing is to become thoroughly familiar with the work of the European Commission. I need to learn to understand the decision-making mechanisms and the principles of cooperation between the Commissioners.
Can you please describe your previous professional experience in EU affairs? What has been your most interesting and challenging task in dealing with the EU so far?
While being Prime Minister, I was in charge of concluding the accession negotiations between Estonia and the European Union. While being Minister of Finance, I was responsible for the Estonian financial policy, which had to be harmonised with the EU criteria before the accession. As I am a finance specialist, I see my future challenge in guaranteeing that the Maastricht Criteria are adhered to in all the Member States.
What is in your mind the most important task in European Commissioners’ work in Brussels? And what sort of contact should a Commissioner maintain with his home country?
Every Commissioner is responsible for decisions made in his or her field of expertise for the benefit of the European Union as a whole. We have to remember that from May 1, these decisions will directly influence the everyday life of half a billion people. That is a great responsibility. Although the Commissioners are not directly representing the interests of their own country, I am confident that I will have a good working relationship with the Estonian government.
What do the people of your country most urgently need to learn and understand about the EU?
Estonians should realise that with the EU accession Estonia will become part of Europe and will acquire all the rights and duties that come with that status.
Do you think the next president of the European Commission should come from one of the ten new EU countries?
I am sure that at the election of the new President of the European Commission, the old and the new Member States have the same possibilities for putting up their candidates. I am glad that one of the likely candidates for the position is the ex-Prime Minister of Finland, Mr. Paavo Lipponen, whom I know personally.
One of the tasks of the new Commission will be setting the new political agenda, and defining the long-term budget plan (The Financial Perspectives). What do you see as the new policy priorities for the next Commission that should be reflected in the budget?
At the moment, the ambitious objectives formulated in the EU programme documents are poorly reflected in the budget of the Union. If the European Union plans to become the most competitive economy in the world by 2010, as it has declared, then something has to be changed.
What is your view on the recent move from a large majority of EU 15 countries to introduce limitations to free movement of labour from the acceding members? Will it affect your country?
The European Union labour market will open up for the new Member States in a couple of years. Estonians already have enough possibilities for participating in the EU labour market. After the accession to the European Union, these possibilities will only improve.
What is your best foreign language? Do you speak French?
Internationally, my working language is English. I also speak Russian and Finnish. For some time now I have been intens ively studying French.