Indiana Daily Student

Estonian Prime Minister visits IU, highlights country and EU goals moving forward

Estonia's prime minister showed up to Indiana University on Monday night with a goal﹘ to put his countryon the map. 

Jüri Ratas, who is also the current leader of Estonia’s Centre Party, spoke to a packed auditorium at the School of Global and International Studies.

“They told me there would be about 10 to 15 people, maybe more, so I’m very grateful to see you all here.” Ratas said.

Ratas spoke on Estonia’s history, its current position as president of the European Union, digitization as a country and its upcoming 100th anniversary as a sovereign nation.

The presidency of the EU rotates between countries within the EU every six months. For the next six months, Estonia will lead the EU. 

Ratas emphasized the country’s respect and willingness to keep positive relations between the U.S. and Estonia. He said he remembers his family and friends visiting and moving to the U.S. as a child. 

“Back then, it was extraordinary and even unthinkable travelling across the ocean to the great America,” Ratas said.

Estonia joined the EU and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in 2004. Ratas said his country is one of the few NATO members that not only actively contributes to NATO missions and operations, but also contributes more than 2 percent of its gross domestic product on defense. 

Ratas spent a large portion of his lecture speaking on the need for digitization in public administration and in government as a whole. In Estonia, each citizen has a digital identification card, which he compared to the U.S.’s Social Security card system for identifying citizens. 

His focus on digitization is not limited to Estonia. In the first month of Estonia's presidency of the EU, Ratas said one of its main focuses was the digitization of Europe. He also listed stabilizing Europe as a unit financially and focusing on common security regarding terrorism and country relations as other goals. 

"Digital innovation with the aim of Europe to stay ahead in the technological and be a digital leader in the world in the years to come," Ratas said.

Ratas spoke on domestic and foreign policy as well. He said it is a challenging time to have the EU presidency. He said he would wish to have good relations with other countries based on the same values and principles.

"Russia is our neighbor," Ratas said. "Unfortunately Russia has shown over the years by attacking independent states such as Georgia or Ukraine, that it does not follow the principles of international law and no respect or principles that we've committed to in the early post-Soviet era."

He said it is important for countries to maintain relationships, and it requires intensive work and care. 

Together, the EU and United States account for 40 percent of the world's GDP. Ratas highlighted his positivity going forward with the United States, citing them as an ally going back to the Soviet era. 

"The EU and the United States enjoy the most integrated economic relationship in the world, it is in our interest to strengthen this cooperation."

Estonia's presidency of the EU falls during its 100th anniversary as an independent republic.

Ratas said the six months of Estonia's presidency will be productive. 

"We are confident that when our presidency is completed, Europe will have taken steps forward in all fields,"  Ratas said.

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