Interview with Agne Nettan-Sepp, Head of Pension Policy, Social Security Department, Ministry of Social Affairs of Estonia.
MISSOC: Could you tell us about the priorities of the Estonian Presidency as regards social policy?
Agne: Estonian social policy priorities are covered within the priority topic “Inclusive and sustainable Europe”. From our point of view an inclusive and sustainable Europe first of all translates into supporting equal opportunities for high quality education, employment, access to services and development of skills. Consequently, we should re-examine the ways in which Europe offers equal opportunities for people who want to live and work across the EU, ensuring that there is true strength in diversity. We also need to adjust to changes taking place in the labour market and in working life. Promoting mobility within the EU certainly adds to the widening of citizens choices and opportunities. It is also important that all the members of our societies, including those among us with special needs, are provided with equal opportunities to participate independently in everyday life as far as possible. For these reasons our focus will be on modernising rules in order to promote labour mobility and free movement of persons and ensuring equal opportunities in the labour market and in society as well as tackling gender segregation.
MISSOC: Do these priorities reflect the main social challenges that Estonia is facing today? Could you briefly outline these challenges?
Agne: We are very fond of quoting Hemingway: “In every port in the world, at least two Estonians can be found.” Since Hemingway days our desire for mobility has not decreased – it is very common for young people to spend some time studying abroad, many choose to diversify their professional experience working in other Member States. As a small nation with strong longing for the roots we see this not as a threat, but as an opportunity to have these people back one day, enriched with skills and experiences acquired. But when deciding to go abroad and come back people expect that there are fair, clear and easy rules supporting and preserving their rights.
MISSOC: Are major social reforms planned or underway in Estonia?
Agne: There are several reforms underway or about to start. These include work ability reform where the implementation has already started. The government has also agreed upon major changes in first pillar pension system that would make it more solidarity-based, add to flexibility in retirement and tie the retirement age to expected average life expectancy. In addition, changes in parental benefit system to help reconcile work and family life are planned and under discussion.
MISSOC: Could you tell us something on other social security priorities of the Estonian Presidency?
Agne: In the field of social security, one of our priorities is facilitating the discussions of the new proposal on social security coordination which is crucial to update and promote labour mobility and free movement of persons. We are very committed to discussing the file further at full speed. The discussions on the long term care and family benefits chapters will also be launched.
Another important file on our table is a proposal for a work-life balance directive which is closely related to social security issues. We will focus on the first discussions of the draft directive in the Council of the EU.
Different measures in Member States for balancing work and family life will also be a topic of discussion at the informal meeting of the EU employment and social policy ministers in Tallinn in July.
MISSOC: Thank you very much.
Agne: Thank you and welcome to Tallinn on 9-10 November 2017!