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Can I first of all say that I am very glad to be back in Estonia for a working visit as part of my annual "tour des capitales". This is my third time in Tallin in three years. I should also like to thank Prime Minister Andrus Ansip for his hospitality and for his precious cooperation in the European Council.
During our meeting we discussed a number of current issues and the agenda of the upcoming European Council meetings. Allow me to highlight a few key points here.
Firstly on the economic crisis. The economic and social situation in Europe remains, of course, on top of the European agenda. In crisis times, scarcer resources make decisions matter more than ever. This was very visible only a few weeks ago, where the European Council agreed on the next seven years budget for our Union. We agreed on a budget that does not only reflect the economic constraints in Member States - but also shows the way forward in reorienting the budget towards more jobs and growth. The budget agreement was another demonstration of the determination, political will and ability of all the 27 EU Heads of State and Government to take difficult yet important decisions for Europe. We now need the European Parliament to examine it and give its consent.
I believe that 2012 marked a turning point in the crisis in the euro zone: the euro zone is no longer in "existential threat" mode. But we should not become complacent - neither in Member States nor at the level of the European Union and the euro zone.
There is no way back. We also have to be fully aware that the economy is reacting with a time-lag: once financial stability starts coming back, it takes time before this is translated into more confidence, investment and growth. And as growth returns, it also takes time before the positive impact on employment starts kicking in.
Estonia is in many ways a good example of the crisis. When the crisis began, Estonia was one of the hardest hit. Since then you have made an impressive economic recovery with a return of high growth already in 2011 - the year you joined the euro. And not only have you recreated growth, you have also seen a decrease in unemployment. So in fact, Estonia is not only an example of the crisis but also an inspiration on how to handle the economic crisis.
We must continue to move, gradually yet relentlessly, towards a genuine Economic and Monetary Union. For this to happen, the European Council has set out a number of priorities for the months to come. Most importantly, rapid progress should be made towards a banking union that will help restore normal lending conditions to our economies. This is indispensable to strengthen growth and employment on a lasting basis.
Our integrated financial framework - or just our "banking union" - will include a Single Supervisory Mechanism, supported by a single rule book. The banking union will be completed by the establishment of a single resolution mechanism, for which the European Commission will submit a proposal this year. It is necessary to protect taxpayers in the context of banking crisis.
We also discussed energy, the digital agenda and the Eastern Partnership. On all those issues we have similar views. So, to repeat myself. It is a pleasure to come back to Tallin, Estonia, a country with a strong track-record in the Union and the euro zone.