“The Brussels Diary With Yana Toom”: Summing Up The Results For The Year


In the last TV issue of the Brussels Diary of this season, it seems right to sum up the results for the year.

The main EU initiative in the pandemic has been, of course, the supplies of vaccines. At first, the vaccine roll-out was a failure, as the European Commission backed the AstraZeneca company and is suing it now; but then, everything worked out. The EU has not yet approved Sputnik V, but if you have antibodies, including those from Sputnik, you can travel around Europe, as this is enough for a Green Certificate.

The trouble is that everyone writes about the failures of Brussels, but not many people write about its work. Just a minor example: for the past three months, the Unemployment Insurance Fund has been paying wage compensation to the employees of companies hit by the pandemic. In March, 34,000 people received an average of 579 euros. Not just like that, but thanks to the EU SURE Programme, which has given us a loan of 230 million on preferential terms. Without Brussels, tens of thousands of families would not have received this money.

Last June, EU leaders made a historic decision to inject 750 billion into the economy, of which 390 billion was in grants, that is, there is no need to return them. Under the COVID-19 Recovery and Resilience Programme, Estonia will receive one billion in six years, and another 340 million will be donated by the Just Transition Fund for Green Transition in Ida-Viru County. Let me remind you that it was Brussels that prohibited Estonia from spending this money on anything other than jobs in North-East Estonia.

In October, the European Commission proposed a draft directive on adequate minimum wages in the EU. It did not have the numbers that others and I had hoped for, but a good beginning makes a good ending. We are making amendments to the draft, and I think we have every chance of succeeding next time round.

The social theme continued at the European Summit in May. The European Commission sets the objectives in combatting unemployment and poverty, and it will seek to achieve them through a mix of carrots and sticks. A few countries, including Estonia, are resisting.

The European Parliament was busy too. The most important thing for me is social programmes. In January, we adopted two resolutions: on Access to Decent and Affordable Housing, based on a report on which I was a shadow reporter, and on the employee’s right to disconnect, which I worked on too. I am currently working on, among other things, the right to class action suits, and the pharmaceutical strategy for Europe, including the abolition of patents for important medicines. Stay tuned on this in the news.

Finally, in May, the Conference on the Future of Europe opened, as a result of which the EU should become a much more social union.

Well, now to local results: in my Tallinn office, the seventh season of free legal advice has ended. From September to May, lawyers helped more than three hundred applicants, and hundreds more issues were resolved by Margarita Kornysheva, an adviser to the bureau. On 8 March, I opened another bureau in Narva, where my adviser, Veronika Stepanova, has held 57 consultations and continues to do so. In Tallinn, legal advice will resume in the autumn, and the first registration will be available on 6 September. To date, all the information can be found on the website yanatoom.ee under the headlines "JURIST AITAB" and "ПОМОЩЬ ЮРИСТА" (only in the Estonian and Russian versions of my website).

The Brussels Diary will return to TV screens in the autumn. In the meantime, check in with us on my website and in the YanaToom.ee Facebook group.