CNBC Interview with Estonia’s Prime Minister, Jüri Ratas from the World Economic Forum 2018

Following are excerpts from a CNBC interview with Estonia's Prime Minister, Jüri Ratas and CNBC's Steve Sedgwick and Geoff Cutmore from the World Economic Forum 2018.

KT: Well, the stage is set for Donald Trump's speech today. The world is trying to focus on how much the US is prepared to actively engage in issues from leadership on defense, trade and social goals. What's your perspective? How important is it for the US to lead on these issues?

JR: For us, it's very important, because our bilateral relations between the United States and Estonia, these ties are very strong. Very strong, especially, between security and defense, because we have today very strong bilateral relations, also under NATO, we have the Enhanced Forward Presence. It means we have the troops in Estonia, from the United Kingdom, from Denmark, and also from-, from France. I think it is important to have, also, a very strong cornerstone between the European Union, and between the United States, and NATO. I think that this is the most important thing today.

KT: I want to talk about the force in your country, because there's been much consternation about what Trump really means to do with NATO. At times, he's used it as a punching bag, particularly over spending commitments by allies, but, when you see what's happening on the ground in your country, drills by troops, there's active engagement, tanks on the ground, is there a different messaging taking place from Trump, on the issue of NATO, from your perspective, from your country?

JR: I think the message is very concrete, that all these 29 member countries in NATO, they would like to live in peace, and that is our message to the rest of the world. Of course, the second part, what is important, to fight against the terrorists, what is also one very important subject inside NATO, and I am really glad that this-, this time, we could find more and more these, kind of, ties and bridges between the European Union and NATO, if we are talking the defense and security.

KT: We haven't mentioned the word Russia yet, but there are tensions around your country and Russia. How important are the US troops to deter the Russians?

JR: Estonia and Russia, they are-, they are the neighbor countries, we are the neighbor countries. And if we are talking the relations between people to people, then I could say they are very normal, and-, and that's good. Also we have very strong cultural relations. But, if we are talking the relations between the political level, of course it is-, it is quite a hard question, because Estonia stands very strongly behind the-, the sanctions, behind the Minsk Agreement, these are the important, most important questions for Estonia, and also, therefore, the rest of the European Union.

KT: How would you describe Estonia's relationship with Donald Trump? Would you say he's been a solid friend so far?

JR: Like I said, we have very strong relations between the United States, and also, with the President of the United States. For example, last year, the Speaker from the United States visited Estonia, for example, Vice-President, Mr. Pence visited Estonia last year. I think these are very concrete, and very strong signs for the rest of the world.

KT: Given the presence of American troops on the ground in your country, are they welcome to take part in your Independence Day parade, the military parade next month?

JR: All the troops of different countries, I mean, under the NATO or European Union countries, they are welcome to take part in our parade. And we have also, today, the air policing in Estonia, from Italy. All these, our friends, are with us on the 24th of February.

KT: Populist politics has swept through the Baltics, as well as across Europe, and, of course, in the United States. You are battling extreme politics from the left and the right. What is the answer, for your country?

JR: Our country answer is that, I think, today, it's the most important thing, if we are talking to the European Union, to keep this unity, to go forward, the European Union, to make it more safer, a more better place. Of course, we have on the table also the Brexit issue, but I-, I am sure that we will also find a solution here.

KT: What's the answer on migration, then? Because there's been an outcry over just a small number of migrants coming in to Estonia. Does that mean you've got a limited ability to work with the Europeans on quotas, and the overall numbers of migration in Europe?

JR: I think here is two dimensions. One dimension is the solidarity, if we are talking the borders, if we are talking how we support, for example, Africa, and African Trust Fund. And the second dimension is, what is the solidarity inside the European Union? Estonia is-, of course, for us, the solidarity is the most important thing, and we must find a solution about the migration, and table an agreement as well, and-, and I am quite sure that, together with the Bulgarian Presidency, we will go forward and find a solution. Of course, it is today, I could say, maybe the most important and difficult topic.

KT: Well, let's just be clear, are we talking about less migration in Estonia?

JR: Estonia take the refugees, for example, from Greece, for example, from Italy. But, I think, much more important is how we could solve these roots, I mean, why the people are moving away from their homes, and if the answer is that they-, they don't feel secure, there is war and so on, that is the root thing where we must find solutions, and I think a very important thing, also, to support the African Trust Fund, as well.

KT: Another big theme here at Davos is technology, and, during your EU Presidency, you tried to create a digital footprint across Europe. You've also been seen as somewhat of a digital state, to the point where there have been questions about your own digital coin, whether there's an 'EstCoin' coming. Other countries, other central banks around the world, are considering these types of moves. From the government perspective, do you want to create an EstCoin?

JR: Well, first of all, I would like to say that the Estonian economy is doing very well, and also, our digital society, and digital economy is doing very well. We had, yes, very-, quite a lot of bilateral meetings, and I am very interested in, and very happy, that a lot of the international companies, they are interested in our digital society. Different e-services. For example, artificial intelligence, blockchains. These are, I think, our strong points, what we have in Estonia. Also, during our Presidency, we made the first digital summit in European Union level, and I think what is the positive, that the-, the main, or common attitude is that we must go forward about this digital society. It isn't any more the question. Maybe the question is to find the right infrastructure, and to find the laws and the regulations. About the EstCoin, Estonia is very strongly supporting the currency that means euro, and what we are calling euro, but, of course, we are-, we are open for the new challenges, but I think here, the most important thing is the question about the secur[ity]

KT: Thank you very much for your time.

JR: Thank you.

ENDS