CNBC Interview with the Prime Minister of Estonia, Jüri Ratas, from the World Economic Forum 2019

Following are excerpts from a CNBC interview with Prime Minister of Estonia, Jüri Ratas and CNBC's Nancy Hungerford.

NP: We'll have to leave it there for now, Joumanna, because I do have another guest who I'm sure has a thought or two about Brexit himself, that is Jüri Ratas, who is the Prime Minister of Estonia. Sir, thank you for joining me. My colleague, Joumanna, and I were just discussing the interview I had with Liam Fox around Brexit, I mean, he seems to think that a deal will be reached. Are you confident that European leaders are willing to give a bit more here, to ensure that a no deal, a hard crash scenario, is avoided?

JR: I am sure that, if we are talking to 27 European countries, then we made our proposal in the end of November, it was, I think, 25th of November last year. And of course, I could say that the main-, this kind of goal, is to have the deal between United Kingdom and the European Union, and of course, we are working with that, forward, and I really hope that, also, Prime Minister May will find this balance, inside the UK, as well, because I think both sides understand it very well, that it is so important to have the deal, and to have very good relations between the UK and the 27, as well.

NP: It does seem as though some leaders in Brussels don't want to give any more, in terms of their talks with Prime Minister May, because they're still holding out hope that maybe there will be a second referendum, maybe the whole process will be reversed. Is that a dangerous gamble?

JR: I think we have, today, so many maybes, but actually, what we have today, we have a very concrete proposal on the table by the 27 countries-,

NP: Mm.

JR: And what is so important, the last two and a half years, we are acting very strongly as a team, and we have only one negotiations, between the EU and United Kingdom. If we are talking to give something more, I couldn't see any this kind of room today here, to give something more-,

NP: Mm.

JR: I-, I understand that we have, in the air, the question, is it possible to have a little bit longer period, but it isn't the question today from EU, European Union, 27 countries, side, it's the question the-, the Parliament, in London, and also the government in London. But I actually really hope that we could find very good, uh, contract, and deal, both sides, because, uh, I don't see that this kind of situation, what we have today, that we could say that it-, it's good. It isn't good, actually. I-, I-, my personal opinion is that Brexit isn't good-,

NP: Mm.

JR: It's much more better when 28 is, uh, staying together.

NP: Economically, how bad could it be? Because we often hear that the economic toll will be-,

JR: Mm.

NP: So severe for the UK, but what about the European bloc, I mean, how concerned are you about the impact of that?

JR: It's a very important aspect and topic, we-, we must protect our citizens, but at the same way, we must protect our businesses-,

NP: Mm.

JR: And that is the reason why I said that we must find also very good, and close, and strategic relations between the UK and the EU, after the Brexit, as well.

NP: On the security situation, too, that doesn't often seem to get as much attention, but is that something you worry about, given how closely the UK has worked with the broader EU, on issues of national security?

JR: Uh, if we are talking the security, first of all the NATO, we-,

NP: Yeah.

JR: I think, the majority of EU countries, we are under the NATO, as well, for example, the UK troops are today in Estonia-,

NP: Mm.

JR: That-, and under the NATO, we have Enhanced Forward Presence, and it is all the three Baltic states, plus Poland, and that is so important-,

NP: Mm.

JR: For us, and I don't see any of these kind of problems, if we are talking the security and defence, and that is very positive-,

NP: Mm.

JR: That we have so close relations, in security field, between UK and-, and other countries.

NP: On NATO, there is some renewed concerns, though, that President Trump may take tougher action, even talk about withdrawing, again, from NATO, especially now that some of his top Generals have left the White House. Does that worry you?

JR: We had, last summer, the NATO summit in Brussels-,

NP: Mm.

JR: And after the summit, all 29 countries, they said, and also the United States, that NATO is now much more stronger-,

NP: Mm.

JR: NATO is much more untied, and NATO is much more closer. Of course, there is also the question about 2%-,

NP: Right.

JR: But, for example, our country, my country, Estonia, we-, we-, we promised what we-, we-, we said, uh, more than ten years ago, and last four, five years, we-, we are investing more-,

NP: Mm.

JR: Than 2%.

NP: Was President Trump right to force the issue, then?

JR: I think that's the question, that all the members, they must be active, and they must be-, they must keep their promises, it's so important-,

NP: Mm.

JR: But actually, we-, we see that all European countries are, today, increasing their defence expenditures.

NP: It comes at a time where some NATO members have expressed increasing concerns over Russia, as well. You recently said you would like to improve relations with Russia. Is Russia's involvement, recent actions they've taken in Ukraine, though, making this difficult for you?

JR: No, on the-, on the one hand, I think Estonians, we-, we know Russia, and Russian behaviour, very well, because we lived more than, uh, 50 years under occupation, Russia is today our neighbour, but it's so important, for us, to be active member, inside the NATO-,

NP: Mm.

JR: But also in the EU. If we are talking to Ukraine, then there is only-, that is the most important thing, that we all understand, to support Ukraine's territorial integrity-,

NP: Mm.

JR: And sovereignty. It is a question about Crimea, and it is a question about East Ukraine, as well.

NP: Sir, I'm afraid we have to leave it there, but fascinating discussion, thank you so much-,

JR: Thank you.

NP: For your time, and for speaking to CNBC. That is Prime Minister Jüri Ratas, the Prime Minister of Estonia.

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