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Estonia to take over vacant British slot for EU presidency

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Estonia will take over the six-month rotating presidency of the European Union in the second half of 2017, six months earlier than planned, after Britain gave up its right to do so, a European Council spokesman said.

Ambassadors to the EU met in Brussels after Britain said it needed to focus instead on negotiating the country’s exit from the European Union.

Slovakia is the current holder of the rotating presidency, to be followed by Malta in the first half of 2017. Estonia had been due to follow for the first half of 2018, with Bulgaria for the subsequent six months.

“The solution is that everybody moves forward by half a year,” a Council spokesman said, adding that the agreement by ambassadors still needed formal approval from the 28 member states.

For Estonia it represents a slight setback because the initial presidency plan timetable for the first half of 2018 would have coincided with the country’s 100th anniversary.

Reporting By Philip Blenkinsop; additional reporting by David Mardiste in Tallinn, editing by Robert-Jan Bartunek