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The European Union on the eve of a new era

Published : 11 Jan 2020, 01:08

  By Sanna Marin

Prime Minister Sanna Marin. Photo Finnish Government by Kosti Keistinen.

Finland’s Presidency of the Council accompanied the European Union on the path towards a new decade and a socially fair and environmentally sustainable future.

The new European Parliament, the new Commission under Ursula von der Leyen and the new President of the European Council Charles Michel all started their term during Finland’s Presidency. We steered the work of the Union in accordance with the new strategic agenda, with its key objectives of environmentally sustainable economic growth, social inclusion and the fostering of citizens’ competences in an environment shaped by digitalisation.

The work of our Presidency involved responding to changes, but it also meant defending the EU’s permanent value foundation. In leading the Union, we put respect for fundamental values, including the rule of law, at the heart of our work. We strengthened the procedures for assessing the state of the rule of law in the Member States.

Finland’s proposal for the multiannual financial framework for the Union, prepared under the leadership of Minister for European Affairs Tytti Tuppurainen, included a proposal on how to protect EU funding from deficiencies in the rule of law. While preparing a balanced proposal for steering EU spending over the next seven years, our Presidency also sought to ensure that EU aid is used properly. According to our proposal, EU aid can be withheld from any Member State showing serious and frequent deficiencies in implementing the rule of law.

This work on behalf of our fundamental values has the strong support of European citizens. Respect for fundamental values throughout the European Union is also a precondition for the EU to be able to pursue credible global action on behalf of democracy, human rights and equality.

Finland’s Presidency strove consistently to raise the ambition of the EU’s climate policy objectives. These efforts bore fruit when the European Council, in its meeting in December, endorsed the objective of making the EU climate-neutral by 2050. This decision strengthened the EU’s leadership in moving towards more responsible global decision-making on ways to mitigate climate change. Responding to climate change is the defining issue of our time for the environment, the economy and the overall stability of our societies.

I am happy to note that European Green Deal presented by the new Commission will significantly increase the effectiveness of EU climate policy. The EU’s common target for carbon neutrality provides the Commission with a strong mandate to promote its Green Deal. We need a broad-based policy covering all areas of EU legislation and action to ensure that the climate goals become something more than a pious wish. The Finnish Government is strongly committed to continuing to promote this forward-looking policy through its own national programme and at EU level after our Presidency.

I would like to extend my heartfelt thanks to all those in Finland, Brussels and elsewhere who toiled long days to ensure the success of our Presidency. Although our third Presidency of the Council is now over, during the new decade Finland will continue its efforts to make the European Union socially, economically and environmentally sustainable, safe and secure.

Note: The writer is the Prime Minister of Finland.