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Finland, France aim to develop EU defence, AI

Published : 30 Aug 2018, 20:19

Updated : 31 Aug 2018, 11:47

  DF Report

Prime Minister Juha Sipilä and visiting France President Emmanuel Macron in Helsinki on Thursday. Photo Prime Minister office by Jussi Toivanen.

Finland and France on Thursday issued a joint declaration on development of EU defence cooperation and utilisation of artificial intelligence (AI).

The declaration was made at a meeting between Prime Minister Juha Sipilä and the visiting French President Emmanuel Macron in Helsinki, said an official press release.

The leaders of the two countries also discussed topical EU matters, such as trade policy, multiannual financial framework negotiations, migration and development of the Economic and Monetary Union, EMU, and a single market.

“The declaration on developing defence cooperation continues the active collaboration between Finland and France in this sector. While I visited Paris in June 2016, then President of France François Hollande and I adopted a declaration in which we encouraged EU Member States to intensify their defence cooperation,” Sipilä said at a joint press conference after the meeting.

After that, rapid and important steps have been taken in EU defence cooperation, including the creation of the permanent structured cooperation (PESCO). It means European acquisition projects and harmonisation of capability requirements, for example.

“The ambition of developing European defence means first and foremost responsibility for our citizens. We are now taking determined steps in the right direction. Finland, like France, has been active in each stage of the development. And we will continue our joint efforts,” said Sipilä.

The declaration provides support to the increase in appropriations for EU defence cooperation and to the strengthening of PESCO and industrial participation. It is the view of both the countries that besides crisis management, EU defence cooperation must also strengthen the protection of the Union and its citizens.

The declaration also refers to the European intervention initiative introduced by France that aims at strengthening Europe’s ability to respond, alongside the actions of the EU and NATO, to crises affecting its own security. The intervention initiative is intergovernmental cooperation aiming to intensify, for its part, the structural cooperation of the EU. Finland has expressed its interest to join the initiative.

Digitalisation and innovations also featured strongly in the meeting between Sipilä and Macron. Finnish expertise was presented to President Macron at Aalto University.

“I was particularly pleased to begin our meeting at the university with innovations on our agenda. I hope that the Finnish way of doing things aroused interest and we can continue our close cooperation,” said the Finnish prime minister.

In EU, Finland and France have strongly highlighted the importance of digitalisation and innovations. They play a key role in efforts to develop EU’s competitiveness and to create new jobs. The declaration made this morning by Sipilä and Macron challenges EU to reinforce its activities in the field.

“Europe should adopt a stronger research and innovation policy. This goal must show in all activities. Both President Macron and I are prepared to roll up our sleeves and work hard to deepen European cooperation,” said Sipilä.

In the initiative of Finland and France the EU Member States are urged to look at the opportunities brought by artificial intelligence more systematically and to respond to citizens’ concerns relating to the ethical questions linked to artificial intelligence, for instance. In accordance with the declaration, the EU must promote fair, participatory and humane digitalisation.

“President Macron and I decided today to launch cooperation relating to artificial intelligence between our two countries. The idea is to prepare recommendations for AI, which can be used not only in Finland and France but also at the EU level,” Sipilä said.

Both Finland and France have a national strategy for artificial intelligence, which provides them a good foundation for exchanging views and knowhow and exerting influence at EU level together. The cooperation will focus particularly on digitalisation of industries, the health sector, transport services, and supporting startup companies.

“We also discussed several other questions that are important for EU, including our capacity to safeguard Europe’s self-sufficiency as a food producer. This is ultimately a question of security, and President Macron and I share this concern. In the Commission’s proposal for the future financial framework, major cuts were suggested in funding for agriculture. We will work together in order to ensure that the funding for agriculture would remain at least at the current level,” said the prime minister.

“Europe’s internal unity has improved from what it was a couple of years ago. But, perhaps, gales swaying from outside the European Union affect it harder than ever before. We must shoulder our heavy responsibility for ensuring that the EU remains united. Unity is the precondition for a stronger EU. President Macron and I are firmly committed to working together on this matter,” Sipilä added.