Wednesday October 04, 2023
A strong and united EU is in Finland’s interest
Published : 09 May 2022, 16:09
Last year, Europe Day marked the start of the Conference on the Future of Europe. Its goal has been to hear what kind of hopes and expectations EU citizens have for the Union in the different corners of Europe. I am pleased that so many Finns have participated in the conference in different ways. I would like to thank everyone who has participated.
As part of the Conference on the Future, the Government organised the ‘We are Europe’ discussion tour. In autumn 2021 and early 2022, we ministers travelled across Finland to listen to Finns’ thoughts and wishes about the future of Europe at 19 different events.
During the tour, my colleagues and I had an exceptional opportunity to see and hear the ideas of Finnish people around the country. I visited Lappeenranta close to the eastern border and attended the northernmost event in the entire EU in Utsjoki, where long distances in the north and especially the future of traditional Sámi livelihoods in the face of climate change emerged as important topics of discussion.
The tour gave a great impression of how Finns in different parts of the country feel about the EU. There is strong support for EU membership in Finland. Over the course of the tour, it became clear that Finns widely view the EU not only as a significant economic operator but also as a community of values and security. Finns have unwavering support for upholding the rule of law.
The EU was seen as a key player in responding to climate change. Participants in the discussions expressed their hope that the EU would lead the way in climate issues on the international stage. Economic aspects and industrial policy were often linked to climate change: it is a question of sustainable growth and jobs. Finns want to see climate change mitigation turned into an opportunity by directing EU funding to research, new technologies and innovations. They emphasised the economy of wellbeing and placed great value on investments in human capital and broad-based welfare policy.
For us Finns, the EU is a security community. Finns want the EU to provide more security and be more resilient to crises. The need to strengthen the EU’s preparedness and resilience to crisis was highlighted as a cross-cutting theme. Comprehensive security and EU defence cooperation also emerged as key issues. In today’s security policy environment, this perspective has only taken on more weight.
The voices and messages of Finns have been heard during the conference. They have been discussed in the conference’s working groups and in the plenary session. I personally delivered the final report of the ‘We are Europe’ tour to Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs Clément Beaune of France, which currently holds the EU Council Presidency, in Paris.
This year, we are celebrating Europe day in a solemn atmosphere. There is a war in Europe. It is a chilling thought, one that reminds us that a united Europe is not something to be taken for granted.
Our common values – democracy, the rule of law and fundamental and human rights – are the cornerstones of the EU’s actions. By supporting our common values and safeguarding the rule of law, we can strengthen the EU’s resilience, sustainability and legitimacy. Only a Union that is committed to its values can act as a strong and united front in these times.
The EU has been united and determined in its response to the crisis brought on by Russia’s invasion. We also responded to the COVID-19 crisis through cooperation. We must work to uphold this European unity. A strong and united EU is in Finland’s interest.
Happy Europe Day to you!
Note: The writer is Minister for European Affairs and Ownership Steering in Finland.