Prioritising a sustainable European future: The Finnish Presidency

Article written by Mark Abdilla – Executive, MEUSAC
Published in The Malta Independent – 24.07.19

Finland’s Presidency of the Council of the European Union comes at a crucial moment in the history of the EU, just after the European Parliament elections, as well as the confirmation of Ursula von der Leyen as President-elect of the European Commission. The next few months will be characterised with the nominations of European Commissioners from EU Member States, as well as the United Kingdom’s exit at the end of October.

Yet, while all this is taking place, Finland has taken over the Presidency of the Council of the EU for the rest of 2019, succeeding Romania, who held the Presidency for the first half of this year.

The Romanian Presidency focused extensively on establishing a more cohesive, safe, and strong Europe, mainly centred common values of democracy, freedom and human dignity. As part of the Trio Presidency, which also includes Croatia, Finland’s programme looks to continue building on previous presidency’s work.

Finland’s Presidency outlines four priorities which it will focus on throughout its term. These priorities look towards strengthening common values and the rule of law throughout Europe, making the EU more competitive and socially inclusive, strengthening the EU’s role as a global climate action leader, and protecting the security of citizens. Such priorities would also look to complement those set out in the Strategic Agenda 2019-2024 and serve as both a follow-up on the Romanian Presidency’s own programme, and to strengthen those policy areas where a greater focus would be beneficial.

Finland aims to focus on the strengthening of common values and is looking towards the promotion of equality and inclusiveness in all policy areas. This also includes the need for a gender equality strategy at multiple levels of policies and initiatives. Properly functioning institutions shall hopefully contribute more strongly to more sound policies and decision-making.

The Presidency is also looking to ensure that the EU remains competitive and socially inclusive. This would mean an extensive focus on those policy areas which are crucial to the growth of the European economy, and those of Member States. In this context, the Single Market must be well-equipped and well-prepared to address future challenges. The EU’s economy must also ensure it continues upon the path of inclusive growth, whereby no one is left behind as the economic wheel turns. This would also ensure a more inclusive economic union, prioritising sustainable finances and the prevention of terrorist financing.

The EU has established itself as a global leader in the fight against climate change, and Finland looks towards maintaining such momentum. The priorities here include the defining of the key elements of the EU’s long-term climate strategy, focusing also on a climate-friendly Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and strengthening the economic value of clean water and sustainable food production.

Finland is also prioritising the need for a strong and comprehensive European security framework. The aim is to ensure that the EU and its Member States are fully equipped to deal with conflicts and violence emerging in neighbouring regions, mostly through diplomatic solutions and crisis management operations. This particular priority also ties in with the initiatives of the previous Commission, which started working towards the foundations of a more focused European defence system

In addition to the four main priorities in the Finnish Presidency’s programme, there is also a drive to address other issues which are of key importance, most notably negotiations on the Multi-annual Financial Framework (MFF). In terms of the EU budget, Finland looks to ensure that cohesion policy continues to promote growth and competitiveness across Member States, ensure that the CAP can be of benefit to all European farmers, while also committing sufficient funds to address migration concerns.

Finland looks to ensure that integral policy work continues during the European Commission’s formation period and establish the foundations for the implementation of the Strategic Agenda’s priorities. This would not only allow for work on these priorities to begin in earnest but would also ensure that the upcoming months are not dominated solely by the question of Brexit.

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