Referral debate about the Government Report on EU Policy on 24 February 2021. Speech to be checked against delivery.
The Government has submitted to Parliament its Report on EU Policy, which outlines the Government’s views on key issues related to the European Union.
The Government’s EU policy is based on common values. The goal is a socially, economically and ecologically sustainable European Union. The EU must be a strong global actor and a security community. At the same time, we must actively develop the Union’s activities, along with Finland’s influence at the EU level.
Democracy, the rule of law and fundamental and human rights are the foundation for the activities of the Union. Promoting our common values strengthens the EU’s unity, legitimacy and credibility as well as trust between the Member States.
The Government Report on EU Policy sets out strategic guidelines for achieving a socially, environmentally and economically sustainable European Union. The guidelines cover themes such as a climate-neutral EU by 2050, the sustainable use of natural resources, a just and equitable transition, supportive regional and structural policies, a more integrated single market, open and responsible trade policy and the top education in the world. The report also aims for a strong social dimension, fairer working life, effective health policy, a better-functioning Economic and Monetary Union and more effective use of the EU’s own resources.
The transition to a climate-neutral economy opens up new export and business opportunities in Finland and throughout the EU. We must harness the full potential of digitalisation in order to achieve our climate objectives. The circular economy and emissions trading can also be instrumental in advancing Europe’s climate goals.
The EU’s climate policy must be socially and regionally equitable so that it will be acceptable to the citizens. This means providing support to the regions, sectors and employees that are affected most by the changes we face. It is important that the common EU budget is used to support a just and equitable transition in all Member States. Alongside climate policy, safeguarding biodiversity is one of our most important duties. With this in mind, we must ensure the sustainable use of natural resources throughout the EU.
The EU’s task is to reduce disparities between the Member States and their regions. Regional and structural policy must focus on reforms that support competitiveness, social inclusion and the green and digital transition. The policy must encourage the Member States to carry out structural reforms while also ensuring that the sectors affected by structural changes receive the support they need. One important specific issue for Finland is support for Northern Sparsely Populated Areas.
A well-functioning single market is a precondition for the sustainable growth and competitiveness of the EU. A strong and integrated single market is the best way to strengthen the Union’s strategic autonomy.
The EU must work to strengthen the multilateral rules-based trading system. Trade policy must be a coherent part of the EU’s external relations and closely interlinked with the development of the single market and with industrial policy. The EU’s trade and investment policy must support the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.
Human capital is the EU’s most important resource. Strengthening the level of knowledge, skills and competence of European citizens, increasing equality in education and advancing the digital transformation must be key objectives in EU cooperation.
A strong EU social dimension and European Pillar of Social Rights, along with minimum regulation of social rights and working life, will help us to achieve a socially sustainable and equal EU. A functioning and healthy employment market is integral in promoting sustainable growth and the Economy of Wellbeing. Finland endorses the objective of the EU’s minimum wage initiative, which is to ensure an adequate wage for all employees in the EU. At the same time, special national characteristics of employment policy, such as a labour market system based on collective agreements, should be respected.
The EU must also strengthen its ability to respond to and prepare for cross-border health threats. The Union must improve its capacity to prevent and control international health crises and to coordinate during emergencies.
A well-functioning Economic and Monetary Union is of key importance to Finland. It is essential that the Member States themselves continue to be responsible for their economic policy, in accordance with the Treaties. We need to explore our options for simplifying the regulatory framework for fiscal policy. The European Semester should be developed so that it takes better account of the interactions between economic, social, employment and environmental actions. We want to promote a strong bail-in and the completion of the Banking Union.
Finland takes an open and constructive view on developing the EU’s own resources. Future proposals, such as the carbon border adjustment mechanism and digital tax, will be carefully assessed and submitted to Parliament for consideration.
The European Union is a global actor and security community. The Union must promote its values and interests and must create a comprehensive approach to migration and the development of the Schengen area. At the same time, the EU must strengthen the comprehensive security of its citizens.
Cross-border challenges can only be addressed through effective international cooperation. We need to strengthen the EU’s global role and influence. The EU must play an active role in developing the rules-based multilateral system.
The Government Report on EU Policy emphasises the importance of a comprehensive approach in strengthening the security of the EU, its Member States and its citizens. In the coming years, particular attention must be paid to countering hybrid threats and improving the EU’s cyber capacities and security of supply. Migration also calls for common, comprehensive European solutions.
The report provides an overview of the functioning of the EU and Finland’s influence on the EU. Finland wants to see a more inclusive and transparent Union, with efficient institutions and decision-making, well-functioning EU preparation and a strong Finnish representation at various levels.
The Union’s activities are based on representative and inclusive democracy. Openness in EU decision-making and active, clear communication strengthen democracy and the participation of citizens, businesses and stakeholders. At the same time, they increase trust and accountability and promote good governance. Openness in decision-making also helps to combat disinformation.
Equality between the Member States, inter-institutional balance and the central position of the Community method are essential principles for the development of the EU.
The strengths of Finland's EU policy include our effective coordination system and good cooperation with Parliament. Parliament’s access to adequate and timely information plays a key role in the formulation of our EU policy.
From the point of view of policies that take into account the interests of the Union as a whole, and for the sake of its legitimacy, it is essential that the people working in EU institutions represent all Member States in as balanced a manner as possible.
We joined the European Union because we felt that, as a small country, it was important for us to work together and be part of a larger group. For a small, export-driven country such as ours, the benefits of cooperation through free movement, an open single market and security are many times greater than what we pay in membership fees. As part of the Union, Finns are freer and wealthier, our companies are more international and our continent is more stable.
It is true that the European Union is no longer the same as it was when Finland joined in 1995. This is the way it should be. The EU must also evolve and develop with the times. It is our duty as Finns to express our views on the direction of the Union and how it should develop.
Finland is an active member of the EU that exerts influence on its activities.
Our goal is a strong, united and well-functioning EU with a capacity to respond to global challenges.