Prime Minister Marin highlighted steps taken during Finland’s Presidency of the Council of the EU
On 12 December, Finland’s Prime Minister Sanna Marin presented to the European Council an overview of the progress made in implementing the EU's Strategic Agenda during Finland’s Presidency of the Council of the European Union. The Finnish Presidency has been the first to integrate the priorities of the EU’s Strategic Agenda 2019–2024 into the work of the Council.
In her speech, Prime Minister Marin highlighted matters on which urgent action is needed from the new European Commission and which merit the European Council’s continued attention. These include not only climate change, which the European Council will deal with as a separate item, but also digitalisation, migration and enlargement.
Prime Minister Marin also highlighted the climate issue, noting the importance of concrete choices made by Council presidencies. Sustainable meeting arrangements and the number of meetings are of significance in reducing the carbon footprint. Finland succeeded in taking the common EU agenda forward with fewer meetings, which resulted in a carbon footprint that is as much as 70% smaller than for the average presidency.
Implementation of Strategic Agenda during Finland’s Presidency
In her letter to the new President of the European Council, Charles Michel, Prime Minister Marin gave a full overview of the progress made during Finland’s Presidency in implementing the EU's Strategic Agenda.
“Regular follow-up of the Strategic Agenda’s implementation is important. That is why I would like to give an overview of what has been done in different policy areas during Finland’s Presidency of the Council of the EU. I feel that it is important to communicate this information to citizens, too,” wrote Prime Minister Marin in her letter to President Michel ahead of the European Council meeting.
Protecting citizens and freedoms
“During our Presidency, we have succeeded in developing the EU’s rule of law instruments and strengthening their synergies,” wrote Prime Minister Marin.
The Finnish Presidency has, for example, based on answers given to a questionnaire sent to member states, issued presidency conclusions on renewing the Council’s rule of law dialogue and sought a solution designed to protect the EU's budget against risks arising from rule of law problems.
During its Presidency, Finland has also made progress with the prevention and countering of hybrid threats in the EU. Finland held a number of scenario-based policy discussions that served to improve member states’ awareness of hybrid threats and therefore enhance their preparedness to respond. The December General Affairs Council adopted conclusions on further steps in EU-level cooperation towards a comprehensive approach to hybrid threats.
Developing our economic base: the European model for the future
“The Presidency’s work has aimed at sustainable growth. The EU needs a comprehensive, ambitious and forward-looking growth agenda,” wrote Marin.
Progress towards this objective has been furthered by the Council’s discussions on an integrated approach to an increasingly digitalised single market and industrial, research and innovation policy. Different aspects of the digital transformation have been on the agenda of a number of Council configurations.The Finnish Presidency was also the first to arrange a joint meeting of ministers of finance and education, which emphasised the importance of investing in education and training.
Building a climate neutral, green, fair and social Europe
Climate change requires changes in all areas of life. This is why addressing climate change has been discussed in almost all Council configurations during Finland’s Presidency and a readiness developed for formulating policy positions on the EU long-term climate strategy.
“Building a fair and social Europe has also been an important element of our Presidency’s programme. In October, the employment and social affairs ministers adopted conclusions on the economy of wellbeing. The aim was to bring together elements needed to achieve a higher level of prosperity and wellbeing for Europeans,” wrote Prime Minister Marin.
Promoting European interests and values in the world
The Finnish Presidency has supported the High Representative in strengthening the EU’s global role. During the Presidency, Finland has focused on developing a more comprehensive partnership with Africa. The importance of a unified Arctic policy for the EU has also been highlighted by Finland.
The Council did not achieve a consensus concerning the European Commission’s recommendations to open accession negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania. The discussions during the Finnish Presidency nevertheless clarified the positions of member states and established a base for Council discussions next spring. Council discussions have confirmed the EU’s commitment to the Western Balkans’ European perspective and the EU’s active role in the region, supporting the countries’ reforms.
Delivering on our priorities
Implementation of the Strategic Agenda requires each institution to revisit its working methods. During the Finnish Presidency, discussion on Council working methods have been taken forward on a number of themes. At the end of its Presidency, Finland will present a synthesis report with concrete recommendations for developing the Council’s work.
“The Finnish Presidency has also sought to make the Council's work more transparent and understandable to citizens,” wrote Marin.