On Monday 2 December, Finland's Presidency of the Council of the EU submitted its proposal for the EU's multiannual financial framework (MFF) for 2021–2027 to the member states. Finland finalised the proposal, which meant setting concrete figures in the financial framework.
Jaana Husu-Kallio: European food policy means climate, economy and the wellbeing of people and the environment
Finland, as holder of the Presidency of the Council of the EU, held a high-level meeting with the Commission this autumn during which the member states were able to share their views on sustainable food policy and support the Commission in the preparations. Food policy is closely linked to the Green Deal programme of the newly inaugurated Commission. Why is the EU now pursuing a common direction in food policy and what does a sustainable European food policy aim to achieve?
Sonya Walkila: Charter of Fundamental Rights: 10 years an integral part of our European law, life and values
Ten years ago, the EU reached a turning point in consolidating the legal status and increasing the importance of fundamental rights. While the importance of fundamental rights had already been gradually growing within the EU and in EU law, it was only in December 2009 that the Treaty of Lisbon gave the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union the same legal value as the EU Treaties. The Charter thus became legally binding, not only on the Union but also on the member states – including their courts and public authorities – within the scope of EU law.
In recent years, international interest in the Arctic and Antarctic regions has taken on entirely new proportions. Many countries are closely following the work of the Arctic Council and want to participate in its activities as observers or otherwise. Engaging in research cooperation and regional debate under the Antarctic Treaty is also of interest to many countries.
Every year in Europe, around 120 000 workers develop cancer and 80 000 die as a result of exposure to cancer-causing chemicals at work. Cancer accounts for an estimated 53% of all work-related deaths in the European Union and other developed countries. The fight against work-related cancer has been intensified in Europe in recent years.
The volume of digital data is growing exponentially. The data economy has already attained a level at which it has a major impact on economic development. In the future, data will contribute strongly to services, economic growth and competitiveness. To shield this development, we need to make sure that data is accessible, protected and secure. The data economy will be the theme of a major conference in Helsinki on 25 and 26 November.
Since the Commission communication and the adoption of the legislative proposals, one thing has been made clear as regards the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) reform: improving the state of the environment and responding to climate change are key objectives. The Commission’s proposal for the post-2020 CAP addresses global challenges such as the loss of biodiversity and the increasing rate of climate change. During the negotiations on the reform, all member states have stressed the importance of the objectives.
The Cyber Ranges Federation project is building an EU-wide cyber range, a closed cyber exercise and training environment, for the use of defence administrations in EU member states. The aim is to develop cyber capabilities and training in EU member states to help them prepare for cyber threats.
Timo Ritonummi: SET Plan Conference aims to solve the climate challenge by promoting low-carbon technologies
The Paris Agreement on climate change sets strict targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Some countries have set even more ambitious targets – Finland, for example, aims to reach carbon neutrality by 2035. In mid-November, the SET Plan Conference will gather energy professionals in Helsinki to discuss energy and low-carbon technologies and how energy research and innovations can contribute to climate-friendly solutions.
Taina Nikula: A new direction for the economy – more circularity, intelligent solutions and sparing use of resources
Europe is looking for new ways of mitigating climate change. While cynics say this heralds a return to the dark ages of ‘make do and mend’, others believe this is now the start of a momentous shift to a new type of economy. At the October Environment Council, the environment and climate ministers of EU member states brought their own policy positions to the table and adopted Council conclusions on the circular economy prepared under Finland’s leadership.
The purpose of hybrid influencing activities is to erode citizens’ trust in democracy and European values and to undermine the unity of the EU. Such activities may take the form of attempts to interfere in elections, manipulation of social media and cyber attacks aimed at paralysing public services – without forgetting the Salisbury poisoning incident. These rapidly evolving hybrid threats pose a long-term challenge, and Finland’s Presidency has made considerable efforts to prepare for and combat them.
Digitalisation is one of the key topics of Finland’s Presidency of the Council of the European Union. Our objective is to strengthen digitalisation in public administration to support European competitiveness and sustainable growth. In particular, we want to focus attention on human-centred digital administration.
If investors were able to compare the sustainability of different investments, they could contribute to mitigating climate change through the investment decisions they make. To facilitate such comparisons, the EU has devised a classification system for sustainable investments. During its Presidency of the Council of the EU, Finland has advanced the creation of the system.
The main event of the European Vocational Skills Week 2019 will be held in Finland, which currently holds the Presidency of the Council of the European Union. The event week provides a splendid opportunity to bring positive visibility for vocational education and training and to have discussions between experts on further development in the field.
Kimmo Kohvakka: Finnish concept of comprehensive security – a source of ideas for rescue services cooperation in Europe
European cooperation in the field of rescue services and civil emergency preparedness is becoming more crucial in the changing operating environment in Europe. The consequences of climate change, for example, are concretely visible in the practical work of the European authorities responsible for rescue and preparedness. Extreme weather phenomena, such as floods, storms and drought, are on the increase, putting the crisis resilience of societies to the test.
The connection between transport and communications has made transport digital. Large amounts of data are already needed, for example, for navigation, ticket and payment transactions and for enabling automation. The utilisation of information is not an end in itself, but rather what is achieved with it. Does the combination of data and transport produce more sustainable services that meet the needs of consumers?
Liisa Leppävirta: “The future of the EU is at stake” – How to improve transparency in the European Union?
Promoting openness and transparency in the European Union has been a crucial issue for Finland throughout its EU membership. When joining the EU, Finland submitted a declaration to the Accession Treaty stating that as a member of the EU it would continue to apply the principle of open government, including public access to official records, inherent to its national administrative culture. This principle has guided Finland’s actions in the EU for more than 20 years now.
The multilateral trading system based around the World Trade Organization (WTO) is still in serious trouble. Unilateral trade measures and the rise of protectionism are undermining the organisation. Trade negotiations have not progressed as desired and it has not been possible to reform the WTO’s rulebook.
Healthcare systems in Finland and across Europe are facing similar challenges. How to organise healthcare and social services for the rapidly ageing population? Or, how to identify and harness innovation to ensure people’s wellbeing?