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?
The main topic of the Informal Meeting of Ministers for Agriculture is soil carbon sequestration as a climate action in agriculture. Delegates should think of the meeting as if they’re going into a traditional Finnish smoke sauna, a wood-heated, chimneyless sauna hut: head slightly bowed – the doorways are small in old saunas – and hands fumbling in the dark to guide them. But decidedly taking steps towards something new.
One of the main objectives of the European Union is to promote the wellbeing of its citizens. However, many still see the EU as little more than an economic union and a single market. Has the EU forgotten the human element? Would it be possible to forge a stronger link between the economy and people’s wellbeing?
A well-oiled financial system keeps the wheels of the economy turning. This means that a strike against critical points in the financial system could bring society to its knees. Finland’s Presidency of the Council of the EU aims to put the issue of new threats to the financial market and ways to counter them on the political agenda.
Violent radicalisation and the rise in the activities of extremist movements are a challenge that the whole of Europe shares. It is also a cross-border threat. Extremist movements aim to instil fear and insecurity, and their activities undermine people’s trust in society. Extremist movements advocate ideologies that run counter to the European Union’s fundamental values.
Common values are strongly highlighted in the Strategic Agenda 2019–2024 of the EU, which states that they are the foundation of freedom, security and prosperity in Europe. Nevertheless, in the EU and beyond, we have seen that the foundations of society can be eroded by problems relating to respect of fundamental rights and the rule of law and to the functioning of democracy.
Good headway has been made in EU defence cooperation. New initiatives have been launched, and old structures have been modernised. While in the past EU defence matters were handled by initiated experts only, in recent years they have become topics of discussion at meetings of top leaders.
At the time of Finland’s first Presidency of the Council of the European Union 20 years ago, the EU heads of state or government made a major policy decision. They decided to develop the EU as an area of freedom, security and justice.
In terms of energy policy, Finland’s Presidency of the Council of the EU will focus on the implementation of legislation. The Presidency will also have an opportunity to lay down long-term policies especially on climate issues.
The climate leaders have changed since the Paris Agreement was signed. Now, small island states are leading the way; the European Union, China and Canada are leading the way; cities and businesses are leading the way. Even schoolchildren have gone on strike to lead the way. In other words, even smaller actors can be leaders in climate policy. This is good news for the EU, too.
Finland’s Presidency aims to maintain a strong focus on sustainability. A sustainable and growing economy will form the foundations for a sustainable future, and for Europe. Economic growth is necessary if we are to continue to secure our wellbeing in the future. But growth must be ecologically and socially sustainable.
Dear friends all around Europe! I have the pleasure of addressing you directly here, as fellow Europeans. Whether you live in Kalix in northern Sweden, in Krosno, Poland, in Nice in the south of France, in Bologna, Italy or in Bad Segeberg in northern Germany, this column is for you.
During its Council Presidency, Finland will host both informal meetings of ministers and meetings of working groups and experts. Finland is aiming for well-functioning and welcoming arrangements that are as sustainable as possible.