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.
Finland is preparing for the start of its third presidency of the Council of the EU. At the same time, negotiations are under way to form a new national government following parliamentary elections. Meanwhile, the European Union is about to embark on a new five-year electoral term after the European Parliament elections.