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Prime Minister Antti Rinne: Solving the climate crisis could be Europe’s next heroic act

Publication date 1.7.2019 9.36
Prime Minister Antti Rinne in Kesäranta, Prime Minister's Official Residence
Prime Minister Antti Rinne in Kesäranta. Photo: Prime Minister's Office / Laura Kotila.

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.

I am writing to you because my country, Finland, holds the Presidency of the Council of the European Union as of the beginning of July – and I myself am the Prime Minister of Finland. Just like you, I’m a European. And proud to be one.

Where else in the world than in the European Union do people work together so extensively across national borders? We are an exception, and a positive one. In fact I’d say ‘unique’ is the right word to describe the story of the European Union. 

Nowadays, Germans can drive across the border any time to have dinner with their friends in France. It’s hard to believe that these two countries fought two bitter and bloody wars in the 20th century.

On a continent that 30 years ago was still divided by barbed wire and walls, a whole generation has been born and raised who have never known anything else than free movement across borders.

A continent that suffered the horrors of war and totalitarianism and witnessed an atrocious genocide 80 years ago is now the strongest defender of democracy, human rights and peace in the world.

This unique story is a source of pride. But with this pride comes great responsibility, as the EU is now the object of new expectations. While maintaining stability and peace is still one of the EU’s core tasks, many other big questions remain unanswered.

For the fact is that the news tells us every day that the world is unstable, and that means we also need stabilising forces. We need forces that favour cooperation over conflict and accept that the only way to find sustainable solutions is to work together. 

In an age when acting tough is all too often seen as the highest form of courage, we need people who dare to speak out for freedom of speech, democracy, justice, human rights and the rule of law. This is a task for the European Union, not just in Europe but in the world at large.

Sustainable Europe – Sustainable Future

The slogan for Finland’s Presidency is Sustainable Europe – Sustainable Future. By ‘sustainable future’, I mean a future that is socially, economically and ecologically sustainable for all Europeans and for the whole of Europe. 

Everywhere in Europe and around the world, people are worried about climate change. Rather than just worry, however, they’ve also started to demand solutions. When I was young, we used to skip school to go and ride our mopeds or hang out with our pals. Today, young people across Europe are gathering in front of national parliaments to show what they think about the big issue that worries them: the climate crisis.

They have one message, and one only, for us decision-makers: do what you were elected to do, make decisions about the things that concern us all. Make decisions to save the future of humanity and our planet.

During Finland’s Presidency, not only are we going to listen to young people’s concerns, we’re going to answer them. During Finland’s Presidency, we want to show that political will – the most important resource needed to halt climate change – is a renewable resource and not about to run out.

Some people have asked me why the Finnish Government Programme starts with the words ‘Climate change’. My answer is very simple. The Government Programme starts with climate change because we don’t want climate change to mark the end. 

I know for sure that a sustainable Europe and a sustainable future are possible, as long as we pull together to pursue bold, forward-looking policies. That’s how we can continue our unique story. Solving the climate crisis could be Europe’s next heroic act, one that will be admired and praised by future generations. This is what Finland, as the Presidency, promises to strive for. The time for solutions is now. 

Antti Rinne, Prime Minister