Saturday, 18 November, 2017

Critical years in EU policy

06 Jun 2017, 00:04 ( 5 Months ago)

By Juha Sipilä
File Photo Xinhua.

The years to come will be vital in terms of the development of the European Union. The Brexit decision was soon followed by deliberations on the future of the EU, and these continue even today. At the same time there are several key legislative processes for Finland, where joint efforts to advocate our interests are particularly important. We must not lose the focus in this to any high-level visions.

In the EU dialogue I am sometimes frustrated by the use of terms whose meaning remains obscure. One example is the talk about trying to be in the heart of Europe, which appears on the agenda from time to time. The hearts and coalitions vary depending on what we are really talking about. Today Finland is strongly involved in all forms of European cooperation. However, being involved cannot be a policy goal as such, but it must always be considered on a case-by-case basis and with our national interest in mind.

In the work on the EU’s future the main focus is now on concrete development work and even better implementation of the legislation. In terms of legislation I wish to raise two topics that are particularly important for decision-making and influence in Finland.

The first one is the European climate and energy policy. Being forerunners is in the best interest of our nation. This is particularly important now that the United States is pulling out of the joint international climate policy commitments. The Nordic countries are an important frame of reference for us in these fields. All five of us have high-level expertise in environmental and energy technologies.

While being ambitious in these issues, we must advocate our interests in the EU in legislative projects that are of key importance for the success of our national climate and energy policies. The decisions to be made regarding the sustainability criteria for biomass and the land use sector, for example, are critical for us. In this context, we do not need any new rules to complicate the sustainable use of forests. Finland must be enabled to increase forest harvesting to about 80 million cubic metres by 2025, set as the target in the National Climate and Energy Strategy, without any restrictions being imposed on this by the land use sector (LULUCF). The calculation method proposed by the Commission is not a balanced one and it does not take sufficiently into account the role of forests in climate change mitigation.

Another key topic for Finland relates to the future financial frameworks of the EU. The work to influence these has started and the first Commission proposals are to be expected at the turn of the year. It is a high priority for Finland that the financial framework continues to boost economic growth, job creation and competence. Critical issues for Finland include the negotiations on regional and agricultural policy.

Finland’s remote location and sparse population must be taken into account in regional and structural policy. Conditions must be safeguarded for agriculture to be practised in a profitable way in all EU Member States. We need a payment for areas facing specific constraints (LFA) to balance the differences caused by our adverse circumstances, also in the future. Lessening the administrative burden of farmers must be among our key priorities.

Finland’s policy in all these issues must be a harmonised, clear and simple one. This is the only way of getting our voice heard. The future of Europe is created through action. I want to do my own part in this work.

Notes: The writer is the Prime Minister of Finland.

 

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