Eu and US are stronger when joining forces on pressing issues like COVID, vaccine supply chains or climate change. We will continue to coordinate closely on geopolitical issues, from China to Russia.
European affairs ministers prepared for March European Council and discussed European Semester cycle
Government Communications Department 23.3.2021 16.42 | Published in English on 23.3.2021 at 18.25PRESS RELEASE 187/2021
The main topic of the informal video conference of the European affairs ministers on 23 March were the preparations for the video conference of the members of the European Council, to take place on 25–26 March 2021. The ministers also had a debate on the European Semester for economic policy coordination, and they were briefed on the ongoing preparations for the Conference on the Future of Europe. Finland was represented at the Council meeting by Minister for European Affairs and Ownership Steering Tytti Tuppurainen.
The European affairs ministers exchanged views on the draft conclusions for the March European Council. The European Council meeting agenda features the EU response to the COVID-19 pandemic, enhancement of the single market, industrial policy, digital transformation and the economy, the eastern Mediterranean, and relations with Russia.
Finland underlines that all efforts should be made to speed up the delivery timelines for coronavirus vaccines. Finland is ready to advocate a common European vaccination certificate and to promote global solidarity in order to guarantee vaccine availability.
“Ensuring timely delivery of vaccines continues to be our first priority. We must do our utmost within the EU to speed up vaccinations. Vaccines drive into an exit from the coronavirus crisis,” says Minister Tuppurainen.
“The EU must also be better prepared for potential cross-border health threats. We need an EU-wide pandemic preparedness plan that would be built on a cross-border emergency response mechanism jointly agreed upon in advance. It would allow for better coordination of measures and restrictions at Member States’ borders,” the Minister says.
As for the single market, industrial policy, and digital transformation and the economy, Finland’s goal is to have the single market reinforced in a manner that will strengthen sustainable growth, competitiveness and crisis resilience within the EU. A strong and more integrated single market is the best assurance when striving to achieve strategic autonomy for the EU.
Finland also finds that the EU should pursue its policy on Turkey on a consistent and long-term basis. Diplomatic efforts should be continued to find lasting solutions to the problem areas in the relations. The readiness expressed by Turkey for more constructive interaction is welcomed. It is essential to note that this is an enduring change in attitude that will define Turkey’s future activity and concrete actions in the eastern Mediterranean, too. Should Turkey revert to its practices that encourage confrontation and instability, the EU must deliver a united and strong response. The EU should also express its concern over the problematic democracy, rule of law and human rights development in Turkey.
“I am much concerned about Turkey’s decision to withdraw from the Istanbul Convention combating violence against women. We call upon Turkey to return to the Convention,” says the Finnish Minister for European Affairs.
The European affairs ministers moreover held a debate on Council measures related to the 2021 European Semester, during which the Member States align their budgetary and economic policies with the objectives and rules agreed at the EU level. The European Semester is the main tool for evening out disparities between Member States, for promoting employment and social cohesion and for maintaining stability in the euro area. This year, the recommendation on the economic policy of the euro area also provides policy guidance on the priorities that euro area Member States should pursue in their Recovery and Resilience Plans. Finland finds it important that the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN (Agenda 2030) would also be acknowledged as part of the European Semester. The euro area recommendations are acceptable for Finland.
In addition, the Portuguese Presidency of the Council of the European Union reported on the state of preparations for the Conference on the Future of Europe. The joint declaration of the European Parliament, the Council and the European Commission on the Conference on the Future of Europe was signed on 10 March 2021. The declared goal is to launch a top-down, citizen-centred process for hearing the views of EU citizens on the current challenges and opportunities of the Union. The outcomes of the Conference will be reported to the European Council in spring 2022.
In the General Affairs Council (GAC), the Member States are primarily represented by their ministers for European affairs. The tasks of the Council include preparations for the European Council meetings. The GAC is also responsible for a number of cross-cutting policy areas, including negotiations on the multiannual financial framework and EU enlargement. Questions relating to the rule of law are also an established part of the Council’s agenda.