Finland kicks off EU presidency on green note

Written by Martin Banks on 2 July 2019 in News
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Finland has embarked on its six-month presidency of the EU by announcing that it will offset emissions from air travel during its term in office.

Photo credit: European Parliament Audiovisual


Finland, which took over the rotating EU presidency on 1 July for the third time, says it will also fund green-friendly projects that “reduce greenhouse gas emissions and simultaneously advance sustainable development goals.”

Offsetting flight emissions is, it says, a “concrete climate action” and, along with safeguarding the rule of law, is one the centrepieces of Finland’s presidency.

Finland is also expected to focus more on Brexit, the situation in Western Balkans, as well as the appointment of heads to the leading institutions of the bloc.


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A spokesman for the presidency said the focus on sustainability issues is driven by the “need to respond to climate change.”

Putting climate action at the forefront of its policies for the next six months, it says the amount used for offsetting emissions will total approximately €500,000.

The Finnish government decided to direct funds initially earmarked for presidency gifts to offsetting greenhouse gas emissions instead.

“Climate change challenges us all to change our course of action. Through this concrete climate action of offsetting flight emissions during our Presidency, we want to draw attention to the climate impact of meetings and shake up traditions,” says Finnish Prime Minister Antti Rinne.

“Climate change challenges us all to change our course of action. Through this concrete climate action of offsetting flight emissions during our Presidency, we want to draw attention to the climate impact of meetings and shake up traditions” Finnish Prime Minister Antti Rinne

His comments were echoed by Krista Mikkonen, Finnish Minister of the Environment and Climate Change, who said, “Emissions must be reduced everywhere. One of our goals in arranging the Presidency meetings has been to cut the amount of air travel overall.”

“When flying is necessary, we will offset the emissions in a way that will have a real and permanent effect and promote sustainable development goals.”

Finland says its presidency priorities are to strengthen common values and the rule of law, to make the EU more competitive and socially inclusive, to strengthen the EU’s position as a global leader in climate action and to protect the security of citizens comprehensively.

Speaking just ahead of the start of its term in office, Rinne said, “Finland, in this role, can make an impact on the future of the EU. Whether Finland is seen as a small or a big EU member is up to us.”

“The more active we are, the bigger our profile to others. The future of the EU should be socially, economically and ecologically sustainable. The slogan for our Presidency neatly states the goal: ‘Sustainable Europe - Sustainable Future.”

The common denominator for “all EU action should be sustainability”, it says.

This includes implementation “both within and beyond” the EU of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

“When flying is necessary, we will offset the emissions in a way that will have a real and permanent effect and promote sustainable development goals” Krista Mikkonen, Finnish Minister of the Environment and Climate Change

The EU should raise its profile as a global leader in climate action by adopting a long-term climate strategy aimed at making the EU carbon neutral by 2050, said Rinne.

“Sustainability also ties in with the EU’s shared values. Human rights, freedom, democracy, equality and the rule of law are all values that EU countries commit to as part of membership,” he added.

Further comment came from Finland's European affairs minister Tytti Tuppurainen, who said the rule of law will also be high on the presidency agenda.

He said, "Of the many important political priorities, I wish to emphasise the principle of the rule of law both within the union and its Member States and within the rule-based community of nations.”

“A small Member State such as Finland sees the rule of law in international politics as a most important principle. Indeed, the rules-based international order is an existential question for us.”

On Monday, a Commission spokesman said, "The presidency is responsible for taking forward the Council's work on EU legislation and policy initiatives in the Council and for ensuring the continuity of the EU agenda.”

"The priorities for Finland’s presidency are to strengthen common values and the rule of law, to make the EU more competitive and socially inclusive, to strengthen the EU’s position as a global leader in climate action and to protect the security of citizens comprehensively," the spokesman added.

Croatia will take the reins of the EU presidency in early 2020.

About the author

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at the Parliament Magazine

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