Prime Minister Antti Rinne at the official opening of Finland’s Presidency of the Council of the EU “Summer Day at Töölönlahti”
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Mayor Vapaavuori, Dear Friends,
Welcome to enjoy this Summer Day at Töölönlahti.
I wish to thank Mayor Vapaavuori for his excellent speech - I fully share his message. I also wish you all most welcome to this event, and to officially open Finland’s Presidency of the Council of the European Union. Now everybody in Europe is looking at us. For the next six months, Finland will be the hub of the European Union.
It is so great to start our Presidency in a situation where the polls show wider support for the EU among the Finns than ever before. Finns have thus shown their strong support for European cooperation. This trust is to be honoured, and to be taken very seriously. We must respond to people’s expectations with regard to European cooperation.
The next few months will be crucial in terms of the direction the EU is going to take. The next Commission and the newly elected European Parliament provide the opportunity to build this cooperation on a new basis. What the Brexit process has proven over the years is that solutions to complex problems should be sought together, not alone. A strong EU is very much in the interest of small countries.
We have an excellent opportunity to influence the future of Europe - a future that must be socially, economically and ecologically sustainable. What we aim for is a Sustainable Europe - Sustainable Future.
I wish to remind you that the EU is not about formal speeches and difficult jargon but, first and foremost, it deals with matters that impact on people’s everyday lives. The focus of European cooperation must always be on the people and their wishes and expectations.
The opening of our Presidency coincides with the opening of the international youth football tournament, Helsinki Cup. These young players of the present and future are the ones we must think about when making decisions about Europe’s future.
For the future of our children and young people, it is important for the EU to take the lead in finding solutions to the big questions faced by humankind. The world needs trailblazers, and Finland is ready for this.
The biggest common challenge to humankind is climate change. This is why in combatting climate change the time of a “yes, but” policy is over. The EU must lead the way in the work to combat climate change. Now is the time to look for and find solutions. To build an ecologically sustainable Europe, we must commit to achieving carbon neutrality by 2050. This is one of the most important objectives of our Presidency.
It is going to take a lot of effort, but we are ready. My Government wants Finland to be carbon neutral by 2035, as the first industrial country to achieve this. By serving as an example, we can encourage others to work for the common goal.
The beautiful Central Library of Helsinki, Oodi, symbolises knowledge, competence and learning new things. The success of Europe is largely built on knowledge and equal opportunities for people to learn, participate and improve themselves, both in Finland and in the whole Europe. These European values are strong, resilient and even more important in the rapidly changing world.
Investments within the EU must be targeted to knowledge and education because, without competent people, Europe will not succeed in international competition. We want to do our part to make sure that European education and research of the future are the best in the world.
A whole generation of young people in Europe has grown in a world where it is an everyday thing to study and work in another EU country. Today’s young people could not imaging queuing up for passport control at the German-French border or applying for a work permit for a summer job at a Danish amusement park. We must cherish this kind of cooperation and freedom to move.
Resilience is also closely associated with the other European values. Commitment to human rights, freedom, democracy, equality and the rule of law is a condition for joining the EU. We must find better and even more effective ways to make sure that these values are honoured in the EU.
Finland has important objectives concerning the EU, but we cannot work wonders alone. Finland is like one of the teams in the Helsinki Cup tournament: everyone’s input is needed for the common good. A top team cannot work well together without years of continuous and persistent training.
We can change the direction the world is taking - all we need is bold people and collaboration. I wish to invite you all to join us in making Finland’s Presidency of the Council of the EU an effective one by getting involved in the events and bringing messages that are important for you to the attention of policy makers.
I wish you all a wonderful Summer Day at Töölönlahti.