Europe needs “cool-headed” Finnish leadership, European Commission President Juncker says

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European Union commissioners and Finnish ministers pose for a family photo at the House of the Estates during the visit of the College of Commissioners of the European Commission in Helsinki, Finland, on July 5, 2019. (Emmi Korhonen/AFP/Getty Images)
The six-month Finnish presidency of the Council of the European Union is underway with a visit to Helsinki by members of the European Commission.

On Friday, they met with Prime Minister Antti Rinne’s cabinet at the House of the Estates, where the five-party coalition government drew up its programme in May.

Rinne and outgoing European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker then held a joint press conference. As is traditional, Juncker lavished praise on his hosts.

“We have good reason to be optimistic when starting the Finnish presidency because Finland has proven itself to be a leader in our Union,” he said. “Finland has behaved like a founding member whereas founding members are not always behaving like founding members.”

In 1957, six countries formed the European Economic Community, which became the European Union in 1993. Finland joined along with Sweden and Austria two years later, bringing the EU to a total of 15 members. Juncker recalled visiting Finland 20 years ago when the country first held the EU’s rotating presidency. That was followed by a second term in 2006.

“Europe needs Finland because Finland is experienced, pragmatic, down-to-earth and cool-headed, and that’s exactly what we need over the next coming months,” said Juncker, less than four months before Britain is scheduled to leave the EU.

Emissions and ‘Isis brides’

Switching from English to French, Juncker hailed the programme of the Finnish presidency, including its ambitious climate target. He reiterated his support for the Finnish goal of reaching an agreement this year on targeting EU climate neutrality by 2050.

Juncker and Rinne also made general non-committal comments on the messy recent process of selecting nominees for the top EU jobs and the status of Finnish and other EU citizens at the al-Hol refugee camp in Syria, where family members of Isis combatants are being held.

After the press conference, the Commissioners headed to the Presidential Palace for a lunch hosted by President Sauli Niinistö. The two-day visit’s official programme concluded with a session at Parliament. The EU top brass met with the Speakers and the Grand Committee, which oversees EU affairs.

The Finnish legislature broke up a week earlier for a 10-week summer recess that ends on 4 September.

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Ottawa must raise funding for climate science or risk falling behind, scientists say, CBC News

Finland: Finnish EU presidency to work on stronger Arctic policy, climate change mitigation, Yle News

Norway: Emissions dropping in EU, but not in Norway, The Independent Barents Observer

Russia: Moscow’s new energy doctrine warns against green shift, The Independent Barents Observer

Sweden: Local councils more interested in climate change preparedness, Radio Sweden

United States: Sea levels could rise by up to 2 metres by 2100, new study finds, CBC News

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