Finland takes over the EU presidency - commentaires Finland takes over the EU presidency 2006-07-16T20:57:12Z 2006-07-16T20:57:12Z <p><strong> <i>"A more critical approach towards the Finnish presidency"</i> </strong></p> <p>In the following I'd like to comment and make some notions on Pete's positive evaluation on the Finnish presidency.</p> <p>Contrary to the Austrian approach, Finland explicitly does not want to talk about the borders of Europe.</p> <p>Finnish Presidency's opinion is that EU is prepared for Turkey's accession in 10-15 yrs. They want to pay pecial attention to Moldova and neighbouring countries, because of the geopolitical importance on energy resources' provision and energy transit.</p> <p>Opening the legislative council is only a TEMPORARY 6 months' experiment, assessment of results and effects is done afterwards. PM Vanhanen said that "all the Council meetings are definitely not opened, leaders have to have chance to confidential discussion..". So the Finnish PM is no way reformist on this issue.</p> <p>We as JEF should remember to be a bit more critical about this, why I also refer to our PR before G8 about "Putin-Hugging” : Finland as the head of EU now, having long history with the sometimes "difficult" Eastern neighbour, experience on political culture of the country and blessed with the geopolitical proximity, should pay more attention to criticising the state of democracy in Russia. Unfortunately, the “Finlandisierung” is still very prominent among the political leaders in Finland, and this prevents them from saying much against mighty Russia.</p> <p>The Finnish Foreign Minister Tuomioja (Social Democratic Party) was under attack in European Parliament, from the side of many MEP's, Swedish MEP Cecilia Malmström (ALDE) among them. They rightly complained that “Finland as country using EU's common voice, did not include single word in their agenda about democratic deficit in Russia”.</p> <p>It is clear that the transit point for Fin-Pre over the eastern EU-border to Russia is energy. High political dialogue on it but no legislative acts will be ahead during the next fall. The aim is to have action plan for the 1st half of 2007 on energy, and set up a permanent, high-level talk shop with Russia on energy affairs. Enhancing EU-energy internal market functioning is also on the agenda as a one of the most difficult topics, because of protectionist trade policies of French and the other bad guys. Obviously it the biggest challenge is to overcome the EU-internal energy disputes before being able to counterweight Russia on a territory where it plays rough game.</p> <p>Fin-Pre also states that reaching final agreement in WTO is an aim - which apparently is mere wishful thinking, at least assessed based on to latest developments.</p> <p>After EU-US Transatlantic "Gipfeltreffen" Fin-Pre reached agreement to start "High Level Dialogue" this fall with US about climate issues in the context of energy questions (meeting will be in Helsinki) : All this on the condition that the word "Kyoto" will not be mentioned, funnily enough. Talks about climate in UN-framework will also be started.</p> <p>To Western Balkans' issues Finland is going to be well-engaged : SAA -mandates are going to be accepted for Montenegro and Serbia ASAP, and an important priority will be to make progress in easing VISA restrictions from WEB. This is where JEFfers could push also push a bit to make faster progress !</p> <p>So the Fin-Pre agenda is favouring high-level, intergovernmental and external issues, obviously because Finland wants to benefit from their historical - in good as well as in bad - high-profile status in mediating Russia, EU and US interests. Finland has good relations (for such an unimportant and distant country) towards all of them. Kosovo talks in 1999 headed by former president Ahtisaari proved that the reputation doesn't go without real base. In the talks Mr. Ahtisaari juggled quite successfully between the interests of Russia, US and China during the crisis, and is doing the same at the moment. Outcome is awaited during the Finnish presidency, to draw a cross on one item in the "to-do-list".</p> <p>Not to forget the neighbouring countries outside in the cold, a word about Switzerland : there might be interesting developments in front with Helvetians and EU on the course of the fall. If the Swiss referendum in September (whether or not to give away 1 billion Swiss francs to new EU-member states) is going to be rejected by people- stones in the Swiss bilateral way might really loom ahead. Commission is also being tough against Switzerland on some of their cantonal taxation rules, which are mildly expressed, very beneficial for foreign businesses.</p> <p>If Swiss people indeed say no to furthering the “cohesion” between new and old member states on their expense, and Commission and cantons can not find a solution to the tax-fight, country's plan about getting integrated to Schengen/Dublin-system in time might be blocked by irritated new member states.</p> <p>This might also mean serious reconsideration of the huge web of agreements and treaties, in other words to danger their beneficial “opt-ins”. Maybe Finland gets the challenging task to negotiate between EU and Switzerland, and make use its' reputation of a neutral mediator. If Finland succeeds in communicating with Swiss politicians, EU might be some decades closer to getting a new Member State from the geographical centre of Europe.</p> <p>To conclude, Finnish Presidency could have concentrated on lower level work about EU-citizens rights as they are working and moving around Europe, more democracy and more stress on the Constitutional stalemate. The ratification of the Constitutional Treaty has been promised to be concluded “during 2006”, and obviously no moves have been made on that sphere during the first weeks of Presidency. Wait and see, is the attitude of “slower than the European average”- Finns also in this regard..</p> <p>A place for the last critique is here : where Finland definitely could have acted in a constructive way, is the remit of "social security combined with high competitiveness and innovations". It is an unchallenged truth that Finland is an exemplary country in the area of education, social security and readiness for reform, without compromising the well-being of middle classes and the worst off.</p> <p>As the last Eurobarometer shows, getting the social model issues on EU-agenda is a great concern to the majority of Europeans. Which of the presidencies is innovative and reformist enough to take this on the agenda ?</p>