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Speech given by Minister of Economic Affairs Katri Kulmuni during an exchange of views with the European Parliament's Committee on Regional Development (REGI) on 23 July 2019

Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment
Publication date 23.7.2019 16.23
Photo: Laura Kotila, Prime Minister's Office

(Check against delivery) Dear Mr Chair, Mr Younous Omarjee, Honourable Members of the European Parliament. It is my great pleasure and honour to be here at the European Parliament today. My sincere hope is that we shall be seeing each other very often during Finland’s Presidency and beyond. I look forward to continuing and intensifying our ambitious work together for European competitiveness.

Today, I am delighted to have this opportunity to discuss with you about Finland’s Presidency of the Council of the European Union. Finland has set an ambitious objective that the European Union becomes the most competitive and socially inclusive climate neutral economy globally.

Our aim is that during Finland’s Presidency, we together, as European decision-makers, could achieve a joint vision on a new growth agenda for the European Union.

Finland’s Presidency sees that the key elements of the sustainable growth agenda would include:

  • transition towards a climate neutral economy
  • effective EU single market
  • modern innovation-led industrial policy including digital economy
  • active trade policy as external dimension of the EU competitiveness
  • new skills and continuous learning

My distinguished colleagues at the European Parliament, our joint efforts are needed to translate these objectives into reality.

Most importantly, the EU must act in a way that produces results visible to the ordinary citizen.

The aim should be that the new growth agenda will offer a policy framework for the next five years. I hope that on New Year’s Eve, we would have a sustainable growth agenda for the European Union ready to be implemented.

I will now be happy to talk more in detail about the five elements that will create the policy framework for the new growth agenda.

Starting from point one, the transition towards a climate neutral society. Tackling climate change is a must – and it is also an economic opportunity. Research and innovation play an important role as key-drivers to turn those opportunities towards sustainable economic growth.

At the same time, the transition to a climate neutral society needs to be fair. But I believe with transition, we manage to create new industry and new work places. Hopefully, in the future there isn’t even a word for waste.

Secondly, as mentioned, smart and forward-looking single market policies are vital for the growth and competitiveness of Europe. The focus should be on strengthening services, particularly digital services as an integral part of the single market.

Thirdly, I will say a few words on modern industrial policy including digital economy. We need to set the objective of Europe becoming a global leader in the digital economy. Digitalisation, artificial intelligence, data and platform economy are key drivers for the EU’s success in the global market.

Fourth, in the rapidly progressing digital era, new skills and constant development of skills are needed. Continuous learning will be at the heart of working life in the future.

Fifth, trade policy plays a key role as external dimension of the EU’s competitiveness. Europe’s competitiveness is best supported by ambitious trade policy, based on openness and a rules-based multilateral trading system. To summarize, the world order is changing. The EU has to step forward as a strong global actor.

Dear Members of the European Parliament,

I am happy to discuss the future of the regions and the next phase of the Cohesion policy. Encouraging the efforts of the regions in building their future is close to my heart, having witnessed the vital role EU Cohesion policy has played in supporting the development of my home region in the sparsely populated northernmost areas of the EU. 

Cohesion policy significantly contributes to sustainable and inclusive growth in all EU regions and helps us tackle the challenges the EU is facing.

Cohesion policy is an important tool in stimulating sustainable economic growth and reducing regional disparities. Challenges related to unemployment, competitiveness, demographic change, accessibility and climate change are common to all Member States and regions.

At the same time, the future Cohesion policy needs to be more result-oriented, efficient and thematically focused. Strengthening common values and the rule of law are key priorities for Finland’s Presidency. We need to concentrate on common goals that are crucial for the future of the Union. Cohesion funding can bring clear EU added value to our citizens by improving employment, investments and wellbeing.

Cohesion policy should better support sustainable growth, employment and innovation-driven economy in all regions of the EU. It has an important role in boosting research and innovation as well as creating resilience to globalisation.

Harnessing the potential of digitalization and new emerging technologies, such as artificial intelligence, is crucial for building a solid base for growth across the Europe. Both Horizon Europe and Cohesion policy play important roles in boosting our global competitiveness.

Smart specialization strategies provide a good strategic framework for the innovation-driven economic transformation of European regions. Investments in low-carbon energy technologies and bio and circular economy solutions play a crucial role. The increased Climate goal -earmarking of 25 % for Cohesion policy is an important step in supporting this strategy.

Moreover, upskilling and reskilling in the labour market are important drivers of industrial competitiveness. The emphasis on the youth, disadvantaged people and the integration of migrants is well-founded. The need for balanced development of European societies and of social equality should be taken seriously. Europe should be as unified and strong as possible to respond to the emerging global challenges.

It is also important to strengthen cross-border cooperation on EU’s internal and external borders.  It is a common EU interest to promote mobility, people-to-people contacts and sustainable economic development in the border regions. In addition, external border programmes contribute to secure and functioning EU borders.

The EU should tap into the potential and economic opportunities offered by the Arctic region. The EU is one of the key actors in the Arctic and it is in the interest of all Member States to strengthen the presence of the union in the region. Increased investments in the Arctic will bring added value through innovations in the field of sustainable development and help achieve Europe’s Agenda2030 goals.

The Cohesion policy legislative package 2021 - 2027 is an important component of the next multiannual financial framework. What comes to the Finnish Presidency, our aim is to take the work forward as effectively as possible.

Dear Members,

Finalising the next multiannual financial framework is one of the most important political target during Finland's Presidency. In autumn, we will seek to finalise the Council negotiations on it. In addition, we will seek the greatest possible progress in the MFF-related sectoral proposals.

We are aiming at a balanced financial framework that reflects both new priorities and traditional policies. We also think that the future modernised MFF should effectively deliver on the political priorities of the EU.

As for Cohesion Policy the Finnish Presidency will stand ready to restart inter-institutional negotiations with the European Parliament as soon as possible after the European Parliament has resumed its work. We would like to give priority to finding a common understanding on issues most relevant for programming and prompt start of the next generation programmes.

I am looking for a constructive and fruitful cooperation between the co-legislators on Cohesion policy legislative package. I am committed to advance the package as much as possible during the Finnish Presidency.

Dear Mr Chair, Honourable Members of the European Parliament - to conclude my remarks, economic growth is needed - and it must be environmentally and socially sustainable. Cohesion Policy is an important tool in achieving this goal.

A new design for growth is necessary for the transition towards a climate-neutral society. Let us set this goal together, full of hope and ambition, and ready to work.

We need to foster competitive and socially inclusive EU to live up to the expectations of the European citizens.

Thank you.

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