On Tuesday 14th May, 48 days before Finland takes over the EU Council Presidency, the chamber welcomed Ambassador Rislakki and some of her team to discuss what they would like to achieve during their 6 month leadership. As this was the first presentation ofthe Finnish priories, our members ensured that they turned out in large numbers.
It is clear that Finland will be inheriting the role at a very important time in both EU and Finnish politics. As a new Parliament and new Commission will be forming, it will be key to ensure that good relationships are made between the three institutions. On 14th April, the Finnish people were able to vote for their new national government, after witnessing the entire government resigning the previous month, due to the inability to push through healthcare reform. No party gained more than 20% of the national vote, with the largest party (SDP) winning 40 MP’s. This will be the first time in 20 years that the centre-left party will be leading the government. To ensure that the government is ready to lead the council, each party is being involved in policy discussion, with the hope that a general policy can be agreed, which can be taken up by the government when a coalition is agreed. Finland will also be the first council to implement the 5-year strategy agenda that has been discussed by EUleaders at recent summits.
It was clear from the discussion between the Ambassador and our members that Finland has many objectives to complete during its term. There is a growing recognition that many issuesare not singular issues, but are in fact horizontal issues that have impacts in a number of sectors. One of the main issues where this is clear is whenconsidering digitalisation and the transfer of data. The security of data is hugely important and EU citizens must be reassured that their private data willnot be used in the wrong way, whilst they are also being protected from cyber-attacks.
The conversation covered other topics too, including the aim of creating an environment where the EU can growing a sustainable manner. This will be done by ensuring there is an economy of well-being, providing citizens with the correct training and education to enable them tolive healthy lives and contribute to the growth of the union.
Our members were also keen to talk about the EU’s industrial policy and how much this will impact the future of the EU. Everyone is currently waiting on the paper which will be published by the Commission in the next few months, but we are all aware that discussions around this issue will need to start and progress in order to create a policy that will benefit all member states and not just a few.
To end the event, there was a short discussion on Brexit. The job has been left with the UK Parliament for several months now, with very little progress. Cross-party talks between Labour and the Conservatives are starting to slow, with both sides coming to an understanding that they are unable to reach a compromise. If it comes to October and there is still no progress, it will be up to the UK to again ask for an extension. As MFF discussions carry on in the EU, Brexit is proving a difficult topic as it is difficult to make a budget when one of the biggest contributors may or may not be involved in the future.
Following the event, Marc Piper, EUK Consulting shared his thoughts on the event. He stated “An extremely useful and timely event from the British Chamber with Ambassador Marja Rislakki. The Ambassador provided great insight on the priorities of the forthcoming Finnish Presidency and what can be expected, as well as shed light on the state of play of a number of ongoing key legislative files and issues at EU level. Many thanks to the British Chamber for organising it.”
Ambassador | Permanent representation of Finland to the EU
Marja Rislakki is the current Ambassador of Finland to the EU and has been since 2017. Previously, she has operated in Beijing as the Ambassador of Finland to China (2015-2017), in London as the Second Secretary for the Embassy of Finland and in Madrid as an Attaché in both the Trade and Legal Affairs department (1984-85). In between these roles, Ambassador Rislakki has held several positions in Brussels as a Counsellor and later Minister-Counsellor and Deputy ambassador, Embassy of Finland. Furthermore, she has held the position of Director of North America Unit, Department for the Americas and Asia, and State Secretary, Economic Affairs, Ministry of Employment and the Economy. Marja received a Master of Science from the University of Technology in Helsinki, majoring in International Economics and Paper Technology.