Last Thursday His Excellency Jakko Laajava, Finland's Ambassador to the UK spoke to an audience at The Scottish Parliament around the current Finnish presidency of the EU, and outlined its priorities. Finland last held the presidency in 1999.
Mr Laajava's speech was characterised by the openness, directness and honesty that is so typical of the Finnish people. As a nation which has successfully combined competitiveness with an efficient welfare state there is much other European countries can learn from the Finn. However Mr Laajava did stress that no one-way of working could be applicable to all countries.
During the course of his speech Mr Laajava touched on many subjects currently relevant to the EU, such as enlargement, energy and globalisation. The EU is often accused of propaganda, when it comes to promoting itself, however, the Mr Laajava spoke frankly on the problems the EU faces. Firstly he admitted that the EU lags behind the rest of the world in many areas such as globalisation, that foreign relations had not always been given the prominence they should have been, and that many outsiders viewed Europe as a museum of past glories. Mr Laajava identified a lack of mobility as the most imminent problem Europe faces, and the world will not wait for Europe because we are afraid of change.
The four main areas on which the Finnish Presidency will concentrate on are
- The reinforcement of a common view regarding the EU
- Enhancement of EU Competitiveness
- Strengthening freedoms, security and justice
- Strengthen relations, especially with Russia and the Western Balkans
On 20 October the heads of all EU Member States, are meeting informally to discuss, innovation policy, energy and competitiveness. Vladimir Putin, President of the Russian Federation, has also been invited to take part in some of the discussion.
Mr Laajava also stressed that the Finnish people believe that actions speak louder than words, that during the presidency the Finland would not look to score points by bringing things to conclusion but would emphasise the quality of results. He was also keen to talk about the similarities between Scotland and Finland, the national beliefs and characteristics which we both share, and said that coming to Edinburgh felt like going to Helsinki. From a man obviously proud of his roots that was quite a compliment.