Finland's Minister for European Affairs, Tytti Tuppurainen; Credit: Jazmin Campbell

Finland's Minister for European Affairs, Tytti Tuppurainen, addressed a full house at the House of the European Union in Luxembourg-ville on Monday, ahead of the EU's General Affairs Council over which she will preside today in Luxembourg.

The event, organised by the Representation of the European Commission and the Embassy of Finland, brought together members of the public, as well as the British and Finnish Ambassadors to Luxembourg.

During her presentation, Tytti Tuppurainen, who has been the Finnish Minister for European Affairs since June 2019, discussed the topic: "A strong and united EU, capable of solving global challenges". Minister Tuppurainen began by mentioning some of the main events to have happened since the start of Finland's Presidency of the Council of the European Union six months ago: the election of a new Commission President, the start of a new parliamentary term and continued Brexit negotiations. Beyond the EU, the last few months have been characterised by US-China trade tensions, fires in the Amazon rainforest and Turkish military intervention in Syria.

Turning to the three main areas on which the Finnish government is focusing during its presidency, Minister Tuppurainen highlighted common values, foreign and security policy and the economy. She added that Finland wished to be at the forefront of an influential EU and quipped that they were pushing their set agenda with "Nordic cool-headedness".

Regarding current challenges facing the EU and beyond, the Finnish European Affairs Minister discussed rising populism and authoritarianism, as people turn to (unsuccessful) alternatives to liberal democracy. Nevertheless, she said that the EU must remain optimistic and understand the virtues of liberal democracy. She added that the EU must uphold rule of law and those who violate this (eg Hungary and Poland) should be supervised and eventually sanctioned. Minister Tuppurainen added that the next multiannual financial framework (MFF) would play a role in protecting rule of law. For instance, violations could result in suspended payments for those countries. She was hopeful that MFF negotiations would be finalisaed by the end of the year.

Looking beyond the EU, she emphasised that "Europe is not a fortress separated from the rest of the world", thus global challenges directly impact Europe and the EU. In this context, she said that the "acceptance of the use of military force is undermining the rules-based system that has [for so long] ensured peace". As such, Minister Tuppurainen highlighted Finland's commitment to an a comprehensive EU security policy that responds to global challenges. This policy would need to respect human rights, democracy and the rule of law, and would include climate policy. Indeed, she emphasised the importance of multilateralism over national interests. Nevertheless, she admitted that it the EU may not have the funds to maintain global security in the future, but that it "must go forward" to tackle these risks.

Concerning the economy, Minister Tuppurainen argued that the "strength of the EU lies in its economic resources", although these are still recovering from the economic crisis. She continued by arguing that preparations for the next recession would be facilitated by a reassessment of the EU's fiscal policy, which "to succeed, must cover the whole EU". More specifically, the European Affairs Minister argued for a strengthening of the European semester (ie "closer and better fiscal cooperation")  and the continued development (ie finalisation) of the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU).

Turning to the agenda of Tuesday's General Affairs Council in Luxembourg, Tytti Tuppurainen cited Brexit developments, the enlargement question and transparency as the key points for discussion. She recalled that sustainability would also be an important issue. Regarding the MMF, she said that meetings held in September between the ministers resulted in concrete proposals, which will be discussed later today. Nevertheless, Minister Tuppurainen recalled the need to consider the loss of a large Member State (UK) and admitted that she was worried about the MFF timetable. She stated that the "Finnish presidency calls on the Member States to crack on with negotiations", to avoid that beneficiaries such as farmers and students face funding difficulties.

Tytti Tuppurainen was adamant that the "EU must assume its responsibility [and[ have the courage to adopt a common fiscal policy and the MFF". She added that the "EU is a success story [...] that continues to attract more countries", despite the UK's decision to leave the EU. Indeed, today's discussions will look at accession negotiations with Northern Macedonia and Albania. Minister Tuppurainen concluded her presentation by reiterating the importance of supporting EU, and global, common values, stating that "the future will belong to us and tomorrow to Europe".

The Finnish Minister of European Affairs' presentation was followed by a lively exchange with members of the audience. Questions focused on the recent Polish elections and rule of law, a common foreign policy for peace, the EU's global strategy, climate change, the lack of a European identity and the EU's migration policy.