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EU President visits Finland to discuss €2bn recovery package

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and PM Sanna Marin will visit a project tied to Finland’s green-oriented recovery plan.

Sanna Marin and Ursula von der Leyen at an EU meeting in December 2019, when they both took office. Behind them is European Council President Charles Michel. Image: Olivier Hoslet / EPA

On Monday, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen makes her first official visit to Finland. She will hold talks on current EU matters with Prime Minister Sanna Marin (SDP) in Helsinki.

During the visit, the Commission will publish its assessment of Finland’s Recovery and Resilience Plan (RRP) and present its proposal for the Council of the European Union’s decision on the plan. The process is part of the EU's 730-billion-euro coronavirus recovery package.

The Council is expected to adopt Finland’s Covid stimulus plan about one month after the Commission publishes its assessment and proposal in Helsinki.

During the visit, Marin and von der Leyen will take part in a tour focusing on an unspecified project related to Finland's RRP.

Nearly half for "green transition"

The Finnish government published its RRP in May as part of its Sustainable Growth Programme.

The total funding for 2021–23 is estimated at 2.1 billion euros, although the exact figure will not be known until mid-2022.

The Finnish stimulus plan's four elements are green transition (822 million euros), employment and skills (636 million), health and social services (400 million) and digital transformation (217 million).

The Green Transition plan reiterates that Finland aims to achieve carbon neutrality by 2035 and halt the decline in biodiversity by 2030.

It includes projects to boost solar and wind energy, biogas and waste heat recovery, hydrogen technology and the electric vehicle charging infrastructure. Other elements focus on phasing out oil heating and developing gypsum treatment of farmland to reduce the nutrient load in the Baltic Sea.

Each EU country must submit a national RRP as part of the EU's massive pandemic recovery package. The Recovery and Resilience Facility will provide grants of up to 338 billion euros and loans of up to 390 billion.

Next meeting on Tuesday

Von der Leyen, a Belgian-born German physician and former defence minister, has led the European Commission since December 2019, the same month when Marin became prime minister.

Marin and von der Leyen are likely to meet again soon in Slovenia, which holds the EU Council Presidency.

EU heads of government meet for an informal European Council working dinner on Tuesday at Brdo Castle, ahead of the next day's EU-Western Balkans Summit. Last week von der Leyen visited Albania, North Macedonia, Kosovo, Montenegro, Serbia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina ahead of that conference.

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