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Finnish EU presidency to seek deal on 2050 climate neutrality

Ahead of next week's visit by the European Commission, the PM said Finland will boost education and climate talks.

PM Antti Rinne has been in office for three weeks, leading a centre-left coalition. Image: Yle

Finland's main goal during its EU presidency is for the Union to commit to climate neutrality by the year 2050, Prime Minister Antti Rinne announced on Wednesday.

He said the aim is for the European Council to agree on the main elements of the plan by the end of this year.

Finland takes over the six-month rotating presidency of the Council of the European Union on 1 July. It is the country's third presidency since joining the EU in 1995.

"A key priority of Finland’s Presidency is the EU’s global leadership in climate action," Rinne told Parliament, adding that the EU should become "the world’s most competitive and socially inclusive low-carbon economy."

3 EU members block climate target

Agreeing on sharp emissions cuts has so far been difficult for EU member states. At last week's summit in Brussels, a net-zero carbon emissions target for 2050 was blocked by coal-reliant Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic.

Rather than the 2050 target, the EU summit's final document said in a footnote that "for a large majority of member states, climate neutrality must be achieved by 2050."

Backers had hoped for a strong EU stance heading into the UN Climate Action Summit to be held in New York in late September.

Along with emissions, the Finnish presidency will aim to boost the EU’s social dimension and invest in education, training and skills.

"We need to increase the exchange of students and other forms of cooperation between educational institutions. We should also explore the possibility of founding a networked European super-university and developing a ‘super-Erasmus’ programme for European researcher exchange," Rinne told lawmakers.

Commissioners to Helsinki next week

Also on Wednesday, the Council of State announced that the members of the European Commission will visit Helsinki on 4-5 July to meet with the Finnish cabinet ministers, in a traditional presidency opening event.

Next Thursday evening, the commissioners and ministers will meet at Kesäranta, Rinne’s official residence in Helsinki's Meilahti neighbourhood. The next day he and Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker will meet one-on-one and in various groups of officials before holding a joint press conference.

Also on Friday, the Commissioners will visit Parliament and have lunch with President Sauli Niinistö. The following week, there will be further EU meetings in Lappeenranta, near the Russian border.