Prime Minister Juha Sipilä is representing Finland this weekend at the EU Summit in Bratislava. Speaking from Slovakia on Friday, he described the meeting as new start for the union.
“It’s a springboard for instigating clearer decision-making and making sure that the guarantees and implementation of directives meet. People’s trust in the union will only return if we are able to scale back our expectations. This way we can deliver what we have promised,” the premier said.
Sipilä said he spoke at the summit about how the implementation of good EU decisions has been less than ideal, adding that other Member States acknowledged this same problem.
Divided on immigration and finance
The 27 EU countries are meeting to discuss the future direction of the beleaguered union, after Britain’s referendum vote to leave earlier this year. The goal is to come up with a united front by March 2017, when the Treaty of Rome celebrates its 60-year anniversary.
EU countries remain sharply divided over the issues of immigration and fiscal discipline. Sipilä said a great deal of talk at the summit has been devoted to a better recognition of these differences.
He said that a general effort to streamline meetings was also on the agenda.
“It does an engineer and pragmatic Finn good to aim for more effective meetings,” Sipilä said.
Security high on the agenda
Upon his arrival in Bratislava Friday morning, Sipilä said that security issues would also be high on the agenda.
“If [the union] can’t meet people’s sense of a security requirement fully, [the security issue] will rise to number one on the list,” he said.
EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker called for closer EU defence cooperation in a speech to the European Parliament on Wednesday.
“It is perhaps an exaggeration to speak of a common army, but there are many things we could do to deepen our cooperation,” Sipilä said.
Green Party Chair Ville Niinistö responded critically to Sipilä’s comments from Bratislava on Saturday, saying he is shocked that Sipilä is presenting the current precarious situation in a positive light, as if there would be a benefit to Finland.
"Our prime minister doesn’t seem to be taking his responsibility seriously, considering the grave challenges presented to European cooperation at present,” Niinistö said. “It is in Finland’s best interests to strengthen EU unity."
He says plans to enhance defence cooperation in the EU are a step in the right direction.
"The EU is already a deep political alliance that binds our destinies," Niinistö stated.