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PM Sipilä visits Berlin to discuss flagging EU support

Prime Minister of Finland Juha Sipilä was in Berlin Friday as the invited guest of German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Sipilä said European Union policy implementation must be improved in the face of declining support for the institution.

Pääministeri Juha Sipilä, Alankomaiden pääministeri Mark Rutte, Saksan liittokansleri Angela Merkel, Ruotsin pääministeri Stefan Löfven ja Tanskan pääministeri Lars Løkke Rasmussen Mesebergin linnan edustalla 26. elokuuta 2016.
Finnish Prime Minister Juha Sipilä, Netherlands Prime Minister Mark Rutte, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven and Danish Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen pose in front of Meseberg on 26 August 2016. Image: EPA

German Chancellor Angela Merkel invited the prime ministers of Finland, Sweden, Denmark and the Netherlands to Schloss Meseberg in Berlin on Friday to discuss the future of the EU. The premiers prepared for an upcoming informal meeting of EU heads of state, scheduled to take place in Bratislava, Slovakia on 16 September.

In particular, the discussion focused on the development of the EU after Britain’s decision to leave the union.

“We had a dialogue about our working methods, what we need to do better and how we can regain public trust,” Sipilä told the Finnish Broadcasting Company Yle on his way to the airport after the meeting. 

During the meeting, the Finnish prime minister once again brought up his desire to see a clear improvement in how the EU implements its policies.

“When decisions are made, it is imperative that everyone comply with them,” Sipilä said.

Time to make priorities

Sipilä said on Friday that the EU has a great strategy and agenda, but now is the time to prioritise.

“[We must] zero in on security, growth and job creation, and the functioning of the internal market. And finding solutions to the immigration crisis. We’ve already got a clear agenda, we just need to turn our decisions in reality,” he said. 

The European Union has broken into fragments on issues like the recent mass migration into the continent from war-torn southern areas. In addition, one of the major members recently decided to abandon ship. The Finnish prime minister sees no reason for alarm, however.

“I believe that we will find unity easily, if we concentrate on pragmatic conclusions,” he said.

He said the withdrawal of Britain has nevertheless been humbling, and has caused him and many others to think long and hard about how to restore people’s trust in the EU.

Focus on common concerns

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has assumed a leading role in the EU post-Brexit, meeting with 15 EU leaders this last week alone. A press conference was not held after her Friday evening meeting with the four representatives from northern Europe, but she continued on to a similar preparatory meeting in Warsaw, Poland Saturday morning, where the immigration question has proven sharply divisive. 

“No one can deny that there is a connection between uncontrolled immigration and terrorism,” said Robert Fico, the prime minister of Slovakia, after the morning meeting to the German television channel ZDF. “This is why we wish to close our borders instead of opening them.”

The German Chancellor tried to emphasize common ground in her response.

“We'll focus on the things that we 27 Member States share,” said Merkel. 

The future of the EU

PM Sipilä said Merkel’s preparations for the informal EU meeting in September were a good thing.

“I think it’s a good format: to hold open discussions about the direction we want to develop the EU in,” he said.

Normally, President of the European Council Donald Tusk is responsible for setting the groundwork ahead of important EU meetings, but Sipilä said that he is conducting bilateral negotiations, while Merkel is focusing on small group discussions. The Finnish prime minister says he does not see that Germany’s role has increased since the Brexit vote.

“Germany’s role has been strong up until now, too. I don’t see anything new or remarkable here.”

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