Climate change and migration create discussion in Finland

Finland
Finnish Institute of International Affairs
 
The Climate and Energy Package stirs emotions
 
The climate and energy package got a lot of attention in Finland. According to a survey conducted earlier this year, 77 percent of the Finnish citizens said that they were worried about climate change and environmental problems. 72 percent of Finns see them as issues which the EU can have a positive impact on.[1] Professor Esko Antola warned that it should be realised that there is a gap between Finns’ expectations and what the EU can actually do.[2]
 

Yes to ENP, a more qualified attitude towards enlargements

Finland
Finnish Institute of International Affairs
 
Because of geographical proximity and historical background, Finns are always eager to discuss issues related to Russia and the case was even more so during and after ‘Georgia’. NATO is the other international issue debated intensively on a regular basis. Moreover, Finland held the OSCE-Presidency in 2008, its own politicians were “out there” during the conflict, and all these reasons heightened interest in the issue. Foreign Minister Alexander Stubb, went as far as to call ‘Georgia’ as “one of the big turning points of history after the end of cold war”[1] – a statement that was slightly modified later in autumn.
 
European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP)
 

Praise for the French Presidency and doubt about the Czechs’ ability to follow suite

Finland
Finnish Institute of International Affairs
 
In general, the French Presidency was assessed as a very successful one. Its ability to switch from the original emphasis on e.g. agriculture and defence, to Georgia and the financial crisis, has received well-earned praise in the EU and Finland alike. The final results and successfulness of the French Presidency remain to be seen.
 
Full speed ahead from the start
 

Mixed opinions about European Union’s ability to tackle the financial crisis

Finland
Finnish Institute of International Affairs
 
The financial crisis has not hit Finland as hard as some of the other European Union members. The Finnish Government has granted loans to some other member states and has also promised to finance Finnish banks.[1] Measures taken by the Union to tackle the crisis are in general seen as good although some consider them not sufficient enough.[2]
 
Remarkable or slow and cautious?
 
The EU was criticised in October for being disintegrated in responding to the financial crisis. First, the bank deposit guarantees were increased randomly in member states, and later the financial summit between larger member states instigated further disintegration between member states.[3] Finland’s Minister of Finance, Jyrki Katainen, disapproved of the larger member states making decisions between themselves.[4] Katainen also called for a joint decision on the bank deposit guarantees.[5] The Finnish Prime Minister, Matti Vanhanen, shared Katainen’s view and demanded more coordination between the member states after the debacle with the bank deposit guarantees.[6]
 

New energy, familiar themes

Finland
Finnish Institute of International Affairs
 
Public debaters were unanimous in saying that the relations between the EU and the US will improve. While there was a lot of excitement about the new era, expectations were often quite unspecific. Many pointed out that more effort is now needed from the EU side than before. Moreover, the wish lists are not similar on the opposite side of the Atlantic Ocean.[1] The Finnish Foreign Minister, Alexander Stubb, fears that more obstacles for productive cooperation will now be found in Europe rather than in the US.[2] Many Finns would very likely agree to several of the points on Minister Stubb’s wish list when he said that he would like the US and the EU to form a better team with regard to world trade, crisis management, human rights, climate change and rebuilding in Iraq. He also wished Europe and the US had other noticeable forms of cooperation than just the NATO operation in Afghanistan. All transatlantic collaboration should not be related to wars.[3]
 

Quiet… And not very interested?

Finland
Finnish Institute of International Affairs
 
Conclusions of the European Council of December 2008 on the fate of the Lisbon Treaty
 
In general, the main attention after the European Council was on the decisions about economy and climate, with the conclusions on the Lisbon Treaty getting only scant attention. Officially, optimism towards the treaty entering into force was maintained: Olli Rehn, the EU Commissioner for enlargement, said that he is confident that the Lisbon Treaty will take effect.[1]
 
As to what kind of end result the decision to hold another referendum in Ireland will have, many pointed out that the financial crisis has shown Ireland how much it has to gain from its membership; without being a member of the monetary union, it would have suffered the same fate as Iceland. It is hoped that the financial crisis gives the key to unlock the situation and get the Lisbon Treaty ratified.[2]