EU affairs ministers prepare for upcoming European Council and discuss European Democracy Action Plan

NordenBladet — In their informal video meeting on 23 February, the EU ministers for European affairs discussed preparations for the informal video meeting of the members of the European Council and exchanged views on the European Democracy Action Plan. The ministers were also briefed on the state of play with regard to EU–UK relations and on the preparations for the Conference on the Future of Europe. Minister for European Affairs and Ownership Steering Tytti Tuppurainen represented Finland at the meeting.Topics on the agenda for the informal videoconference of members of the European Council on 25–26 February include the EU’s measures to address the COVID-19 pandemic, preparedness for health threats, security and defence, and the EU’s relations with the Southern Neighbourhood. In Finland’s view, it is essential to promote a common and effective EU strategy in order to tackle COVID-19. The EU must strengthen its ability to respond to and prepare for cross-border health threats.Finland also supports strengthening and developing the EU’s security and defence policy. The EU must be able to bear responsibility for the security of its own area and for that of the neighbouring regions.“Accelerating vaccinations and preventing the spread of new virus variants play a key role in the EU’s efforts to combat COVID-19. We also need to launch discussions on how we can better reconcile health security and free movement in situations similar to the one we are now experiencing. We need to create common operating practices that have been agreed on in advance,” says Minister Tuppurainen.The ministers for European affairs held an extensive exchange of views the European Democracy Action Plan. Finland welcomes the Action Plan and considers it highly topical. Finland has actively participated in discussions with the Commission and other Member States on the preparation of the Action Plan and is of the view that it will provide a good framework for strengthening democracy. It is very important to protect the reliability of elections and promote democratic participation, to strengthen media freedom and pluralism, and to combat disinformation, manipulation and interference, including by foreign actors.“We need joint EU measures to combat disinformation and hate speech and prevent the spread of conspiracy theories. We have also raised this issue in our Government Report on EU Policy. It is worrying that people are hesitant to even run for election due to hate speech,” says Minister Tuppurainen.  The ministers also received a briefing on the state of play with regard to EU–UK relations. The Commission has proposed extending the provisional application of the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement, which entered into force on 1 January 2021, until 30 April 2021, as the official translations of the agreement into all EU languages will not be ready until the end of April. The Member States have accepted the request.In addition, the Portuguese Presidency of the Council of the European Union reported on the state of preparations for the Conference on the Future of Europe. In the General Affairs Council (GAC), the EU Member States are primarily represented by their ministers for European affairs. The tasks of the Council include preparations for the European Council meetings. The GAC is also responsible for a number of cross-cutting policy areas, including negotiations on the multiannual financial framework and EU enlargement. Questions relating to the rule of law are also an established part of the Council’s agenda. 


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