Finnish Prime Minister Antti Rinne (SDP) has used a speech at the European Parliament to warn MEPs that the continent’s core values “are being challenged”, that poor economic growth has lead to more unemployment and inequality, and is “paving the way for the rise of populism and extremism”.
Rinne said the EU would have to find long-term and comprehensive solutions to migration, and urged more unity in the face of Britain’s departure from the 28-nation block.
“The EU’s unity has also been tested and will be tested by the prospect of the United Kingdom’s withdrawal” Rinne said in Strasbourg on Wednesday.
This was Rinne’s first visit to the European Parliament since becoming Prime Minister, and since the new EU Parliament term began earlier this month. His speech set out Finland’s policy agenda for its six-month rotating Presidency of the European Council.
The visit comes the day after Members of the European Parliament voted narrowly in favour of accepting centre-right German politician Ursula von der Leyen as the new President of the European Commission. She needed 50% of MEPs to support her, and scraped past that threshold by just nine votes on Tuesday evening.
Prime Minister focuses on Finnish, European values and leadership
The Prime Minister told MEPs in his speech that action to combat the climate crisis is at the heart of Finland’s Presidency policy programme, along with strengthening common values and rule of law; making the EU more competitive and socially exclusive; and protecting the security of EU citizens.
“The European Union is first and foremost a community of values. It is not a store where we can choose today a little bit of freedom of speech and human rights, but then decide not to pick freedom of the press or independent courts today. It doesn’t work like that in Western democracies” said Rinne.
Rinne said that a stronger European Union, positioned in particular as a global leader in climate action and defending European values and interests, could only be achieved by acting together.