EU affairs and the Finnish government
Main responsibility for the preparation, monitoring and determination of Finland's position in affairs relating to the European Union rests with the relevant ministries.
Compared to the other EU Member States, Finland has a unique system for coordinating EU affairs. It is based on outlines issued by the Ministerial Committee on European Union Affairs, effective public servant preparation and coordination, and timely informing and involvement of Parliament. The coordination system aims at ensuring that Finland can present a coordinated position in line with Finland's general EU policy on any issue under consideration in the European Union at any stage of consideration.
The system consists of relevant ministries, sub-committees, the Committee for EU Affairs and the Ministerial Committee on European Union Affairs. Finland's Permanent Representation to the European Union in Brussels takes also part in the preparation of EU affairs.
In discussion and coordination of EU affairs, particular attention is attached to the involvement and informing of the Government of Åland.
Ministerial Committee on European Union Affairs
The Ministerial Committee on European Union Affairs meets every week, usually on Fridays, to discuss politically, economically and legally important EU matters. The Ministerial Committee agrees on all Finland’s EU policy guidelines for the formal and informal meetings of the Council of the European Union. The Ministerial Committee is chaired by the Prime Minister.
The chairman of the Government of Åland has the right to be heard by the Ministerial Committee on European Union Affairs when the matter is within the jurisdiction of the Åland Islands or is otherwise of special importance to the region.
Work of the Ministerial Committee on European Union Affairs
Composition of the Ministerial Committee on European Union Affairs in the Sipilä Government
Government EU Affairs Department at the Prime Minister’s Office
The Government EU Affairs Department is responsible for coordinating matters related to the EU and for seeing to the proper running of the coordination system. The department serves as the secretariat for the Ministerial Committee on European Union Affairs and the Committee for EU Affairs and it is represented in all sectoral sub-committees.
The Government EU Affairs Department is also responsible for the preparation of European Council meetings and for action relating to institutional questions and general development of the EU. It provides instructions to Finland's Permanent Representation in cooperation with relevant ministries and promotes practices for the coordination and consideration of EU affairs. The department sees to preparatory and procedural work on all EU affairs that do not fall within the mandate of any other ministry and ensures the exchange of information between the Permanent Representation and relevant national authorities. It also participates in the government EU training, communications and document management.
Committee for EU Affairs and sub-committees
The Committee for EU Affairs is a cooperation body with representatives from ministries, the Office of the President of the Republic, the Office of the Chancellor of Justice, the Bank of Finland and the Government of Åland. It discusses broad EU issues that involve several ministries, such as the Government's annual key EU policy priorities. The Committee also makes decisions on Finland's national experts seconded to EU institutions. The Committee for EU Affairs is chaired by the State Secretary for EU Affairs who is also the head of the Government EU Affairs Department.
The Committee for EU Affairs has appointed 37 sector-specific preparative sub-committees. The sub-committees constitute the foundation for the preparation of EU affairs at the public servant level. The chairperson and secretary of each EU sub-committee usually represent the competent ministry.
The sub-committees can assemble in a restricted or extended composition. The restricted composition includes public servants from the competent ministry and representatives of other ministries and central agencies. An extended composition comprises representatives from various interest groups and other stakeholders. The Government EU Affairs Department from the Prime Minister's Office and the Government of Åland are also represented in each sub-committee. The sub-committees meet as necessary.
Finland's Permanent Representation to the European Union in Brussels
Finland's Permanent EU Representation prepares issues to be decided by the Council of the European Union based on instructions from the Government of Finland. Public servant committees play a prominent role in the preparation of issues, the most important of them being COREPER (Comité des Représentants Permanents) which consists of the Member States' Permanent Representatives. COREPER is assisted by more than 200 working groups in which the Member States are represented by experts deployed by the capital or the Permanent Representation. The working groups meet every week and the Permanent Representation reports on the proceedings within 24 hours.
Parliament participates in the national-level preparation of decisions to be taken within the EU. In Parliament, the Grand Committee is responsible for the handling of EU matters and special committees submit opinions to the Grand Committee. Matters relating to the EU's Common Foreign and Security Policy are handled at the Foreign Affairs Committee. The Government provides information on EU issues to Parliament through Europe communications, Union communications, reports, statements and announcements.
Europe communication is a report submitted by a ministry to Parliament to notify them on a matter being prepared (Europe matter) in the European Union, other than legislation, the budget and international treaties. The communications may relate to Green and White Papers, Commission Communications or other broad-based EU issues, such as the Multiannual Financial Framework or enlargement.
E communications - Parliament (in Finnish and Swedish only)
U matters cover those European Union affairs that fall within the mandate of Parliament. These may relate to EU legislation, financial issues or relations with third countries. The Government submits U matters to Parliament by a U communication. The communication includes a Commission proposal, memorandum on the contents and effects of the proposal and Government’s position with regard to the matter.
U communications - Parliament (in Finnish and Swedish only)
Reports, statements and announcements The Government may submit to Parliament a statement or a report relating to governance or international relations. Following a discussion on a statement, Parliament may take a vote of confidence in the Government or a minister. Reports are not subject to voting. The Prime Minister or any other member of the Government designated by the Prime Minister may submit an announcement to Parliament on a matter falling under the mandate of the Government. The announcement – which is not subject to any decision – will be discussed in a Parliament plenary session.