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Ministers for European affairs to prepare for February Special European Council

Government Communications Department
Publication date 3.2.2023 13.51 | Published in English on 3.2.2023 at 14.43
Press release

The EU General Affairs Council (GAC) will meet in Brussels on Monday 6 February. The meeting will focus on preparations for the February Special European Council. The GAC will also discuss relations between the EU and the United Kingdom and receive an overview of Sweden’s priorities for its Presidency of the Council of the EU. Minister for European Affairs and Ownership Steering Tytti Tuppurainen will represent Finland at the meeting.

The GAC will discuss the European Council’s draft conclusions concerning Ukraine and Russia, the economy and competitiveness, and migration, which the Council will adopt at its meeting on 9 February.

Finland emphasises that the EU must continue and increase its strong political, economic, and military support and humanitarian assistance to Ukraine. The EU must consistently ramp up sanctions against Russia as its aggression continues. Finland supports efforts to bring Russia and its representatives to justice for the illegal war of aggression and its impacts, including by requiring Russia to pay compensation for the damage caused by the war.

In Finland’s view, a well-functioning internal market plays a key role in ensuring the EU’s economic competitiveness. With regard to EU state aid policy, the EU market must remain open to competition, accessible and competitive.

Finland sees no need for a fundamental change in the EU’s state aid policy at this time. Any changes related to the timetable or content of state aid rules should be made following a fact-based analysis and in response to the needs identified by impact assessments. In the current situation, EU funds should be used as flexibly as possible to promote the EU’s competitiveness, resilience and green transition. Finland does not currently see the need for additional funding or for the creation of entirely new EU-level funding instruments.

“A single market based on open competition and the efficient use of existing EU resources forms the foundation for the EU’s long-term competitiveness and plays a key role in solving current and future challenges. Maintaining a level playing field for European companies and preventing competition for state aid between Member States are and must remain at the heart of the EU state aid rules,” Minister Tuppurainen says. 

Finland considers it important to establish equal and sustainable partnerships with countries of origin and transit, and to use these partnerships to promote good management of migration. Finland supports finding a solution to the reform of the common asylum system, as there is a clear need for a system that functions more effectively. The system must continue to be based on the right to apply for asylum in the EU. An effective and sustainable return system and smooth cooperation with third countries in readmission are key elements of good migration and asylum policy.

At the meeting, the Swedish Presidency of the Council of the European Union will present its priorities, which are security and unity, competitiveness, the green and energy transition, democratic values, and the rule of law. 

In addition, the ministers will receive a briefing on relations between the EU and the United Kingdom. Since the beginning of the year, the Commission has further intensified discussions with the UK on the implementation of the Protocol between Ireland and Northern Ireland. Finland will take note of the update and express its support for the Commission’s approach. 

In the General Affairs Council (GAC), the EU Member States are primarily represented by their ministers for European affairs. The tasks of the GAC 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 related to the rule of law are also an established part of the GAC’s agenda. 

Inquiries: Heli Siivola, Senior Specialist for EU Affairs, tel. +358 50 576 7745 and Emilia Tervonen, Special Adviser, tel. +358 50 516 1035, Prime Minister’s Office