Prime Minister Sipilä and French President Macron announced initiatives on EU defence and AI

Government Communications Department 30.8.2018 16.07 | Published in English on 30.8.2018 at 16.31
Press release 390/2018

Prime Minister Juha Sipilä and President of France Emmanuel Macron met in Helsinki on 30 August. Prime Minister Sipilä and President Macron discussed topical EU matters, such as trade policy, multiannual financial framework negotiations, migration and the development of the Economic and Monetary Union, EMU, and single market. In connection with the meeting, declarations were issued on the development of the EU defence cooperation and on utilisation of artificial intelligence, AI.

“The declaration on developing defence cooperation continues the active collaboration between Finland and France in this sector. While I visited Paris in June 2016, then President of France François Hollande and I adopted a declaration in which we encouraged EU Member States to intensify their defence cooperation,” Prime Minister Sipilä said.

After that, rapid and important steps have been taken in EU defence cooperation, including the creation of the permanent structured cooperation (PESCO). It means European acquisition projects and harmonisation of the capability requirements, for example.

“The ambition of developing European defence means first and foremost responsibility for our citizens. We are now taking determined steps in the right direction. Finland, like France, has been active in each stage of the development. And we will continue our joint efforts,” Prime Minister Sipilä said.

Today's declaration provides support to the increase in appropriations for EU defence cooperation and to the strengthening of PESCO and industrial participation. It is the view of both countries that besides crisis management, EU defence cooperation must also strengthen the protection of the Union and its citizens.  

The declaration also refers to the European intervention initiative introduced by France that aims to strengthen Europe’s ability to respond, alongside the actions of the EU and NATO, to crises affecting its own security. The intervention initiative is intergovernmental cooperation aiming to intensify, for its part, the structural cooperation of the EU.  Finland has expressed its interest to join the initiative.

Digitalisation and innovations also featured strongly in the meeting of Prime Minister Sipilä and President Macron. Finnish expertise was presented to President Macron at Aalto University.

“I was particularly pleased to begin our meeting at the University with innovations on our agenda. I hope that the Finnish way of doing things aroused interest and we can continue our close cooperation,” Prime Minister Sipilä said.

In the EU, Finland and France have strongly highlighted the importance of digitalisation and innovations. They play a key role in efforts to develop the EU's competitiveness and to create new jobs. The declaration given this morning by Prime Minister Sipilä and President Macron challenges the EU to reinforce its activities in the field.

"Europe should adopt a stronger research and innovation policy. This goal must show in all activities. Both President Macron and I are prepared to roll up our sleeves and work hard to deepen European cooperation," Prime Minister Sipilä said.

In the initiative of Finland and France, published today, the EU Member States are urged to look at the opportunities brought by artificial intelligence more systematically and to respond to citizens' concerns relating to the ethical questions linked to artificial intelligence, for instance. In accordance with the declaration, the EU must promote fair, participatory and humane digitalisation.  

"President Macron and I decided today to launch cooperation relating to artificial intelligence between our two countries. The idea is to prepare recommendations for AI, which can be used not only in Finland and France but also at the EU level," Prime Minister Sipilä said.

Both Finland and France have a national strategy for artificial intelligence, which provides them a good foundation for exchanging views and know-how and for together exerting influence at EU level. The cooperation will focus particularly on the digitalisation of industries, the health sector, transport services, and supporting startup companies.

"We also discussed several other questions that are important for the EU, including our capacity to safeguard Europe's self-sufficiency as a food producer. This is ultimately a question of security, and President Macron and I share this concern. In the Commission's proposal for the future financial framework, major cuts were suggested in funding for agriculture. We will work together in order to ensure that the funding for agriculture would remain at least at the current level," Prime Minister Sipilä said.

"Europe's internal unity has improved from what it was a couple of years ago. But gales swaying from outside the European Union affect it perhaps harder than ever before. We must shoulder our heavy responsibility for ensuring that the EU remains united. Unity is the precondition for a stronger EU. President Macron and I are firmly committed to working together for this matter," Prime Minister Sipilä noted.

Inquiries: Kare Halonen, State Secretary for EU Affairs, tel. +358 295 160 319, Riikka Pakarinen, Special Adviser (EU Affairs), tel. +358 40 580 0833, and Anne Sjöholm, Head of Communications for EU Affairs, tel. +358 40 537 0733, Prime Minister’s Office

French-Finnish Statement on European Defence

French-Finnish Joint Statement for Cooperation on Artificial Intelligence


More information about defence cooperation in the EU

Declaration by Finland and France on strengthening the EU’s Common Security and Defence Policy 15 June 2016

EU cooperation on security and defence

More information about artificial intelligence

European Council conclusions 19 October 2017

European Commission Communication on artificial intelligence 25 April 2018

Prime Minister Sipilä gave the opening remarks at an informal summit focusing on the development of a digital Europe and innovations, held in Sofia, Bulgaria, on 16 May 2018