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Thank you very much, Prime Minister [of Finland, Juha Sipilä]. It is a pleasure to be back in Helsinki, and this morning in Tampere, where I was really honoured to receive the doctorate [honoris causa]. It is always a pleasure to be here.
As you said, we often meet in Brussels – next week again for the European Council that will be a very important one. But also, I think it is my fourth visit to Finland, which is probably one of the Member States I visited the most, not only in the capital, but also elsewhere. I remember we were together also working on the Arctic in Oulu last year. It is always a pleasure to be back.
You explained perfectly well and in detail the four topics we covered and I do not have anything to add. I would just like to stress two points: one is that the Finnish Presidency next year will be a particularly important one, because it will come in a moment of transition for the European Union institutions and it is when the wisdom and the leadership and the unity of Member States is most needed to guarantee a smooth transition and to guarantee that the top priorities of EU policies remain in place and are turned into reality. From our discussions today, but also from how I know the Finnish people and institutions, I am sure that the Finnish Presidency will provide to the entire EU leadership in that exercise. I understand that preparations for the Presidency are already going on well across the political spectrum and with a lot of focus on the real priorities that we need to keep high on our agenda, starting from climate change - as you rightly said.
The second thing I would like to underline is how relevant and important Finland has been and continues to be for our common work on security and foreign policy. I have valued enormously the contribution of Finland, first of all when it comes to our common work on defence. To me it has been particularly important. Finland being a country that is not a NATO ally, Finland being a country with a strong tradition in peace and mediation – and I will be pleased to celebrate the 10th year of the Nobel Peace Prize to [former] President [of Finland, Martti] Ahtisaari in a few moments – this gives a strong credibility to the work the European Union is doing on defence. And the fact that Finland from the very beginning, and in a very convinced manner, supported the European Union defence work with the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) and with all the work that we have put in place to strengthen the EU defence and make it more credible, is really extremely valuable. And your participation in PESCO projects is something that is really precious to me, and all the Europeans. So I would like to thank you for that.
I am sure that we will continue to work together in this respect in the months to come to keep the work on strengthening the EU defence in the European way – which is a never purely military way – on the top of our agenda. And as you said, on all the other topics we have discussed we have full agreement on the way forward. So I count on our continued excellent cooperation to move the agenda forward.
Maybe I can mention one little thing for which the contribution of Finland is extremely important, which is our work on the Arctic. It is a priority for the European Union, it is an area in which the Finnish knowledge, experience and contribution help the entire European Union to advance and as – if I am not wrong - you are also chairing the Arctic Council in this period, the role that your country is playing in this respect is particularly valued. So thank you for that as well.
Link to the video: https://ec.europa.eu/avservices/video/player.cfm?ref=I161530