Good afternoon! I am happy to see all of you here. I am sure you have all heard about the UN World Happiness Survey – Finland has been leading it twice now. If this is maximum happiness, we feel very sorry for other countries.
If you have time to visit one place in Tampere I recommend a visit to Tampere Cathedral. Nice building with paintings by Hugo Simberg. When you look at the roof you see a painting of a snake. The bishop wanted to cover up the painting, but Hugo Simberg told him that the devil is everywhere – even in the church.
101 years ago, in the spring of 1918, some of the bloodiest battles of the Finnish civil war were fought right here in Tampere. At the time, my grandmother was at the Tampere Cathedral, where civilians were being sheltered from fighting. I still remember as a child hearing her stories of what dying horses sound like. Even though we are now living a period of peace in Finland, Tampere is one of the places where memories of war between the Reds and Whites has not disappeared.
There is a new green wave sweeping through Europe. You can find Greens in government in Luxembourg, Sweden and Finland. Austrian Greens made a great result in the last election and the German Greens have a wide base of support. These just to mention a few inspiring examples.
It seems that all the things we Greens have been talking about for years are now at the center of politics and foreign policy. At the UN General Assembly in New York, Greta Thunberg made the largest impact with a demand for strong climate action.
Agenda 2030 and climate policy are discussed everywhere, the significance of Africa is being recognized and the world has awoken to the problem of plastic pollution in our oceans. Young people are also gathering around Finnish parliament house on Fridays. These young people influenced the fact that last spring we had climate elections in Finland. Slowly but surely, themes that we Greens have advocated for years have become key issues in political debate.
This is good news, but it is not enough. Climate crisis can only be solved through urgent action.
Finland is dedicated to becoming carbon neutral by 2035. As the current EU Presidency we have also been working hard for the EU to tighten it´s own climate goals and to become carbon neutral by 2050.
I just visited India, where the Indian Minister of Finance declared intention to sign up to the global coalition of Finance Ministers for Climate. The Coalition was started by the previous Finnish government together with the government of Chile and it now has over 50 members. I think it is highly important that climate issues are not only left to climate ministers. International finance mechanisms, the rules under which they operate, and national budgets are dependent on Finance Ministers. Their hand print will also be crucial in solving the climate crisis.
Defending human rights is one of our governments top priorities. During the unofficial Gymnich meeting of European Foreign Ministers in Helsinki this summer, we invited four brave female human rights defenders to talk to the ministers. They came from Ukraine, Bahrain, Uganda and Finland. Afterwards many ministers told me this was the best part of the meeting and they hoped to see this type of interventions in the future as well.
Right now Finland is a candidate for the UN Human Rights Council for the term 2022-2024. It´s important to remember that defending multilateralism is not just about free trade agreements, but also about human rights and international norms.
I just returned today from the annual Nordic-Africa meeting in Tanzania. The next meeting will be held in Finland. We are currently planning a new strategy for cooperation with African countries. At its center is equal partnership. Africa has a lot of solutions to its own questions. We feel that it is time to intensify our cooperation with African countries on education, youth issues, technology sector and environmental questions. Cooperation is the best solution to addressing root causes of migration: marginalisations, role of women, and the worsening effects of climate change. On this note, I believe it is important that the next European Commission will commit to creating a new strategy for partnership with African countries.
During the past few years we have seen a great weakening of international agreements on arms control and nuclear weapons. On the Joint Comprehensive Plan on Action (JCPOA) Europe supports soving the Iranian question peacefully. It is important that we in Europe stay united on this issue.
Recently I had a chance to visit all 6 of the Western-Balkan countries. Finland as the EU presidency has proactively advocated to open membership negotiations with both North-Macedonia and Albania. It is unfortunate that decisions on opening the negotiations has been delayed. Western Balkans is a crucial part of Europe, where, after the breakdown of Former Yugoslav, EU has already been investing a lot.
A few words on Turkey and Syria. The EU showed remarkable unity by quickly reacting to the Turkish attack into Syria and by announcing a joint arms embargo. The effects of the embargo should not be underestimated. During this episode we have also seen some actors trying to talk over the heads of Syrian refugees living in Turkey. Playing with the lives of people who are seeking aid and using them as pawns in international politics is not acceptable.
During the last few months we have seen Russia join the Paris Climate Agreement and the United States announce their exit from the agreement. In many parts of the globe we can see the joint pull of protectionism and populism away from multilateral cooperation.
But I am hopeful. Germany and France recently launched a new initiative, Alliance for Multilateralism. At the same time countries such as Norway have prepared their own reports and strategies for how to defend multilateralism. It seems that multilateral cooperation is seeing a new wave of defenders and I believe that we Greens have to be a part of it.
As a former co-chair of the EGP I know first hand the importance of this type of meetings for creating new connections between people and parties. In politics it is very important to have the support of your european political family in exchanging information and forming common policy ideas. Compared to other political families in Europe we Greens are the most united. Thank you for being here to strengthen our family.
George Bernard Shaw has said: “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world. The unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”