Prime Minister Juha Sipilä (Centre) has issued a strong statement in support of free trade and a stronger European Union together with his counterparts from Denmark and the Netherlands – Lars Løkke Rasmussen and Mark Rutte.
Europe’s status as one of the most important economic areas in the world is contingent on its continuing commitment to a liberal trade policy, according to the three heads of state.
“We must ensure a vibrant and modern economy. We need to deal efficiently with the challenge of illegal mass migration. And we must provide answers to Europe’s security challenges,” the premiers argue in the statement published by EUobserver on Friday.
The joint statement was published in Finland by Lännen Media and the office of the prime minister on Saturday.
Sipilä and his colleagues estimate that instead of new major projects, treaty revisions and incomprehensible institutional discussions, the EU must concentrate on implementing and monitoring the decisions it has already taken.
Development of internal market must continue
Sipilä, Rasmussen and Rutte emphasise in their joint statement that the benefits of free trade should not be taken for granted.
Businesses and consumers, they estimate, have become somewhat accustomed to the benefits of having a single market with more than 500 million consumers, instead of 28 separate markets with 28 sets of rules and standards.
“We sometimes complain about EU bureaucracy, but we tend to forget that a limited bureaucracy in Brussels often replaces much larger bureaucracies at national level,” they highlight.
Sipilä and his colleagues stress that the efforts to develop the internal market must continue especially in areas where the markets remain disconnected and riddled with high consumer prices. “The European energy market, for example, needs to be much better integrated to allow for cheaper and cleaner energy.”
The EU must also make concrete progress in promoting technological development, the digitisation of societies and the development of a single digital market that allows for efficient and safe e-commerce, according to the prime ministers.
The internal market also has a social dimension, they remind.
While the EU has enjoyed the considerable economic advantages created by the free movement of labour, it must also do its utmost to prevent social dumping, unfair access to benefits and the fraudulent abuse of what is a basic pillar of the internal market.
“We need to deal with these issues in a pragmatic manner respecting the diversity of our national social systems and the key role of social partners,” write Sipilä, Rasmussen and Rutte.
They warn that if the public perceives the way in which legislation is administered as unfair and incomprehensible, the bloc risks undermining public support for free movement.
EU not the answer to all national-level problems
The EU, the heads of state highlight, accounts for roughly 33 per cent of world trade and has negotiated 45 free trade agreements with 75 countries around the world. As up to 31 million jobs in the union are reliant on exports to non-member states, the union must continue to champion free trade and rules-based trade order globally, and offer leadership in the face of rising protectionism.
“There is a need to protect ourselves against unfair trade practices. But, at the same time, we should not let this be an excuse for protectionism,” they write.
They also urge all member states to take responsibility for introducing reforms in their respective labour markets and education systems in order to foster the competitiveness of the EU.
“European initiatives alone cannot do away with massive youth unemployment if inflexible labour market legislation at national level is to blame. We must not pretend that the EU can offer solutions to all problems at national level through new regulation or financial transfers,” they conclude.
Aleksi Teivainen – HT
Photo: Handout / Office of the Prime Minister of Finland
Source: Uusi Suomi