Video message for the opening of the Finnish EU Regional and Structural Policy Programme 2021-2027 launch event

(Source: European Commission)

“Check against delivery”

Dear Minister Lintilä, dear colleagues,

We live in uncertain times. Crisis has followed crisis: from Covid to the war in Ukraine, our European house has faced one storm after another.

In such uncertain times, it is essential to have a solid plan. A firm foundation, of future proof investments, on which to build our house so that it continues to withstand the storms.

Cohesion policy allows to build such solid foundations rooted in bottom-up plans and strategies developed in close coordination between European, national, and regional authorities and stakeholders.

The Partnership Agreement is that solid plan. 2 billion euros of European money invested in Finland’s future.

My congratulations to everyone who did such excellent work, preparing such high quality plans.

We have come to expect such excellence from Finland, but I would still like to thank the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment, the Minister as well as the civil servants, for your commitment, your determination, and your constructive attitude throughout our dialogue and preparation.

My thanks also to the regions and other stakeholders for the active role you have played throughout the process.

I think we can all be proud of the result: one of the first Partnership Agreements, officially adopted by the Commission on the 5th of May.

We have agreed a set of joint priorities, between Finland and Europe, reflecting our joint needs and our common values.

First, there is the priority of the green transition. Finland has set the ambitious goal of carbon neutrality by 2035.

We warmly welcome your ambition. Almost 40% of cohesion investments in Finland will support the green transition. Investing in energy efficiency, the circular economy, and climate change adaptation.

In addition, the Partnership Agreement recognises that we must particularly support those who bear the brunt of the change. The Territorial Just Transition Plans will support regions dependent on peat production, easing the transition to new activities as peat production halves.

Second, we will make it a priority to boost research and innovation. In the last decade, business R&D investment in Finland fell more sharply than in any other EU country. And Finland lags behind its R&D investment target of 4% of its GDP.

The Finnish economy also needs to diversify and to create more jobs and start-ups in higher productivity sectors.

So 26% of investments will promote innovation and research. Fostering digitalisation, accelerating SME growth, and increasing productivity.

A particular focus is the role played by cities. 16 urban areas in Finland will be using cohesion investments to work together, building their cities as innovation platforms, strengthening cooperation between industry, research institutes and universities to find innovative solutions for buildings, energy, urban infrastructure, and sustainable and smart energy systems.

The third priority, but by no means least, is to ensure that everyone benefits from the future, and no one is left behind.

29% of the investments will promote social cohesion, especially in the labour market.

And a particular concern is the long distances and low population density of East and North Finland, which can make life difficult for people and for small business. So we will be supporting small-scale transport infrastructure projects.

These are the investment priorities But the core of the Partnership Agreement is more than just investment. As the name suggests, it is about partnership: our collective agreement to work together, and our collective responsibility to make it work.

The Partnership Agreement was designed by all, it must be implemented by all and monitored by all. We seek nothing less than transformation at the local level, and for this, we must all work together.

And there is still work to be done: we need now to quickly finalise the programme for Åland and the Territorial Just Transition Plans and start implementing the recently adopted innovation and skills programme.

Dear colleagues, my services stand ready to work with you on all these issues, both informally and formally. I am convinced that together we can find solutions to all open issues.

But more than that, I am convinced that this Partnership Agreement offers a solid basis for us to work together in the long term. To build a greener future, a more innovative future, and one which leaves no region behind.

This exciting journey starts with the Partnership Agreement and I look forward to the next steps.

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