Takaisin MTK's perspectives on the EU election debates and on the new Commission's work programme


MTK's perspectives on the EU election debates and on the new Commission's work programme


The European Parliament elections will be held in June 2024. The next Commission will be elected and will begin its work in late 2024. MTK's perspectives on the EU election debates and on the future Commission's work programme are following.

The EU is an important security community

The European Union's role as a guarantor of peace and security is highlighted in the new security environment. Together, the EU must strengthen its resilience to various crises and be flexible in the event of further disruptions.  It is important to ensure energy self-sufficiency, the production of critical raw materials (including renewable forest raw material) and the functionality of production chains. A strong Union must play an important role in ensuring security and building bridges globally. 

Every EU country must assume its global responsibilities and ensure the ability to produce food now and in the future. In ten years, global demand for food will increase by 50 %. Food security is a tool for reducing conflict and migration. Food availability is good in Europe, but the current situation can change rapidly.

Security means equally developing regions as well and therefore the EU must provide stability and economic growth for all regions. Along with Finland's NATO membership, the vitality of Eastern Finland plays an important role in securing the external borders of NATO and the EU.

We are part of the European community of values

We want to be part of an EU community of values that respects democratic principles, human rights, the rule of law and international agreements. 

The EU must be big on big things and small on small things. The EU must focus on matters with European added value. Responsibility for achieving the objectives and implementing the policy must lie with the Member States, which recognize local conditions best. The principle of subsidiarity brings decision-making close to the citizen. The common objectives of EU decision-making must be significant and feasible. 

EU decisions must be based on science and high-quality impact assessments. Stakeholders, whose lives are affected by the decisions, must be listened to in the preparation process. Legislation can bring long-term certainty to the operating environment. The duplication and contradictions of the EU legislation must be tackled. When the operating environment within the EU is significantly different, it is reasonable to prefer EU legislation available to Member States by means of flexible directives, instead of regulations and implementing acts. The fair implementation of the directives will ensure a level playing field in the internal market. 

New strategies and legislative projects for climate, environment, sustainability must be coherent with existing laws. The total impact of the agriculture and forestry legislation must be better assessed. In the implementation, obligations must be prevented from being directed only to primary producers, such as a farmer or a forest owner, without compensation.

The circular bioeconomy deserves special attention from the upcoming Commission. The Commission should appoint a Vice-President responsible for circular bioeconomy (agriculture, health, environment, climate, internal market, industry, trade, etc.).

A controlled enlargement of the EU is necessary, but respect for the rule of law, the eradication of corruption, as well as the pursuit of growth, competitiveness, and balanced public finances, together with functioning public administration as membership criteria should not be compromised. Future EU membership of Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia will have a major impact on the EU food market and agricultural policy. 

Finnish influence on EU decisions must be sharpened. The best result at national level is achieved through joint ex ante influence already at the drafting stage of legislation. Finland must have a clear EU strategy that both strengthens the position of the EU and ensures the national interest of Finland in a changing operating environment.

The EU budget

The covid pandemic, together with Russian aggression and the resulting energy crisis, are putting a great pressure on the EU's funding. EU budget funds must be used efficiently and cost-effectively, while respecting the rule of law, in order to achieve common policy objectives. In addition to the EU budget based on membership fees, joint debt has been contracted for crisis response and recovery. It is important to realize the potential of existing financial instruments before deciding on new joint debt-based funds. The future joint EU crisis response should bring benefits to bio-circular investments and to the vitality of rural areas. 

Agricultural policy funding must be secured in the EU budget to ensure food security, climate and environmental action as well as technological development. Inflation has eaten a big cut into the purchasing power of the subsidies. Finnish rural areas will need the EU common agricultural policy, which has sufficient funds allocated to direct payments, the implementation of climate and environmental objectives, and rural development. The common agricultural policy must support the EU's less favoured production regions with coupled aid and national supplementary support. We want to maintain the Finnish two-pillar financing model, which has served its rural development objectives well by dedicated budget for rural development.

The financing of the EU's agricultural policy must be reassessed when decisions are made on new EU Member States. The EU enlargement costs cannot be left for the EU's agricultural budget and farmers to pay.

In cohesion funding, Finland's share must also be secured. The use of funding must be directed towards securing the vitality and infrastructure of rural areas to complement the measures of the Rural Development Programme. Special attention must be paid for a new fund ensuring the recovery and development of the EU's eastern border, which serves for the security of the whole EU.

Economy, competitiveness, trade policy - a sustainable baseline for the green transition

In line with the EU Green Deal, competitiveness is built on sustainable production, jobs and economic growth. 

A functioning EU internal market is the engine of the economy and therefore must be safeguarded. Only an economically strong Europe can lead the way and bear responsibility globally. Cooperation and the opening of new export markets are needed instead of facing inwards and building border walls. 

A sustainable economy relies on low-carbon solutions and decisions that promote the circular economy and biodiversity. Economic growth requires innovation and investment, balancing between the economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development. 

Digitalization, including high-speed and reliable data communications networks, skills and information management, is a key. Digitalization must reduce the administrative burden to both farmers and forest owners. As the use of data increases in all areas of business, attention must be paid to its fair ownership. Information collected in production as well as in environmental work on farms must be controlled and owned by the primary producer. 

Vibrant agriculture and forestry need undisturbed foreign trade. The forest sector accounts for a good fifth of Finland's export earnings. The opportunity to export food ensures a balance in the agricultural markets in Finland. In terms of production inputs, Finland is heavily dependent on imports. 

The competitiveness of the EU's Farm to Fork -strategy is measured in international markets. Benefitting from the EU's ambitious climate and environmental targets by added value in the food sector will require EU’s extensive investments in promotional work in the future. 

We need a fair trade policy, a rule-based multilateral trading system (WTO) and an extensive network of free trade agreements. Trade agreements must include sustainability requirements, the implementation must be monitored and the sustainability work done must be recognized. Sustainability and responsibility requirements (e.g. deforestation-free value chains, carbon tariffs (CBAM), the Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive, the Forced Labour Regulation, the ban on child labour) are an important part of EU's aim to achieve an equal competition in trade policy. 

The expansion of corporate sustainability reporting imposes an increasing administrative burden on primary production and SMEs, which needs to be alleviated through legislative reliefs and digitalization. In addition, reporting requirements must not adversely affect the negotiating position of farmers on the food market. Trade secrets of all actors must be respected.

As the accountability requirements of the financial sector increase, funding opportunities for agriculture and forestry must be secured.

Up-to-date and forward-looking research is the foundation of sustainable agriculture and forestry and their environmental policy. The EU should allocate more research funding to the agriculture and forestry sector and ensure that the results of the studies are used, for example, in the Horizon Europe research and innovation programme or in the forest sector technology platform (FTP). Finland must ensure the competitiveness of primary sector actors in EU research funding. 

The development of competition legislation must consider the specific operating environment of the agriculture and forestry sector and the imbalance in the food chain due to market structures. Competition law needs to be developed into better address the multiple challenges in the food supply chain. Rules on abuse of dominant position need to be updated. The implementation of competition law in the EU must be harmonized. It has to be possible to improve the position of clearly disadvantaged operators through at national level.

European sustainable food production in all regions

The basic task of European agriculture is to produce food safely and sustainably, taking the environment and climate into account. The common agricultural policy has an important role in ensuring the livelihood of farmers. Only profitable agriculture and forestry provide the basis for sustainable management of nature and the environment.

Factors of quality in production must be compensated fairly in the market. The functioning and balance of the food chain must be further improved, and unfair trading practices must be eradicated from the food chain.

Finland's positions (e.g. regarding the Green Deal and the Farm to fork strategy) must support the competitiveness of Finnish high-standard produced food both in the EU internal market and globally. 

A high level of animal welfare is a prerequisite for sustainable food production. Finland is a pioneer in many animal welfare issues. EU animal welfare legislation and its uniform implementation lays the foundations for the functioning of the internal market and for the export competitiveness of EU livestock products. 

The common agricultural policy must ensure sufficient domestic food production and security of supply.  The role of rural areas and livelihoods as creators of growth and employment must be recognised. 

The European model of food production based on sustainable agriculture and responsible food production is the basis of food security and is never a matter of negotiation.  

Young farmers are needed to ensure future food security. They need support, funding, and advice, as well as viable rural areas. 

Sustainable forestry - the core of the Finnish bio-circular economy and energy self-sufficiency

The growth and sustainable use of European forests must be safeguarded. Economically, ecologically, and socially sustainable forestry can significantly create new bio-circular economy, work and growth, energy as well as climate and environmental benefits.  Forests must be seen in EU decision-making and in the drafting of legislation through their diverse benefits.

Private individuals own 60 % of the forests in Europe and Finland. The EU's forest policy should therefore be based on national forest policy and take into account regional conditions and landowners' rights. National decision-making ensures the multi-objective use and management of forests according to the needs of the areas. Forest owners should be supported and encouraged for active and sustainable forest management.

The EU needs to understand the diversity of forests and their economic use across Europe. The Finnish story of the economic, social and environmental benefits of sustainable forestry should be promoted in the EU and used as a good example. 

Healthy and growing forests provide the best safeguard for forest carbon sinks. For climate reasons, limiting logging is not justified, as it could lead to a reduced forest management and reduce the availability of wood-based materials used to replace fossil energy. Reducing logging and forest management could thus lead to a decline in forest growth and long-term carbon stocks. Storing carbon in the forest for a long time is risky from a climate perspective, as various types of damage become more and more common. Sustainable and active forest management also promotes the production of high-quality wood raw material and helps forests to stay healthy and resilient in a changing climate.

Europe can increase the sustainable use of forests to replace fossil fuels and to produce high-quality wood products. The future is secured by active forest management.

A bio-circular economy based on the sustainable use of natural resources is an important part of the EU's green transition. Limiting logging in Finland, for example, could outsource logging to other countries where forest sustainability standards are significantly lower. The mobility of wood must also be ensured by improving the forest industry's investment conditions and the predictability of the operating environment. 

Forest industry products’ innovation and consumption must be widely promoted. Long-lasting wood construction materials are important, but only a part of the wood biomass is suitable for sawn timber. Forest biomass is already used both thoroughly and resource-efficiently, based on value added for many products of high processing and daily use.  Putting the different use of wood raw materials into an order of value (cascading principle) is market-based and does not require EU regulation. Legislation should not slow down the competitiveness of bio-circular products based on forest raw materials.  

In the EU decision-making, it should be possible to provide advice for forest owners, if necessary, and to use project funding for promoting forestry, for example. At the same time, it is necessary to hear the voice of forest owners in decision-making in order to make EU legislation feasible.

Equal development in rural areas and regions brings stability and growth

The economic and social development of rural areas in the EU must be made sure. The goal of the long-term vision for rural areas in the EU is to make rural areas stronger, more networked, resilient, and prosperous. The vitality of rural areas must be improved in order to have new young farmers to secure the continuity of food production. The telecommunications and transport networks in rural areas must be established and the availability of labour for rural enterprises must be improved. Cities and rural areas are interdependent and mutually profiting in interaction, in symbiosis.

The rural impact assessment proposal contained in the Rural Vision must also be vigorously promoted at EU level. The impact of the Commission's policy initiatives on issues such as rural employment, growth, business, and sustainable development must be considered.

Solutions from agriculture and forestry to green transition, climate change and biodiversity loss

The Earth's ecological carrying capacity is threatened by population growth, climate change, biodiversity loss, pollution, energy production, deforestation, nutrient sufficiency, and availability of fresh water. Combating climate change and adapting to it, as well as combating deforestation, are key objectives of the EU's common agricultural policy and the EU's forestry strategy. Sustainable agriculture and forestry in Finland offer many solutions to these challenges. 

In climate policy, forest carbon sinks play an important role. However, it must be recognized that it is impossible to continuously increase the carbon sinks in forests. Climate targets must be aligned with the economic use of the forest, such as forest management and logging. 

Climate solutions must be resource-efficient, properly targeted, and socially acceptable. Therefore, more research data is needed, especially on peatland emissions and on the most cost-effective means of combating climate change. In addition to reducing consumption, policies must primarily aim at reducing fossil raw material use and replacing them with renewable ones.

Carbon sequestration solutions enhance climate action and, if implemented correctly, bring incentives and additional income to landowners. The importance of soil carbon sequestration must be taken into account in the calculation of carbon balances. Carbon market models must enable real market possibilities for farmers and foresters. 

Food production must be strengthened through policy decisions that support adaptation and preparedness to climate change. New means are needed to increase yield security, such as plant breeding, technological innovations, new (environmentally friendly) plant protection products, and digitalization. 

Agriculture and forestry have responsibility to combat the biodiversity loss. Sustainable farming practices and forest management can minimize the harm to nature and even increase biodiversity. Biodiversity is always local and the most effective restoring measures are selected based on local conditions. 

Protection measures must be carried out fairly and primarily on a voluntary basis. Adequate and supportive funding must be ensured for voluntary conservation measures. The EU's land and water conservation objectives are best and most effectively implemented at national level, taking into account regional conditions. 

Consumers must be provided with sufficient and correct information to make sustainable and responsible choices. 

In order to respond to the rapid energy transition, consistent decisions are needed on energy efficiency and on the increase in distributed renewable energy production as a replacement for fossil energy sources and as an enhancer of energy self-sufficiency. Member States should have the right to decide on the energy sources to be used on their territory in the future as well.

Business-oriented development cooperation creates stability and control migration

Business-oriented development cooperation, and in particular Finnish expertise, can improve food security, the supply of clean water and renewable energy, strengthen climate adaptation, reduce deforestation, improve the women’s rights, crisis resilience, and create a local outlook for young people. In Africa, support is especially needed to understand sustainability legislation (Due diligence, Deforestation regulation, etc.) to achieve the objectives of the legislation. Reasonable income through sustainable livelihoods creates stability and curbs migration, which can cause problems both in the countries of origin and in the EU.

The EU is the largest global financier and actor of development cooperation. The focus of population growth will be in Africa in the coming years and therefore measures must be targeted there.

International connections also improve the ability of Finland to compete for skilled workforce.