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The Brief: Finland takes over EU Presidency, agenda focuses on climate change

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By Shoshana Dubnow
Inaugural meeting between the Finnish Presidency of the EU and the EC: symbolic
Inaugural meeting between the Finnish Presidency of the EU and the EC: symbolic   -   Copyright  � European Community, 2006   -   G;Boulougouris

Monday marks the first day of Finland holding the Presidency of the Council of the EU, and the country has climate change at the top of its agenda.

Finland plans to offset emissions from air travel during the next semester by giving 500,000 euros to fund projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The recently elected Finnish Prime Minister Antti Rinne participated in his first summit 10 days ago in Brussels. His goal is to overcome resistance to the bloc's carbon neutrality by 2050.

"We have two first words in our government programme: climate change. And that's why we have these two words there — because we cannot risk the future of civilisation when it comes to climate change," he said.

One way of addressing climate change is during EU budget 2021-2027 negotiations. Finland expects to close by December at the latest. Their idea is to use a quarter of the funds for environmental policies.

Annika Hedberg, a senior policy analyst at the European Policy Centre, said the money could help the transition to a greener economy.

"What is done with the 25% and, even more importantly, what is done with the 75% of the EU budget will be aligned with these major demands and needs that our society and economy have if we are serious about moving towards climate neutral EU," Hedberg said.

In addition to social inclusiveness and security, rule of law is the fourth priority in the Finnish semester.

Hungary and Poland are under scrutiny procedures linked to disrespect of Article 7 of the EU Treaty. The current EU Commission suggested the countries could see some funds frozen until they come back to the core values.

"When we look at the general atmosphere, there clearly is a general feeling amidst many of the EU member states that the MFF is a tool, but whether we can actually get everyone to agree will be very difficult," Hedberg said.

Meanwhile, Rinne will have Brexit to deal with during his presidency. The EU is expected to lose 45 billion euros from the United Kingdom when Brexit occurs.

Rinne is not the only new face coming to Brussels. A new British Prime Minister will soon replace Theresa May.