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How to Build a Fair and Thriving Europe

14/10/2013, Rome

There are five priorities for building a fairer and more thriving Europe: the single market; a banking union; trade agreements with the United States; investments in research and development; and more streamlined labour legislation. This is the opinion of Finnish Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen.

While visiting Rome to meet his Italian colleague, Enrico Letta, with whom he discussed the tragedy of Lampedusa and the empowerment of Frontex, the head of the Finnish government took part in a conference on the issues of EU’s competitiveness and credibility organized by the IAI and the Embassy of Finland.

Attending were also the former Italian Prime Minister, Mario Monti, and the former Foreign Minister, Franco Frattini. Katainen went over what he considers to be the most important problems of the European Union, from youth unemployment to the hundreds of thousands of businesses forced to close, but also the spread of populism which, in many MS, is calling into question the very foundations of integration, riding the wave of the negative perception of the EU.

Katanien concentrated his speech on five main priorities:
- analysing the full potential of the single market and removing the barriers that still hamper its functioning
- benefiting from the trade agreements negotiated with the United States and other key countries in the world economy
- realizing the project of the banking union
- taking advantage of the capacity the EU has in the research and energy sector through more massive investment
- streamlining legislation on labour, making it more transparent.

On the one hand, the prime minister spoke in favour of fairer integration and collaboration among MS, stronger international solidarity at a time in which the EU needs more cohesion to re-emerge from the crisis stronger than before. On the other hand, however, he rejected the idea of further reinforcement of European economic governance, or reform of the Treaties if not targeted and limited to specific objectives. Moreover, he was extremely cautious about the 'Monti hypothesis' of not considering investment incalculating the 3% threshold of deficit / GDP ratio.

According to Katainen, it would be enough to ensure the correct functioning of the existing institutions, such as Frontex as regards migration, or to achieve a banking union, or simply to apply the existing rules to improve European cohesion, competitiveness and credibility.

On this point, Senator Monti intervened, observing that there is a need for more flexibility on the 3%, threshold given the perception of unfairness in the north-south relationship in the EU, and on the corrective actions in order to counter the advance of euro- scepticism in light of the 2014 European elections. The Finnish Prime Minister had words of praise for the pension reform adopted by the Monti government. – “ We still have to do the same”, he said and, while agreeing on the risk of a euro-sceptic backlash, he stuck to the point on the 3% threshold and on investments.

Former Foreign Minister Frattini drew attention to the EU’s boundaries, in particular the southern ones where the instability requires a more strategic approach on Europe’s part.A journalist, Gianfranco Nitti, from the Italian Foreign Press Association, tried without succeeding to get Katainen to reveal the secret of the triple A rating which, in the Eurozone, associates Finland only to Germany, Luxembourg and the Netherlands.

The president of the international affairs institute, Ambassador Ferdinando Nelli Feroci, introduced the conference, while Deputy Director Nathalie Tocci moderated the debate. In presenting the guest, Ambassador Nelli Feroci outlined Katainen’s political experience: despite his young age (41), he has been at the head of a government coalition including six parties since 2011, after having been Finance Minister.