President of the European Council Jean-Claude Juncker and President Sauli Niinistö in Brussels on 22 January. Photo: EC – Audiovisual Service / Etienne Ansotte
President of the Republic Sauli Niinistö visited Brussels on 21–22 January to meet the heads of various EU institutions. On Thursday, 22 January, President Niinistö met Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission, and on Wednesday, Donald Tusk, President of the European Council, Martin Schulz, President of the European Parliament and Jyrki Katainen, Commission Vice-President.
Topics discussed included the situation in Ukraine and developments in Russia, and the development of the EU’s common security and defence policy. President Niinistö raised the issue of hybrid warfare as a concrete development target in common defence and the European security community. He also said that European citizens would no doubt appreciate the issue of security being raised as a European Union priority.
“The primary task of the EU is to secure life for all European citizens,” commented President Niinistö on the EU’s core values at the joint press conference with President Juncker. “To secure and free life to build up your destiny.” According to President Niinistö, the future of the EU is linked to economic developments. The new Commission is facing a very demanding task, but President Niinistö expressed confidence in the Commission’s ability to rise to the challenge.
The situation in Ukraine is fragile
“It is very obvious that the Ukrainian crisis cannot be resolved very rapidly”, said the President. There have been steps forward and backward during the crisis. “The situation is very fragile. It is important that we are trying to do our best to gain peace in Ukraine. That’s the most important thing now. That is why the Minsk process and continuing it is the key issue.”
“In Finland, we are worried about the EU-Russia relationship, which has been affected very badly by Russia’s aggressiveness in Ukraine. Peace in Ukraine is the first step. We also have to think how to improve relations with our big neighbour.”
During the visit to Brussels, President Niinistö also met Ilkka Salmi, Director of the EU Intelligence Analysis Centre, and Georgij Alafuzoff, Director of the Intelligence Directorate of the European Union Military Staff. On Wednesday evening, the President attended a reception hosted by Finland’s Permanent Representation to the European Union, where he met Finns working in EU institutions.
This was President Niinistö’s first visit to Brussels during his term of office.