Responsibility for the preparation and monitoring of affairs relating to the European Union and the determination of Finland's positions on EU issues rests with competent ministries. A coordination system has been established to ensure that Finland can present a coordinated position, in line with its overall EU policy, on issues under consideration in the European Union at each stage of preparation.
The coordination system involves competent ministries, the Cabinet Committee on European Union Affairs, the Committee for EU Affairs and its EU sub-committees. The Government EU Affairs Department serves as the secretariat for the Cabinet Committee on European Union Affairs and the Committee for EU Affairs.
In the discussion and coordination of EU affairs particular attention is attached to the timely supply of information to and involvement of the Finnish Parliament and the Provincial Government of Åland.
The Permanent Representation of Finland in Brussels participates in the preparation of Finnish EU policy. The Representation prepares the decisions of the Council of the European Union on the basis of instructions from the Finnish government. This close collaboration with the capital enables an effective division of tasks between the Permanent Representation and the different ministries.
The Cabinet Committee on European Union Affairs meets once a week, usually on Friday mornings, to discuss politically, economically and legally important EU affairs. The Cabinet Committee on European Union Affairs agrees on Finland's priorities in all formal and informal Council meetings. The Cabinet Committee on European Union Affairs is chaired by the Prime Minister. See annex for the composition of the Cabinet Committee on European Union Affairs.
The chairperson of the Provincial Government of Åland has the right to be heard in the Cabinet Committee on European Union Affairs when the issue under discussion falls within the competence of the Provincial Government or is otherwise of great importance to the province.
The Committee for EU Affairs meets usually on Wednesdays and serves as an advisory and mediatory body in the coordination of EU affairs. The Committee for EU Affairs discusses broad issues involving several ministries and also those issues that have not been resolved in the sub-committees. In addition, the Committee for EU Affairs handles issues related to EU courts and enforcement as well as nominates national experts to EU institutions.
Each ministry, the Prime Minister's Office, the Office of the President of the Republic, the Office of the Chancellor of Justice, the Bank of Finland and the Provincial Government of Åland are represented in the Committee for EU Affairs. The ministries are represented by Permanent Secretaries or their deputies. The Committee for EU Affairs is chaired by the head of the Government EU Affairs Department (State Secretary for EU Affairs).
The Committee for EU Affairs has appointed 37 sector-specific preparative sub-committees. The sub-committees constitute the foundation for the preparation of EU affairs at the civil servant level. The chair and the secretary of each EU sub-committee usually represents the competent ministry.
The sub-committees can assemble in a restricted or extended composition. The restricted composition includes civil servants from the competent ministry and representatives of other ministries and central agencies. An extended composition comprises representatives from various interest groups and other concerned parties, too. Each sub-committee has a representative of the Government EU Affairs Department and the Provincial Government of Åland. Sub-committees meet as necessary.
The Government EU Affairs Department is responsible for coordinating matters related to the EU. The duty was transferred from the Ministry for Foreign Affairs to the Prime Minister’s Office in 2000.
The Government EU Affairs Department's main duty is to oversee the coordination of EU affairs and it serves as the secretariat for the Cabinet Committee on European Union Affairs and the chair and secretariat for the Committee for EU Affairs. Moreover, the Government EU Affairs Department is represented in each of the preparative sub-committees appointed by the Committee for EU Affairs.
The Government EU Affairs Department's duties also include the preparation of European Councils, action relating to institutional questions and general development of the EU, the provision, together with competent ministries, of instructions to the Permanent Representation of Finland to the European Union, the furtherance of procedures relating to the coordination and preparation of EU affairs, responsibility for such EU affairs that do not fall within the competence of any other ministry, ensuring the flow of information between the Permanent Representation and national authorities, as well as involvement in government-organised training, communications activities and documentation relating to EU affairs.
Parliament participates in the national level preparation of the decisions to be made in the European Union. EU affairs are discussed in the Grand Committee and the other parliamentary committees can provide the Grand Committee with opinions on the issues under debate. Matters relating to the EU's Common Foreign and Security Policy are discussed in the Foreign Affairs Committee of Parliament.
The role of the national Parliaments was strengthened with the Treaty of Lisbon. The most significant change concerns their role in monitoring the implementation of the principle of subsidiarity. This principle means that decisions must be taken as closely as possible to the citizens, and at the appropriate decision-making level. If the national Parliaments consider that this principle has not been observed, they can make a formal complaint to the Commission, the European Parliament and the Council.
Special attention in the preparation process is paid to the participation of the Government of Åland. The Chairman of the Government has the right to be heard in the Cabinet Committee on European Union Affairs if the issue falls under the competence of the Government of Åland, or for any other reason is of particular importance to the region.