When it comes to EU affairs, the various Finnish ministries are primarily responsible for monitoring, preparation and for defining Finland’s official positions. A coordination system is used in Finland for dealing with EU-related matters. This system sets out to ensure that, throughout the legislative process, Finland adopts a position on all current EU matters which is in line with its overall political approach to the EU.
The system comprises the competent ministries, the Cabinet Committee on European Union Affairs, the Committee for EU Affairs and its EU sub-committees. The Government Secretariat for EU Affairs acts as a secretariat for both the Cabinet Committee on European Union Affairs and the Committee for EU Affairs. The Permanent Representation of Finland to the European Union also plays a part in the preparatory work.
The role of national parliaments, and thus of the Finnish Parliament, has been reinforced by the Lisbon Treaty. The most significant change is that the parliaments have been given the specific job of monitoring the application of the subsidiarity principle. This means that decisions should be taken as closely as possible to citizens and at the right level. If national parliaments feel that the subsidiarity principle is not being applied, then they can make that opinion known to the Commission, the European Parliament and the Council.
The Finnish Parliament participates in national preparations for EU decision-making. The Parliament’s Grand Committee deals with EU affairs and it receives opinions from other specialised parliamentary committees. The Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee handles issues concerning the EU’s Common Foreign and Security Policy.
The Cabinet Committee on European Union Affairs meets on a weekly basis to consider EU affairs of current significance. The Committee agrees on the approach to be taken by Finland in meetings of the European Union’s Council of Ministers. The Cabinet Committee is chaired by the Prime Minister.
The Premier of the Provincial Government of Åland is entitled to be heard by the Cabinet Committee on European Union Affairs on matters that fall within the competence of the Provincial Government or whenever matters are otherwise of particular importance to Åland.
The Committee for EU Affairs meets in an advisory capacity and as a conciliation body. The Committee deals with EU matters which are broad in scope and involve several ministries, as well as matters on which a unanimous position has not been reached. Furthermore, the Committee addresses court matters and supervision issues, and it also appoints the national experts to be seconded to the various EU institutions.
The Committee comprises representatives of all ministries, 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. The ministries tend to be represented by Permanent Secretaries, each of whom has an appointed deputy. The Committee for EU Affairs is chaired by the head of the Government EU Secretariat (the State Secretary for EU Affairs).
The Committee for EU Affairs has set up 40 sub-committees to prepare work in different sectors of activity. The chair and secretary of each sub-committee tend to come from the relevant ministry. The Sub-Committees on Budgetary Affairs and Judicial Affairs are two of the key sub-committees.
The sub-committees can meet in restricted or extended configuration. The restricted configuration includes officials from the competent ministry as well as representatives of other ministries and central agencies. When meeting in their extended configuration, the sub-committees also comprise representatives of interest groups and other stakeholders. There is also a representative of the Government EU Secretariat and the Provincial Government of Åland on each sub-committee.
The Government Secretariat for EU Affairs assumes responsibility for the coordination of EU affairs, serves as a secretariat for the Cabinet Committee on European Union Affairs, and provides a chair and secretariat for the Committee for EU Affairs. It is represented on each of the preparatory sub-committees.
The tasks of the Government Secretariat for EU Affairs also include preparations for European Council summits; general EU development and institutional issues; working with the relevant ministries to circulate instructions to the Permanent Representation of Finland to the European Union; EU-related matters not falling within the competence of any specific ministry; ensuring a flow of information between the Permanent Representation and national authorities; and participation in government-organised training, information campaigns and documentation relating to the EU.
The Government Secretariat for EU Affairs was transferred from the Ministry for Foreign Affairs to the Prime Minister's Office on 1 July 2000.