Speech by Minister Pekka Haavisto at the Stronger Together - Eastern Partnership Media Conference in Helsinki
Opening remarks by Minister Pekka Haavisto at the Stronger Together - EU’s Eastern Partnership: Reforms, Resilience and Freedom of Speech Media Conference in Helsinki on 11 December 2019.
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On behalf of the Finnish Presidency of the Council of the European Union, it is a great pleasure for me to address this Eastern Partnership media conference for young specialists. I want to thank the Haaga-Helia University of Applied Sciences, the European Commission and others who have helped to organize this event.
It is inspiring to see so many media professionals, especially young media influencers, gathering together from seven countries. We really feel privileged to host you in Helsinki today.
In the Eastern Partnership the Finnish presidency priorities have laid strongly in our common European values. Rule of law, anti-corruption and media freedom are our cornerstones. We also want to strengthen the EU’s position as a global leader in climate change and to protect the security of citizens comprehensively.
In the Eastern Partnership our focus has been on resilience. The priority areas have been youth, education, rule of law and hybrid as well as media literacy and tackling disinformation.
The core of the Eastern Partnership are reforms. From the Finnish experience we know that people’s trust in public administration, state institutions and media is the key. When you have transparent political and judicial institutions, and free media, people feel themselves secured.
Finland has a long tradition of freedom of speech. According to World Press Freedom Index 2019 by Reporters Without Borders Finland ranks number two in media freedom (after Norway and before Sweden).
Our media freedom has long roots. In 1766, when Finland and Sweden still together composed the Kingdom of Sweden, and Finland was the eastern half of the state, Sweden’s assembly of the estates in Stockholm passed Freedom of Press Act.
This Act abolished political censorship, made almost all official papers public and criticism of government became possible. This Press Act is regarded as the world’s first law supporting the freedom of press and freedom of information.
Independent media is needed for us all to know what is happening in the societies, and what decision-makers are doing. Independent media is also needed to hold decision-makers accountable.
I think that this is equally applicable both to Finland, to the rest of the EU and to the Eastern Partnership countries.
One of the key figures writing the abovementioned Freedom of Press Act was a Finnish clergyman and a member of the assembly of the estates Anders Chydenius, who was inspired by ideas of Enlightenment.
Chydenius used the expression “Sky of Freedom”. I hope you will have a Sky of Freedom above you during this conference and that we all would have Sky of Freedom above us in our home countries.
Thank you for your attention. I wish you a fruitful and pleasant event in Helsinki. I also hope that you make new friends during these days and will keep contact with each other after this event. The slogan of today is “Stronger Together”. I definitely believe in these words.