On 27 September, the Economic Forum for New Ideas in Sopot hosted a Citizens' Dialogue with Vice-President Jyrki Katainen. The Citizens' Dialogue focussed mainly on the current dispute between the European Commission and the Polish government on the rule of law. Other topics discussed were European identity, European Parliament elections in 2019 and the future of Europe.
For almost 150 participants of the Dialogue organized in a big tent located on a beach of the Baltic Sea, the rule of law was the most burning issue they wanted to discuss.
“Problems with the rule of law in one Member State always means a problem for all other Member States. You need to follow certain rules”, Vice-President Jyrki Katainen expressed the Commission’s position. Then he explained that the process of talking with the Polish government started 2 years ago. According to European Commission’s interpretation, he said, some of Polish proposals will violate the independence of the judiciary system in Poland. Every single judge is also a European judge.
“If the judiciary system is controlled by a government, you cannot expect real justice. So far, our conversation is going nowhere” – Katainen underlined.
The discussion continued with questions related to the rule of law in general. Vice-President Katainen stressed the importance of sharing the same values in the EU, because as he pointed out, the EU means freedom, free movement of people, common values, but it also means responsibilities.
“The biggest threat is the rule of law in Romania, Poland, and Hungary. It is very surprising, as they have already been mature Members of the EU for long enough, the rule of law should not be put into question. We must take it seriously” – he said.
Many questions were related to the upcoming European Parliament elections and the future of Europe in general. According to the Vice-President, the European elections 2019 would be a test for the EU citizens on whether they want to vote for those who represent common values or for those who want to contest them.
Questions then touched upon European identity. People wanted to know what it is and how it could be deeper ingrained. “Every time I come back to Europe from China or the US, I feel like I come home, and every time when I think of “us” I mean Europe not Finland”, the Vice-President replied.
He concluded by saying that when he was in a national politics, he wanted to have a stronger Finland in the EU, because it was both a strategic and emotional choice, to be a part of the bigger community.
“A stronger Europe make us stronger together. The EU is a community not an organisation”, he added.