The State Secretary for the European Union, Juan González-Barba, has visited Finland, accompanied by regional delegations from Aragon, Castile-La Mancha, Castile and Leon and the Balearic Islands to closely collaborate on issues of common interest, such as the demographic challenge and insularity, with a view to turning them into a priority in EU policies.
Juan González-Barba was accompanied by the Regional Vice-Presidents of Castile-La Mancha and Castile and Leon, Pedro Martínez and Francisco Igea, by the Councillor for the Presidency and Institutional Relations of Aragon, María Teresa Pérez, and by the Councillor for the Treasury and External Relations of the Balearic Islands, Rosario Sánchez.
This is the first time that the State Secretary for the EU has travelled with regional vice-presidents and councillors within the framework of bilateral visits to an EU country. The aim is to closely collaborate on some of the issues of greatest interest for the autonomous regions and of particular importance on the EU agenda. Furthermore, the participation of the regional representatives on this visit steps up bilateral ties between Spain and its EU partner, in this case Finland. Both Central Government and the regional governments mutually benefit from this type of initiative.
Juan González-Barba considers it is particularly important that the phenomena associated with depopulation and insularity are priorities when designing EU policies to ensure equal opportunities for all Europeans, wherever they may live. Accordingly, the State secretary argues that in the context of the post-pandemic economic recovery, these specific issues must be taken into account by EU institutions since the inhabited islands are the territories that have most suffered economically in recent months and the new digital agenda could open up new opportunities for the least populated territories.
The visit by the State secretary was divided into two stages: an initial visit to the north of Finland, to the city of Oulu, where he was accompanied by the Regional Vice-Presidents of Castile-La Mancha and Castile and Leon and by the Regional Councillor of Aragon (the three signatory regions of the Declaration of Talavera against Depopulation), and a subsequent visit to the Åland islands, where he was accompanied by the Regional Councillor of the Balearic Islands.
This trip underlines the priority Spain assigns to the question of the demographic challenge and insularity with an EU Member State that faces extreme and structural depopulation challenges, and that has the only European island region with political autonomy in the Baltic Sea - the Åland Islands.
This trip enables sound institutional cooperation to be launched on both questions, expanding cooperation on these issues to bilateral relations between Spain and Finland, and also with a view to boosting European policies in these two areas. Furthermore, the demographic challenge and insularity will be particularly important with a view to the Spanish Rotating Presidency of the EU in 2021. Since Finland is one of the most advanced countries in the digital transformation, the trip has allowed some of the Finnish solutions to mitigate the negative effects that these territories suffer from to be seen first-hand with the aim of establishing cooperation with Finland and the territories visited in this field.
The agenda allowed Juan González-Barba to hold bilateral consultations in the city of Oulu with the Finnish Minister for European Affairs and Ownership Steering, Tytti Tuppurainen, with whom he addressed such issues on the European agenda as the response to COVID-19, the digital and green transformations, the internal market, the EU-MERCOSUR Agreement, the Pact on Migration and Asylum, EU-Russia relations and the rule of law. In Helsinki, Juan González-Barba met with Jari Luoto, the State Under-secretary for European Affairs at the Prime Minister's Office, with whom he reviewed bilateral affairs and the European agenda.
The visit to the Åland Islands allowed Juan González-Barba and the Regional Councillor of the Balearic Islands to hold meetings with the Speaker of the Regional Parliament and with the Vice-President of the Regional Government, and with the Governor and Mayor of its capital - Marienhamn.
-NON OFFICIAL TRANSLATION-