Finnish Ambassador to Washington Kirsti Kauppi and dozens of her European Union colleagues put some diplomatic muscle into their nations’ policies this week by taking part in a bicycle ride in Washington to show the EU’s commitment sustainable development.
Kauppi organized and co-led the group of about 40 diplomats and supporters clad in everything from T-shirts to business suits.
EU Ambassador Stavros Lambrinidis joined Kauppi in leading the 10-minute “pedal for the planet” through what Washingtonians know as Embassy Row — a broad avenue lined with once-stately homes that have been converted to diplomatic missions. Representatives from all 28 European Union member states took part in the event, with some participants following the ride on foot.
Still breathing comfortably at the end of her jaunt, the Finnish envoy, along with the EU ambassador, led a panel discussion and then explained to VOA that the outing was designed to highlight one of her nation’s key goals for its six-month term as presiding power in the EU’s rotating presidential system — a sustainable Europe and a sustainable future.
Combating climate change is a big part of sustainability, Kauppi said. She sees the defense of the environment as interconnected with what’s socially and economically sustainable.
Lambrinidis, the EU’s ambassador to the U.S., told VOA that Finland, with its six-month presidency of the EU, “can set certain priorities for all,” adding “they have chosen sustainability, where Finland leads and which is also where the EU has set a collective high bar for itself — carbon neutrality by 2050.”
Lambrinidis also highlighted the EU’s power in numbers. Thanks to the 28 member states’ collective effort, “we can lead the way, while working closely with our partners around the world,” he said.
In addition to climate change, Kauppi said the priorities for Finland’s presidency, which began July 1, are to strengthen common values and the rule of law, to make the EU more competitive and socially inclusive, and to protect the security of citizens comprehensively.
Kauppi also pointed out that the EU “at its core” is a bloc that emphasizes economic integration. As such, Finland, she said, will use its presidency to focus on economic growth and competitiveness, on “making the single market function better,” as it looks at trade with other entities.
Finland and the EU are also concerned with “security in the broad sense,” Kauppi said, explaining that “security” is not limited to the military domain, but also “how people live, whether they’re safe in their own environment.
As far as military security is concerned, Kauppi said, Finland and the EU are focused on addressing “so-called hybrid threats” and on improving defense cooperation within the EU.
The EU defines hybrid threats as those that combine conventional and unconventional, military and non-military activities that can be used in a coordinated manner by state or non-state actors and are “designed to be difficult to detect or attribute.” These include cyberattacks on critical information systems, attempts to undermine public trust in government institutions and efforts to deepen social divisions. (VOA)