Minister of Justice Antti Häkkänen's speech to the guests from the Court of Justice of the European Union, Säätytalo 22.5.2017

Ministry of Justice 24.5.2017 9.45 | Published in English on 27.6.2017 at 11.56

Mr President of the Court of Justice of the European Union, Mr President of the Supreme Court, Mr President of the Supreme Administrative Court, Honoured Members of the Court, Distinguished Colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen

It is with great pleasure that I welcome the President and the Members of the Court of Justice of the European Union to Finland.

It is a particular honour for me to host this dinner this very evening. First of all, today, it has been exactly 11 years since the last time the Court of Justice made an official visit to Finland. Since then, the Court has changed, the EU has changed and Finland has changed.

This is a particular honour also on a more personal level. I may welcome you to Finland in my capacity as a newly appointed Minister of Justice, which makes this occasion even more significant and meaningful to me. Perhaps it was a sign for things to come, since only a month ago I had the privilege of visiting the Court, and meeting with Judge Rosas, in Luxembourg.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Past years have been years of turmoil and crisis ? in terms of economy, migration ? and some say, perhaps even rule of law and human rights.

Yet, the European Union is based on the idea that the peoples of Europe must work together in order to find peace and prosperity. For that reason, European integration has always been firmly rooted in a shared commitment to ensure the enjoyment of freedom, human rights and the rule of law.

The Court of Justice has always imbued the European integration project with stability and strength. Even at times when the EU legislature has been more inclined to political compromises, the Court of Justice has remained faithful to the founding values of the Union and has never wavered from upholding the rights and freedoms of its citizens. This is what epitomizes a Union based on the rule of law.

Recent terrorist attacks across Europe have disturbed the feeling of security of people even in places where we once thought to be safe. In those circumstances, it is right to ask ourselves, how do we succeed in realizing the area of freedom, security and justice in a way which both ascertains security and at the same time leaves room for both freedom and rights?

Striking the right balance between, for example, security and privacy, is at present very timely also here in Finland as we are preparing new legislation for intelligence and surveillance measures. That task has also exemplified the importance of taking duly account of constitutional and fundamental rights, be it at national or EU level. Due consideration of fundamental rights is central to all law drafting processes. This is where we still have work to do both in the Union as well as in Member States. We certainly want to avoid situations where the Court of Justice would need to annul EU acts contravening fundamental rights. Many such recent examples expressly concern privacy and data protection.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The cornerstone of judicial cooperation in the Union is mutual recognition of judicial decisions across the EU. We are still convinced that the choice made in the Tampere European Council almost 20 years ago was the right one. Today, perhaps more than ever, mutual recognition needs bridges of trust between Member States, since mutual trust is a key to a genuine European area of justice. And the importance of mutual trust only grows in times of crises.

Whether it concerns peaceful or financial future of Europe, good relations among Member States, or the arrival of large numbers of asylum seekers and refugees in Europe, it is clear that an effective EU policy to solve these problems requires mutual trust between the States involved.

The evolving political landscape in Europe is an indication of a growing mistrust of people towards authorities and established institutions. As a counterforce, an open, efficient and independent administration is an essential element in ensuring integrity, building trust and helping to gain people?s confidence in the Union and its institutions.

This year we celebrate SUOMI 100 ? Finland 100. Last year we celebrated 250 years of our first act on open government ? ?His Majesty´s gracious Ordinance Relating to Freedom of Writing and of the Press". The state of openness in the European Union, and the potential effect of the Union?s administrative culture on our national practices, was a matter of a serious concern for us when Finland?s accession to the EU was being contemplated. Since then we have worked in trying to promote transparency in the EU ? the Court´s jurisdiction is in this area is highly important.

Ladies and gentlemen,

National courts can be true drivers of enhancing mutual recognition and mutual trust by engaging in direct interactions with the Court of Justice of the European Union. It is only by way of a continuous judicial conversation with the Court of Justice and with other national courts that the principles of mutual recognition and mutual trust can be framed in a way that respects both fundamental rights, and coherent and efficient application of EU law.

With these thoughts in mind, I wish you all a very pleasant and enjoyable evening and lively and successful dialogues here in Finland.