I rounded off a long day by listening to the Fifth Symphony by Jean Sibelius. I am fond of the version recorded years ago by the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra and Leif Segerstam. As I hadn't listened to the symphony for some time, I was struck once again – for the umpteenth time – by how wild, beautiful and soul-stirring the music sounds.
At the beginning of September we will have the opportunity to hear this same work here in Brussels, when it will be performed by the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen. The latter half of the concert will be a performance of another Fifth Symphony, this time by Pyotr Tchaikovsky. For this piece, the orchestra will be conducted by Valeri Gergiejev, who is well-known to many Finns and to everyone in the city of Mikkeli. Two gems of classical music to be performed by two world-class conductors at the Swedish presidency's gala evening.
The motto of the Swedish presidency that begins today is not "symphony" but can be roughly translated as "together". Perhaps this was meant to be symbolic, since the opening event for the presidency on Friday features a screening of the cult Swedish film "Tillsammans" ("Together"). It is a nostalgic eulogy to the togetherness of Swedish society in the 1970s. Lukas Moodysson quite brilliantly captured the era and its spirit, adding some warm humour and a dash of irony for good measure.
The Swedish presidency's motto could easily be "together". It is customary for every new presidency to say how unusual a situation it finds itself in as it takes the helm. That is true now too, but there are more grounds for saying so than usual. Now we need to work together and find common solutions.
The economic crisis will continue through the Swedish presidency, but day by day we are moving closer to the moment when the lines on graphs will turn upwards. No one knows when that day will come. No one can say for sure if there are enough green shoots and if they are sufficiently robust.
One of the main issues tackled at June's European Council was how to get out of the crisis. It has to happen in a way that makes the growth sustainable. It must not be allowed to jeopardise the stability that we have worked hard to achieve over the last ten years. Nor should the exit strategy lead to too sudden growth that after a while would just turn into another decline.
Finland – as if quoting the Swedish presidency's unspoken motto – spoke out strongly in favour of good coordination. The EU achieved close cooperation and a high degree of consensus prevailed at the outbreak of the crisis. It has to be able to achieve just that now in order to ensure managed growth and to safeguard the common good.
Finland's first presidency began ten years ago to the day. One of its major outcomes was the Tampere Programme. It was the first of its kind to promote internal security and justice. It was a groundbreaking achievement. It was followed in time by the Hague Programme and it is now the turn of the Stockholm Programme. Expectations of it are high. When citizens are surveyed, internal security tops their wish list. If and when the Lisbon Treaty enters into force, new life will also be breathed into a decision-making process that so far has been considered slow and cumbersome.
In addition to Brussels and Stockholm, Copenhagen will be at the centre of the action. The greatest and most far-reaching objectives of the Swedish presidency, but also the hardest objectives to deliver on, concern the new climate convention. Work done last autumn and this spring has laid a sold foundation for the EU's policy and objectives. That is all well and good, but it is not enough. A real impact on the prevention of global warming can only be achieved when pulling together with other industrialised countries, emerging economies and the developing world. To do this, we literally need a joint effort, a true symphony.
Every new presidency has good reason to prepare for the unexpected as well. France did so last year, but was still not able to anticipate the war in Georgia. They came close in that they had predicted the unrest in Abkhazia. The enormity of the financial crisis came as a surprise. Nor did they expect a no vote in the Irish referendum on the Lisbon Treaty. The Ukrainian gas crisis caught the Czech Republic off guard at the beginning of this year. Sweden has been preparing for crisis management. What crisis – if and when – is an open question, but they are ready for it.
The Swedish presidency almost brings the presidency back "home" to Finland. The presidency will see things as if through our eyes, issues will be tackled in a way that is familiar to us. The Swedes say that all work should be "open, efficient and result-driven". That goes down well with us. Our job is to support Sweden in promoting the Baltic Sea Strategy and in implementing the Lisbon Treaty as in all other areas. We have to play our own watchful, well-timed and harmonious part in this symphony that Sweden is conducting.