On 01 July 2019, Finland takes over the rotating presidency of the Council of the EU. The presidency will be responsible for implementing the Council’s work on EU legislation and policy initiatives. Finland will also become the first presidency to implement the new priorities of the 2019–2024 Strategic Agenda that the European leaders have recently agreed on.
For the next six months, Finland’s key priorities will focus on strengthening common values and the rule of law, making the EU more competitive and socially inclusive, strengthening the EU’s position as a global leader in climate action and protecting the security of citizens. But what’s in it for mental health?
In the Presidency Programme, Finland has pledged that ‘the EU can prove its worth by creating wellbeing and prosperity that is socially, ecologically and economically sustainable’. This overarching commitment to promoting wellbeing in all policies is a promising signal sent to all Europeans. Finland acknowledges the role of economic growth to help improve wellbeing and, simultaneously, the importance of wellbeing in leading to both economic growth and social and macroeconomic stability. However, the underlying theme of wellbeing as a catalyst of economy, productivity and growth should not lead to consider citizens as mere means of production. The human dimension should not be overshadowed by the economic dimension and the need to address social aspects and wellbeing as an intrinsic societal value remains as crucial as ever.
The Finnish Presidency’s priorities detail that in the next 6 months “Our goal should be to make Europe the global leader of the digital economy”. To achieve this, it is key to ensure that the labour market allows for appropriate preparation, employee participation and regulations conductive to workers’ mental wellbeing and inclusion. At the same time, we cannot ignore that in today’s digital economy mental health is a vital resource. Mental health difficulties can indeed lead to a significant loss of productivity and are associated with substantial costs, estimated at 6 billion euros in Finland alone and approximately 800 billion euros across Europe. Promoting positive mental health and wellbeing should be the cornerstone of cost containment. This should, however, be supplemented by an additional focus on adequate safeguards of social protection, job safety, labour market inclusion, work-life balance, and responsible growth.
During previous EU Council Presidencies in 1999 and 2006, Finland successfully lifted mental health onto the European agenda challenging both prejudice and preconceptions. The national efforts to promote mental health and wellbeing, including suicide prevention, must be continued, strengthened and replicated. Inclusion, participation, equality and empowerment are important elements which can help promote mental health as well as further the achievement of EU strategic objectives. We hope to see the Finnish Presidency’s actions guided by the principles of transparency, regional and social fairness, gender equality, citizen involvement, human dignity, freedom and human rights, including those of minorities.
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