Helsinki holds low-key ceremony to mark start of EU presidency

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HELSINKI, July 8 (Xinhua) -- Finnish capital Helsinki on Monday held a low-profile opening ceremony at the downtown Civic Square to mark the start of the six-month Finnish presidency of the Council of the European.

The opening event was connected with the international youth football tournament beginning on Monday. Finnish Prime Minister Antti Rinne and Mayor of Helsinki Jan Vapaavuori inaugurated the party together with the children of Helsinki Cup.

Rinne highlighted combating the climate change as the hallmark of the goals during the Finnish presidency.

Referring to the young players, the prime minister aid they are the ones "we must think about when making decisions about Europe's future."

Rinne said that Finland has important objectives concerning the EU, but it cannot achieve them alone. He compared the cooperation needed in the EU with that in the football games. "Finland is like one of the teams in the Helsinki Cup tournament: everyone's input is needed for the common good."

The day culminated as hundreds of junior footballers from 21 countries gathered to take the match oath. One of the locations of the competition is just next to the Finlandia Hall, the official convention site for EU meetings, and thus people attending meetings there can see football match through windows.

Compared with Finland's last presidency in 2006, when celebration events were spread out to 21 locations, this time's inauguration ceremony was held only in Helsinki out of consideration of security arrangements and cost savings.

The decision, however, has been met with disappointment in regional cities. Critics say "the whole Finland is a member in the union, not only Helsinki."

Newspaper Keskisuomalainen in Jyvaskyla noted in a critical editorial that the "rest of Finland is now deprived of the change to make their cities better known". Keskisuomalainen recalled that Jyvaskyla benefited greatly from being able to host a ministerial meeting during the 2006 presidency.

The newspaper also said Helsinki is not suitable as a "window on ecological Finland" as it is a major user of coal for its heating and electricity production.

Police officers from other parts of the country have been transferred temporarily as the capital police alone cannot cope with the security needs. KSML noted the 70 million-euro budget of the EU presidency actually does not include the security cost, but it remains in the police budget.

News agency Lannen Media deplored in a feature earlier that the consolidation of EU meetings in Helsinki contributed to "a further alienation of the ordinary citizens from the European Union." Enditem

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