PUHE, AEBR Annual Events 2023 in Košice (Slovakia) & Ukraine 8-12.11.2023


Cross-Border Labour Markets & The Institutional Approach

Ladies and gentlemen, dear colleagues, ”Dobrý deň,” (which means ”Good day” in Slovak),

I am Niina Malm, a Member of the Parliament of Finland and the 2nd Vice-Chair of the Social Democratic Party of Finland. I bring greetings from the newest NATO border in Europe, Finland. I come from the city of Imatra in Southern Karelia, very close to the Russian border. Our NATO membership is to strengthen the security of the whole of Europe. A lot has changed in Europe during the last few years.

I see this Congress as an opportunity to discuss what border cities can do to enhance our own security and cross-border labor markets. Let’s take this as an opportunity to learn from each other.

Dear friends,

In places near other countries, like the border regions near Russia, there is a strong demand for people to work in jobs like healthcare and construction industry. But there are difficulties when it comes to finding jobs in these areas. One big problem is the language. People on one side of the border may speak a different language than those on the other side. This can make it hard for workers and bosses to understand each other. This is the reality in my home town. To solve this, it’s important for workers to learn the language needed for their job. It helps them find work and also helps businesses in these areas get the right workers. By focusing on language skills and cooperation, people in border regions can improve their chances of finding jobs and help their local economies grow.

So, how can we make it easier for workers to learn a new language, especially in places near the border? We have many options. We can offer classes that teach the language needed for the job. We can encourage workers to talk with local people to practice. Workers can use websites and apps to learn the language. Employers can provide help to workers and even pay for classes. Local leaders can make rules that support language learning. The list goes on and on. Learning about the local way of life makes learning more fun. By doing these things, we can help workers near the border learn the language they need, find jobs, and make our communities better.

Dear colleagues,

There is a reason for why I started my speech by talking about the labor market in my own home city. Today, I want to talk about something very important: jobs and workers’ rights in EU. Our jobs are the heart of our society. They drive our economies and make life better for millions of people. Work isn’t just about money; it’s about people, their dreams, and their well-being. It’s how we support our families, build our communities, and create a brighter future for our nation.

In Finland, we take pride in our job market. It offers job security, decent living, and opportunities for personal growth. We’ve built a strong safety net to help, even when times are tough.

Everywhere in Europe, we share essential values about jobs and workers’ rights. We believe in treating workers fairly – fair pay, safe workplaces, and the freedom to join a union. Finland’s job market is known for getting this balance right through dialogue between labor unions, employers, and the government. I encourage you to support the labor movement in your own countries.

Working together to strengthen labor unions through political institutions is vital for better workers’ rights. Labor unions can engage with politicians and other like-minded groups to advocate for laws that protect jobs, fair pay, and safe working conditions. When politicians listen and create fair laws, labor unions become stronger, benefiting everyone.

Despite all the good things, we also have big challenges. We must help young people find jobs, ensuring they get a chance to work, learn, and contribute to our society. This isn’t just about money; it’s about fairness and equal opportunities. Gender equality at work is also crucial. Education, innovation, and dialogue are how we’ll face these challenges and seize the opportunities.

Dear friends,

As the last part of my speech, I want to talk about what’s been happening in Finland since Russia started the war in Ukraine. Our Eastern border in Finland is closed, and we’re losing a lot of money every day, about one million euros. This is mainly because fewer tourists are coming, and people aren’t shopping as much across the border. But we closed the border because of a serious situation: Russia attacked Ukraine, and we needed to protect our country.

First, our main focus has been keeping Finland safe, especially along our Eastern border. We’ve been working closely with our nearby countries to make sure our region stays peaceful. History has shown us Finns how important it is to have strong friendships and work together. We’ve become closer with our neighbors and became members of NATO.

Because of this situation, we’ve decided to spend more money on our defense and make our country stronger. We’ve also been helping people who had to leave Ukraine because of the fighting and gave support to those suffering from the conflict. We have a lot of refugees from Ukraine in my home city, Imatra.

However, even in these tough times, there are great opportunities in South Karelia. There are a lot of factories and industries there, and I hope in the future we can produce only clean and green electricity. This not only helps us recover the money we’ve lost but also makes our future better by using cleaner energy.

Moreover, we should also recognize the importance of cross-border labor markets in South Karelia. A lot of people from Russia used to work in Imatra, and it was essential for our local economy and workforce. Unfortunately, due to the ongoing war, we’ve lost this important labor market connection, which has had an impact on our local economy. Closing the border was important for our safety, and while it’s been tough on our finances, South Karelia’s green electricity can bring back our money and help our environment.

Despite this, it is important for Europe to invest in the Eastern border area to prevent these regions from becoming abandoned, which would pose a significant risk to our defense. Supporting economic development and infrastructure in these areas is also a strategic necessity to ensure the security and stability of our continent.

In the end, Russia’s actions in Ukraine have made us realize the importance of being watchful, working together with the world, and keeping our commitment to peace and international laws.

I think the war in Ukraine has been a message to us all neighboring countries. Our neighbor is uncertain and unstable. We need to be strong because we know that if Russia gets what it wants, it will keep going. That’s why we need to keep supporting Ukraine. If Ukraine wins, we stay safe.

We must always keep an eye on what’s happening in Europe or close to Europe because it’s connected to our safety. Each of us has a part to play, and we need to work together for our safety.

I hope you all have the wisdom and strength to continue your important work.

Thank you.