Finland deepens relations with Eastern Europe, the South Caucasus and Central Asia
“This is the first time policy for this region has been compiled into one document,” Foreign Minister Alexander Stubb stated at the press conference held on Friday, 29 January to publicise Finland’s policy in Eastern Europe, the South Caucasus and Central Asia. The policy includes assessments dealing with the region’s internal development and international position, bilateral relations between Finland and the countries of the region, and relations between the EU and the countries of the region.
This region with eleven states and a population of 137 million often receives less attention here, and we now want to focus additional resources there, Foreign Minister Stubb said. Stability and development in Eastern Europe, the South Caucasus and Central Asia are important to all of Europe, and the region’s weight internationally both in the EU and, for instance in the OSCE, has increased. “Moreover, this is a question of neighbouring areas, which means our own national interests as well,” the foreign minister continued.
Stability, peace and strengthening of EU foreign policy the main goals
The main goals of the policy are to foster democracy and human rights, prevent conflicts and strengthen the European Union’s position in the region as well as to enhance Finland’s profile within the EU and deepen bilateral relations between Finland and the countries of the region. Foreign Minister Stubb also mentioned the Wider Europe Initiative – Framework Programme for Finland’s Development Policy prepared under the direction of Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Paavo Väyrynen, where 70 million euros is allocated to various projects over a four-year period.
Finland deepens relations with the countries of the region bilaterally, in EU policy and through international organisations. An aim is to encourage greater commitment on the part of the region’s countries to the international system and also the implementation of pledges made to international organisations. Through her own actions, Finland wishes to bring the countries closer to the EU and to encourage further political, economic and social reform.
Finland to open a diplomatic office in Minsk
The preconditions for intensifying bilateral relations are good, as contacts have increased in recent years. Foreign Minster Stubb said that Finland is opening a diplomatic office in Minsk, Belarus. In 2009 Finland established an embassy in Astana, Kazakhstan, and the decision to accredit the Finnish Ambassador to Kazakhstan also to Kyrgyzstan was made on Friday. “Minsk is only 800 kilometres from Helsinki. There is great economic potential, and we are doing our best to make use of this potential,” Stubb said. At the same time Finland strives to promote the development of democracy in Belarus.
Drawing up this policy does not mean, however, that these countries would be without problems, the foreign minister pointed out. “Human rights are at the core of our foreign policy and we can exert influence through our own example,” Stubb stated.
“Belarus has progressed step by step slowly, but not everything is in place from the perspective of human rights, democracy or rule of law. However, the direction is the right one,” the foreign minister said. He continued that as a country in our neighbouring area, Belarus is important and therefore a Finnish presence in Minsk is justified.