Foreign Minister Stubb: EU policy of ever greater importance also to Finland
The Annual Meeting of Finnish Heads of Mission gathered together 101 heads of mission to Helsinki to hear speeches by Foreign Minister Stubb and Britain’s Foreign Secretary William Hague.
Foreign Minister Stubb thanked the diplomats for a year filled with much work and stated that his subordinates were ambassadors of what is now considered the world’s best country. In his speech he pondered over the future challenges of foreign and security policy in the midst of global changes. The economic crisis has shaken up world politics, and restructuring will continue and deepen during the 2010s. Owing to sudden economic shifts, it is continually harder to predict the future. The sphere of international politics is expanding and also becoming more complex constantly. EU policy has growing importance to Finland, and from the perspectives of Finland and the EU, steering this development – exerting influence outside our own borders – is ever more important. The Foreign Minister stressed that if the EU and Finland, as one of its Member States, wish to influence the multipolar world, the home base must be in good shape first. The EU foreign policy requires stronger unity and a new operational approach grounded in mutual respect. Our policy can be effective and influential only if it is interactive and strives to understand others.
The Foreign Minister also considered what sort of Ministry for Foreign Affairs and diplomatic missions network would be built in the 2010s. During the decade now beginning, the Finnish Foreign Service will encounter both growing demands and shrinking resources. “Focusing on the essential is the point of departure for everything,” the Minister stressed, continuing that “the plan for development of the foreign missions network, long in the making and carefully worked out, is part of the prioritization. The plan has been approved and activities will be ended in some countries. During the autumn it will be announced which missions will be closed down in 2011.” Activities can also be made more efficient by bringing many Finnish actors together under the same roof. At the moment, the government is funding several, partly overlapping networks of contact points abroad.
Finland must exert influence more concertedly with regard to issues important specifically to us. Strengthening of the European External Action Service is also one of our central objectives. “The new European External Action Service gives us a channel to have influence, to benefit from the Union’s weight in global issues and to extend the geographical dimension of our activities,” the Foreign Minister said when concluding his speech.
Great Britain’s Foreign Secretary William Hague also spoke at the Annual Meeting of Finnish Heads of Mission. Foreign Secretary Hague lavishly thanked Foreign Minister Stubb for their excellent cooperation and for his interesting visit to Helsinki. In his speech the Foreign Secretary said that Finland and the UK share political objectives, and his view of the world’s political situation is in line with that of Foreign Minister Stubb. He summarized it by saying that Europe “allows us to do more together than we can alone.” Foreign Secretary Hague also stressed that Britain now has a new Government that differs not only in its ministers but also in its way of thinking. In the present day, the importance of strategic thinking cannot be overemphasized; prioritization and working together are also today’s modus operandi in foreign policy. “We are being required to do more with less,” Foreign Secretary Hague stated, stressing the importance of objectives and an ambitious approach to solving even major issues. Foreign Secretary Hague concluded by congratulating Finland on the country’s recent success in many fields. In particular, he mentioned social policy, peace mediation activities and the achievements noted in Newsweek.
The two ministers for foreign affairs also had bilateral talks on topical issues in EU affairs, such as the European External Action Service and implementation of the Lisbon Treaty as well as the EU’s strategic partnerships. Other topics of discussion were foreign policy issues; for instance, the Middle East peace process and the situations in Iran and Afghanistan. During his visit Foreign Secretary Hague also had meetings with Prime Minister Mari Kiviniemi, Minister of Finance Jyrki Katainen and Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Paavo Väyrynen.