An Internationally active, European Finland
- Finland as a member of the European Union
Minister for Foreign Affairs, Erkki Tuomioja
Zagreb, October 19, 2011
• As populist and nationalistic sentiments are on the rise across Europe, the benefits of European integration and international cooperation need to be explained again. Continuously deepening integration and numerous enlargements from the original Coal and Steel Community have created unprecedented peace and stability in Europe.
• The EU is, after all, arguably the most successful peace project in world history, having put to an end the spectre of war between its member states, which had between them started two world wars and countless lesser ones.
• Relatively new member states too, like Finland, have already gained greatly from being part of the Union - both economically and in terms of increased influence in international affairs. As a member of the European Union Finland is more prosperous and secure than it would be as a non-member.
• Security considerations were always an important element and, from the start, we have been active in developing the Common Security and Defense Policy. With its unique, comprehensive tool kit the EU is able address not only the consequences, but also the very causes of conflict. The comprehensive approach to security helps to promote protection of human rights, rule of law and free, democratic societies.
• Social development, inclusion and equality have always played an important part in internal stability in Europe. I see these values also as a basis for stability in Europe as a whole.
• Finland’s integration into the European Union was gradual from associate membership in the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) through free trade agreement with the European Economic Community (EEC) and full membership in the EFTA to the EU membership in 1995, only 16 years ago together with Sweden and Austria. Norway negotiated at the same time, but the proposal to join was defeated in the referendum.
Enlargement, one of the most successful EU policies
• Finland has always been a strong supporter of enlargement, which I believe is one of the most successful EU policies. Enlargement has increased stability, security and welfare in our continent, including the Baltic Sea region. Enlargement benefits the Union as a whole and allows it to be better positioned to address global challenges.
• Finland has always stressed that the system only works if everybody follows agreed rules and conditions, including in the enlargement process, in joining the euro and Schengen areas.
• The accession negotiations of Croatia to European Union were completed in June this year. Croatia deserves credit for many years of hard work and concrete results in all the 35 negotiating areas. The Accession Treaty will be signed in December and Croatia is preparing for a referendum on the Treaty. Croatia is expected to become the 28th member of the Union on 1st July 2013.
• Croatia’s accession will also send an important signal to other countries in the region. The perspective to join the Union is a real one. The conditions are demanding, but they are achievable.
• Croatia needs to continue the work also after the closure of the negotiations. The European Commission is monitoring closely the fulfillment of all the commitments undertaken in the negotiations. Strengthening the rule of law, including proper conduct of domestic war crime trials, is one of the key commitments.
• We support the conclusions and recommendations put forward by the Commission in its annual enlargement report last week. Serbia should be welcomed as a candidate country, assuming that it will proceed with a normalization of its relations with Kosovo.
• Finland has always been supportive of the Turkish aspiration to join the EU, which is also a vital strategic interest for Europe. Turkey has already done a lot in preparation for membership and while a lot remains to be done it is important that the Turkish accession negotiations proceed on its own merits with new chapters being opened and closed as they proceed.
Nordic co-operation is there to stay
• In the case of Finland, Nordic cooperation has played an important part in our integration and foreign policy, despite the fact that three out of five Nordic countries are NATO members (Denmark, Norway and Iceland) and two, Finland and Sweden, are not.
• The Nordic area has actually set an example for wider European integration with its many innovations starting from passport free travel, a common labour market and votes for Nordic citizens in local elections.
• Progress has been particularly rapid in the field of security and defense cooperation. In addition to the long tradition of cooperation in UN crisis management, with more recent examples from the UN mandated EU and NATO operations, this now includes also capability work and pooling and sharing.
• Last year, the Nordic Foreign Ministers declared their countries intention to cooperate in meeting the challenges in foreign and security policy in a spirit of solidarity. Foreseeable security threats include for example natural and man-made disasters and cyber and terrorist attacks. Should a Nordic country be affected, the others will, upon request from that country, assist with relevant means. The intensified Nordic cooperation will be undertaken fully in line with each country’s security and defense policy and complement existing European and Euro-Atlantic cooperation.
• The tragic events in Utoya, Norway, reinforced the sentiment of communality and solidarity across the Nordic area. Norwegians have showed us a perfect example of upholding democracy and the rule of law when these values come under a direct attack.
• The Nordic countries remain important partners for Finland. We have a long history of cooperation and our socially, economically and ecologically sustainable societies is witness to the success if our Nordic model of a welfare state that has managed to combine a high degree of social equality and inclusion with a top competitivity in global competition and is an important asset to the EU as well as the international community as a whole. We have always maintained good relations also with our other neighbours including Russia.
Global challenges require speaking with a coherent voice
• The current economic and financial crisis has shaken the internal stability and external credibility of Europe. The crisis is not over yet and the long-term effects remain still to be seen.
• Major security threats can only be tackled globally. Climate change, terrorism and extremism and social exclusion rooted in poverty and environmental hazards are threatening also the security of the EU and its citizens. We must continue working towards environmentally, socially and economically sustainable development as one of the key targets in our common foreign and security policy in this decade.
• The global weight of the EU is more than the sum of the economic and political power of its member states. The EU has been a fore-runner in promoting human rights, democracy and rule of law and in preventing and managing crises.
• However, there is still room for improvement in implementing the Treaty of Lisbon, which provides the Union with the legal framework and tools necessary to meet future challenges and to increase the impact, the coherence and the visibility of the EU's external action.
• The aim is to forge a better, more coherent policy, developing European answers to complex global problems, working with our partners around the world. This is something the EU member states have long asked for - and that we can now deliver. But are we taking full advantage of this opportunity?
• We remain the biggest donor and the largest trading power in the world. And we should act accordingly – together, not driven by conflicting interests of the individual EU member states. In order to ensure security and stability for European citizens and to help spread the same throughout the world we must have a coherent voice and show leadership. Without a commitment to come up with a common policy and to support it we cannot expect to influence others or be even taken seriously.
• A large part of the global role and credibility of the EU stems from our achievements in Europe. By solving European security problems sustainably we also contribute to solutions in other parts of the world. We are also used to working together in promoting democracy and human rights as well as preventing conflicts in the United Nations, Council of Europe and OSCE. We are keen on sharing this experience with our partners.
• The EU does have some important results to show for its efforts. Without the EU's leadership we would have neither the International Criminal Court, the Kioto agreement on greenhouse gas limits, a Doha round in the WTO, nor the Roadmap for peace in the Middle East. As all of these examples show, these processes are in their initial phases and the best possible results still outstanding. But it is also true that without the EU's continued commitment and leadership they will not be delivered either.
The EU defends our interests in the world
• The economies in the emerging countries continue to grow faster than the European economies. Thus, the role of Europe risks being diminished in global politics unless we succeed in further strengthening our common foreign policy. Only a uniform EU can be heard alongside the US and emerging countries like China and India.
• The multilateral system is still looking for the ways to adapt to the emerging new global power structure. For small member states, the EU is the major and perhaps the only way to make their views heard in the G20, for example. A functioning EU is beneficial for small countries. For a small country like Finland, it is much harder to succeed alone.
• I believe that the solutions to major security threats like climate change, environmental and poverty-related threats require an increased multilateral cooperation and even giving up some elements of national sovereignty, like we have done in the European Union.
• Speaking in a uniform and consistent manner is the way to promote our interests also in the multilateral system. The High Representative Baroness Ashton and the European External Action Service acting “on behalf of the member states” deserve our full support.