Welcoming address by Permanent State Secretary Anttonen

Welcoming address by Permanent State Secretary, Mr. Matti Anttonen at the reception on the occasion on 100th anniversary of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs and diplomatic relations with the states of Eastern Europe and Central Asia. Helsinki, 30 August 2018

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Your Excellencies, dear colleagues, guests,

It is my privilege to be here today and represent the Ministry for Foreign Affairs celebrating its 100th anniversary. After gaining its independence in 1917 Finland was quickly able to build its national institutions. Many of the structures that had already existed during the autonomy provided the basis for the new state. Something essential was missing, though - how to handle our external relations and own defence. This led to establishment of Foreign and Defence Ministries in May 1918.

The timing could not have been more challenging for a newborn state. Our civil war had just ended. The First World War was still going on with all its horrors. For a young state, these circumstances made it even more important to secure our independence.

The rules-based international order became the guiding principle of our foreign and security policy. Also the promotion of international stability, security and peace started to play an important role in our foreign relations. For these reasons it was natural to join the United Nations and to host the Conference for Security and Cooperation in Europe. Joining the Council of Europe and eventually the European Union were natural steps. Establishing close partnership with the Nato yet another.

The rules-based order has served us well. Even if the present multilateral system is facing its most serious challenges of our time, we still believe in a world governed by the rule of law and multilateral cooperation.

The world is also changing rapidly. This brings challenges to the Foreign Ministry in analyzing the changes and providing accurate and fact-based information for decision-makers. We will not take transition and change as given. Instead, we can and we must continue to influence the direction of development, bilaterally and multilaterally.

Your Excellencies, dear guests,

Foreign Minister Soini mentioned last year on this same occasion that the security situation in our continent is more worrying than it has been since the end of the cold war. The situation has not changed much in the past year.

Russia has challenged the established rules of European security and international justice. There have been consequences for the behavior. The basic principles of the European security, international law and respect for territorial integrity of all countries must be defended.

In March we marked the fourth anniversary of the illegal annexation of Crimea and in August the tenth commemoration of the war in Georgia. Finland’s unwavering support to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries of our region stands firm. We continue the non-recognition policy of the separatist regions.

We see no grounds to lift sanctions against Russia as long as the Minsk agreements are not implemented and the illegal annexation of Crimea continues. At the same time, we stress the importance of political dialogue and negotiation processes aiming at solving the conflicts.

Finland continues to send monitors and experts to different missions in the region: the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission in Ukraine and Observer Mission at Russian checkpoints Gukovo and Donetsk, EU Advisory Mission in Ukraine, EU Monitoring Mission in Georgia and EU Border Assistance Mission in Moldova.

We are also committed to support the reform processes in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. The essence of reforms is to improve the living conditions of citizens, increase prosperity and bring stability.

In addition to political support Finland also contributes through development cooperation. Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan and Tadzhikistan have remained our main partners. Despite the significant cuts in development cooperation funding, we have been able to increase our projects in Ukraine and continue most projects in the Central Asia.

Our trade both in Eastern Europe and Central Asia is quite modest, but there is a lot of unused potential. We encourage Finnish companies to be bold in looking for new market opportunities. The Astana Expo last year showed that a growing number of Finnish companies are looking for new markets.

Ambassadors, dear guest,

Finland’s cooperation with the 11 Eastern European and Central Asian countries has developed positively since the launching our diplomatic relations 26 years ago. Our sincere wish and aim at the Foreign Ministry is to develop and deepen these relations even further. This will be done both bilaterally and multilaterally. One excellent opportunity will be provided by the Finnish EU Presidency during the second half of next year.

Thank you for your attention.