Foreign Minister Tuomioja: European-US relations in the 21st century

Remarks by Erkki Tuomioja Minister for Foreign Affairs of Finland FinnFest Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States 26 July, 2001

New challenges for the EU and the US

It is a particularly challenging task to discuss the relations between Europe and the United States today, as a dynamic period of change is underway on both sides of the Atlantic and, in fact, globally.

The theme is pertinent not only because of a US administration that is in the early stage of shaping and making its policies; or because of a European Union that is implementing new common policies and planning new steps in integration.

Above all, there are structural and political developments underway in the international arena that call for wise ideas and momentous decisions from these two main players.

Completing a “whole” Europe

Europe is emerging from what is still being called - for the lack of a better concept – the post-cold war era. The contours of the new Europe are being established after a decade of transformation.

The European Union and the United States carry more influence and responsibility than any other actors in shaping the extent and content of such a “whole” Europe to replace a divided continent as a model in the course of history.

Their main and immediate means for shaping Europe are the enlargement of the EU – a decision that is being processed by the Europeans - and the enlargement of NATO – a decision in which the US is the indisputable leader among its peers.

While those institutions will enlarge and stabilize an integrating space of democracy, human rights and free markets, that will not complete the task of transforming Europe, the task that was set jointly in the aftermath of the fall of the Wall, most authoritatively in the Paris Summit of 1990, by the community of states in the OSCE (the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe).

A consensus, as strong as ever, exists that Russia, as well as Ukraine and other countries of the former Soviet Union that may not be effectively candidates for EU or NATO membership, do belong to a Europe that fulfils in a sustainable manner the vision of democracy, peace and unity.

Likewise, nobody needs to be reminded of the work that remains in the pacification and rehabilitation of crisis-ravaged areas in the Balkans and the Caucasus or Central Asia.

A changing partnership for Europe and beyond

Europe has been the main cooperative project of the transatlantic relationship since the United States made the historic decision after the Second World War to remain a European power and give its support for European integration and unity.

What is new today is that Europe, in the form of the European Community launched with American support, has developed into the European Union that is not only the core of Europe at large but also a global actor economically and politically.

At the same time, the United States has transformed domestically and demographically and adapted its outlook on the international environment as an increasingly and uniquely powerful global actor.

The EU-US cooperation and contention continue to shape world trade and finances, but the transatlantic relationship has acquired an additional security dimension as a result of a stronger European Union and, most recently, its nascent crisis management capability.

The combination of changing actors and agendas provides a new challenge for the transatlantic community of states, including Canada as a partner. Even though the picture is still partly below the horizon, one thing is clear: after years of largely visionary and conceptual debates, the United States and Europe need to institute a working global partnership that covers Europe and beyond.

Finland as a transatlantic players

For Finland, being a part of the evolving transatlantic relationship is another step in the trajectory from the outer reaches of the East-West system in a cold war into the core of the enlarging democratic community of states in a unifying and globalizing world.

Ever since joining the European Union in 1995, Finland has worked actively, consistently, and in the spirit of solidarity, for the European Union to use its full potential in international relations. No other international institution can avail itself of such an array of political, economic, legal, humanitarian and, shortly, also military crises management instruments to back up and implement its concerted policies and joint actions. An effective EU is required for international security and the common security of its members.

While we in Finland stress the broad and growing role of the Union for the security of its members, we do not overplay that impact. Finland remains militarily non-allied and I think it is neither necessary nor desirable to make the Union into a defense alliance in the foreseeable future. On the other hand, neither has Finland’s status in any way limited our contribution to the common foreign and security policy of the Union as a full and equal member.

Still, the Finnish vantage point overlooking transatlantic relations is particular and specific. Not being a member of NATO, we do not have the experience or background of working together with the United States as an ally, although we are a close partner in international crisis management. Having pursued a policy of neutrality in the cold war, Finland had not been part of the political West until joining the EU, which in effect is a political alliance. Moreover, it is within the Union that Finland has for the first time become part of a global team or a team that wields independent power in international relations.

On the other hand, as a Nordic country, Finland has been an established member of the democratic-values community for as long as any other Western European member state of the EU as well as an active member of the United Nations, contributing to peace-keeping operations and efforts to bring about better good governance. Joining the Union or contributing to its common policies has not been watershed for Finland either in the philosophical basis of policy or our internationalist vocation.

Finland’s bilateral relations with the United States have always been good, without crises or regressions, leaving aside the exceptional circumstances of the Second World War. Even though Finland may not be a major player in Washington DC, neither as an ally nor an adversary, we engage in productive dialogue and consultation on significant issues such as Northern Europe, international security cooperation and western relations with Russia. Finland has been pleased to serve as a venue for summit meetings. Our trilateral cooperation with the US and Russia in the mediation effort leading to the settlement of the Kosovo conflict two years ago is well known.

Finnish view on EU-US relations

How does this background add up to a Finnish policy on transatlantic relations?

Finland does not have a historical burden or a political stake in the contention between Europeanist and Atlanticist schools of thought. We are able to cooperate both with those who want to speed up EU integration and stress the autonomous role of the Union and with those who view the Union as a cooperative and pragmatic venture of nation-states and stress the link with the United States and NATO.

I would characterize Finland’s line as one where the emphasis is on pragmatism and realism. We want the Union to contribute effectively to international security and cooperation and exercise an authority that belongs to it as a unique success story.

The integrity of the EU’s decision-making autonomy should be respected. Its institutions of decision-making should be strong and effective, as they are the best guarantors of the interests of small members.

At the same time, Finland considers a strong and enduring transatlantic link crucial for the continued prosperity and security of peoples in Europe. That link should be adapted to meet the changing requirements.

Ties that bind and unbind

The EU-US Summit in Gothenburg, Sweden last month reaffirmed a common ground for addressing and managing the demanding tasks and challenges that Europe and America will be facing in the future.

The EU side was reassured of the US determination to uphold its responsibilities for peace and security in Europe and to stress the vital nature of the transatlantic bond for American interests. Any fears of US isolationism are clearly unfounded.

The European Union for its part reiterated its will to strengthen the transatlantic bond and cooperate with the US on bilateral, regional and global issues. As the Union integrates in the security field and discusses further steps in integration, the transatlantic link remains an essential component.

While the ground is solid and healthy, the EU and the US would betray their responsibility if they denied the existence of questions, open issues and problems that lie ahead for transatlantic relations.

There are political and philosophical differences in outlook on both sides of the Atlantic and structural differences between the European Union and the United States as actors in international relations.

The European Union is not a nation-state, although it has an evolving identity, nor a federal state like the US; nor is it a super state as far as its capabilities are concerned, although its competence and authority do have a global reach in many fields.

The Europeans share common fundamental values with the Americans. Such societal models as democracy and liberal market economics were in fact first put into practice in the United States. It is how those values are organized and implemented in society and how domestic polities affect external behavior where some see a widening gap.

Our divergence of views on capital punishment is one example. For Europeans, it involves deeply felt principles of human rights and no country which accepts and uses capital punishment is eligible for EU membership.

A growing orientation of the Americans towards the Asia-Pacific region is an established theme. The relationship between corporate and political systems is a political issue of fundamental character.

It is natural, even inevitable, that the position of the United States as the only genuinely global power has instigated a discussion on unilateralism in foreign policy. As natural is the European reaction against such trends or policies.

It is not that the Europeans would be unable to appreciate the US role as a world leader or understand its pursuit of national interests. It is because US actions are increasingly affecting the interests and, indeed, global responsibilities of the Europeans themselves that we look forward to, and press for, a thorough and productive debate on what is viewed as US unilateralism in individual policies and generic global developments.

Dividing and uniting issues

Less expected has been the growing stress on national security, even homeland vulnerability, by a great power that has emerged a victor from the cold war confrontation and does not seem have any credible adversaries.

Arms control is a case in point of a growing challenge for future transatlantic relations. Arms control has become an increasingly complicated enterprise, because of its changing technology and also because of its new politics.

Real reductions have been made in nuclear weapons and multilateral regimes have been developed and complemented. Ten years after the cold war, however, political changes have brought new challenges and new, asymmetric threats that test the efficiency and viability of treaty and regime structures.

It is indispensable to support and strengthen such multilateral regimes as the Non-proliferation treaty (NPT), the negotiated comprehensive test ban, the Chemical and Biological weapons conventions or the Missile technology control regime (MTCR). They constitute the framework for a rational and safer international order not dictated by weapons and military threats.

In the area of controlling weapons of mass destruction, shifts in power constellations have realigned threat perceptions and political priorities. The recent agreement between the United States and Russia to start discussions on offensive and defensive systems is an encouraging sign that a common understanding is pursued. We do not worry about a US-Russian conflict much any more, while a lot of work remains in nuclear safety and the dismantlement of nuclear weapons. More worrisome are ideas and plans that question the treaty basis of strategic arms control and other regimes for controlling weapons of mass destruction without a clear view of an alternative concept for maintaining stability and preventing an arms race.

The issue of missile defense is one where the alleged trends of parochialism and unilateralism that worry Europeans are tested. While the US administration seems determined to go ahead with missile defense, we note with satisfaction that it has simultaneously opened the issue for consultation and assessment not only with its allies and partners but also with other powers that have direct strategic military interests involved.

The issue is not easy for Europeans. Starting with the assessment of threat and the justification and dimension of the response, not to speak of its political prioritization, most Europeans remain fairly far from where the US stands today. It may also be difficult to see the benefits of cooperation between Europeans and Americans in such an asymmetrical field of high technology. In any event, it is important that the missile defense issue has become part of an open international agenda and not confined as a notional case of unilateralism.

The missile defense issue is a complex one. It is about much more than the technique of arms control or the structure of national or alliance defense. It is also about how we assess the future international security order and how we plan to cope with potential conflicts.

Military force is not the only answer

As a rule, the US is perceived as being more willing than some to employ military force to counter threats and resolve crises, while the EU relies more on comprehensive political and economic strategies. We in Europe have learned the hard way, that even in situations where the use of military force is both justified and necessary, it is not able by itself to bring about lasting solutions to complex crises that also require political, social and economic efforts.

If our soldiers in peace-keeping operations are called social-workers, I do not regard that as in any way derogatory, but as a real compliment. There is a certain difference in the way troops from small countries like Finland, most of them reservists, conduct themselves in peace-keeping operations compared with troops from bigger professional armies. Where the latter tend to stay inside their fortifications and armored vehicles and, apart from issuing orders, not engage in any dialogue with the local population, Finnish peace-keepers will, wherever possible, without compromising their military competence and preparedness, engage in bridge-building – sometimes literally – with the local population groups and employ their civilian talents and experience, be it as a carpenter, nurse or basketball coach, to mention some of the occupations that Finnish peacekeepers have put to use in civilian-military projects in Bosnia.

Of course, different approaches to crisis management should not and need not be a hindrance to good and effective cooperation between the US and Europeans, as our mutually supportive and complementary efforts have shown in the Middle East; Macedonia and the Western Balkans as a whole.

Recognizing the need to enhance its civilian crisis management efforts, the EU is preparing headline goals for civilian crisis management capabilities similar to those it has employed for military crisis management. Civilian crisis management is not an alternative to military crisis management but complementary to it. But there may be situations where civilian crisis management efforts, employed at the right place and the right time, can make military intervention unnecessary.

The European Union is not on its way to becoming a global military power, nor are we creating a European army, but the Union will have at its disposal limited military capabilities for conflict prevention and crisis management. This opens new opportunities for further EU-US cooperation.

Another task of increased importance for conflict management is to enhance the preventive effect of international law. Common norms should be developed for humanitarian interventions, strengthening the capability of the UN Security Council in its primary duties. With due regard to the difficulties of such pioneering efforts, the UN war crimes tribunals on the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda play an indispensable role. As yet a historic achievement, the International Criminal Court, when operational, will have to win over the confidence of peoples everywhere that justice based on common legal norms and human values will be done regardless of where, or by whom, crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity or war crimes are committed.

Tackling global challenges

The main global responsibilities and commitments lie in addressing such scourges as HIV/Aids, other communicable diseases, combating poverty in Africa and elsewhere as well as promoting human rights and the rule of law and fighting organized crime and illegal drugs. Improving the environment is a truly global item in that list.

While Europeans and Americans undoubtedly view similarly such new or soft security risks, differences exist – and seem to be widening – in their commitment to international regimes, norms and treaties as recipes for curing such ills.

The future of the Kyoto Protocol on climate change is an even more divisive issue in US-European relations. It is not only that there are persistent doubts about the American commitment to preventing global warming. There is also concern about the perceived political and economic unilateralism behind the US decision not to ratify the Kyoto Protocol. We do not dispute that there are serious weaknesses in the protocol, but we nevertheless see ratification and implementation of the treaty as recently agreed in Bonn as an important and necessary first step in preventing climate change. We are prepared to be as flexible as possible, within the set targets, to accommodate US concerns and perhaps the opening of discussions on the next steps to be taken after Kyoto, - which will inevitably be needed, - may, paradoxically, help allay doubts concerning the Kyoto process.

It is important that the lines of communication and consultation were opened in Gothenburg, in the best transatlantic tradition, for the future management of the issue of climate change. Strategic issues related to globalization are ones where the EU and the US, and indeed everyone else in the world as well, are tied by a necessity to cooperate.

Outlining a genuine global partnership

One of the most far-reaching consequences of globalization is that it calls into question old notions of national interest. In pre-globalization times it was possible to conceive that nations had interests that they could pursue at the cost of other nations’ interests, and through the use of military power, conquer other people’s land and natural resources and enslave their workforce.

In today’s world, which is characterized by growing interdependence, and real time global communication as well as opportunities and challenges shared by the whole global community alike – be it the internal or open access to markets as opportunities or HIV/AIDS and climate change as challenges – there can be no sustainable increase in welfare in one country at the cost of others.

Smaller countries are quicker to recognize this than larger ones. Size alone does not bring benefits to citizens of larger countries. In the long term, all countries can enjoy the benefits of globalization only through cooperation and genuine global partnership.

Isolationism is recognized today as a dead-end idea. But unilateralism too must come to be recognized as something which is neither justified nor sustainable in today’s world.

For the United States and Europe this entails building a genuine global partnership.

While capability disparities will remain between them, the European Union pursues its common interests and implements its joint actions in the regional as well as global arena in the same way as the United States. A partnership among equals, competing with ideas and models for action, is the solution for future transatlantic relations.

While there may be differences in political philosophies as well as in tactics and overall strategies, a real partnership will stand on the basis of pragmatic solutions, where the EU and the US pursue common objectives. Based on agreement on the overall goals of democracy, human rights and prosperity, such a partnership should convey a growing sensitivity towards solidarity and equality with the developing world and globally.

A working partnership needs to be reworked at times, as it must reflect genuine equality and contain effective consultation and cooperation.

The EU and NATO enlargement

Coming back to Europe, the relationship between the parallel enlargement processes of the European Union and NATO has been focused on recently by planners and pundits alike.

Although the background history and institutional dynamics behind these processes differ, they are proceeding simultaneously. The EU has in principle decided that the next new members can, if ready, accede to the Union in 2004, whereas NATO will invite new members in 2002 for accession talks, which last time took two years to complete.

Moreover, the lists of recognized candidate states in Central Europe overlap for the EU and NATO. For those countries, memberships in the EU and NATO are both seen as vital for joining the community of established democracies. This is natural, as the fundamental membership criteria are the same in both cases.

One should not forget, however, the profound difference between impacts on the transition states and societies caused by accession to the EU on one hand and by NATO on the other. In the case of the Union, the aspirants have been for years engaged in pre-accession programs and detailed accession negotiations that concretely and tangibly shape and transform their political, economic, social and legal systems. This entails adopting some 20 000 pages of community legislation into the candidate countries’ legislation, and implementing it. In the case of NATO, it is primarily a political yes-or-no decision, even if it naturally also entails concrete work to transform and modernize the aspirants’ defense forces.

As the impact of EU membership on aspirants is deeper and broader, NATO is in effect enlarging in a Central European sphere that is being transformed by the enlargement policies of the EU. From that perspective, if implemented successfully, the processes complement and reinforce each other. The processes are, however, independently decided, and there is no invisible hand guiding them jointly.

Another factor affecting the integration scene is that the Union continues to change, not just by taking on new tasks, which NATO has done in military crisis management, but also in its institutional structure and substantive acquis. The next round of integration talks and decisions awaits in 2004.

The debate on the future of the enlarging European Union is only just taking shape. The aim is to make it into a broadly-based process that reaches out to the grassroots as well as national parliaments and elites. At this stage, it is not possible to see which road the Union will take, but the steps will be based on the existing institutional foundation and the goals of the constituting treaties. Without doubt, the greatest expectations are directed towards making the connection between individual citizens and Union institutions closer and the decision-making on common policies more effective at all levels.

Finland and the enlargement process

The EU recognizes the right of all and any European countries who fulfill the membership criteria to join the Union. Thus, enlargement cannot be based on the present members’ subjective preferences. Of course everyone has their own favorites among the candidate countries and we in Finland have said quite openly that the three Baltic States are our favorites, but their interests too are best served by adhering strictly to the objective criteria. We look forward to the accession of the Baltic States and Poland as an important element in the stability and security of our region in Northern Europe. As a result, the Baltic Sea will again become the symbol of inter-state and transnational cooperation that it has been back in history and should be in the future.

Such a vision cannot become true, however, without Russia. As the European Union enlarges around the Baltic Rim, the region becomes a focal point of the relationship between the European Union and Russia that is a defining factor for the future of Europe as a whole.

In geographical terms, Northern Europe is where the EU and Russia meet. Equally significantly, great opportunities exist for cooperation in such areas as energy, the environment, transportation, civic contacts and cross-border business that will show the benefits and fruits of EU-Russian relations more generally. The Northern Dimension of the EU’s common policies builds on the promise of such constructive interdependence.

Northern Europe is a region with particular prospects for cooperation involving the United States, the EU and Russia. The region has benefited from the proactive and effective engagement of the United States in concrete and practical issues, not least in nuclear safety. It is important that the new administration is determined to continue the Northern Europe Initiative, as it furthers the same goals as the EU’s Northern Dimension.

Although Finland is not a decision-maker in NATO enlargement and Finland is not seeking NATO membership, we follow the process closely.

Our security interests are involved in NATO enlargement and its ramifications for our vicinity and Europe at large. We practice, and benefit from, the fundamental principle at play here, which is every state’s right to choose its line of security and defense policy. NATO’s open doors for eligible applicants supports that principle and its viability.

Judged by the public discussion, the prospects for Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia to be invited to become NATO members have improved, not least because of the growing support here in the United States.

Finland has consistently supported the Baltic States in the consolidation of their sovereignty, the transformation of their political and economic systems and national defense, and in their overall engagement in European integration. Our main instruments have been EU enlargement and Nordic cooperation. An important element for success in this process is their pursuit of normal and constructive relations with Russia.

Russia as a European power

Russia is a key European power today, as it has always been in history. At the same time, its traditional position has been weakened, even questioned since the end of the cold war by the cumulative changes of power in the international system. It has largely missed the dynamics of European integration. Despite progress towards democracy, human rights and free markets, and recent political stabilization, Russia remains a project; a great power in search of a new identity.

As the core force in European unification, the EU is engaged in a multi-sectoral and multi-level cooperation with Russia. Still, no single country is more important politically than the United States in efforts to help Russia’s adjustment to a new position as a great power. Although there are voices in the US that urge the administration to downgrade Russia in the hierarchy of foreign policy interests, it is difficult to believe that the US would step aside from affecting and assisting the Europeanization of Russia. The EU certainly does not have the choice nor the intention of rescinding that historic task.

While the EU evolves towards an area without borders and NATO binds its members in national security, a main theme in the discourse on the future of Europe remains the avoidance of new borderlines or gaps beyond the areas of those institutions. The EU and the US have a common interest in working towards a whole Europe that engages Russia, Ukraine and other countries as full participants with a credible perspective of transition and unification.

Such a large Europe, unified by common values and institutions, constitutes a framework for addressing political and economic challenges in the Caucasus and Central Asia, which in turn border on crucial geopolitical regions in the Middle East and South Asia, not to speak of Northeast Asia. Europe at large is a link in the increasingly global world that is searching for solutions to new problems and challenges.

Concluding remarks

The transatlantic relationship between the EU and the US, as well as Canada, remains central for the participants themselves. There is nothing that could diminish the significance of their historic ties, common fundamental values and practical benefits of the transatlantic bond. At the same time, there are challenges in the international environment that face this relationship and call for its adaptation to new conditions.