Foreign Minister Tuomioja: Transatlantic relations, the European Union and Canada

Remarks by Erkki Tuomioja Minister for Foreign Affairs of Finland Round Table Ottawa, Canada 27 July 2001

Affinity between Europe and Canada

Across the growing and demanding transatlantic agenda, the European Union and Canada stand extremely close to each other. This is a conclusion reached, in particular, when comparing the EU’s relationship with the third participant in the transatlantic triangle, the United States. I would not be surprised if the feeling were similar among Canadians.

The particular European-Canadian affinity is not so much in evidence in issues on the traditional transatlantic agenda, trade and business, where Canada and the United States naturally meet similar institutional and legal hurdles in dealing with the Union and its internal market and global economic interests.

What I mean are political aspects of international relations and also the domestic dynamics of foreign policies. These are areas where the interests of the United States, as the genuine global power, and the effects of its domestic politics stand out from both of us in many respects.

Another factor that unites us is the significance placed on the role of Russia in international relations.

Agenda for cooperation

It suffices to scan through the results of the recent EU-Canada Summit in Stockholm to realize the richness of foreign and security policy issues where the EU and Canada are closely cooperating and planning concerted or parallel actions.

Those issues include arms control and disarmament, soft security risks, human rights, support to societies in democratic transition and peace support and crisis management activities, as well as generic cooperation in UN forums and northern affairs.

With all regard for the political diversity of the European Union members, Europeans and Canadians are like-minded in their philosophical approaches to international relations and in their trust in contractual and institutional solutions for international problems. Indeed, Canada, the Nordic countries and some others are known in the United Nations and in development and environmental forums as just that: a group of like-minded countries.

At a round table such as this a lot of differences may not be expected on the fundamentals of the international order. More fruitful exchanges can be expected on the analysis of future challenges that we are facing together, simply because no easy answers to them exist.

Searching for the idea of Russia

It has been interesting to see the recent wave of books on Russia’s past and future. In Finland, apart from professional scholars, our former president Mauno Koivisto has published a treatise searching for what he calls “The idea of Russia” through interpretation of its political history.

This is not surprising; as Russia has always been a fascinating subject. This time attention is obviously not aroused by any perception of a Russian threat. More likely it reflects conjecture that Russia is approaching, or even initiating, another turning point in its history. Whatever Russia’s future course, it has an indispensable role in the overall transformation of the post-cold war era that we are all involved in.

Following the revolutionary, at times tumultuous, at times stagnant, and often vacillating Gorbachev and Yeltsin years, when a Russian civil society began to emerge as a real factor, the Putin regime is emphasizing order and the construction of a strong state. Despite political stability, there are also worrisome trends like the pressure on free media.

I don’t believe anyone thinks that we have seen the end of this transformation. Huge efforts are needed to develop the welfare network of Russian society and the structures of its economy. Internationally, Russia remains a great power in search of a new position.

It is essential that Russia’s transition is engaged and tied in with broader European transformation, unification and integration. Such a Europeanisation of Russia is the consensus goal, not only of the European Union and its transatlantic partners, among others, but of Russia itself.

By and large, Russia’s trajectory is up to the Russians themselves, but it is significant and encouraging that Russia is today open to interaction with partners. Clearly, the choice has been made: Russia will be part of the new Europe.

As a neighbour of Russia, Finland has experienced the winds of high politics in its relations with Russia, not least during the Second World War and its aftermath, and throughout the Cold War. Such lessons have taught us to maintain a keen interest in great power relations affecting Russia and develop a strategic concept of Russia.

In parallel with high politics, Finland pursued a strategy of low politics with its neighbour, during the Cold War and Soviet era, to the extent that was possible, and definitely since they ended.

Today, the focus in our Russia policy is on trade and practical cooperation, in particular small-scale but plentiful projects with nearby Russian regions, as well as human contacts across the border, and its overall management as the only common border between the EU and Russia.

A policy of practical engagement is also the EU strategy on Russia, in the formulation of which we actively participate and to which we actively contribute. This does not mean that politics is left out of the policy towards Russia. The strategy of engagement is only possible if the common rules and principles of domestic and external conduct are respected by all in the OSCE area.

The dialogue with Russia must constantly include a follow-up of the implementation of those common rules and principles. Accordingly, the EU pursues a long-term common strategy on Russia, based on the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement, combining political and practical components.

It is important that the OSCE can be active in conflict settlement in areas of the former Soviet Union such as Nagorno-Karabakh, Chechnya and Moldova, and also in facilitating democracy in Belarus, even though the level of effectiveness may be sometimes frustrating. Russia’s respect for human and minority rights and its policies towards its neighbours have broad significance for European and international security.

Enlarging the EU and NATO

Coming back to Europe, the relationship between the parallel enlargement processes of the European Union and NATO has been focussed 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 of 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 programmes and detailed accession negotiations that concretely and tangibly shape and transform their political, economic, social and legal systems. This entails assimilating 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’ defence 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 guided, 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.

Common interests and aspirations in the North

The Northern Dimension of the common external and cross-border policies of the European Union is a crystallization of the approach that supports Russian engagement in a sustainable manner in the whole of Europe.

Canada has also a direct and particular bilateral relationship with Russia over northern issues, which has resulted in widely respected Canadian expertise and interest in Russian affairs. The initiatives involved in the Northern Dimension of Canada’s foreign policy are mutually reinforcing with those of the European Union.

Finland has pursued and encouraged the Arctic Window concept of the Northern Dimension policy, which will bring the attention and resources of the European Union and the European Commission to issues and projects close to the Arctic Council as well. The involvement of the Commission is one of our main objectives as the present Chair of the Arctic Council.

Finland and Canada have had long and fruitful cooperation in northern and Arctic affairs, as initiators of the Rovaniemi process on Arctic environmental protection and the establishment of the Arctic Council, respectively. We shall build on those achievements.

The EU’s Northern Dimension has been consolidated politically and its resource and financial basis has become stronger through the Action Plan underway since last year. The Northern Dimension Environmental Partnership with international financial institutions is one of the most important recent developments.

A significant feature of the Arctic Council, even in a global perspective, is that it deals with sustainable development and environmental protection as complementary processes - not an easy task - and involves the contributions of indigenous peoples in the overall process.

Finland has also, as the Chair, taken the first steps in raising the Arctic voice in international forums; a policy of the Arctic Council that will certainly become more visible and regular in the future.

Arms control and international change

Arms control has become an increasingly complicated enterprise, because of changing technology and 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 the multilateral regimes such as the NPT, the negotiated comprehensive test ban, the Chemical and Biological Weapons Conventions or the MTCR on missile technology. 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. 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. Moreover, the basis of strategic arms control has been questioned without a clear view of an alternative concept for maintaining stability.

At the same time, China’s potential ascendance to great power status in all aspects and the ramifications of Indian and Pakistani weapons programmes have left us pondering the effectiveness of the existing regimes.

A dramatic shift is the way the US has refocused the agenda on potential asymmetric confrontation between outcast and unpredictable “rogue states” and the United States. Moreover, the US administration asserts that Europe, Russia and other established players should see themselves placed in the same predicament caused by the potential proliferation of ballistic missiles and the technology of weapons of mass destruction in the hands of alienated state and non-state actors.

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

Another new, humanitarian aspect of arms control is represented by the Ottawa Convention on anti-personnel mines as well as the effort to curb the spread and use of small arms and light weapons. If properly managed, both instruments not only underpin a new global norm of conduct, they can also contribute to peace support operations and post-conflict rehabilitation. Moreover, they demonstrate the indispensability of civic societies and the power of non-governmental organisations.

Finland supports the goals of the Ottawa Convention and contributes to the EU common policy on promoting its global implementation. Nationally, Finland has not been able to accede to the Convention because of the essential role landmines have for our defence. The Government is aiming at accession by 2006, without compromising the credibility of Finland’s defence capability.

Replacing the defensive role played by landmines will be part of the ongoing restructuring and modernization of national defence in the present decade. Today, all of Finland’s landmines are kept in storage during peacetime and they cannot possibly end up in the wrong hands.

Perspectives of peace support missions

As an active member of the UN and a NATO member, Canada is a recognized veteran of peacekeeping and its more recent form, military crisis management. Likewise, as one of the prolific UN peacekeepers and also a NATO/PfP partner, Finland has a common agenda with Canada on the future of these international cooperative activities.

With the operations in the Balkans, one more unfolding in Macedonia, others planned for Nagorno-Karabakh and Moldova, and these only in greater Europe, so to speak, it is time to look both backwards and forwards. So, I will make only a few comments on the issue of international crisis management.

The EU is developing a military crisis management capability to fulfil Petersberg tasks. While the Union maintains its decision-making autonomy, cooperation and consultation with NATO are essential aspects of the project. The EU’s resource and institutional requirements are well in hand, but the EU-NATO arrangement is still being held up by problems related to the participation of non-EU European NATO members.

Canada is certainly seen as one of the primary partners of the Union in future missions under the European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP).

A key development in the common foreign and security policy is the enhancement of the European Union’s capability for civilian crisis management as a complementary reform to the nascent military capability. Starting with policing, and later involving the rule of law, local administration and rescue missions, the Union will build upon its strengths as a versatile actor in international security. This is another promising field for cooperation with Canada.

Although several precedents have already been established by the international community, the basis for the legality and legitimacy of humanitarian interventions remains a topical and crucial issue. We consider that common norms for humanitarian intervention should be developed and they should enhance the effectiveness of the UN Security Council in its primary duties in international security. In general, international law should be strengthened as a preventive instrument, in particular by the establishment and future operation of the International Criminal Court.

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