Minister Vilén: Military Non-Alignment in the Context of European Security and Defence Policy

Address by Mr Jari Vilén, Minister for Foreign Trade of Finland, Responsible for EU Matters The Institute of European Affairs Dublin, 20 February 2002

It gives me a particular pleasure to address the Institute of European Affairs, recognized as a distinguished forum for dialogue on European issues.

Ireland was a guidepost

Ten years ago, it was important and reassuring for Finland to see Ireland as a full member of the European Community, which was on its way to becoming the European Union with a Common Foreign and Security Policy.

As the Finnish Government was preparing a report which was presented to the Parliament in January 1992, leading to the accession application in March 1992, one of the key issues was the compatibility of our neutrality with EC membership.

It was our conclusion that as the EC was not a military alliance, there would be no hindrance to our full membership. No reservations to the Treaty acquis were needed. Also the membership of Ireland was a proof of the pluralistic character of the Community in this respect.

In the Maastricht Treaty, the Community took a step forward to become “an ever closer union”. The reference to “the specific character of the security and defence policy of certain Member States” in the provisions of the CFSP was, of course, understood as a recognition of the equal status of Ireland and other possible non-NATO member countries.

Likewise, when we applied to become an observer within the Western European Union in 1995, Ireland’s similar role served as a guidepost for us.

Finland and Sweden proposed a formula for EU crisis management

The useful partnership between Finland and Ireland goes beyond those early years of the CFSP and into the developments that followed Maastricht.

In 1996 Finland, jointly with Sweden, made an initiative to include humanitarian missions and military crisis management – the so-called Petersberg tasks - in the CFSP. We had an excellent cooperation with the Irish Presidency within the inter-governmental conference leading to the Amsterdam Treaty.

The Finnish-Swedish initiative provided the model that was eventually adopted in the Amsterdam Treaty. In particular, it was determined that the step to be taken in the defence dimension was limited to crisis management. Moreover, full and equal participation was ensured for all EU members, including those not members of the WEU or NATO.

The Finnish-Swedish initiative had many significant implications. The initiative proved that military non-alignment was not an obstacle or limitation to equal and full participation in the development of the CFSP. On the contrary, as new members Finland and Sweden were able to contribute in a constructive and serious manner to a central and sensitive issue in the external role of the Union.

The Petersberg tasks laid down in the Amsterdam Treaty were a response to real and urgent needs in the security environment. The Union found it necessary to improve its capabilities in front of conflicts like those in the Balkans.

Moreover, in realistic political terms, the idea of turning the Union into a defence alliance never had a chance of becoming adopted. This was not because of the opposition of the militarily non-aligned members. It was, first of all, because the NATO members could not agree on it. It would not be backed by a real military capability; it would create confusion and duplication and at worst cause decoupling with the NATO system.

European Security and Defence Policy is created

However, the Western European Union was never called by the EU to lead an operation. The Amsterdam Treaty had not even entered into force when further pressures and frustrations caused by events in the Balkans led the EU to take the next step.

The Common European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP) was adopted during the Finnish Presidency in the Helsinki Summit in 1999. From our perspective, it was a positive change.

The EU decided to create a capability of its own to decide upon and lead military crisis management operations, leaving out the role of the WEU as an intermediary. As a consequence, most of the WEU activities have been discontinued, with the Satellite Centre and the Institute for Security Studies continuing within the EU.
It was important that the EU also established a direct link to NATO.

Finland’s position was strengthened. By the right of a full member of the EU, we are now equally and fully involved in all the decisions and actions by the Union.

In effect, the decision on the ESDP reaffirmed the basic philosophy of the Finnish-Swedish initiative. It confirmed the equality of the members in principle and practice and maintained the focus on crisis management. Moreover, the credibility of the EU’s capability to act was enhanced by having a recourse to NATO assets and capabilities.

Above all, adding crisis management to the tool kit of the Union made a stronger and more effective common foreign and security policy, which had been Finland´s goal from the beginning.

Political and legal principles of the ESDP are underlined

It was Finland’s turn to hold the Presidency in the latter half of 1999 as the Union determined the main elements of the ESDP: the headline goal of military resources, the institutional reform leading to the establishment of the required political and military bodies and the arrangement of cooperation with NATO and third countries. The decisions of the Helsinki Summit were then developed further and formalized in the Nice Summit and reflected as relevant changes in the Nice Treaty.

It is important to be clear about the political and legal framework of the ESDP and any action by the Union. In this respect, Ireland as well as Austria and Sweden made pertinent contributions to the shaping of the ESDP during the Finnish Presidency. Several such issues, registered in the Helsinki documents, can be listed:

- the clarification that what is in the making is not an EU army;
- the linkage with the principles of the United Nations and international law;
- the decision-making autonomy of the Union and the involvement of third countries;
- the necessity of also a civilian crisis management capability;
- the principle that the commitment of troops and other resources by Member States will be based on sovereign national decisions.

As we have seen above, the development of the ESDP is rich with contributions by militarily non-aligned members.

It should be added that Austria had an active role during its Presidency in involving the defence ministers in the work of the Council. Sweden worked successfully for the advancement of the civilian crisis management capability of the Union and the adoption of conflict prevention as a systematic policy approach. The development of civilian crisis management is a goal that Finland fully supports.

A further proof of confidence shown to non-NATO members, General Gustav Hägglund of Finland was voted to be the first Chairman of the EU Military Committee.

The strengths of the Union are put to use

It is the unique strength of the Union that it can draw upon the full range of instruments in the fields of foreign and security policy, trade and development cooperation, humanitarian assistance and democracy support.

Finland’s experience is that the European Security and Defence Policy is not in any way marginalizing or weakening the position of militarily non-aligned members of the Union. On the contrary, the ESDP is a field where all the members can equally contribute and pursue their interests.

If there are reasons for concern, they are not related to the status of non-alignment.

The credibility of the Union calls for equality and openness among the members in all decision-making and planning aimed at common action in the name of the Union. Although there is an understandable tendency among larger members to sometimes pursue their goals independently, they should avoid weakening the authority and efficiency of the Union in its external relations.

As the Union is acquiring an operational capability a first EU-led operation is now a realistic possibility. The Union is looked upon as a real alternative when the international community decides to act in conflict prevention or crisis management. From the Finnish perspective, a military crisis management operation would require EU-NATO arrangements to be in place.

This week the EU Council decided to launch the first-ever crisis management operation, a police mission in Bosnia-Hertzegovina. This is a significant step and it shows that the civilian aspects of crisis management are indeed necessary.

EU enlargement is approaching

The forthcoming enlargement is a primary task for the European Union also in the field of security policy. The accession of new countries to the community of established democracies will enhance stability and promote conflict prevention in the deepest meaning of those concepts.

As new members join the Union, they will also adhere to the ESDP as part of their membership obligations. All the candidates are already PfP members or even candidates for NATO membership.

It remains to be seen how the balance between Europeanist and Atlanticist security identities will shift after the enlargement. In the longer term, the European identity is expected to grow also in the acceding Central European member countries.

All members, present and new, will certainly agree on the vitality of a strong transatlantic link, re-emphasized after the events of September 11 last year.

The accession of new members should facilitate cooperation between the EU and NATO in the area of military crisis management and security policy more broadly. This is important since a well-functioning machinery for borrowing NATO assets and capabilities for EU-led operations will be essential for the future of the ESDP.

On the other hand, a more capable Union in crisis management will benefit NATO and the United States, since they are not necessarily willing to undertake all crisis management missions in Europe in the future. The United States will probably support a larger role for European contributions in crisis management in the longer term in the context of its global interests.

NATO’s future role

Many of us are wondering how NATO`s role is developing. The Afghanistan campaign seems to indicate that NATO will not necessarily be involved in out-of-area missions, which will be handled by coalitions of the willing. At the same time, NATO enlargement may test the efficiency of the alliance as a military organization.

The political role of NATO is definitely growing. It may develop into a forum for creating political consensus and legitimacy for actions by allies in crises. Moreover, NATO will undoubtedly remain the leading organization for military crisis management in Europe. With this perspective in mind, NATO will also remain a key partner of the EU.

NATO and Russia are seeking new ways of to cooperate. There is an obvious need for NATO engage Russia in questions such as action against terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

All the non-aligned members of the EU also participate in the Partnership for Peace Program of Nato and in the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council. Finland values this cooperation highly and is eager to develop it also after the next enlargement of NATO.

Contributing to the ESDP

Ireland like Finland as well as Sweden and Austria have all long and highly respected records as contributors to UN peacekeeping. They have adjusted their defence forces to meet the challenge of more demanding crisis management operations. They are involved in the NATO-led operations in the Balkans. They have made their commitments to the pool of forces and assets devoted to EU-led operations in the future. International security cooperation has become an integral component of the security and defence policies of our countries.

All of these four countries have only one set of national rapid reaction forces that they develop for international tasks under different lead organizations. They are competent and flexible as contributors; there is no reason to think that these four countries would not be able to participate efficiently in EU missions in the future as they have done in NATO-led or UN missions.

Naturally, the commitment of forces to international missions remains the sovereign decision of every country in the context of its national priorities. This is true within the European Union as well as any other international organization be they NATO or the UN.

Finnish troops may participate only in military crisis management and peace support activities that are authorized by the United Nations or the OSCE. Finland does not take part in coercive military measures governed by articles 42 and 51 of the United Nations Charter. In each case, the Government and the President make the decision to participate on the condition that the Parliament agrees.

It is our point of departure that the European Union may also decide to put its crisis management capability at the disposal of the UN or other international organizations.

Adapting traditional neutrality

In all the militarily non-aligned countries, a discussion is underway on how their national security policies can best meet the challenges of the changing European and global security environment.

In the Finnish case, the policy of neutrality was linked to the cold-war division and was incompatible with the EU membership. In the Swedish case, neutrality has a long historical tradition that has contributed to Swedish identity. In the Austrian case, there is a particular constitutional and legal aspect in neutrality. And this audience is certainly well aware of the particular roots of Irish neutrality.

For Finland, the decision to remain outside of military alliances, in practice NATO, when adapting to the post-cold war situation was natural. There was no pull or push effect towards NATO membership, domestically or externally, as the Finnish doctrine was modified to comprise EU membership, military non-alignment and credible national defence as basic components.

Finland´s policy with regard to NATO continues to be that it remains outside of military alliances under the prevailing circumstances. This policy is enjoys wide public support. At the same time, we follow closely the development of NATO, its cooperation with Russia and the effects of the US foreign and security policy on NATO’s future. We want to ensure that we remain effectively involved in matters that concern our security. Close cooperation with NATO provides a solid ground for pursuing that objective.

Recent developments

Security policy doctrines continue to evolve. In Sweden, an adjustment has just been made to redefine the policy of the country as military non-alignment with neutrality in conflicts remaining a more limited possibility. In Austria, the Parliament has made a similar decision, while leaving intact the constitutional provisions on neutrality.

Of course, the present discussion in Ireland connected to the referendum on the Nice Treaty is closely followed in Finland and elsewhere.

It is an intriguing task to contribute to the development of the European Security and Defence Policy in a changing security landscape. It remains in every member country’s sovereign decision to make the national adjustments that it deems necessary.

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