Opening remarks of Minister Soini at the HAnalys Conference

Opening remarks of Foreign Minister Timo Soini at the HAnalys Conference in Espoo, 6 September 2017.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Dear Friends,

World politics is marked by turbulence and change: 

There is considerable amount of uncertainty: in transatlantic relations, in the EU's future and role after Brexit, in the security of the Baltic Sea region and in the global development and governance. Global terrorism is present also in the Nordic countries.

The ways of doing foreign policy – and politics in general – has changed. Politics is heavily influenced by social media. In good - and in bad. Internet has provided many new opportunities, in North and South, for example in civil liberties.  Tweeting or clicking, however, does not solve problems. Rather they make headlines.

The concept of hybrid influencing – or hybrid warfare – was not known beyond the military circles only a few years ago. Now we are trained how to counter it and how to defend our societies against it.

Tradition and continuity are valuable things in foreign policy. But in our turbulent world we need to prepare for the unexpected. In order to keep up with the ever-changing international environment, active foreign policy debate is needed.

For these reasons it is important to compare notes on issues that matter to our people – that matter to Finland and to Sweden.  This is the reason why we are here today.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The rapidly changing international environment drives Finland and Sweden – and Nordic and Baltic states more generally – even closer together.

As the European security structure is being challenged we need to defend the rules-based international order. Here Sweden is our closest partner.

Our relationship is unique. The cooperation between our countries builds on a long and strong historical bond, shared Nordic values and widely integrated economies. Our defence cooperation has risen to a new level and we need to have foreign and security policies to match it. In our discussions Margot and I have come to realize how much the Finnish and the Swedish foreign policies have in common.

Our values, outlook and national interests are similar on many issues. In a world that is in many ways turning away from our shared objectives, it is our duty to make our voices heard.  And by acting together our impact is stronger.

So, what are the issues where we could find common ground for common action?

First, both Finland and Sweden promote international peace and security actively.

International conflict management, women’s role in conflict resolution and peace mediation are issues where our countries have strong profile globally. An excellent example of cooperation in these issues is the Nordic Women Mediator's Network.

We have always been strong supporters of the UN. The Nordics often speak with one voice in the UN – common statements and joint action strengthens our message. Sweden's membership and work in the UN Security Council is of particular value and importance and very useful for all the Nordic countries.

Sweden's membership gives visibility to many issues that are important also for Finland and the other Nordic states. Margot,I should like to congratulate you,  you have done a great job in leading your country's active role at the Security Council.

Furthermore, the danger of proliferation and use of chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear materials and weapons worries us both immensely. We may sometimes differ on method but we share the same goals. We could do more together for example on issues related to tactical nuclear weapons.

Our abilities when it comes to chemical and nuclear safety complement each other. And there is more to be gained through further cooperation.

Second, Finland and Sweden share the same neighborhood and the goal of strengthening the security in the Baltic Sea region.

Sweden is the most important and most natural partner for us in security policy. Finland's declared aim in this respect is to promote this cooperation without predetermined limitations.

As Baltic and Artic nations we evaluate our security environment from more or less the same context. We consider firmness and dialogue with Russia important.

We view the US and NATO presence in the Baltic Sea area as stabilizing factor. We agree on the fundamental importance of transatlantic relationship for our region. 

The increased strategic importance of the Baltic Sea has created a new kind of relationship between NATO and our countries. It is important that we continue promoting our shared goals together in the 29+2 format.

The persisting challenges to the European security environment such as hybrid threats and disinformation are other examples of issues where we have a shared interest. Here our cooperation now takes place increasingly in the context of EU’s Common Security and Defence Policy.

We are grateful for the Swedish support in establishing the the European Center of Excellence for Countering Hybrid Threats for Countering Hybrid Threats.

As it happens, the Centre of Excellence is having its first kick-off seminar in Helsinki today.

To counter hybrid challenges we need to look deeper to the vulnerabilities of our societies. We have discussed this with Margot and we would like to propose an initiative to the Center of Excellence.

Could the Center take up the task to assess the hybrid threats and risks in the Baltic Sea region. Perhaps in cooperation with EU and NATO?

Third, we are open economies that depend on free trade and market economy.

Our countries are firm supporters of the rules-based multilateral trading system. While we are trying to advance the free trade agenda, more countries are retreating. Protectionism is rising. This is worrisome.

Thus, a pragmatic open trade message is needed from Finland and Sweden. There is a lot we can do together.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am looking forward to a vivid discussion – and hopefully new ideas - on foreign and security policy cooperation between Finland and Sweden. 

I would like to see this conference as a start of a regular, annual, event that would build bridges between the foreign policy debates in our countries, and encourage fresh, forward-looking thinking about world politics and the constructive role that we could and should play in it.