Opening Remarks by Mr Jukka Valtasaari, Secretary of State, representing the Presidency of the Council of the European Union: EU and Japan, future co-operation, Tokyo 5th November 1999

Venue: EU-Asahi Shimbun Symposium, Tokyo 5th November 1999

Mr. Jukka Valtasaari,
Secretary of State,
Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland

On behalf of the Presidency of European Union I welcome you to this symposium, which has an ambitious and somewhat ambiguous title: "EU and Japan - European Lessons and Future Co-operation". Ambiguous in the following sense: "What about Japanese lessons and future co-operation?" I presume that the title has been chosen to kick off a lively discussion on mutual interests, as befits our entry into the new millennium. Thank you, President Shinichi Hakoshima, for organising the event. For me personally it is an honour to see so many distinguished speakers and such a big audience in the room.

When the Heads of State and Government of the European Union convene in Helsinki on 10-12 December they will issue a "Millennium Declaration", which, we hope, will lay out the blueprint for the Union’s role in the world for years to come. All visions for the future must be solidly grounded on lessons of the past. As the eminent poet T.S. Elliot put it: "Time present and time past, are both perhaps in time future." Since we Finns are people of fewer words than T.S. Elliot, I am afraid that my short answer to the poet´s elegant thought is: "Yes."

How should we walk into the new millennium? The short Finnish suggestion is: "Carefully, with eyes open for opportunities." At last night’s dinner concern was expressed over the fact that the fast walkers in Osaka and Tokyo have shortened their stride. Another view is that by walking more slowly into the new millennium they might see more. In my country the following anecdote is told: A man walks to an intersection and sees a road sign: 35 km. He asks a local lady: "35 km to where?" The lady answers: "Depends on where you are going. Besides, the distance depends on the condition of the road." This is as good as any other advice for our common journey.

European integration during the past five years is perhaps Europe’s greatest success story. The objective, to create a zone of peace and prosperity, as the Schumann declaration of 1950 put it, has undoubtedly been reached. The European Union is today a pillar of economic and political stability in Europe, perhaps even globally. The Union has developed from a customs union into a single market and a monetary union, and is in the process of elaborating a common foreign and security policy. The tools for a bigger role in world affairs should soon be in place.

Yet, history does not stand still. While old divisions of Europe have gone away, new challenges have emerged, notably ethnic strife and a consequent collapse of nation states. The European union together with other nations with similar beliefs is again being called to defend common values of freedom, justice and democracy. The Union assumes an important role in this process, for instance, by offering the parties in regional crises a European perspective, a perspective of peace and stability.

The European Union is now one of the three economic powers of the world, together with the U.S. and Japan, and is the biggest trading bloc of the three. Our new single currency, the euro, will strengthen the Union as a trading partner. It also adds a new element to the global economic framework.

The European Union and Japan share the same values of freedom, democracy and the rule of law. Japan is the most important economic partner of the EU in Asia. We both have regional and global responsibilities and remain in close co-operation on the basis of the Hague Declaration of 1991.

What might be the European experience relevant for Japan? Would the success of European integration in promoting reconciliation in Europe be of benefit from the point of view of future development in North East Asia? Is confidence building "OSCE-style" relevant in Asia as many have suggested? Will the single market and the single currency serve as useful reference points when promoting economic and financial co-operation in Asia? What can the EU and Japan do together in the prevention of crises world-wide?

I trust that by the end of the day we will have answers to all these questions,

and I hereby open this seminar with great expectations.