René Nyberg: Regional Security and Stability (The Baltic Sea Region, The Balkans, The Caucasus, Central Asia)

Ambassador Head of Division for Eastern Affairs Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland A Conference on "Russia and the West: A partnership facing new challenges" organised by the Foreign Ministry of Germany, Centrum für angewandte Politikforschung and the American Institute for Contemporary German Studies Berlin 30 October 2000

· The English language has no word for das Baltikum, the expression "Baltic", or "Baltic region" refers thus to the Baltic Sea and not as in German, Swedish or Finnish to the three Baltic States, which in correct Russian are called strany Baltii, i.e. "the Baltic countries". The Soviet expression pribaltika, still occasionally used, has its origins in the old expression that goes back to Peter’s times -- pri-ostzeiskiye provintsii -- "die Ostsee Provinzen".

· The Baltic region is today the fastest growing economic region of Europe. Its dynamics stem from several factors, the most important being that the economies of all its littoral states, without exception, are growing, and most of them growing fast. So is transport across the Baltic Sea and the land borders. The bridge across the Sound establishing a fixed link between Denmark and Sweden is only the beginning. It will be followed by a bridge over the Fehmarn Belt connecting Germany and Denmark. Maybe we will someday see a tunnel under the Gulf of Finland ensuring for Finland a land connection with the continental Union and a hook-up to the German infrastructure, which is now being extended to Poland and beyond.

· The Baltic region is Russia’s most important interface with the European Union. The Baltic ports, Russian and non-Russian alike, are today Russia’s main export and import outlets, as they were in 1914. The border station at Vaalimaa in South-West Finland is Russia’s main road crossing to the EU.

· There are 5.1 million crossings annually at the Finnish-Russian border. 6.2 million people travel between Helsinki and Tallinn and 8.6 million cross by sea between Finland and Sweden.

· Trade and transport, new bridges and pipelines, ports and border crossings describe a pattern of interdependence that is quintessentially European, but rather new and at times disconcerting for Russia.

· The facts, though, speak a language known to all trading nations. Not only is the Baltic region Europe’s fastest growing region; a similar situation exists in the Russian North-West, which is quickly becoming the focus of Russia’s trade with the West. St. Petersburg is Russia´s natural window on Europe. The integration of Russia with European and world structures and the adoption of EU norms and regulations all underline the central role of Russia’s "northern capital", as St. Petersburg today is again referred to.

· It all boils down to the Osterweiterung and the EU-Russia relationship, not to forget future Nato enlargement that also is a part of the political discourse of the region.

· The Northern Dimension of the European Union was a Finnish initiative launched in the summer of 1997. It was as an attempt to describe the challenge and the impact of EU enlargement in the North-West of Europe. Today, as established EU policies, it depicts the relationship between the enlarging Union and Russia.

· Next Sunday, 5 November, gubernatorial elections will take place in Kaliningrad. These elections are very important and they will have a decisive influence on the future of the Russian exclave soon to become an EU enclave.

· Kaliningrad is in many ways a focal point of EU-Russia relations. Because of its exposed geographic location, important practical issues, including transit, have to be settled in order to guarantee the future of Kaliningrad.

· Russia certainly took the Union by surprise by suggesting at the EU-Russia Foreign Minister’s troika meeting in Bonn, in June 1999, that there is a need to discuss the impact of EU enlargement on Kaliningrad. This was quickly followed up by a joint Lithuanian-Russian initiative, within the framework of the Northern Dimension, on possible co-operation programmes for Kaliningrad concerning, for example, the environment and border-crossings. At the EU-Russia Summit in Helsinki, in October 1999, then Prime Minister Putin described Kaliningrad as a pilot. Indeed, Kaliningrad is a pilot zone, a test for EU-Russian co-operation.

· The other focus is undoubtedly the environment, which is also one of the toughest challenges for the acceding countries. I am here thinking of two examples that are of concern for the EU and for the littoral states of the Baltic. It is the construction of the South-West waste water treatment plant of St. Petersburg and the ecological impact of a major new oil terminal to be built at the eastern end of the Gulf of Finland, at Primorsk. The St. Petersburg waste treatment plant requires major outside financing and I am glad to note that the Nordic Investment Bank has taken a leading role.

· The Primorsk oil terminal gives rise to three environmental concerns. The first relates to the oil pipeline that has to cross the River Neva, which is the source of St. Petersburg’s water supply. The second concern is the risk of a major catastrophe in the Gulf of Finland especially during difficult ice conditions. The third concerns increased traffic in the Danish sounds. The issue should be raised today at the EU-Russia Summit in Paris.

· The bottom line is positive. The West is the most benign of all directions as seen from Moscow. A telling example is the fact that Russia is reducing its border forces on the frontier with Finland by 50 %. EU enlargement is an enormous challenge for Russia, but it is only a part of the same challenge that Russia faces on a global level, where, for example, China is quickly approaching WTO membership.

· EU enlargement will change Russia´s neighbours - and for the better. Finland is living proof of this. It will lower tariffs and create social stability and political predictability. The future of the Russophone minorities in Latvia and Estonia is guaranteed in the European Union.

· On Nato enlargement, I would like to limit myself to two observations. It is membership of the EU, not of Nato, that will change the societies of acceding states beyond recognition. The EU cannot and will not enlarge by a mere political decision. Membership requires that a wholesale reconstruction of its economy, legislation and administration take place before a new member can hope to survive in the unforgiving competition of the Union´s internal market. The foregoing does not describe the preconditions for Nato membership.

· But the EU is a moving target, as we all know. The European Security and Defence Policies, ESDP, are a case in point. Enhanced co-operation with Nato and the importance of the transatlantic link are issues that characterise this aspect of European integration. EU enlargement and Nato enlargement do not take place in a vacuum. Because this is an overriding reality it also applies to the Baltic Sea region. +++