Speaking notes by Mr Jukka Valtasaari, Secretary of State: The effect of Finland's membership in the European Union on her foreign policy, Anglo-Finnish Round Table, Ditchley Park at 6-8 March 1998

Speaking notes: Anglo-Finnish Round Table,
Ditchley Park from 6th to 8th March 1998


Speakers: Jukka Valtasaari, Secretary of State, Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland

Lord Whitty, Government Spokesman on European Affairs in the House of Lords

"The effect of Finland's membership in the European Union on her foreign policy"

Perhaps the most fundamental change is that Finland now shares with other members of the Union the same extensive foreign policy agenda. Until 1995, when Finland practiced a policy of neutrality, she was able to "pick and choose" issues from the international agenda, which best persued her national interests. She did not take sides on matters of disagreement between the great powers. Hence, a narrow agenda.

The internal decission making mechanism changed too. Before, the President decided about relations with foreign powers in a pritty sovereign fashion. Membership in the European Union had a strong element of parlamentary scrutining into foreign policy making. The Government led by the Prime Minister assumes responsibility for EU affairs, which require national legislation. The Parliament, particularly the committee at large, i.e. the EU committee actively scrutinises the implamentation of our EU-policy by the executive branch.

Thirdly, we joined the Union to be able to better manage common affairs - and our own. We do not travel to Brussels to find out what is going on, but to decide on common policies. This is true across the entire field of foreign policy but particularly when finances are envolved in agricultural and budgetary issues.

Finally, the external dimension in traditionally domestic policies grew decisively. Maastricht is a good example. By adopting the EMU criteria, the Finnish Government managed to replace the free fall of the early 1990's with an exemplary economic behaviour by Maastricht's standards. Together with Luxemburg and France we are now best behaved boys in the class.


Since 1930's Finland practises a foreign policy of inclusion, a search for practical solutions benefiting all participants. We are not about to change this direction of policy, which has proved good. Regarding the enlargement of the EU, it is important for us that all nations which are able and willing are involved in the process. Our decision, made last summer to support the Commission's proposal: "five plus one first" was a choice of a method not of the objective. We remain convinced that this the best method to kick off the enlargement process.

The process will be drawn out over many years. It is, therefore, important that the incentive remains for all participants, "five plus one" and others to remain committed in the economic transition which is necessary for the membership.

By speaking of objective for membership, the Finnish government is committed to support the enclusion in the Union of every applicant country, which meets these criteria. It also follows that the conclusion of negotiations should be quickly rewarded by a membership. It is a political reality that enlargement takes place in tranches involving a group of countries. Yet, the principle should be accepted that a succesful performance in membership negotiation should not be penalized by the slower performance of others.

Every new member will change the Union itself. The agenda of the Union must change, too. Our experience is that some old habits and thoughts die hard. In the IGC the initiative of Finland and Sweden to enclude crisis resolution in the EU documentation was initially met by surprise. Perhaps because previously we seldom spoke on Europe wide security issues. Another example is the "Northern dimension" with which Finland now is envolved. For us it was obvious that with the accession of Sweden and Finland, the EU got a Northern dimension in the bargen, and that henceforth it needs a strategy. The EU also got a common boarder with Russia with ensuing obligations. To carry them out it needs tools and it seems to us that as far as energy security, safty of nuclear reactors, nuclear clean-up in north-western Russia, and fighting pollution among other things are concerned the initiative of northern dimension offers practical tools.