Speech by Ambassador Peter Stenlund: Seminar on Northern Dimension Research , Turku Finland, 2002 April 15-16

Venue: Seminar on Northern Dimension Research
Date: Turku 15-16 April 2002

Ambassador Peter Stenlund
Ministry for Foreign Affairs

The EU’s enlargement will have a profound impact on the significance of the Northern Dimension for the policies of the EU. Now that we are discussing the role of political research, it might be appropriate to recall the principal political objectives of the Finnish initiative as they were introduced in the EU and in the Partner Countries, and to review the situation in present circumstances:

1. Enhancement of stability and security in Northern Europe by means of economic cooperation and integration

Prime Minister Paavo Lipponen’s initiative was defined to exclude military security, and comprehensive security was adopted as the point of departure. Military considerations contributed to some extent to the development of the ND process and especially to the fact that the USA joined the process by introducing their Northern European Initiative around the same time. RAND’s studies drew attention to the need of confidence building between Russia and the Baltic States and thus of laying a foundation to NATO’s enlargement in the ND region.

In the EU, military considerations have never been taken up in discussions related to the ND. In Finland, on the other hand, the scientific community has shown particular interest in addressing also issues concerning the northern security under the concept and umbrella of the ND.

In the framework of Finland’s initiative, one topic of discussion has been the concept known as ”positive interdependency”, which refers to the integration that has taken place within the EU and to how it has advanced stability in Europe. The concept proved controversial not only in Russia but also in the Baltic States.

The Baltic States’ scepticism towards the interdependency has to be seen against the background of their suffering under the Soviet rule. The feeling of security, arising from the forthcoming memberships of the EU and NATO, has a positive effect on attitudes also as concerns cooperation with Russia. A version of an old paradox from the time of President Kekkonen comes to mind: the deeper we integrate with the west the easier it is to cooperate with Russia. This paradox opens up new prospects of a positive interdependency in the Baltic Sea region.

Some Russian interlocutors have directly said that the Russians do not get the concept of interdependency across. This involves, in fact, a centuries-old paradigm that has laid emphasis on geopolitical aspects and dangers at borders. A major challenge to the ND is to change the border areas, including our neighbouring areas, from certain kinds of cordon sanitaires into areas of growth, based on the win-win principle, that benefit all parties. Examples of prospective situations might include such cases as a decision to set up a harbour based on merely economic, logistical and ecological grounds without any geopolitical security calculations.The rapid construction of the Primorsk oil terminal shows that we have a long way to go.

Closer cooperation and dialogue between the science communities of the various ND countries is certainly needed. It is particularly worthwhile to invite Russian researchers to work as visiting researchers in Finnish universities and institutions. The Northern Research Forum is another useful instrument.

2. Prevention of a new divide

In the framework of the Northern Dimension for the policies of the EU, attention was given to the fact that, with Finland as a Member State, the EU and Russia became next-door border neighbours. This border marks probably the deepest gap in the living standards in the world. The economic collapse in Russia in the autumn 1998 made this observation sound specifically dramatic.

Attention was paid to the normative divide in the ND region, which continues to widen with the Baltic States’ rapid preparation to membership of the EU and on account of the too slow approximation of the Russian legislation to the EU, carried out in accordance with the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement, PCA. With the introduction of the Northern eDimension Action Plan (NeDAP), a new dimension in the discussion is now a host of problems arising from the digital divide.

Russia took up the issue of Kaliningrad as a test of its cooperation with the EU, especially as concerns the visa regulations recorded in the Schengen Agreement.

With President Putin in power, the period of stagnancy has ended and Russia has carried out important reforms contributing to international integration. According to Mr Andrei Fjodorov of the Council on Foreign and Defence Policy, SVOP, the west has become the obvious direction of interest.

However, the division into two remains a fact and means that a part of the region’s common economic potential remains untapped. Due to the lack of unity, many investments are not carried out especially in North-Western Russia but also in areas within the enlarging EU that are close to its external border.

Researchers should be assigned to analyse how cooperation between Russia and the EU and the rest of the west proceeds in practice. It is possibly not appropriate that representatives of political life and diplomacy start to tell truths – instead, research and investigative journalism can reveal stagnancy and thus provide an impetus to cooperation processes.

3. Marketing cooperation between the EU and Russia – in Brussels and Moscow

At the beginning, the ND met two major challenges: a way had to be found, first, how to inspire the interest of Moscow in the increasing significance of the EU as a political and economic international power by the side of the USA and, second, how to motivate Brussels to be active in the cooperation with Russia, taking into consideration the importance of the country to the security and welfare of Europe in spite of the lost super-power position. With Germany’s help, the main objectives of the ND, set by Finland, were included in the EU’s first Russian Strategy in Cologne in 1999. The Strategy gave an impetus to Russia, which was preparing a strategic document related to the EU. In the EU-Russia Summit in Helsinki in 1999, the parties committed themselves to developing the strategic partnership. The ND has to be seen as an essential element of this partnership.

On the face of it, cooperation between the EU and Russia is proceeding according to the set political objectives and, after the September 11th terrorist attacks, certain political obstacles to cooperation are no longer of similar significance. Trilateral cooperation between the USA, the EU and Russia is flourishing in the fight against terrorism.

However, a look under the surface reveals a host of aspects of concern. The PCA machinery between the EU and Russia is functioning and joint meetings are arranged as agreed at various levels. But it is all too often that these meetings are nothing but shadowboxing. The situation concerning Kaliningrad is a good example of this. Problems are identified on both sides and the number of unsolved issues keeps growing. The Commission has been innovative and, once in a while, sought momentum by means of introducing new initiatives, such as the energy dialogue and the initiative of a Common European Economic Space. The key issue is always implementation and, for example, the energy dialogue promotes the ND’s energy-related objectives.

As concerns the Northern Dimension, we are now at a test phase. The ND environmental partnership opens up opportunities of a scale that is much more than mere environmental protection. The partnership genuinely means new resources to the ND cooperation between the EU and Russia. It is led by the EBRD and the NIB, with the Commission and some EU Member States among the donors and, as has been required, Russia participates in the partnership by contributing money of its own. In addition, the Federation is expected to guarantee loans granted in the framework of the partnership. A financing conference is scheduled to take place before the summer break. Provided that this partnership and the relevant MNEPR negotiations related to nuclear waste prove successful, the future progress of the ND and the Commission’s strong presence would be ensured also in the northernmost regions of the Northern Dimension.

4. Support to the EU enlargement

The ND has sought to further the EU’s enlargement in the Baltic Sea region, however, without interfering in the actual enlargement talks and the introduction of the acquis. The ND has served as a good channel for a timely treatment of the significance of cross-border cooperation at the EU’s present and future external border areas and, in this context, the special issues related to Kaliningrad.

Cross-border cooperation at the Fenno-Russian border has been intensified by means of developing cooperation within the Interreg and Tacis programmes, on the one hand, and by taking advantage of Finland’s own programme for cooperation in the neighbouring areas as a national instrument in the implementation of the ND Action Plan, on the other. Interreg and Phare cooperation promote cross-border cooperation between the present and future member states.

There is still not any flexible mechanism between the future member states and the neighbouring areas in Russia that would promote cross-border cooperation. The candidate countries concentrate on the preparations for membership and do not have enough political or administrative capacity to be able to address all new challenges arising from the membership. Neighbouring areas in Russia, such as Pskov, are now becoming conscious of the new opportunities provided by the EU enlargement.

As the Prime Minister noted in his address, the enlargement will have far-reaching effects on the EU’s policies related to its external borders. Preliminary talks will be conducted under the concept ”Wider Europe” and a special issue under discussion will focus on how the EU could strengthen and intensify its cooperation with Ukraine, Moldova and, the situation permitting, also with Belorussia. Think tanks that have taken EU issues as their principal concern are active and participate in this discussion. In the first talks about the ND with Poland as early as in 1998, the Polish party brought up the eastern dimension. It was noted that the ND philosophy could be applied in that direction, too. Intellectually speaking, we cannot deny that.

In marketing the ND, we have assured that the various geographical dimensions of the EU are mutually reinforcing and not contradictory. The successful Mediterranean cooperation is in the EU’s common interest as is the Northern Dimension. We neither can nor must question the fact that the EU has an interest to advance stability at its eastern external borders. At the same time, we can require that the EU’s grasp does not slip in the north. A North-Eastern dimension of the EU is about to develop.

In the fight for resources in the Union, the success story of northern regional trans-border co-operation has turned out to be a kind of hindrance. The international crises and wars that have erupted elsewhere especially during the current budget period have made a dent to the Union’s resources reserved for ongoing organized cooperation processes, such as the ND. Discussion about the ND’s own budget line is rather trivial as long as the idea is to shorten the carpet from one end in order to lengthen the other end. The need of a new external policy that the enlargement involves may, however, open up new avenues for discussion about the financing of this policy also in the EU’s neighbouring areas in the north. We therefore need to promote the ND, partly, as a component of the EU’s Russian policy and, partly, as an element of the EU’s future neighbouring area policy.

Finnish administration and research communities have a joint challenge to maintain and improve the know-how related to Russia accumulated at the international level. The quality of our research has to be high enough to provide preconditions for effective promotion of the interests of the north in international political forums. A recent assessment according to which our research is factional gives occasion for discussion also in this seminar.

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