Speech by Mr Jukka Valtasaari, Secretary of State: "Priorities for the Finnish presidency and ideas for joint EU/US action to Russia", Brussels 22th June 1999

Transatlantic Policy Network
TPN/EU/US Discussion Forum
Brussels 22 June 1999

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

"Priorities for the Finnish presidency and ideas for joint EU/US action to Russia"

When a newcomer, such as Finland, assumes the presidency of the European Union she must make a number of fundamental and hopefully sound judgements of the value added she is likely to contribute to the process. The conclusion will necessary depend on her own experience, methods and perhaps even philosophy of leadership, which together yield the "product of the presidency".

As far as the Finnish experience and methods are concerned, let me remind you first that Finland is a leading country in the world in engineers per capita, therefore a can do nation. In addition the very fast development of information technology has done away with layers of hierarchy, thereby adding a good dose of flexibility in our capability of operation. And finally historical experience has tought us that we may not always be the only country in possession of the tooth. In the aftermath of the Second World War when relations were settled between Finland and the Soviet Union, Vyacheslav Molotov, the Foreign Minister of Stalin denounced "small country arrogance" of Finland with the words "the fact that Finland is a small country, does not authomatically mean that you are right".

One of our main conclusions of the post cold war time is that, wheather you are big or small, the carrying out the foreign policy requires the ability to form coalitions. But if you are small and cannot authomatically assume others share all your values you must plan national priorities with regional, continental or even global ones while contributing whatever added value you can to the coalition. In other words, leadership requires that others perceived the country in the leadership role as a relevant actor and a credible partner and a consistant promotor of policies that represent the interests of the coalition. If these requirements are met, size is not a priority.

With this process, may I suggest a few themes for our presidency and hope that I am not sounding eurocentric if I start with the union itself. We have often heard that union needs a strongly role, in Kosovo, in the Middle East, in crises resolution, in democracy building and so on. Such roles, however, are not on a shelf but be worked out. Therfore when Finland speaks about openess and effeciency of the union we really hope that a good number of decission must be adopted in order to enable the union to perform the role it desires. Preparations for the next intergovernemental conference, facilitating administrative change in the Commission and transforming the working methods of the Council all serve the same purpose.

The second issue is that union can hardly be an externally strong global actor if it´s own citizans do not have confidence in it. In Finland the historically low turnout in the elections of European Parliament, the figure was compared to the outside temperature in a warm summer day is a sovereign reminder of the requirement to bring about significant progress in area which I like to improve the relevance of the union in the eyes of its citizans. This connection is closest in the area of justice and homeaffairs. Topics, such as money laundering, trafic in drugs and people and other crimes are not only a great concern to the citizans of the Union but also to clobal issues and thus part of the external affairs of the Union as well.

There is also a connection to the global competitiveness of the Union where the growth of well-being and prosperity is to a large extent predicated on the mobility of production factors. While capital moves literally at the speed of light energycrids are integrated and merchandise passes through boarders with the minimum of pass the mobility of the work force is still very low. A decission to pack up and move from one´s own country to another in the multicultural and multilingual union is difficult enough should be made easier by the establishment of similar or at least predictable legal procedure regarding such issues as visa and a ? policy, immigration, boarder control and legal protection in different parts of the Union.

As we prepare to assume the presidency EU has evolved through single market and the adoption of Euro toward the situation when time has come to figure out its objectives and mechanisms in the area of common and security policy if it is going to play an external role it desires.

Despite of ???? in the views on both sides of the Atlantic as to what should be the European Union´s contribution to global security concerns, there is a solid consensus to Europe´s first preoccupation sahould be to promote the stability on the continent. If that is not done little scope is left elsewhere.

Due to geography Finland has every reason to give a priority to a external relations. We are located at the margins of a strategic area as long as nuclear weapons do exist, EU and Finland share a common boarder with Russia, and there are many reasons for Russia to figure out again its political and economic engagement in the Northern region of Europe.

The problem of prioritizing external realtions is often that the lista becomes too long national priorities remain at too much of the variens and that therefore go herehens of the institutional response may suffer.

Let me however suggest three priorities in this area. They are: First. The strengthening of the Union´s capabilities in the area peacekeeping. This objective has found its way to the conclusions of several recent summits including Amsterdam, Washington and Cologne. In real life Kosovo demonstrated again the importance of the transatlantic cooperation in providing a negotiating resulta and on the ground security which is necessary for the reconstruction of the economy and the civil society. The task ahead is donating. Second. The success in enlargement of the Union is a task historic proportions if we want to be true to our commitment to a unified Europe without political or economic faultlines.

In my opinion the events in Kosovo prove this point, too. During the last thirty years the euroatlantic community has stepped fastly little by little, built a common set of rules of behaviour to be followed by all. At the end of the eightees the old continent seemed to be well on the road to Europe unified idealogies were dying, peace was breaking out in Europe and elsewhere politicians were greeting the univesal victory of democracy and drawing of architecture of the common European house, when in fact nationalist dictatorship and war based on ethnic hatred where greeping in again through the back door of Serbia. The end of history was proclaimed when history was about to be repeated.

If anything the conflict of Kosovo proves that there is no reason for complacency and that the EU enlargement envolving commitments both by members and applicants must be persued vigorously. The perspective of an enlargement may be a very efficient method in producing stability.

Third. Since Finland is the only EU country that shares an immediate boarder with Russia, it is more or less expected from us that we will try our best in this respect. Depending on once perspective Russia belongs on the global, the European and Northern agendas the content of these agendas is well known to avoid the new Chernobyl, to control transboarder pollution, to privent garage sales of nuclear weapon designs, to rein in epidemics of HIV, tuberculosis and diptheria and to clamp down organized crime. In one word to avoid the worst.

Most of these issues require a global approach to enable effective implementation of regional and local measures.