Speech by Mr Jukka Valtasaari, Secretary of State: European Developments and Finland´s Interests, Chapter of the Paasikivi Society, Seinäjoki 8th November 2000

Venue: the Paasikivi Society, Seinäjoki 8th November 2000

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

Mr Chairman,
Distinguished members and guests,

The foreign policy debate in Finland this fall started with quite some action. A lot of statements on the European Union have been made. Commentators appear to suspect that there might be differing views within the Government on issues like the nature of the core of Europe, whether or not to be part of the core regardless of defense cooperation being part of it, and how non-aligned Finland should look at future defense arrangements in Europe, and NATO´s role in them.

This discussion was prompted from an unusual direction, Berlin, where German foreign minister Joschka Fischer and French President Jacques Chirac outlined the final design of Europe in their historically significant speeches in June. Both took as their point of departure the assumption that advancing reform of EU decision making this fall called for an outline of the final goal. The speeches were traditional in the sense that Germany had throughout the post-war period seen its future as part of European integration, and France, for its part, viewed European integration as part of its national policy, a policy that includes tying Germany to common decision-making. In retrospect, one can say that both countries have been successful in achieving their goals.

The economic integration of Europe is the success story of the latter half of the 20th century, boosted by the fact that Europe did not have to concern itself with security: that was taken care of by NATO and the United States. Europe prospered, and the balance of power guaranteed peace.

Now the Cold War is over, Germany united, the Soviet Union dissolved, the EU enlarging; and EU integration has proceeded into the EMU era. We talk about the wide scope of political integration within all of Europe. The French use the term ´Project Europe.´ On the eve of the great change, it must not blur into a discussion on just flexibility and institutions. How to proceed?

President Chirac´s view is Gaullist. Europe would be headed by a vanguard of nation states, based on cooperation between France and Germany, in which other member states could participate if they so wished. Chirac´s proposal for a European constitution, about which first governments and then the public would express their views, is a radical one, à la française.

Fischer also drew his goal from France, from the 1950´s idea of Robert Schumann that Europe should move from a union of states to a parliamentary federal state. Fischer sketched out well a German type federation, with a president elected directly, a two-chamber parliament and division of power between European institutions on the one hand and national governments and regions on the other.

This is how the "core" of Europe thinks. What about us?

Finland is too small a country to make Europe in its own image. Of course we have our goals, and strong European institutions are part of them. Instead, the change in Europe should be carefully outlined. Unless this analysis is to the point, politics will fail and interests will not be served. This self-evident fact needs to be repeated because European change has many faces. As a result of globalization, the change of Europe cannot be analyzed out of context: With capital and production processes moving freely across borders, the division of labor between multinational business and national governments is changing. In the euro area, the economy and politics (both internal and foreign) are intertwined into a single whole. Performing a cross-cutting analysis is difficult for everyone, but especially in Finland where traditionally division of labor is easier than cooperation.

I do not mean that an extensive analysis would be necessary prior to every decision regarding Europe or the EU, on the other hand we should not go so far in trying to simplify problems to make them understandable that we come to wrong conclusions. I remember well how, when at the end of the eighties we were preparing the government´s report on Europe, we in the Foreign Ministry racked our brains long and with poor success decided how to send the message: "Finland will not now join Europe, in which it already belongs, but will deliberate its relationship to the European Community." Yle Radio´s commentator Hannu Taanila discovered a better formulation for this and changed it to a question: "From where and in what language did European culture come to Finland?" The response was "From Rome, Paris and Wittenberg, in Latin!" After Yle Radio began transmitting news in Latin, Nuntii Latini soon had millions of listeners throughout Europe. Finland was the most European of countries.

There are two historically inevitable developments under way in the changes of Europe: European integration is expanding towards the East and Russia - compared with the Soviet Union - is turning more towards the West and the North. The developments converge in our own vicinity in the Baltic Sea region and provide us with better foreign policy opportunities than we have had in a long time.

The Baltic Sea region is today a fast growing economic area of 80 million people. Each year there are over five million crossings of the Finnish-Russian border, over six million between Finland and Estonia, and over eight million between Finland and Sweden. A bridge has been opened between Denmark and Sweden. A bridge is being planned between Denmark and Germany, and the Via Baltica is being improved.

The interdependency that has sprung up in the Baltic Sea region is a reality also from Russia´s perspective. For a Russia increasingly dependent on foreign trade, the Baltic region has become the meeting place with its number one market, Europe. St. Petersburg is called with ever more frequency "Russia´s Northern capital." Half of Russia´s foreign truck traffic transits Finland.

Our Northern Dimension policy offers this interdependence also as a basis for EU policies. At issue here is also Union relevance in the north. All European countries share a common interest in supporting stable developments in Russia, but the concrete measures of the Union are limited to one single technical assistance fund. Today the ND has become part of Union policy, to the furthering of which the Commission and the presiding countries succeeding us have committed themselves.

In the next few years, now that the common market and EMU are in effect, the key issue is extension of integration to foreign and security policy, which until now has remained the responsibility of the national governments of the member states. The impact is not restricted to Europe. It follows from globalization that foreign policy can no longer be pigeon-holed geographically. I do not believe that even the most confirmed isolationist in Europe or elsewhere could seriously insist that the repercussions of Russia´s reform process, or the crises on the outskirts of Europe do not extend beyond Europe, or that the prevention of the proliferation of nuclear weapons or energy security would be issues without import for Europe.

A study of the recent past is frequently a helpful means of sketching the future. The euro points the way. The use of a common currency denotes a gradual binding to a political union. The euro already has a face and a common voice; they are those of ECB director Duisenberg. It has a core, the Euro-12. Flexibility in decision-making is thus already a reality. The euro is surely the single most significant decision of Europe in the realm of external relations, and preservation of the health of the euro presupposes discipline and solidarity in economic and finance policy from the individual members as well as all Europe.

The adoption of the euro happened smoothly. It brought stability to investment banks, which was proved by the flow of mega investments across borders. The dialogue with the dollar and the yen is now underway, admittedly a little uncertainly. The euro´s value shows that. When one can actually place a euro in one´s pocket and buy things with it, the same as with a dollar, the substantial ingredients for the dialogue will come together.

In the fields of foreign and security policy we are still in the early stages. The CFSP too has its face and voice: those of the High Representative Javier Solana. There is no "hard core" in foreign and security policy, the rules of the game are only now being prepared. Here, too, Finland has clear national interests at stake in addition to a tradition - the European crisis management process started in Amsterdam on the basis of the Finnish-Swedish initiative. In other words, we fully participate in the preparation of the rules, and we will make the actual decisions when the time comes.

The decision outlined at the Helsinki summit on the creation of a 60,000-strong European crisis management force t was significant not only in terms of its contents, but also because it took crisis management policies from an institutional discussion to a substantive decision, namely the creation of crisis management capacity. In this sector, the hard core will consist of those who have the desire and the capacity to participate.

Foreign policy continues to be intergovernmental politics, in which consensus, and along with it High Representative Javier Solana´s mandate, evolve by discussions and concessions. The process is slow and prone to surprises. This was experienced a couple of weeks ago at the special emergency session of the UN dealing with the Middle East, where even the smallest EU subgroup, the Troika, was divided in two. In the commotion around the Finnish vote, the substance of the special session received little attention. It was the intention of the EU and Finland to show support for the moderate Arab faction prior to the Arab summit at Sharm-el-Sheik. This was done, even though the message became watered down with the divided opinions. When voting for the resolution, we gave higher priority to the message than to the role of the EU.

Many Finnish statements on European security policy have been visions, which have first sought to outline the end result and draw tomorrow´s conclusions from it. If a defense alliance is meant to be the end result, will NATO not be the essence of this, as crisis management operations rely on its resources anyway? As non-alignment remains our policy, should we not remain outside "the Security Policy train?"

The Government has looked at this the other way around. It has consistently taken as its point of departure that we can best pursue our interests by influencing the common decision-making all along the way. At issue here is the development of common rules of the game and the construction of a crisis management capacity, nothing else. The experience from the Balkans has influenced this. It has shown even to the most EU-minded that cooperation with NATO is a necessity at least in the most extreme cases where military crisis management has to be resorted to in order to create stability in a country where the leadership does not comply with its international commitments to its citizens. The alternative [to working with NATO] would be significant European investments in the technology of military command systems and air transport capacity. As these are not in the offing, we would - without NATO cooperation - have to measure the crises according to our capacity and not vice versa. In the discussions regarding NATO, we are, in other words, not dealing with whether or not the Finnish non-alignment policy gets driven into a corner when NATO possibly expands, but with the question of how the modernization of NATO could take place so that the United States commits itself to continue guaranteeing European security in the future.
It applies to Russia as well that the analysis must not be artificial. Russia is no exception to the rule that no generation can choose its challenges. The re-unification of Europe after the division of the Cold War years gives Russia great opportunities. There are many indications that Russia´s present leadership is emphasizing its orientation towards Europe.

The Finnish analysis, which we offered as a basis for the EU´s Russia strategy, is built on the identification of such basic currents that do not rapidly change and on which the policies of Russia, the EU and Finland will in any case have to rely.

The most important of these is the need, created by the EU´s enlargement and Russia´s orientation to the West, for Russia to adapt its legislation, norms and other practices to the EU mainstream, so that contacts between people, trade, and investments can flow smoothly to its own benefit. Russia´s dependence on foreign trade is today among the very highest in Europe, over 50% of its GNP. In such a situation, normative or other gaps easily endanger profiting from the competitive advantage on which the European integration success story is being built.

Besides this development of rule of law, common interests are very concretely crystallized in the Northern Dimension. When we think of it in terms of the contents - energy, demographic developments, the health situation, environmental issues, nuclear waste etc. - we easily see that these issues are global, regional and bilateral as well as essentially relevant to Russia´s own future. The common advantages are obvious. We must take care that this not be obscured because of any practical problems that emerge.

What about our national Russia strategy, the special relationship, which Ambassador Pachev was advocating in Oulu last week? President Tarja Halonen said in her Urho Kekkonen lecture to the Paasikivi Society in August that supporting Russia to become a country sharing European values is our common goal and that we can be satisfied that we are no longer alone in this view. Multilateral activity is important, but it does not remove the need for Finnish national activity. Therefore, we have intensified governmental relations and created conditions for trade, cultural contacts and the cooperation of civic societies. Through regional cooperation the geographic scope has been enlarged. These are goals for which one should always strive. Russia´s economic recovery is giving special possibilities for action. Neighborly relations are special relations. Perhaps one could say about Finland´s Russia strategy what is true about Finnish design at its best: so obvious that one pays no attention to it.

Finally, a few words about the debate on European institutions in addition to the analysis of the change of Europe itself. In the debate on institutions, Europe and the Union are often synonyms. When we define our foreign policy interests, the Union is often the means to reach the goals.

Jean Monnet used to say that only institutions have a memory. Besides great wisdom, this statement houses the essence of the integration policies of Finland and many other small states. A lot of time has been spent in Europe on the development of institutions and they have been part of the European success story. Finland will take time and trouble to continue to improve the institutions in the future. If they function flexibly, they will guide common decision-making and the implementation of decisions. If they do not, the decisions will be made elsewhere, in cabinets, where not everybody is invited.

Today, on the eve of the Nice summit, we are in the midst of important times. The results of the present IGC will in the end be measured by how well they support EU enlargement, i.e. the Europe Strategy, just as those of the last IGC were measured.

In a changing world, determining national interest is continual toil. It does not help at all that the clear system of balance of power of the Cold War has become a multi-layered complexity.

From the viewpoint of military strength, there is only one super power left in the world. On the economic level, there are several great states and an increasing part of international contacts take place through other means than activities between governments. Indeed a notable portion of the development of the information society and the resulting increase of well-being has taken place outside the reach of governments.
From the Finnish point of view, the new challenge lies within the fact that the definition of our interests is no longer limited just to our own territory, not even just to Europe. We recall from the days when we held the EU presidency, how many times we had to shape the common view to issues related to the external affairs of the EU. The most extreme case was probably when militarily non-aligned Finland had to reconcile the views of the EU and NATO in the controversy on how NATO resources should be used in EU crisis management.

The Europe train is on the move. Finland has brought along what it needs for the journey. Experience of travelling has been acquired even from the driver´s seat. There will certainly be time to prepare decisions with the necessary care.