Foreign Minister Tuomioja: Developing democracy builds lasting peace and security
Mr Erkki Tuomioja, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Finland, replied to the questions made by "OSCE Review - European Security", a publication by the Finnish Committee for European Security, STETE. The interview was published on 16 June, 2003.
Security for much of the international community seems nowadays to be increasingly about aggressively fighting new threats rather than extending the benefits of democratic development to undermine them. How can the positive character of security be better asserted?
This is a worrying development. However, I don't think the majority of the international community have chosen this path. It is apparent that the tragic events of September 11th made us rethink our perceptions on how to achieve security, but I do not see any fundamental change in this regard. While the aggressive "fighting" tactics seem to have increased, we have at the same time become more clearly and permanently aware of the benefits of extending and encouraging democratic development as by far the best way to build lasting peace and security in the long term. We have hopefully realized that security can not be achieved through aggressive means, but that it requires a comprehensive and a cooperative approach.
Is the issue of fighting terrorism now the overriding priority of international security, as some suggest? Shouldn’t there be a more incisive approach to what this means?
It is clear that the fight against terrorism has become the single most powerful driving force behind the United States' current administration's foreign policy and as such one of the priorities on the international security agenda. For the majority of the international community, however, combating terrorism - at least "fighting" it - is not the overriding priority. Nevertheless, many of the activities that are not specifically aimed at combating terrorism are making a huge contribution to the eradication of this phenomenon. In promoting democracy, human rights and the rule of law as well as economic prosperity and equality we are tackling the root causes of terrorism.
According to the OSCE leadership the fight against terrorism “should never infringe the fundamental rights of our citizens.” Would you agree that there is a danger that it is? How should proper safeguards be guaranteed?
I completely agree on that. We have to be very careful in planning and implementing the measures that aim to combat terrorism in order not to unnecessarily limit citizens' basic and fundamental rights, otherwise we are ourselves undermining the fundamentals that we are trying to protect.
Is there a danger that comprehensive security has become a lost vision? Can it be reconciled with the sort of policy approach of pre-emptive military force that led to the war on Iraq? What are the implications for European security of this kind of changed international climate?
No, I don't think so. On the contarary, in my view the events of September 11th explicitly underlined the need for a cooperative and comprehensive approach, which perhaps had been somewhat neglected little in recent years. It is unfortunate that the good momentum and the atmosphere of cooperation and consultation was now forgotten with respect to Iraq. Much depends also on how the reconstruction of Iraq is handled. At the moment, however, I do not see permanent rifts in the transatlantic security relationship, which has always been able to recover from occasional disagreements.
Is there a way for Finland to play a more pro-active role in international security issues – in the form of active neutrality that offers to mediate in disputes and find peaceful solutions? Or is all of Finland’s activity in this area subsumed by negotiations within the European Union?
Finland has a good reputation in this regard and is presently by no means playing a passive role in international security issues. We are actively contributing to the peaceful resolution of conflicts and disputes through many international organizations as well as bilaterally. Finland has played an active role also after joining the European Union.
There seems to be a resurgent peace movement in Finland and elsewhere these days: do you find this a positive development? What impact do you think that the peace movement and NGOs working on peace issues might have on Finnish society?
It is always a good sign when people are interested in politics and are concerned about the questions of peace and security. A healthy and active civil society is an essential element of a truly democratic society, and I am proud of my roots in many of these movements.