In view of the election of the European Parliament in 2004, I concluded my thoughts on the European Union as follows:
My first impressions of my own country and its links to Europe were formed in the early 1950’s in an old brownish-yellow wooden house in the French preparatory school in a Helsinki still marked by the war. We were Swedish and Finnish speaking classmates, still friends today, French teachers, songs and verb conjugations. Someplace in the background was unease about the eastern neighbour’s whims and its presence in Porkkala (a peninsula some 20 km west of Helsingfors leased to the Soviet Union as part of the Peace Treaty of 1947 and returned in 1956). A few years later - during my first trip abroad - the powerful beauty of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris and the material wealth of Stockholm appeared unreal to me.
Later on, as an adult, the collapse of the Soviet Union revived memories of relatives who had fled from the Baltic states and my childhood’s perception that the world ended at the southern horison of the Gulf of Finland. I then realised that Finland, with its two languages and cultures, could make an important contribution towards creating a new and prosperous Baltic Sea Europe. I hardly imagined then that a revolutionary process was already underway, leading to a European Union which by 2004 would include almost all Baltic Sea states and constitute an important guarantor of relations with neighbouring states.
The European Union has played a major role in the development of a stable and peaceful Europe. In coming years the importance of the EU in this respect is likely to increase further. Developments globally and in Europe present ever greater challenges to the members of the EU. They will only be able to respond to them succesfully if the postion of the EU in the international community is stregthened. Finland can make important contributions towards creating a strengthened Union which can assure the vital interests of its members. At the same time the enlargment of the Union provides Finland with the opportunity to seize responsibility as a driving force in the development of the Baltic Sea area.
It is vital that the EU is perceived as a positive actor contributing towards a just and sustainable global development. Finland must contribute actively to this end. The need to strengthen confidence between and within different regions of the world and promote their mutual interaction presents a major challenge to the EU. This includes both the Atlantic relationship as well as our contact with the Arab world.
The EU must contribute towards reducing tensions and preventing crises also outside Europe. In order to counter crises and conflicts within developing countries and across continents the Union must pursue a joint and consistent development policy. The members of the Union are already collectively the greatest development aid donors in the world. This must be coordinated with the Union’s trade, security, environmental, migration and economic policies. The Union must formulate joint policies and present a united front in the United Nations and the WTO.
New technology and know-how are making the world’ states increasingly interdependent. Advances and setbacks in even remote parts of the world havean ever greater impact on daily life across the globe. Finland and the other EU members need our Union in order to counter global pollution, global climate change and ecological catastrophes. These problems can only be adressed through broad multinational cooperation. The same applies to the battle against poverty and starvation across the world, as well as serious global diseases and epidemics (AIDS, SARS, etc.). In all of these fields preventive measures are of particlar importance.
The EU has also become an indispensable instrument for its members and for us in Finland for a variety of further reasons. Developing and accessing advanced technology and know-how is a vital prerequisite if we are to safeguard our future basic needs and standards of living in an increasingly competitive world. This is only possible through a collective EU effort and joint EU interaction with other global actors. A strong EU is also necessary if we are to remove the remaining barriers to trade in various parts of the world.
The EU is also necessary to prevent our agricultural sector from being eradicated by the pressure from the big producing regions. Pressures to increase imports from the poorer parts of the world are increasing, which led to the breakdown of the WTO talks. Finland must also in future be able to assure the domestic production of key foodstuffs. The restructuring of EU agricultural support is part of this effort.
Our objective must be an EU with a strong technological, economic and trade base, capable of safeguarding peace and the environment in Europe and, increasingly, in the world as a whole. The European Union requires strong, visionary and courageous leaders capable of charting and pursuing such a course.
The EU enlargment in 2004 with ten new members for a total of 25 members provides an historical opportunity for giving a new legitimacy to the construction of the Union. Earlier attempts to refer to a grand common European past has not led to the desired feelings of cohesion among the citizens of the Union. Hitherto Europe has been divided and has never united voluntarily. European policy must now begin to focus on what can be achieved now that enlargment is achieved. It is essential to clarify and specify the benefits which the EU provides for its citizens. If we fail there is the danger that pessimism and despair will prevail.
Considerable difficulties and challenges lie ahead. First and foremost is the need to complete the Union’s new Constitutional Treaty. The most important priority is that the member countries - including Finland - remain independent and equal states in the Union, regardless of size. Incorporating the ten new members, with their differing cultural and economic backgrounds - into the daily realities of the Union will be a second major challenge. Finally the establishment of a joint foreign policy constitutes a third major task.
The first priority for the new member states is to ensure that the Union’s acquis is implemented and to reinforce the rule of law as the basis for domestic security and economic prosperity. Along with the legal foundations EU efforts must also adress the physical and social infrastructures necessary for commerce and initiative. The positive development of the new members benefits the entire Union, a point also made by the Commission in its regional budget proposition.
Enlargment also means new neighbours. The EU must review it’s policies with regard to its bordering areas. Deeper cooperation must be consciously promoted. It is particularly important that we create a common platform for strategic cooperation with Russia. In this field Finland bears a special responsibility to ensure that the EU establishes a consistent Russia policy. This must be based on solidarity among Union members.
Key issues in our proximity affecting the prospects for mutual confidence and cooperation are the border agreements with Estonia and Latvia as well as the legal status of the Russian-speaking populations in the Baltic states. In Kaliningrad several major issues still remain to be resolved, notably transit of goods traffic to Russia, energy supplies and fishing rights.
The enlargment of the Union offers the chance for increased regional cooperation also in the Baltic Sea region. This offers an excellent opportunity for Finland to raise its profile and take the lead in the development of the overlapping Russian, Baltic and Nordic area. Now is the time to lay the foundations for a new “Baltic Sea Europe” - a given continuation of the EU’s ‘Northern Dimensions” policy.
The contribution of the Union is necessary if we are to realize a socially and environmentally sustainable development in our entire region. Our common fight against organised crime (drugs and traficking in persons), against AIDS, tuberculosis and other contagious diseases must also be intensified.
The pollution of the Baltic Sea and the Gulf of Finland must be stopped and maritime security in these waters must be improved. All of this requires efforts by the Union and in many cases also cooperation with neighbouring states. Examples of such projects currently being realised and which need continued attention and guidance are the surveillance of maritime traffic in the Gulf of Finland and the treatment of waste water in the St. Petersburg region.
An institute coordinating ecological research and environmental protection in the Baltic must be established.
Relations with Russia are vital for both the EU and Finland. Finland’s long experience with multilateral cooperation in the Baltic area can provide an important contribution to the foreign policy of the Union. The deeper integration of Russia in this regional cooperation is desirable and demanding. Many difficult questions remain to be solved. We must reach agreement on smooth and effective visa regulations and frontier controls for the movement of goods and persons. The protection of foreign investment in Russia, the battle against corruption, drugs and trafficking in persons are crucial issues for all in the region. The same applies to the introduction of ecologically sustainable production, improving the safety of nuclear reactors and the ability to respond to oil spills and other industrial accidents.
The nordic states and the EU possess much of the essential know-how needed to adress the above issues and for establishing the new forms of cooperation necessary for their resolution. Due to her two languages - Finnish and Swedish - Finland has especially good prospects for contributing towards the effective coordination of the efforts of the nordic states in the Union. This is reinforced by our experiences of close cooperation with Sweden across the Gulf of Bothnia, and the special contacts of the people of the Åland.
A precondition for the EU to achieve its purpose and promote interests common to the whole Union is that all EU citizens feel that their cultural identity is secure regardless of their linguistic background. They thus have the right to adress the Union’s institutions in their own countries official languages. The rights of national linguistic minorities (now numbering some 40 million citizens of the EU) are also guaranteed in the “Charter of Fundamental Rights” of the European Council meeting in Nice of December 2000, and are also included in the EU’s draft Constitution. The possibilty for the EU also to join the European Convention of Human Rights after the Constitutional Treaty is adopted will further strengthen the legal rights of its citizens.
The accession of the ten new members and the increase of official Union languages to twenty will increase the pressure on the Union’s small linguistic groups. This includes both Finnish and Swedish. The representatives of the small linguistic groups in the EU must make a joint effort to defend their languages and create a programme for preserving the linguistic diversity of the Union. The EU must pursue a policy that strengthens the national minorities position and reduces linguistic tensions and conflicts.
Finland is today considered as an example when it comes to recognising linguistic minorities. Our recently updated language law, the autonomy of the Åland Islands and the efforts to preserve the Sami language have been met with respect and admiration. As the chairman of the Assembly of Swedish Speaking Finns I have considerable experience with these questions.
Finland has good prospects to defend the linguistic diversity of the Union and contribute towards reducing linguistic tensions. This credibility is further reinforced by the fact that FINLAND is seen and heard in both Finnish and Swedish in the European Parliament.
Totalitarian régimes and failing states are a source of unpredictability and conflict in today’s world. The lack of respect for Human Rights is another. Great inequality in living standards is a third. Under these conditions corruption, organised crime, traficking in humans, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, opression, terrorism, suicide attacks, genocide and more thrive, leading to massive suffering. They also run the risk of spreading - including to Finland.
Predictability, stabiity and peace are best guaranteed by democracy and the rule of law. For these conditions to be implemented and a global order established the United States and the European Union must unite their efforts. It is premature to claim that differences over the war against Saddam Hussein, the Kyoto Agreement or the WTO negotiations have broken the shared fundamental values of the US and the EU. It is just as premature to claim that our common vital interests - economic, cultural and in security - have disappeared.
Finland’s representatives in the European Union - be it in the Council of Ministers, the European Parliament or any other organ - must forcefully and patiently insist that the dialogue with the United States over our shared transatlantic interests be deepened. The EU Commission must also work towards deeper transatlantic understanding. One-sided decrees cannot be accepted. The increasingly self-critical debate in the United States gives good grounds to hope for an improved relationship. The open society and western lifestyle are at stake!
The collapse of the Warsaw Pact and Soviet Union and the resulting reduction in European tensions have shifted the US military focus away from Europe. Nevertheless potential and actual European crisis areas still remain, and the EU needs to take greater responsibility for safeguarding stability in its neighbourhood. The EU is therefore now developing a military capability for various types of crisis management. However this force remains dependent upon NATO’s operational command and control system and airlift.
The Balkan wars accompanying the collapse of former Yugoslavia demonstrated that despite the end of the Cold War there is stilll a need for a considerable military crisis management capability for use in unstable regions. Such regions also emerged in parts of the Former Soviet Union. They are potential crisis zones and some lie in the immediate proximity of the EU. Corruption, organised crime, weapons trade and terrorism can thrive under such conditions. The EU cannot and must not remain as dependent on assistance from the United States as it was during the Balkan crisis, and must have a readiness to deal with such crises on is own. Finland must give its full support for developing such an EU readiness. It is important and natural that the EU members take responsibility for solving crises and conflicts that affect the Union.
The EU has at its disposal a multitude of diplomatic, economic, political and military resources that other international organisations lack. By coordinating these it is possible for the EU to provide vital stabilising and preventive measures in neighbouring areas. Developing greater readiness for civil crisis management must be done in parallell with an increase in military capability. There are several good reasons for sharing responsibility between the EU, NATO and the United States, so that the latter engage only in the event of major crises requiring powerful military engagement. Clarifying this burden-sharing with NATO and the United States is a vital task for the EU’s leadership. However it is aso essential that the EU be able to act independently in the event of crises in which the United States does not wish to engage.
The decisions of the European Parliament are of major importance for the future of the citizens of the Union and for the European Union’s future itself. Considerable demands are placed on the Europarliamentarians. They must possess broad vision and build cooperative relations across linguistic, cultural and party-political divides. The task is enormous, but also offers huge potential benefits for us and for coming generations.
I stand for the policies described above. I will contribute to strengthen Finland’s standing as a respected and reliable force in our joint construction of the Union, with a special emphasis upon the future of the Baltic Sea region.
The thought of shouldering the responsibilities of a Member of the European Parliament is inspiring. Seventeen years in business and as many years as a Member of Finland’s Parliament have given me valuable experiences and perspectives. As a Member of the European Parliament my command of several languages will be a valuable asset. So will my long experience in international and cross-cultural negotiation during the many years I was responsible for Finnish business holdings on three continents.