Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen on Finnish security policy, the EU and trans-Atlantic relations

During the summer, there were two interesting and contradicting initiatives to open a debate about the Finnish security policy.


The first one, by the chairman of the Conservative Party, was an estimate that in our fight against terrorism we are suffering from lack of security, because we do not belong to NATO. He referred particularly to access to intelligence. It is important for the citizens to know that counter-terrorism is primarily carried out in cooperation between police authorities, and we have been participating very closely in this kind of international cooperation for a long time. We have also changed our legislation in order to give our authorities similar possibilities in their work against terror and international crime as the authorities in other countries already have. NATO membership would not bring any added value in this respect. Unfortunately, the real life has also already shown that NATO membership has not protected people from terrorist strikes.

In the other opening for debate, the presidential candidate for the Conservative Party called for a European military alliance and bilateral talks about European security guarantees. Almost immediately after him, Max Jakobson came to the opposite conclusion saying that we should join NATO, since there would be no European constitutional agreement with its security guarantees. He did not propose a European military alliance. In connection with these opinions, I would like to state a few basic principles.

Firstly, In Finland we have just recently reached a very broad understanding about a report handling our security, which describes the line of policy we are pursuing also to other countries. This line of policy is firmly attached to foreign policy promoting stability in our security environment both in the neighbouring areas and further away, our own regional defense system, full participation in European cooperation, crisis management cooperation with NATO, and, it also includes an option for NATO membership. But we decided not to seek this membership. We did not tie our security policy white paper or its policy line with the handling or implementation of the EU constitutional agreement. It is easy to stand behind the policy of this report.

Secondly, as described in the Government's Security and Defence Policy Report, the security in the neighbouring areas of Finland has developed positively. External military threats have not been included among the most imminent threats against Finland for a long time. Our accession to the European Union in 1995 reinforced Finland's international status, and brought us within the circle of solidarity offered by a significant political security community. The arguments for a membership in a military alliance, let alone for establishment of a new military alliance, should be based on much wider perspective than alleged lack of security.

Thirdly, in the founding treaty of the EU it has been decided and described for a long time ago how Europe could transfer into a common defence system. There is a method to do this, but no one has ever seriously suggested implementing it. This kind of decision about common defence would practically turn the Union into a military alliance, but politically motivated security guarantees without credible collective defence do not go that far.

Fourthly, there is no European military alliance at sight, and no such alliance will emerge as long as the EU states estimate that the historical commitment of North America in European defence is still considered necessary. And this is a widely agreed matter in Europe.

It is particularly in Europe's interest to keep the United States focused on Europe, now that the world markets, population growth and also internal U.S. development are diverting its attention more and more to the direction of the Pacific. Also, we should not build overlapping or competing security structures between Europe and the U.S. We must also look beyond the current situation, because in the future - at least I believe so - the mutual connection between the United States, Europe and even Russia will become emphasised in maintenance of broad security. This is the direction of development also Finland should support.

I know very well that, over the past decades, there have been voices in the European debate demanding that Europe should establish a more independent role in its relation with the Unites States, and strengthen its military capacity. This tendency, emphasising Europe's own arrangements, was bubbling under the surface also when negotiations about the EU constitutional agreement were carried out. This is exactly the reason why NATO states required a text that did not give living space to this tendency. The article in question underscores the mutual commitments between the NATO countries. They really did not want any duplication of tasks. It is worthwhile to read through this whole particular article. We are already fully involved in the EU security and defence policy already developing in this spirit. Longing for a European military alliance does not get my support, and I do not think Finland should become an usher in this question for the rest of Europe.

The EU is a community of solidarity, and I stick to my point of view, which I explained to the Parliament already couple of years ago. My opinion is that we give assistance to our cooperation partners if they need it, and we also expect to receive similar assistance from others. In the constitutional agreement, negotiated through the inter-governmental conference, we agreed upon an obligation to give assistance to a member state that has fallen under a military attack. However, this does not mean an adoption of common defence, provisions for which exist already in the old EU agreements, as I said above. In the new text, it was a question of a political obligation. And this is a political obligation Finland must take, and it does not depend on what eventually happens to the new agreement.

The establishment of the new EU defence agency also brought more substance to cooperation between the member states as far as development of military resources is concerned. We embarked also on this cooperation at full power. Indicative of the depth of Finnish contribution to this work is the fact that the chairman of the defence agency's board of directors is Finnish.

At the moment there are no imminent military threats against Finland of the EU in general. However, so-called new threats are real, and, unfortunately, we received much new evidence about them during the summer from England and Egypt. The EU must show capacity and will to prevent and repel such threats and settle their consequences. Finland must be involved in all this, and indeed we are.

The most widely discussed of such measures is development of military crisis management to prevent genocide, for instance. By its side we should also develop civilian crisis management - operation starting in Indonesia being an example of this. I also count environmental threats among these new threats, and the EU should be in the frontline when preventing them.

Finland took an active role in trying to guarantee that every EU member state has a chance to participate in the developing military crisis management. We did not want this development to become an element that would divide the Union into two classes. And we reached our goal. Almost all member states are participating in development of so-called rapid reaction forces.

Finland was among the first countries to participate in creation of two battle groups. One we will establish with Germany and the Netherlands, and the other with Sweden, Norway, and Estonia. In the latter case we took the initiative to ensure that also Norway, as non-NATO country, got included, and that Estonia with its smaller military resources than ours got a chance to participate. We are amending our own peacekeeping legislation so that the military grounds for participation are in order. The question of the peacekeeping law has dragged on and on, but now the law will be modernised to a law on military crisis management, and it will be in keeping with our international commitments.

Development of the Union into a solution finder for new threats is well under way. Among the international actors, by the side of the United States, the EU probably has the best variety of means for this. As the biggest donor of development aid in the world, it can act in a preventive manner. Its member states have a strong status in the UN and its sub-organisation. In the World Trade Organisation the EU can act for fairer rules of the game. The Union has political influence, and all the methods of diplomacy at its disposal all around the world. It is strengthening its police cooperation all the time. It is also strengthening its military crisis management capacity in cooperation with NATO, and developing its civilian crisis management capabilities too. In this respect, the EU is much more versatile actor against the new threats than NATO.

At least for the last couple of years, Finland's own security policy and EU policy have been guided consistently and productively with these goals in mind. Every part of the Government's Security and Defence Policy Report corresponds also with my own views. We could even bring realism to the difficult land mine issue, when the previous government had promised the world that Finland would give up land mines as of the year 2006. Also Finnish participation in military crisis management and the related amendment to the law on peacekeeping are in keeping with the Centre Party stand on these issues.

Discussion about the development of EU has been very quiet in Europe during the summer, but the question has not gone anywhere. The EU is now in a stage in which the member states have to be able to create an understandable and desirable mission for the Union so that also the citizens can understand it and sign up to it. The ingredients required to achieve this are already existent in what the Union decides to do now.

The Union should concentrate more and more on operations in which cooperation can generate added value and better results than if each member state did the same things by itself. The mission is clear in the arenas of foreign and security policy, development issues of the world and improvement of internal security against international crime and terror. And these tasks are of utmost importance. However, it seems to be much harder to find an understanding about how the European economy should adapt to the difficulties caused by changes in the global economy. Finding common ground on this issue has so far seemed to be difficult.

Some are supporting protective measures, one regrettable example of which are the import limitations on the products of Chinese textile industry. The logic behind this way of thinking is that we should stop the time right here and continue to live as before, closing our eyes from the changes. The other approach is to open the doors, change ourselves, and use our resources in those areas of business where Europe can compete. But these two approaches describe the political differences within Europe. The division lines do not run clearly between the member states, but to a certain degree, also within the countries.

The latter of the two approaches, i.e. openness and development of own competitiveness, is better than holding on to the past and wishing that Europe as a whole would adopt the same view. Globalisation is not a threat but an opportunity besides to the millions of people who have risen from poverty in developing countries, also to us Europeans. As Finns, we must take care that our own attitude towards the changes in the world is to lean forward with open arms. This is our way to succeed and manage.

Von: 25 August 2005,

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