The contribution of smaller EU members to crisis management and conflict prevention
On taking office as foreign minister in the spring of 2000 one of my very first functions was to write an article together with my collegue Anna Lindh which was published in Dagens Nyheter and Helsingin Sanomat. In our article we demanded that the EU must quickly develop its capabilities for civilian crises management.
We invoked some of the latest crisis situations where rescue workers, police and other civilian crises management contributions where inadequately available when sorely needed. ”We are therefore convinced, that the EU must quickly become better at conflict prevention and crisis managent also with civilian instruments. Military forces are important, as when Swedish and Finnish soldiers are taking part at the UN’s behest in guarding the peace in the Balkans. But the most pressing needs are in the civilian sector. Different types of instruments are needed for humanitarian, miltary, police and state building. The EU’s strength lies in its access to so many different instruments. But we must coordinate them better and be able to deploy them more rapidly.”
We also recalled the proposals by our predecessors, Tarja Halonen and Lena Hjelm-Wallin, to build up the EU’s capabilities to be able to take responsibility for the so-called Petersberg-task, and we followed with some more concrete proposals for what now should be done in the civilian sector.
In November 2003 Anna’s successor Laila Freivalds and I published an article in Dagens Nyheter which made clear our readiness to strengthen the EU’s ability and means to conduct a vigorous common foreign and security policy in the new Constitutional Treaty. What we did not want was the possibility for a smaller group of countries to institutionalize a Common Defence without the EU as a whole being onboard.
These examples witness the positive and constructive contribution that two of the EU’ smaller member states, Sweden and Finland, have made to developing of the EU’s crises management and conflict prevention capabilities. Not surprisingly we in our countries reagard Sweden and Finland as playing at least as important a catalytic role as France and the UK in bringing about the latest strenghtening of the ESDP.
Sweden and Finland, as indeed Ireland and Austria, have also put both their money and troops where their mouths are. Finland has contributed more troops in relation to its population to UN Peacekeeping operations than any other country, and the other smaller EU states have also done their part. Moreover Finland is party to two of the EU’s rapid deployment Battle Groups, one where Germany has the lead and the other where Sweden is the lead nation. In this latter group are also Ireland and Estonia as well as Norway as a non-EU country. Sweden and Finland are also significant contributors to civilian crisis management as well.
While small state contributions to crisis management are nor insignificant quantitavily, they are even more significant qualitatively. The smaller states usually have an advantage in their approach to crisis management in that they are seldom burdened by old colonial legacies, suspected of imperial designs or distrusted for hidden agendas. Usually, but not always: for example Belgians are not necessarily too welcome as peacekeepers in the Congo, and there are small states which may be suspected of acting as fronts for some superpowers. There are cases where not being member of a military alliance does have its advantages in crisis management, but non-Nato states like Finland and Sweden are happy to take part in Nato-lead operations when we judge our contribution is warranted and needed.
That our contribution is usually welcomed testifies to the skills we have over the years developed and nurtured for crisis management operations. On defence Finland is increasingly the odd man out in Europe, being about the only country that has not only retained conscription, but where it is also applied so that 80 % of those subject to the draft class actually complete their military service. I am not a fan of armies or conscription, but I have come to appreciate the value of a conscripted army in crisis management operations, for which they are much more suitable than professional armies.
90 % of the soldiers sent from Finland in crisis management operations are volunteer reservists, and their civilian capabilities, education and experience are put to as full use as possible in missions. It is no coincidence, that Finns are acknowledged to be particularly skilled in CIMIC operations involving civilian-military cooperation, including cooperation with civilian authorities as well as national and international NGO’s. Finnish troops are always required to respect local laws and culture and they will try to build trust and contacts with the local population whenever and where-ever possible. At the same time no-one has seriously questioned the military proficiency of our troops, whom we also seek to provide with the most suitable equipment.
Although I have mentioned four smaller EU member states I do not claim that the virtues I referred to are exclusive to smaller countries, or that all smaller countries share them. Being small does not automatically endow anyone with better moral qualities. As a historian I sometimes recall the events leading up to World War II in Europe where many of the smaller countries were happy to participate in the dismemberment of their neighbours before it was their own turn to be devoured by German and/or Soviet might.
Nevertheless smaller countries do usually act more peacefully and responsibly if only because they have less wherewithall for unilateral power politics. The smaller you are the more you stress the importance of rerspecting international treaties and the principles of the international rule-of-law, correspondingly the easier it is usually to understand the limits of military power and recognize, that succesful crisis management calls for many other instruments. This is now part of Europe’s security strategy based on the understanding that the EU’s comparative advantage in crisis management lies in its ability to blend civil and military means in what is called ”the comprehensive approach”.
Crisis management is necessary, but it always indicates that conflict prevention has failed. Much if not all that I have said about small countries and crisis management applies also to conflict prevention. But I will have to end on a note of regret concerning Finland. Unlike out Nordic partners we are still shamefully far from reaching the 0,7 % of GNP target for development aid, which at best is an essential contribution to conflict prevention.
Erkki Tuomioja MP
Anna Lindh memorial seminar Stockholm 11.9. 2008