Although no-one any longer mouths the old slogan of Ostsee-Friedensee, we are closer to it than any other time in history. The Baltic Sea is today an open region for everyone. It is almost an inland sea of the European Union, but since the EU has neither the capabilities, pretensions nor needs to become a military Super Power, or to create any exclusion zones, this should not carry any connotation of exclusiveness or sinister intentions anyone should be suspicious of. And for the first time ever the Baltic Sea has only countries committed to democratic principles and recognition of Human Rights its shores.
Concerns about traditional military threats to security have not all disappeared, for there are understandable historical reasons for why they may linger on for much longer even after the threats themselves have gone. And even if the use of military power, is no longer able to deliver any longstanding benefits to anyone hardly anywhere in today’s world, and certainly not in the Baltic region, the mind-set where power politics germinate will take a long time to dissolve. This applies to both those who are perceived as perpetrators as well as those regarded as victims of power politics, also bearing in mind that the difference between the two is not always as clear-cut as we like to think.
To be sure, there are still too many weapons, including nuclear weapons, in or close to the Baltic Sea region. Regional initiatives to reduce these are always welcome, but as these weapons are not deployed primarily for reasons related to the region itself, their reduction is more likely to come about as a result of more comprehensive and global disarmament and arms control negotiations.
There is, however, one item on the arms control agenda which could and should be tidied up in the region, and that is the non-adherence of the Baltic countries as well as Sweden and Finland to the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE). The countries concerned have nothing to lose from joining the treaty and it would also give new life and credibility to the CFE and lead to the re-engagement in the treaty which was ”suspended” by Russia in 2007.
There are also other issues where states could also act to involve the military also in enhancing confidence and cooperation in the region. As maritime safety is a common concern for all our countries we should engage our navies, which no longer have much use as a deterrent for potential invaders, to cooperate on maritime surveillance and rescue services. This has been proposed as new common assignment for the Nordic countries in the Stoltenberg Report, but I see no reason why this could not be extended to all countries in the Baltic Sea region.
The Baltic Sea region today is an area where all the new threats to the broad concept of security are to be found, from the degradation of the environment to nuclear security concerns and trafficking in human beings. Neither should we overlook, that there are still minority and other issues which are potential threats as long as they remain unsolved in a manner satisfactory to all concerned.
We have yeasterday dealt at length with environmental issues and I will not continue with them except to raise the issue of the North Stream gas pipeline under construction across the Baltic Sea.
There are many reasons to welcome the North Steam gas pipeline, as an example of the kind of trans-national cooperation which will promote positive interdependence between Russia and the EU. I find the concerns expressed about the pipeline as an instrument or excuse to increase Russian military presence and activities in the Baltic Sea region to be unfounded. Should Russia want to increase her military presence she will not need any pipe line excuses, and as far as the security of the pipe line is concerned that is an object for mutual cooperation rather than any confrontation.
The environmental concerns about the pipeline are legitimate, but have been also exaggerated. After all, it is not as if we are dealing with a new and untested technology that carries inherent risks. But given the especially vulnerable conditions in the Baltic Sea it is essential that the project must respect the most stringent environmental requirements and use the latest state-of-the-art technology.
It is, of course, quite common in international cooperation that there are often more good intentions in our declarations, such as the one we are going to adopt today, than concrete examples of them being put into practice.
For more things to happen in practice it is not enough that government ministers and officials hold regular meetings: also civil society, the social partners, NGO:s as well as the local and regional authorities have to be engaged. This kind of engagement and particularly the people-to-people contacts it will facilitate and promote will also serve to enhance security and our common endeavours to be able to thwart new threats to broadly understood human security.