Your Excellencies, Dear Presidents, Dear Colleague, Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is my great pleasure to be here in Ankara today, as we celebrate a milestone in the bilateral relations of our countries. This year marks the 90th anniversary of the signing of the Turkish-Finnish Friendship agreement, and it has been commemorated by activities in both countries throughout the year. In Finland we have been able to experience Turkish culture from all angles, from the Turkish cuisine week to art exhibitions. In April many spectators visited the Turkish frigate TCG Gaziantep, which docked in Helsinki for three days.
In many ways this seminar is the highlight of the anniversary year. I am extremely happy to see you all here celebrating our friendship and our common past, and exploring our common interests for the future. Those future interests are not only bilateral in nature – we can also act together for a more prosperous Europe.
PART 1: Friendship
90 years ago Finland and Turkey were both young republics, founded in the midst or in the aftermath of the First World War. In 1924 much of Europe was still in turmoil, and both countries faced similar challenges. In this historical context, the two countries were quick to find each other, and to recognize each other’s independence. Turkey was the 12th country to recognize Finland, and Finland among the first ones to recognize Turkey in 1924.
Our warm friendship is deeply rooted in the first years of independence of our countries. Finland and Turkey also share the experience of being located in the borderlands of Europe, where different cultures have always interacted and influenced one another. This exchange has undeniably served us well, enriching us both in material and cultural terms.
On the other hand, our geographic positions, Finland in the northeast and Turkey in the southeast, have not always made life easy for either of us. Lately we have both seen indications of how our neighbourhoods can again become more challenging. Yet, both of our countries have proven time and again how it is possible to prosper in these environments. Finland has grown from a scarcely resourced and remote agrarian country to a successful member of the European Union. Turkey, at the same time, has developed into a dynamic G20 power.
People-to-people contacts are one important aspect of Finnish-Turkish relations. Today about 250 000 Finns visit Turkey every year, which makes Turkey one of the top three travelling destinations of Finnish citizens. A high number of Finns also live permanently in Turkey. Your country offers us exceptional warmth and hospitality.
There are also other historical connections related to our peoples that must be mentioned. The integration of the Tatar community into Finnish society over the past century has been an exceptional success story. The appreciation for the positive contribution of Tatars to Finnish-Turkish relations has often been expressed also by the Turkish leaders visiting Finland.
A willingness to understand each other, based on mutual respect, has been an integral part of the relationship between Finland and Turkey since the early days, creating an excellent foundation for close cooperation in politics, diplomacy and business.
PART 2: A stable and prosperous Europe as a common goal
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Only a few days over 25 years ago, I happened to be on a work trip in Seoul South Korea and was watching the live coverage of the Berlin wall coming down on television in my hotel room. It was a time for great hopes and expectations. Many things have changed for the better, Europe has come a long way, even if all our hopes have not been met.
Since then the European Union has become a community of 28 member states. Today the EU can be described perhaps as the most successful peace project in world history putting an end to the long and disastrous history of wars between its founding member states. The EU has advanced peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe for over 60 years. These achievements truly make the EU worthy of the Nobel Peace Prize accorded to it in 2012.
The EU enlargement was designed to heal the Cold War division of Europe. The continued enlargement of the Union has expanded the zone of peace and stability on our continent. Therefore, it is important that the EU also in the future keeps its doors open to those countries in Europe that are willing to join and fulfill all the membership criteria of the Union. And of course, the EU also has to keep its commitments in this regard.
The EU is at its core a community of shared values. The Union’s foundational values are reflected in Article 2 of the Treaty on European Union: respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the Rule of Law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities. These are values that we cannot compromise. These are values that we should never take for granted. Upholding them even in the EU requires our constant attention and work.
As a result, European integration has delivered peace, stability and well-being to our citizens on an unforeseen scale in the continent’s history. The social cohesion and daily individual encounters across borders that are barely visible within the Union, bear the highest importance for maintaining the peace in Europe. In the end, it is the people who make peace possible.
It is a paradox of the international debate that these values are sometimes seen as a threat to some states. In fact, the opposite is true. I want to underline that strengthening the rule of law, fundamental human rights and other European values – instead of European I would actually call them universal values – have been proved to have a real positive impact on the lives of citizens.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The world today is facing global challenges of unprecedented dimensions, such as climate change, population growth, poverty, lack of sustainable development, new cross-border threats to human security, changing patterns of global power and interdependence. There are expectations for the EU to be a more effective global actor in resolving these challenges. These expectations come not only from our own citizens but also from the rest of the world, who would mostly welcome a stronger role for the EU.
The European Union is a sui generis kind of organization. It has a variety of different instruments, including trade, economic and development cooperation and comprehensive crisis management instruments at its disposal. Now that the EU is starting the next five-year period with its new Parliament, Commission and also new High Representative, there is a chance for strengthening the structures and activities of the Union further. This opportunity must be used.
Finland is fully committed to further deepening the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) in order to advance the EU’s global role. In addition to increasingly speaking with one voice in our external relations, we also support the development of the EU’s Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP). The current turbulence in areas adjacent to the EU only underscores the need for functioning European security structures also in the future.
It is clear that only through member states’ strong political commitment to the CSDP can the EU truly contribute to peace and stability in our neighbourhood and in the world. The next important milestone in the development of the CSDP is the European Council in June 2015. The CSDP is a work in progress, and Finland wants to ensure its success.
In the world of turbulence and many crises very close to us, the EU should be even more ambitious and clear in its neighbourhood policy (ENP). The EU’s neighbourhood policy is not about creating any European sphere of influence in a manner which would exclude other neighbours and countries. The EU is interested in having stable and prosperous neighbours who have good relations and no unresolved conflicts with other neighbours.
The EU should stress the ENP’s capability to influence and change lives of millions of people for the better. Recent events have impacted EU’s ability to reach its regional objectives, but the importance of effective cooperation and drive for development for the safer and more prosperous neighbourhood has not disappeared – quite the opposite. That is why Finland, with a number of other member states, is urging for a comprehensive review of the neighbourhood policy for it to be more effective and up-to-date.
We need to be able to tailor objectives, aims and use of instruments of the ENP framework, for it to serve better in the cooperation with very different countries. We must reassess the one-size-fits-all approach and deal with each region and each country more individually. We should also be able to vary the ENP agenda and concentrate on things that in every case have the highest importance, should it be energy, migration, economic reform or stability – and always approach each entity with the policy that is firmly based in our values.
Today serious conflicts are appearing in our immediate vicinity – in Ukraine and in Syria and Iraq in the Middle East. The conflict in Ukraine has wide and profound repercussions for the future of our continent. It has shown in operation the two different worlds that exist in parallel. The first one is the world of interdependence, which reflects the current reality where our economies, security and well-being are more dependent on other actors than ever before. The second one is the world of power politics, a world which some of us had already thought to belong into the past.
We have witnessed the attempts by Ukraine to come to terms with the world of interdependence. The Euro-Maidan movement was mainly a genuine popular uprising representing ordinary people tired with the old system – people demanding something more accountable and better instead. They wanted to see a new Ukraine that would successfully embrace the world of interdependence.
As for Russia, it is attempting to stave off these developments through the use of power politics. However, as the world continues to change, I believe that the time of securing lasting political gains by power politics is coming to an end. These measures can still be applied with some short-term success but I am increasingly sceptical about the long-term viability of this strategy.
The conflict in Ukraine is not simply a local or a bilateral Ukrainian-Russian issue, but a wider crisis that affects the very foundations of European security. It is clear that we have seen a harsh violation of collective and co-operative security in Europe. Our various institutionalized mechanisms have not been able to prevent the situation from escalating.
The EU neighbourhood policy never aimed at creating an exclusive sphere of EU influence at the cost of others and notably Russia. Mistakes the EU may have made with its Eastern Partnership do not justify any of the violations of international law and use of force resorted to by Russia, but they need to be analysed and taken into account when reviewing and renewing the ENP as I described earlier. Spheres of influence do not belong in our 21st century world of growing interdependence, they should be relegated to the past of old style power politics which no longer can bring any sustainable benefits for anyone.
In Ukraine, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) has shown how indispensable its role still is. It is hard to imagine a lasting settlement to the current conflict without the OSCE and its principles taking the center stage in Europe again. Once the conflict has fully subsided – and I do hope that it will take place sooner rather than later – we must find ways to renew our commitments to common security in Europe.
The situation in the immediate neighbourhood of Turkey remains severe. Repression as an answer to the calls for democracy, justice and reforms has led into a brutal civil war in Syria. The violent conflict has spilled over to the neighbouring areas, merged with the bleeding instability of Iraq, led into an unbearable number of refugees and contributed to the creation of one of the most horrendous terrorist organizations of our time, ISIL.
Defeating ISIL requires extensive international cooperation. We cannot assume to solve the issue with air-strikes alone. We need a common will and a long-term comprehensive approach that tackles the root causes. We are pleased to see that more than 60 countries have joined the cooperative front against ISIL. We, as the international community, have to give our full support to the UN Special Envoy, Mr Staffan de Mistura, for his efforts to push for a political solution to the conflict, together with the countries of the region.
As the conflict persists, it is essential to continue supporting the refugees and the host countries. I would like to express Finland’s appreciation and deep gratitude to the host countries for their hospitality and generosity in providing protection for the Syrian refugees. With its 1,6 million refugees, Turkey has been carrying a very heavy burden. We must urge the international community to do its part in support of the countries receiving large amounts of refugees. As announced in late October, Finland has decided to support the Syrian refugees in Turkey with a new 2,5 million euros contribution to UNICEF.
PART 3: The future
Ladies and Gentlemen,
As we are celebrating the 90th anniversary of our friendship agreement, we can state that our friendship has officially reached a mature age. Being conscious of our history does not mean that we should live in the past, however. Quite on the contrary, we should jointly look into the future and the opportunities and challenges it brings. And when we talk about the future, it is essential that we do not let the current crises divert our attention from the existential threats facing humanity in the long term. Despite their long-term nature, the transition to ecologically, socially and economically sustainable development and coming to terms with the unavoidable impacts of climate change are challenges requiring our immediate action. They also have clear and present security implications.
Political contacts between Finland and Turkey remain strong, frank and close. We have seen frequent visits recently to both countries: President Gül visited Finland in 2008, and President Erdoğan visited Finland as Prime Minister almost exactly a year ago with a prominent business delegation. This year, many Finnish ministers have already visited Turkey and many visits have also been scheduled for 2015.
Our bilateral trade relations have a long history, but we must also admit that there is still much unused potential and opportunities for the future. We look forward to establishing the Joint Economic and Trade Commission very soon, as it will be a modern trade instrument catered for the needs of individual companies.
At international forums, Finland and Turkey share many goals and the collaboration has been fruitful. Finland and Turkey have founded the Group of Friends of Mediation at the United Nations, which has given us a leading role in mediation in the UN. The three resolutions in the General Assembly have strengthened the normative and institutional basis of mediation. At the same time, the Group’s size has quadrupled and presently stands at 48. I am sure that we will continue these efforts together also in the future.
Dear Friends, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Finland and Turkey should work together for a Europe that is stable, prosperous, and a good place for its citizens to live in. Finland has always supported Turkey’s EU membership and we hope that the negotiation process would steadily take steps forward, together with Turkey continuing to work hard to meet the membership criteria. We therefore welcome Turkey’s new EU strategy, which we find constructive, realistic and target-oriented. Turkey belongs to Europe.
Let me conclude by expressing my warm gratitude for the long and fruitful relationship between Finland and Turkey that is based on shared experiences, memories, people-to-people connections, friendship and mutual respect. I am confident that Finland and Turkey are among the countries, also in the future, that through successful cooperation are able to find solutions to the most critical challenges of the world we inhabit.