Nordic and European Security, The European Policy Centre, Bryssel, 23.11.2004

Keynote Speech

One of the most demanding challenges for the European security policy is to understand the future; and not only to envisage the future but also to have a well-grounded vision and a concrete set of responses to it. Right now we are in the middle of a rapid global change, which might have dimensions that we can’t or are not willing to see clearly today. But in order to put this change into a perspective, let’s first have a look at the Nordic security of the last century.

Most Nordic countries became independent and adopted a foreign policy of their own less than a 100 years ago.

Sweden has the longest tradition of neutrality and has not been at war since 1809. The other Nordic countries, and certainly Finland, had various reasons, both geographical and historical, to experiment with different alliances and policies with different degrees of hope pinned on the League of Nations to safeguard their security, until they all finally converged together in the late thirties, forming a kind of neutrality bloc of their own.

Both Finland and Sweden tried to create a kind of de facto military alliance, but finally were unable even to implement the agreement on fortification of the Åland Islands.

During the Second World War, only Sweden remained both outside the war and unoccupied while Finland was attacked by the Soviet Union but was never occupied A Nordic defence alliance between Norway, Sweden and Finland was briefly on the agenda in 1940, but it was unattainable. Would such an alliance, had it been created in the 1930s, have been able to keep the Nordic countries outside the war remains an open question.

Different realities and different perceptions as to the direction threatening the Nordic countries’ security effectively made it impossible to reach a Nordic or even a Scandinavian security agreement after the Second World War.

Denmark, Iceland and Norway joined NATO, Sweden retained its traditional neutrality and Finland also wanted to pursue a neutral policy within the parameters set out in the Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance, signed with the Soviet Union in 1948.

With time, the different security arrangements of the Nordic countries became to be viewed as a whole known as the Nordic balance. An important part of it was the fact that Denmark and Norway, while members of NATO, did not accept permanent military bases on their territory, and that the USSR returned the Porkkala military base to Finland in 1956.

The different choices of the Nordic countries did not prevent them from developing an effective network of Nordic agreements, institutions and cooperation. They created the kind of citizens’ Europe with a free movement of people, a common labour market, and mutual social security coverage and right to vote in local elections for all Nordic citizens everywhere in the Nordic area, which only later became a reality in the enlarged European Union.

The Nordic countries were also engaged in extensive cooperation within the UN, where they formed a distinctive group of their own. They all took an active part in the peace-keeping activities of the UN and were pioneers in development cooperation. They were all early on engaged in issues that today would be called working for a broad concept of security.

With the end of the Cold War, the security framework has radically changed also in Northern Europe. Formally, the Nordic countries are still bound by different solutions to their security: while Sweden and Finland have joined the European Union and take an active part in the development of the EU’s Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP), they have no current plans for joining NATO, while Iceland and Norway have not wanted to join the EU. Denmark also has its reservations about the EU’s security and defence policy.

In practical terms, these differences matter less and less. Sweden and Finland are active members of the NATO Partnership for Peace (PfP) while Norway is ready to join the Rapid Reaction Force (ERRF) for enhanced crisis management that the EU is developing. All five countries share the analysis of the broad threats to security and the need for effective multilateral cooperation in meeting these challenges, as well as an understanding of the limits of military power in combating new threats, such as terrorism or the spread of weapons of mass destruction (WMD).

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Let us now move on to the challenges of this century. The Government’s report on Finnish Security and Defence Policy, adopted in September this year and presently being scrutinized in Parliament, recognizes fully the common European and global challenges. Actually the preparations of the white paper started in parallel with the preparations of the European security strategy. And it shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that the two documents provide a nearly consistent analysis of the threats and challenges of our century, even if the volumes are of a different size.

The main thread running through the Government report is change in the security, both in reality and in conceptual terms. While the enlargement of the EU and NATO, deepening integration of the Union as well as changes in Russia in the longer perspective have increased stability in our neighbourhood, global problems, development crises and regional conflicts play a more prominent role in our security environment. Along with globalisation our internal and external security have become increasingly dependent on the overall global security.

Furthermore, the Finnish Government underlines the need to increase cooperation at all levels because the security threats are increasingly of a cross-border character. Now the key threats include terrorism, the threat of the proliferation and use of WMDs, regional conflicts and the use of military force, organised crime, drugs and human trafficking, economic and technological risks, environmental problems, population growth, population migrations and epidemics.

Today all the Nordic countries share the same global Nordic security policy environment. In this respect the Nordic countries are closer to each other than ever before in history.

Our relations with the Baltic States are also very close. We could speak about an enhanced Baltic Sea security policy, which involves new threats and common challenges in the region, such as environmental risks, HIV/AIDS and organised crime. These issues are discussed in many regional organisations, including the European Union, but need for streamlining certainly exists, especially when all the Baltic Sea States except Russia are Member States of the EU.

This assessment of security and the consequent need for a broad set of tools, often of a new type, and the required commitment and solidarity in this regard are to certain extent quite new to the Finnish public opinion. At the same time, this approach is a logical continuation of the Nordic security thinking.

One of the underlying themes of our security and defence policy is the need for a more effective multilateral cooperation and an enhanced role of international law. No country, however capable, can reach its ultimate security goals alone. Another major theme is the idea that the use of military force cannot be the only solution to security threats. Coherence of relevant policies, such as foreign, security and defence, development, human rights, environmental and trade policies is needed. The third element is the notion that internal and external security are interlinked. Threats affect the everyday security of individuals and societies, not our sovereignty. No nation, be it a superpower or a small country like Finland, can prevent threats like proliferation of WMDs or environmental risks relying on national means only.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The European Union is at the core of the Finnish security and defence policy. Membership of the Union, which is based on solidarity and mutual commitments in all areas, serves to enhance also our security. It’s not only a question of a functioning Common Foreign and Security Policy or rapidly evolving security and defence policy. The deepening integration in various areas, strengthening of the euro area, a smoothly functioning internal market or more efficient Schengen cooperation and development of the justice and home affairs also contribute to our security. The Union’s enlargement process and the development of the Wider Europe Policy are crucial for the security of Europe.

Finland wants to develop the Union towards a stronger and more capable global actor. The Constitutional Treaty strengthens the Union as a security community and we support this development. The Treaty has many important commitments in the field of the CFSP, including the ESDP. One of the most visible ones is, of course, the establishment of the post of the Union Foreign Minister and the European External Action Service (EEAS), which Finland sees as important steps in enhancing the coherence of the external action. It’s important that in the preparatory phase, which should start soon in formal structures, ways and means can be identified to improve the practical and effective coherence while respecting the competences. Most of the new elements in the Treaty can and also will be put into practice despite possible delayed ratifications, which describes well the common commitment to develop the Union’s capabilities to act especially in this field.

The Government’s report underlines that Finland participates fully in the development and implementation of the European common security and defence policy. The Union’s coherence, solidarity and common commitments also in this area serve to enhance Finland’s security.

As regards responding to an emerging conflict, we emphasize speed, flexibility and early action. The situation must be viewed as a continuum where many tools from conflict prevention, combined civilian and military crisis management and post-conflict elements constitute one entity, also in the concrete planning and use of capabilities. Let me add that it is easy to say this, but making it a reality calls for hard work, which we are ready to contribute actively. An important element in this regard is human security, and therefore the proposals of the Study Group on Europe’s Security Capabilities convened by Professor Mary Kaldor at the request of Secretary-General of the Council of the EU Javier Solana, merit a detailed study.

We participate fully in the development of the Union’s capabilities. Our commitments in civilian and military crisis management, as announced in yesterday’s Capabilities Commitment Conferences, are greater than our share of population of GNP in percentage terms. We are developing our national capabilities, both civilian and military, in order to at least maintain our participation at the present level, and preparing for a changing operating environment with new modes of operation.

As an example, Finland will be participating in two Battle groups; one with Sweden in which Norway will also participate, and the other with Germany and the Netherlands. The development of the European Rapid Response Forces serves also as a good example of the development of the permanent structured cooperation concept provided for in the Treaty.

In fact, active participation in prevention of conflicts and crisis management as well as in development of the ESDP are areas where the Nordic countries have been and will be at the European forefront. Despite the fact that they belong to different formal security policy constellations, concrete cooperation in peace keeping and crisis management has been close and fruitful. The Nordic Brigade is a concrete example of this, as well as our participation in Nato-led operations in Kosovo and Afghanistan, where we work closely together.

A crucial element of both Finnish and European security strategic thinking are the Union actions in arms control and in preventing terrorism. The Union’s WMD strategy is an important tool. Also other arms control issues, such as limiting the trade and spreading of small arms and light weapons, call for action. We will also be active in improving the Union’s counter-terrorism activities. It is important to put emphasis on the longer-term measures targeting at the underlying causes and also developing the counter-terrorism capabilities in developing countries.

The global basis for our security policy is our commitment to the UN Charter and to strengthening the rule-of-law in international relations. Finland will also contribute to the European and global security by participating in UN operations and as an active NATO PfP partner and by participating in NATO-led operations, as now in Kosovo and Afghanistan. Applying for membership will remain a possibility also in the future. We are naturally monitoring closely the transformation of NATO and contributing actively to the development and functioning of the EU-NATO -relations.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Being a militarily non-allied country is presented in the new white paper not as a doctrine but as a factual statement. It is referred to only in connection with how we are organizing our defense: ”Finland maintains and develops its defence capability as a militarily non-allied country”. We are of course all allies in the EU. The Treaty Article on the obligation to provide assistance and also the solidarity clause unequivocally commit the EU Member States to assist each other if one of them is drawn into an unprovoked crisis situation. At the same time, the Union is not a military alliance, and thus the description of Finland’s military non-alliance is factual in this respect, too.

Our defense policy seeks to maintain a credible national defense. At the outset, this might sound more traditional than the preceding security policy lines in the white paper.

Indeed, the continuity of the Finnish defence, based on conscription, territorial defence and a wartime mobilization (350 000) that is sufficient to defend the whole country, is continued. At the same time, also the Finnish Defence Forces will undergo the same restructuring for technological, financial and demographic reasons as the other Nordic countries, but not on the same scale. Conscription is also the most cost-effective way of organising national defence. For the time being our defense spending will continue at the present level.

International military cooperation is a crucial part of the defence policy and an active participation in crisis management operations also supports national defence.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The Nordic States form today a security policy community with similar values, goals and views on preferential instruments. Our goal is a world where the international community strengthens its cooperation at all levels and between all relevant actors, not only states, in order to respond to more and more complex and unpredictable security challenges with an open and innovative mind. To get there, we work for a Union which will be a stronger global actor using all tools at its disposal in a coherent and unified manner. This is the shared Nordic vision for the future European and Global security policy.