Shaping the EU’S Future Role in the World, GlobalEurope 2020- seminaari, Finlandia-talo, 26.10.2004

Opening Address

It is a great honour for the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland to act as the host of the seventh Global Europe 2020 session, now held in Helsinki. This seminar concludes the first series of seminars on the EU’s future external relations. In the previous sessions, diplomats, experts from the academic world and non-governmental organisations have discussed the EU’s relations with the rest of the world. We are happy that Finland has been chosen as the final destination of this “world tour”.

The new Constitutional Treaty of the European Union will be signed in a few days in Rome. This is therefore a very timely occasion to discuss the changes that the new Treaty will bring to the EU’s external policies. The development of the Common Foreign and Security Policy of the EU demonstrates the power of political will and shows how six, later 12, 15 and now 25 nation states with different historical backgrounds have been and still are capable of finding common views in the area of foreign policy.

I am very pleased to speak to you today about the EU’s foreign policy and external action, and to share with you the experiences that Finland has gained during the ten years of membership.

After the end of the Cold War, the economic and political environment has changed dramatically. We have entered the age of globalisation. We identify new threats that are much more complex than the old ones. At the same time, the EU is in the process of enhancing its diplomatic action and developing military capacity to respond to crises across the world.

The EU was founded as a response to the Second World War. In many ways, its greatest triumph is that European leaders now argue about fish quotas instead of disputing frontiers.

Political integration has been understood to be one of the key objectives of Europe since the foundation of the Coal and Steel Community. From the early days on, Europe has also been expected to become an actor on the world stage in its own right.

However, it took several decades before foreign and security policy was adopted as one of the Union’s tasks. Foreign policy cooperation was first developed outside the Community structures. A major step was taken when it was integrated in the same institutional framework under the Single European Act in 1986. The Maastricht Treaty on the European Union established the intergovernmental pillar of the CFSP, including the defence policy dimension. The Amsterdam Treaty further developed the defence policy dimension in the field of military crisis management. I wish to recall that the defence-related Articles of the Amsterdam Treaty are based on a Finnish-Swedish initiative.

The new Constitutional Treaty lays the foundations for the Union to play a more prominent role in world affairs. One of the most significant reforms concerns the EU’s external representation. The EU Foreign Minister will replace the biannual rotating Presidency and represent the Union abroad in CFSP matters.

In the 1990s, the EU’s foreign policy was constantly criticized for its failures. In most cases, the reason for the difficulties was lack of political will, in particular among the bigger Member States. The EU was not capable of preventing violence from escalating into war, or of managing crises in its own neighbourhood.

The weakness of the Union to respond to instability and tensions was undermining the credibility of the Union in the eyes of partners and the people of Europe. Europe was urged to do more for its own security and the stability in the world and to do more to protect democratic values internationally. Europe was even made an object of ridicule because it overestimated its capacity to handle the Yugoslav crisis. The EU could not deliver.

It is true that Europe failed to get its act together in the 1990s on a policy for the Balkans. Europe was impotent because it was not united.

Finland was at that time knocking on the door of the EC. The four candidate countries were impatiently waiting that the 12 European foreign ministers would finish their lengthy discussions concerning an effort to agree on a common policy on the Western Balkans and move to membership issues.

Things have changed. The EU has been able to formulate a common foreign policy on the Western Balkans, on the Middle East and on many other issues.

During the first decades of integration – the major achievements being the single market and the monetary union – Europe was inward looking. Today, the EU needs to change in tandem with changes in the rest of the world. The Union needs to be prepared to global challenges, which are both economic and political.

The EU’s strength lies in building stability through long-term action, but unfortunately these achievements rarely make big headlines. The EU is at its best in making third countries participate through contractual relations, offering incentives in the form of market access and assistance programmes combined with strict criteria on democracy and human rights.

The enlargement process is the most efficient form of conflict prevention and consolidating peace and stability in Europe. The European integration has definitely modified the map of our continent. Ten new members are now helping to shape a larger Europe, and will eventually show that the division of Europe in East and West has been overcome once and for all.

This integration method has proved to be effective in providing stability and progress. The rapid development in many candidate countries shows that the prospect of accession to the European Union accelerates democratic and economic reform processes based on the rule of law.

The CFSP must adapt to new requirements. The institutional structure of the European Union with different pillars has been an obstacle to developing a coherent external policy. Promoting coherence between different policy sectors has been a constant endeavour in the Union. One of the objectives of the new Treaty is to find means to overcome the institutional hurdles. Foreign policy cannot be confined to one pillar only. Efficient external action must integrate national policies, community policies and the CFSP itself. This is the only way to promote a comprehensive approach to peace and security. Moreover, it is increasingly difficult to distinguish the difference between external and internal security.

In spite of the many setbacks, the CFSP has developed fast. Over the last five years the EU has made the most rapid progress in the area of security and defence. We have every reason to believe that also in the coming years intergovernmental cooperation will be the driving force of the development of the EU. It appears very likely that progress in the Community policies will slow down after the enlargements. The new Member States need to assimilate completely the existing acquis before envisaging additional steps.

Even if new initiatives in Community policies may be less numerous, the Community method is still viable. I believe that the Community method will be more efficient in the enlarged Union than the intergovernmental model, which has been based, in most cases, on unanimity in decision-making.

As long ago as during the negotiations concerning the Amsterdam Treaty, Finland supported the possibility of qualified majority voting in the context of CFSP decisions, excluding decisions related to security and defence policy, which have to be made in unanimity also in the future. In our view, compromises in the field of foreign policy should be guided by the views of the majority and not imposed by one or two Member States that may be willing to block a common action. We regret that in the new Constitutional Treaty the Articles on CFSP decision-making do not go far enough in this regard.

Flexibility or reinforced cooperation in the field of the CFSP is another matter that has been raised for discussion. Flexibility has been said to ensure that the CFSP functions properly also in the enlarged Union. Finland has from the outset approached the proposals on flexibility with an open mind. It is important that cooperation among Member States takes place within the institutional framework. Some elements of flexibility, which can be applied also in the CFSP, are introduced in the new Treaty.

We all know that the Union’s role is stronger if we can agree on a common policy line. Europe can play a part in and exercise influence on international projects when we are unified. The Union can shape the future of the world when speaking with one voice.

Making the Union a more coherent actor has been a long-term pursuit. The EU’s Security Strategy, which was adopted by the Council last year, includes several useful suggestions to that effect. The Constitutional Treaty will bring new helpful elements. Most importantly, the Union will have to learn by doing.

What are the major international achievements of the EU in the past years?

I want to mention a few.

The Union is already a significant global actor. It is a world leader in both trade policy and development cooperation. The Union has also played an active role in the promotion of environmental protection, consolidation of international law and, in relation to this, markedly contributed to the success of such important projects as the International Court of Justice and the Kyoto Climate Protocol, as well as the commencement of the WTO Doha Round of negotiations. There is a great demand for the kind of global role that the Union has assumed.

The EU was actively involved in setting up the International Criminal Court. The ICC has become a reality and is now operational. It is a cornerstone in the efforts to enhance respect for international humanitarian law and human rights around the world.

The Doha Round should convince those who do not believe that the EU is an important actor that can promote our common interests. With 25% of the world output and a third of the world trade, the EU gives us the economic weight to push forward the Doha Round of trade liberalisation. For the EU to succeed in this, it is imperative that we fully take into account the needs and concerns of the developing countries. We have to do this notwithstanding the pressure it will put on us for further reform of our agricultural policy.

Trade policy is at the core of the Community business. The competences are clear. Only the Community can enter into agreements with third countries, only the Commission has the power to negotiate on behalf of Member States. The size or number of the Member States does not matter. The EU is respected as a negotiator. The Union has, for a long time already, been an equal partner to the US and other nations in trade policy issues. There is no risk that the Member States would conduct their own policy. They are simply not entitled to do so because of the Treaties.

In the past, the EU and its institutions were overlooked in transatlantic relations, and Brussels was not seen as a counterpart. The Member States favoured bilateral relations or NATO in building transatlantic cooperation. This has changed considerably. The EU’s security and defence policy has strengthened the position of the Union in the transatlantic structures. The change in the security environment has also consolidated the role of the Union. New security threats require preparedness in various fields, not only military capabilities. The EU’s policies in justice and home affairs are of great relevance in the fight against terrorism.

An effective global European role is not in contradiction to a strong partnership with the United States. The EU and the US can tackle challenges of global poverty, disease, weapons proliferation, religious fundamentalism and terrorism by working together. A balanced partnership can only be built on shared responsibilities and rights. Sometimes the interests and positions may differ without causing any damage to the foundation.

The EU should also be sensitive to concerns, even if they are in our view unfounded, by other countries, fearful that the transatlantic partnership could become too dominant in world affairs and seek to enforce a condominium of rich northern countries over the rest of the world. We have to acknowledge that the EU is regarded as a singular actor on the world scene, drawing on its experience of building peace and prosperity through economic and political integration. The transatlantic relationship is a two way street. It is up to the Europeans to engage the United States in the multilateral framework envisaged in the Union’s strategic outlook.

The EU is developing as an international player. However, too often the Europeans still hesitate to take the lead in world affairs.

The EU’s security strategy sets guidelines for its future external action. It is no surprise that the threat assessment is similar to that of others. We live in a world where threats are global, not local. Today’s threats to our security come from outside the EU’s borders: environmental threats, terrorism, proliferation, conflict, state failure and international crime.

In the past, the EU developed security thinking in different policy fields, but an overall doctrine was missing. The EU’s security concept has been built over the years on different policies. Since its origin, the European integration has been firmly embedded in the wide concept of security. This approach aims at strengthening interdependence.

When the EU started to develop military capabilities for crisis management, the same comprehensive approach was adopted: to project peace and stability by using all tools and instruments that are at the disposal of the Union from humanitarian aid to military capabilities. I want to underline that our future challenge is to adapt the crisis management responses to different crisis situations. Conflicts have changed and so must the operations. We are not dealing with aggression by states but violence against human security. An integrated approach combining both full civilian and military crisis management is called for.

The EU has become more ambitious and is willing to take the lead. The EU has been actively engaged in seeking a diplomatic solution to the Iranian nuclear issue. In its security strategy, the EU underlines the importance of a treaty-based system in combating the spread of weapons of mass destruction. It is therefore legitimate to expect that the EU use all its influence in persuading other states to comply with multilateral treaties.

In the case of Iran, the credibility of the whole non-proliferation regime is at stake. The EU as a whole is engaged even if only three Member States are more actively involved than others. The Iranian nuclear issue poses a critical test for Europe. Iran maintains that it has the right to develop nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, but any nuclear activity requires full transparency and compliance with contractual obligations. The ball is now in Iran’s court. We sincerely hope that Iran would accept the package solution proposed by the EU.

In the longer-term we must see to it that our efforts in strengthening non-proliferation are comprehensive and coherent. We must also fulfil the implicit obligations the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty puts on nuclear-weapon states, intensify our efforts to get the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty into force and ensure that the Middle East as a whole will become a nuclear-weapons free zone.

In the past, Europe was criticized for being absent in the Middle East Peace Process. Its contribution was limited to paying bills but the EU has started to play a more prominent role in the Middle East Peace Process in the past years. The EU is a peace process facilitator. It is also one of the four partners of the Quartet, together with the United States, the Russian Federation and the UN. The EU was significantly engaged in drafting the road map.

Let me now address the future challenges.

We need more Europe.

But the EU cannot act alone, not even with the United States only. We need effective multilateralism. The new security environment requires that we seek partners from all over the world. We need to cooperate with regional leaders such as Japan, Brazil, India, Russia and South Africa. We need to work in concert with all nations of the world.

We need better structures and procedures to formulate and implement the CFSP.

But we should be careful not to demolish – when the new Treaty enters into force as we hope, in 2006 during the Finnish Presidency – what has been built over the decades in the Community in the field of external relations. The CFSP must be developed and its scope expanded, but this should not happen at the expense of the Community.

It is important that decision-making in the CFSP remains in the hands of the Member States represented in the Council.

What will change most with the new Constitutional Treaty is the implementation of the CFSP. Under the present Treaty, the Presidency is responsible for conducting the CFSP. The Amsterdam Treaty created the post of the High Representative for the CFSP to assist the Council and the Presidency. Following the entry into force of the new Treaty, the Foreign Minister will represent the Union in the CFSP, and together with the Commission when community matters are involved. Since the EU Foreign Minister will also be appointed vice-president of the Commission, the EU will finally be represented by one person, speaking – hopefully – with one voice.

The EU will play a more prominent role in international organisations. It seems that an EU seat in the UN Security Council belongs to a distant future. The EU should implement its CFSP in the UN and other international organisations as agreed by the Council. Member States – even the smaller ones – are keen to maintain their national profile and presence. However, here again, the EU makes a difference when its ranks are united. The new Treaty opens up possibilities.

There is, of course, a real possibility that the ratification of the constitutional treaty will be delayed, or even aborted. That would obviously be a new crisis for the EU. But from a point of view of the CFSP such an eventuality, while certainly disappointing, need not be catastrophic, as we are already moving forward on the basis of our existing treaties on implementing almost all of the new articles pertaining to the CFSP and ESDP. The European Defence Agency has already been established, the rapid reaction forces will come into existence with active participation of Finland and almost all EU member states and we have already evoked the solidarity clauses of the new treaty.

Coherence is the key word in making the EU more visible in the world. Coherence implies coordinated action of different policy fields of the Union. Coherence also means that Member States should follow an agreed policy in their bilateral relations with third countries. All Member States will maintain bilateral diplomatic relations with other countries, including with EU partners. It would be erroneous to believe that every foreign policy issue is channelled through Brussels. What is important is that bilateral action must not undermine the policy agreed among the 25. We need to be consistent, but there is room for national profiles.

The EU is taking its place on the international scene. We need to be united to manage globalisation. We should not seek to become masters of the universe, but masters of our own future in a more global world.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

During this closing session in Helsinki, you will tackle issues that are of great importance in laying a foundation for the future role of the EU in the world as a reliable partner and as an active player. We need a vision. I am convinced that you can make a valuable contribution in shaping this vision.