We are meeting at an exceptional time. The events of 1989 in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe are of historical significance. We are witnessing the most profound upheaval since the Second World War. The focal point of this process is the historic centre of Europe.
Change in Europe - although it has involved the drama of revolution in recent months - has not come all at once, for the ideological and political structure supporting the division of Europe has been gradually disintegrating over the decades.
To date the diverse change in Europe has been largely peaceful; this claim is basically valid despite certain unfortunate exceptions. Relations between countries have become more equal. It is to be hoped that there will be less and less scope for power politics. But progress is not necessarily smooth. Conflicts have not disappeared from international relations, nor from within individual nations.
Foreign policy is always conducted in a state of tension between continuity and change. The international system is now characterized by change. Much of what appeared to be stable in Europe since the Second World War, first and foremost the division between East and West, is now in flux. It is important with respect to control of the change that what is worthy of preservation shall be preserved.
Despite the division of Europe, we had already succeeded in surmounting some of the ideological barriers to communication. This has been of special importance in the divided Germany. Europe has achieved a new internal dynamic force since the beginning of the 1980s. It has come increasingly into its own, year by year.
We have stressed two factors in assessing the process of change in Eastern Europe:
- Regional upheavals must be seen against a background of lengthy change in Europe;
- Reform in the Soviet Union has been fundamental to change within the alliance. From here on, developments in Eastern Europe will probably be less dependent on the Soviet Union.
In 1990 - or at least in the near future - we can expect pluralistic democracy to consolidate its position as the European political system. The Warsaw Pact countries will increase their contacts with other European countries and with the co-operative organizations they form.
Last year we learned to be prepared for surprises. It seems that political development is much faster than we have generally learnt to expect.
In many countries citizens have not waited, but have given convincing signals indicating the course of future development. The machinery of political decision-making is undergoing a process of far-reaching change.
Events have been and will remain of particular importance in the German Democratic Republic. This is a concrete reminder that the German question is central to the present process of change.
In assessing the course of events in the near future we should be cautious. Although the situation is characterized by instability, acknowledgement of this fact gives some cause for gloom.
The current process has not seriously affected Finland's position. The foundations of our foreign policy remain. We have worked consistently to keep our position stable despite the great changes taking place on our continent. As a neutral Nordic country we take an active part in the process of change in Europe. That is what we mean by neutrality in the Europe of the 1990s.
The premises of our foreign policy can be expressed as follows:
- We base our operations on a broad concept of Europe.
- We consider the CSCE mechanism the best blueprint for building Europe.
- We support efforts to achieve pluralistic democracy and economic systems capable of reform.
How can we here in Finland help keep the upheaval in Europe within the bounds of peaceful co-operation?
It is recognized everywhere that the significance of the CSCE in today's situation is growing. Proposals for convening a summit conference of CSCE countries is an indication of this interest.
Finland supports the convening of a summit meeting of the CSCE countries as soon as possible, perhaps during the current year.
The 1990 summit conference and the summit conference to be held in conjunction with the Helsinki follow-up conference are not meant to be alternatives; in our opinion, they would complement each other.
There has been a great deal of diplomatic activity on the CSCE front in recent weeks. Finland's representatives have explained our positions on the summit conferences in the capitals of the other CSCE countries.
The Finnish view can be stated briefly as follows:
We feel that the summit conferences should be prepared with care and Finland is ready to take part in these preparations. The meetings must be seen as part of a continuous process.
The 1990 meeting would give the leaders of the CSCE countries an opportunity to review the changes occurring in Europe and their impact on the continent's future. In our opinion, joint decisions should be built on the declaration of principles - which is still valid - embodied in the 1975 Helsinki Final Act.
Implementation of the ambitious programme adopted at the Vienna follow-up conference is under way. The summit conference could provide new impetus for the entire CSCE process.
The summit conference could decide on continuation of the broad discussion of European security and co-operation at the Helsinki follow-up conference in 1992. The conclusions called for there by current developments could be made on the basis of thorough discussion.
It would be natural to make provision at the 1990 summit for a new summit conference to be held in conjunction with the Helsinki follow-up.
And what about economic reform in Eastern Europe?
On the basis of its own position and experience, Finland has provided economic assistance to the countries of Eastern Europe. The aim has been to respond to the needs of these countries, and especially to the enormous environmental problems they face.
It will be in our interest to be ready to provide further economic assistance to Eastern Europe on both a multilateral and a bilateral basis. This would take place in areas where the needs of the other countries and Finland's resources and expertise could best be combined to serve the goals of economic reform.
The political and economic reforms of Eastern Europe may have a far-reaching effect on our trade and economic relations.
Economic reform will lead to change in market conditions. Alongside the necessary economic assistance, there is also cause to re-examine our trade relations from the new perspective. This concerns both our trade agreements - such as those with the Comecon countries in Eastern Europe - and, what is even more important, the contribution of Finnish business to this area.
With respect to the Soviet Union in particular, perestroika will alter the structure of traditional bilateral trade. To assure a broad range of trade, efforts will be required to build up the system. This concerns both satisfaction of Finland's import needs and the guaranteeing of our export potential.
Developments have caused uncertainty and posed new problems to our exporters, just as they make new demands on marketing and competitiveness at company level. Alongside traditional barter, new forms of trade and economic co-operation have arisen. We can expect their importance to increase.
It is possible that in the 1990s the countries of Eastern Europe will - after a period of transition - experience rapid economic growth. These countries will also seek to establish relations with structures for economic co-operation. Finland supports all efforts of this kind to improve economic co-operation on a continental scale.
The diversification of co-operation in neighbouring regions will offer great potential to Finland.
The Baltic community faces a major ecological and economic challenge. The environment must be protected for future generations.
Co-operation with regions of the Soviet Union bordering on Finland is acquiring a new, dynamic content. We are activating our relations with Estonia and Karelia and with the Murmansk and Leningrad areas.
Our Estonian cousins have become a unique and visible element in overall relations with our neighbours. This was recently expressed by Mr. Vaino Väljas in an important speech made in Helsinki. Mr. Väljas said that Estonia is rejoining its international circle of friends, and once again becoming a member of the international community.
We are currently going through a diverse transition phase. Although the fast pace of events does not allow exact predictions concerning the ultimate political and economic structures of the states and societies of Eastern Europe, it is virtually certain that there will be no return to the past. Free enterprise and multiparty democracy will probably consolidate into the framework of a social system within which democracy will develop special features based on the culture of each country. It appears likely that the countries of Eastern Europe will once again work very closely with the rest of Europe.
The future success of each country will be resolved by the will power and efforts of its citizens. Even major programmes of international aid can offer no more than an opportunity and create a framework. No-one else can build the future of nations setting out on a new path, neither economically nor politically. There must be sufficient recognition of this fact.
The historical concept of "Eastern Europe" is linked to the ideological division of the continent. It must be assumed that the division between east and west in Europe will further diminish; Eastern Europe will be Central Europe again. To the east of it will be the Soviet Union, Europe's superpower.
Feelings of uncertainty usually accompany change. We are often bound by images of the past. The international community has become much more open, and this openness has strengthened confidence and security. We are learning to define our future problems in a manner we can all comprehend.