Suomen ulkopolitiikan asiakirja-arkisto ja kronologia
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Remarks by Mr. Pertti Paasio, the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Finland, at the Europe Conference in Oslo on January 3, 1991


Europe is undergoing a profound change. The political and geostrategic landscape is in a state of flux. Uncertainty but also hope characterize the present situation. As Europeans we are called upon to harmonize and combine our national and European interests. The Charter fo a New Europe, adopted in the Paris CSCE Summit in November presents us the vision as well as the guidelines.

From Finland's point of view, the important feature in the Eurpean change is the fact that the principles of international conduct advocated by the neutral states - principles such as peaceful settlement of disputes, cooperation and disarmament - seem to grow stronger. The political and economic aspects take precedence in the security system.

No nation can nor should try to isolate itself in a modern world of today. Likewise, a unifying Europe must remain open towards the rest of the world.

Our continent is searching a new stability and political shape. I would like to emphasize the following factors as main elements of a new Europe:

- The German-Soviet understanding constitutes a building-block with great productive potential for the whole of Europe.

- The evolution of the European Community into a political and economic union with ambitions of a superpower.

- The possibility or probability of democracy and market economy both in Central European states as well as in the Soviet Union.

- The emergence of regional cooperation in post-divisional Europe as a realization of economic, ecological and cultural interdependence.

- The strengthening of the structures of the CSCE as a unifying security and cooperative system.

The European change constitutes a major challenge to all states, also to the neutral states. The question has been raised, whether the general importance of neutrality is fading as the East-West division is losing its traditional meaning? On the other hand, one could argue that the end of the division is primarily a challenge to the two military alliances and their member states.

In some countries in Eastern and Central Europe neutrality may be regarded as a plausible alternative.

Below, I will discuss some topical issues of the Finnish foreign policy, with particular emphasis on neutrality.

The Finnish foreign policy is based primarily on historical and geopolitical factors. We share a long borderline with the Soviet Union. This fact and especially its political implications will remain very much the same also in the future. Finland does not want to find itself as an outpost of the West against the East again.

The Soviet Union is today facing immense problems relating to the reform program. It is my hope and belief, however, that as a part of European change in general, the Soviet Union is gradually becoming an integral part of common European structures of economic and political cooperation. Consequently the borderline between the East and West in Europe will also gradually fade.

In the course of the postwar years the interpretation of Finnish neutrality has undergone significant evolution. In general terms the policy of neutrality is being pursued increasingly through participation, not abstention. Within the CSCE process Finland together with other neutral and non-aligned states has acted primarily as an initiator and bridge-builder. There is still ample room for this role in the future.

The neutral states generally endeavour to remain outside international conflicts and crises. For this purpose they have chosen not to join the military alliances. Admittedly, there is no single consistent line apparent in the behaviour of the neutral countries in international crises. But being neutral means stressing moderation and dialogue, and avoidance of becoming party to the crises.

It has turned out that such goals can best be pursued by an active policy and by taking initiative in the international community. The purpose is to stregthen a system in which conflicts are resolved peacefully and the structures of co-operation are expanded. This is what the CSCE is all about.

Such a policy cannot always be measured with the traditional legal criteria of neutrality. Consequently, within the United Nations Finland has been in close cooperation primarily with the other Nordic countries-not all of them neutral - in order to stregthen the operative capacity of the World Organization.

For the past two years, Finland has served as a member of the UN Security Council. Neutrality has been our main tool, but by far not the only one. In the Gulf crisis, moderation and dialogue have proved ineffective. We have not pursued our goals by abstention but by committing ourselves to the building of a collective security arrangement against the reckless breach of peace.

European political development may not continue entirely smoothly. The greatest threat to stability is the decline in the social and economic conditions of the new democratic countries of Eastern and Central Europe. It is an East-West issue which calls for a social and economic solution, not a military one.

Yet at present there is no point in belittling the military factor of security either. By seeing to their defence needs the neutral countries have contributed to the military foundations of stability in the changing Europe.

In Finland, like in other neutrals of Europe, the relationship with the evolving European Community has become a major issue, not only one of debate but also one of action.

At present, on one hand, the neutral states together with the other EFTA-states are negotiating with the EC on the establishment of the European Economic Space (EES). On the other hand, Austria has applied for the membership and Sweden has taken preliminary steps to the same direction.

As far as Finland is concerned, the question of membership in the EC is being examined in the internal debate. In the Government's view it is not an issue that can nor should be decided now. The EES is our prime objective.

For the neutral states, with membership ambitions or not, the future development of the EC is of great significance. What form the political union will take ? How will security and defence matters be dealt with in the Community decision making in the future? Questions like these wait for answers.

An established fact, however, is that the EC has emerged not only as major economic power but also as a significant political entity. It is indeed becoming the main guarantor of prosperity and therefore of peace and stability in Europe.

Neutrality has served Finland well and we believe that it has served also our neighbours and Europe at large well. And this is so for a long time. It is precisely this European and more immediate environment of ours which is now undergoing dynamic, not to say radical, change. We are not tempted to make hasty reappraisals of well-considered positions. But I trust that we shall be a lot more knowledgable at the end of this year than we are at its beginning.

But neutrality is not enough. Participation in the development of European cooperation is vital for the small countries. Abstention is not a viable option. We have to maintain a viable and satisfactory relationship with the EC. At the same time, we have to intensify cooperative efforts within the Baltic Sea area, including the Soviet Union. And - needless to say - the CSCE in all of its aspects will remain a major field of activity for Finland.

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