For more than three years, Europe has lived through a turbulent sequence of events and this period of time does not show any sign of becoming to an end. The roots of change lie deep in the history of our continent.
The changes in Central and Eastern Europe were first widely welcomed with excitement. The borderlines that had divided our continent lost their significance. The ideological war ended in a victory by western values and a scene of increasing interaction and growing welfare gleamed on the horizon. The threat of a major war was receding and hope of a stable state of peace in Europe was gaining ground.
Afterwards, hopefulness among the nations of Europe has calmed down. Eastern Europe's political and economic problems have proved to be much more difficult than expected. To solve these problems such efforts are necessary as will eclipse the development of Western Europe. At the same time, the integration process that is necessary for Western Europe has lost its vitality and got into difficulties.
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The nations of Europe must not shut their eyes to the facts. The end of the cold war gives an impetus to the process, which began years ago and which aims at a new international order with three competing power centres in its core. The world economy is becoming regionalized around three poles - Japan, the United States of America and Germany/EC. In this race, Europe is at a disadvantage right at the start.
In Western Europe, people have not yet sufficiently conceived the significance of the breakdown of Eastern Europe for the West. The unification of the two Germanies provides an example of the burden Western Europe has to bear.
The reconstruction of Eastern Europe is a task which requires enormous economic resources in the form of both allowances and credit. This financial burden is meant to be shared between the the rich countries of the world, but it seems that Western European countries will be the ones in charge of the bulk of the burden. It is in our own interest that we bear our responsibility.
What is even more significant is that the countries of Western Europe have to open their markets to Eastern European products. This process is already underway. The European Community has concluded association agreements with Poland, the Czech and Slovak Federal Republic and Hungary, with a view to accepting them as members. Association agreements will soon lead to free trade between the EC and these countries. The EFTA-countries have started similar negotiations with these three countries. Negotiations have been started with other Eastern European countries also on either an association agreement or other free trade arrangements. A Pan- European integration process has been launched, including all the Eastern European countries and Russia.
The development of a Pan-European free trade arrangement creates conditions where differences in the standard of living between the western and eastern parts of our continent will inevitably level off. A considerable part of investments will be made in Eastern Europe where, in many countries, the preconditions for production are rather good and where the labour costs are only a fraction of those in Western Europe. This will inevitably lead to poor wage development and growing unemployment in Western Europe in the next few years. The slump in investments, poor wage development and unemployment create pressures for cuts in the public economy and
these, again, deepen the depression. All this may lead to social problems and political disturbances - at its worst to increasing xenophobia.
We Western Europeans have to understand that we live in an inevitable community of fate with the nations of Eastern Europe - both in the good and in the evil. The problems of the eastern parts of Europe both now and in the next few years are ours as well. The rise of Eastern Europe lays a foundation for the welfare of the nations of the western part of Europe. There are vast human and material resources in Eastern Europe and it will be one of the most rapidly growing market areas.
The nations of Eastern Europe need urgent assistance to get started on their way towards more favourable developments; and assisting is, in the first place, the task of Western Europeans. If we undertake this task rapidly, we shall quickly find that the burden of helping turns out a blessing for ourselves. In time, a united Europe will be an equal competitor with the other power centres of the world.
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If the prospects that I have outlined above turn out to be correct, the Western European aspirations to integrate may meet even more severe resistance than before. The difficulties that were encountered in connection with the ratification of the Maastricht treaty show that the politicans in a number of West European countries have grown away from their people. The same is true about many of the countries that have applied for an EC membership. The EC should, however, serve the interests of the people of its member countries in particular.
We should now be able to make a realistic assessment of the situation relating to the future of Europe. We have to rescue what we can out of the achievements of integration. Europe needs a strong EC as a pull to development. Europe needs a cooperation network with a strong EC in its centre.
The most immediate challenge in front of us is putting into effect the agreement on the European Economic Area. If Switzerland does not ratify the agreement, the other parties must swiftly negotiate so as to ensure a prompt implementation of the EEA agreement.
The ratification of the Maastricht treaty is the EC's internal business, and Finland as a member candidate must not interfere in the issue. Let us hope strength and wisdom for the member countries of the EC in solving this problem.
I believe that the difficulties encountered in the course of the ratification process of the Maastricht treaty will result in a situation where the integration dynamics are rather extensive than intensive. Maastricht marks the beginning of a development towards an internally differentiated community. I am convinced that this trend is now getting stronger.
If my estimate proves correct, the preconditions for Finland's membership are improving. If the EC is determined to enlarge and if it accepts diversity among its members more easily than before, our membership talks may accordingly proceed more swiftly and reaching a conslusion that is acceptable to the people of Finland may be facilitated.
But the EC's extensive dynamics would lead to the Community's expansion towards Eastern Europe as well. If this took place, the EC would make a virtue out of necessity.
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Finland's policy relating to Europe suits well with the present and future of Europe. Once again, we have an opportunity to bring the promotion of our own national interests within a wider context and, at the same time, to further favourable developments throughout our entire continent.
Finland is seeking membership in the EC, because she estimates that as a member she could better advance her own national aspirations. An EC membership provides us a significant channel of influence. Recent developments have high-lighted the correctness of this estimate.
When Finland submitted her application for membership, she decided to base the membership on the Treaty of Rome and the entire set of EC norms that have developed after it. This EC aquis - the Community's norms and binding decisions up to now - includes also the Maastricht treaty. Joining the Community may take place only under the provisions of the Maastricht treaty. A member candidate has to accept also the general political objectives of the integration of the EC - finalité
These commitments have been misunderstood in Finland. The Maastricht treaty is a document which is in many respects open to various interpretations. The EC's future development is a continuous process, and no one is in the position to predict its course. As a member, Finland would take part in negotiations and decision-making about the future of the EC.
Taking the Maastricht treaty as a basis for her membership, Finland does not at all commit herself to accepting that the Finnish people adjusted to the EC as it is now.
The negotiating positions set by the Government and passed by Parliament are in force. Detailed objectives for the negotiations are being drafted just now. With
respect to agriculture and regional policy, for instance, this means that we try to influence the common EC policy and to make it take notice of our conditions. This point of departure has been approved of in the EC. Nevertheless, difficult negotiations are awaiting us there.
In foreign and security policy, Finland and the EC go along the same lines. This sub-section does not appear to bring insurmountable difficulties. It seem possible that,
should Finland become an EC member, she would remain neutral in the sense we ourselves defined it in the post-cold war situation.
During the cold war period, Finland developed a comprehensive policy of neutrality for the country. This policy was founded on geopolitical and security political principles. Its essential tenet was that Finland endeavoured to remain outside any conflict between the great powers and to maintain good relations with all countries. Certain general principles developed around Finland's policy of neutrality that were intended to apply to all Finland's international activities.
Now that the cold war period is over, this kind of comprehensive policy of neutrality has no grounds for existence. In the new Europe, we have defined our neutrality in a new manner: military non-alliance and independent defence constitute the essence of it.
Many are of the opinion that, in the new Europe, there is no room for any kind of neutrality. Time and again people are asking what the object of Finland's neutrality is now that the division into two of Europe has ended. This question is based on obsolete ideas dating from the cold war period.
Reduced to its very security policy, Finland's neutrality is based on the established concepts of the international law and international policy. Initially, a country was called neutral if it was not involved in a war between other countries, that is, it was neutral with respect to the war. Neutrality is such peace-time activity as aims at neutrality in any war that may break out. The essence of this neutrality lies in the fact that the country is not a member of any military alliance and that it has an independent, credible defence.
The report by the EC Commission on Finland's application for membership and the opinions on it suggest that as an EC member Finland can maintain her neutrality. As an EC member, we ourselves have to consider and decide whether to maintain our neutrality even then or whether to give it up.
Membership in the EC would not create a military alliance and therefore would not confer us that kind of security. Membership would give us a chance to enter into an alliance, but it would not oblige us to abandon our neutrality. This being the case, Finland seems to be able to join the EC as she is.
With respect to issues relating to the foreign and security policy and to the defence dimension, the Maastricht treaty is loose. It forms a basis for future development of cooperation in these areas. As members, we are only expected a positive attitude towards the promotion of cooperation and no prior exclusion of our own participation in this cooperation.
Future intergovernmental conferences will decide upon the development of the defence dimension of the EC's joint foreign and security policy. The ensuing agreements will have to be ratified in time in every member country. If our position changes at any later time, it is for the people of Finland to decide upon it under the provisions of the constitution.
In the discussion about Finland's EC membership, it has been argued that should Finland become a member she would lose her independence. That is not true.
The EC is a far-developed organization for international cooperation and integration, but it is still essentially a community of independent nation states. Recent civil opinion polls show that even the people of present EC member states quite carefully protect their independence. The decision-making system provides the member states powerful chances of influencing. All major decisions must be made unanimously. Even a change in the decision-making system requires consensus.
We are often being asked to what direction Finland would like to develop the EC after she has become a member. We cannot answer this question. If we answered, we would become a party in the EC's internal dispute about the Community's future. This could complicate our negotiations on membership. Moreover, we cannot naturally make commitments that would concern the policies of future governments and parliaments. In case Finland becomes a member, we will take a stand to these issues in due course in accordance with our constitutional order.
From the point of view of independence, the most problematic area of cooperation seems to be the creation of an economic and monetary union. In the third stage of EMU, a European Central Bank and a common currency will be established. This will limit the independence of the member states' economic decision-making and may turn out especially problematic for a country like Finland which is peripheric and sensitive to economic fluctuations. Before becoming a member of the EC and EMU, we have to develop for ourselves such income and financial policy instruments as enable us to control the development of our economy in those circumstances. It has to be said, indeed, that the projected EMU's future seems now more than uncertain.
Even though Finland now appears to stand a good chance to become an EC member, we must all the time take into account the possibility that no agreement is reached or that our membership be delayed in a significant way.
We live in uncertain conditions in other ways, too. It is now important that Finland strengthen her independence and consolidate her international position, create alternatives for herself and courageously face any future challenges. We are still the architect of our own future.