FINLAND AND SCANDINAVIA IN THE NEW EUROPE
As the world changes, new concepts are needed. New concepts help us understand transformed realities.
In Western Europe, it used to be customary to speak of Europe while actually referring only to the EC countries. When we today speak of a new Europe, we refer to Europe after the Cold War. It is clear that we speak of Europe as a whole.
Finns have been and are a European nation in the full meaning of the word. Events of the whole continent have through times strongly influenced our destiny.
For centuries, we were part of Sweden. In 1809 Sweden lost one of its many wars against Russia and, in the aftermath, Finland became an autonomous Grand Duchy belonging to Russia. Finland gained its independence at another European upheaval in 1917.
In 1906, already before our independence, Finland carried out a radical parliamentary reform, giving women the right to vote as the first country in Europe to do so. Independent Finland became a parliamentary democracy, a republic. Our democratic institutions have functioned throughout our independent history, including the difficult war years.
The decision to opt for a republican form of government had a profound effect also on our security policy situation. Instead of a German-born king, the first Finnish Head of State was a President, the independence-minded K.J. Ståhlberg. In practice, this solution was neutrality of that day.
With the Second World War approaching, Finland aimed at keeping itself neutral, outside the war, but the Soviet aggression on us in 1939 drew us into the scourge of war.
Finland had to sacrifice much, but was never conquered. Of the capitals of the belligerent European nations, only Helsinki, London and Moscow were never occupied during the war.
After the war, Finland was again neutral. Although we retained our independence, our sovereignty was at first limited: the Soviet Union had established a military base west of Helsinki. Having regained this base in 1955, Finland could launch a full-fledged policy of neutrality.
During the Cold War, with Europe divided into two, the Finnish policy of neutrality was broadly applied. We strove to remain outside great-power conflicts of interest and maintain good relations with all countries. We aimed at strengthening peace and security in our own region, in particular, and in the whole of Europe. The most important thing for us was to have good relations with our neighbours, the Soviet Union and the Nordic countries.
Finland has always belonged to the West and Scandinavia. Sometimes I have felt that Finland has been more interested in promoting Nordic co-operation than anyone of our Nordic neighbours.
We have now moved from the old Europe to a new one: all or almost all Nordic countries may soon become members of the European Community.
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When applying for membership of the European Community, Finland's point of departure was a conviction that we in this manner could best promote our national interests in the new Europe. The EC has looked into the question of Finnish membership and has concluded that accession negotiations can begin. The official negotiations will be opened in a week's time.
Many seem to think that negotiations on the accession of Finland and other EFTA countries would be easy and could be concluded soon. They point to the fact that most of the questions related to membership of the EFTA countries have already been settled through the EEA agreement. We are also reminded that the countries seeking accession have only a little more than 20 million people.
These expectations may be misleading. The EEA agreement was tailor-made for the EFTA countries to the extent that the areas of co-operation which were seen as most difficult for them - foreign and security policy and agriculture, in particular - were left out.
On the other hand, we know that the conditions in the Nordic EFTA countries are considerably different in comparison with the present EC countries. They have large land areas and are sparsely populated. If all of them become EC members, the surface area of the Community will grow by about 50 per cent. For the first time, the EC is extending to the cold, partly arctic areas in the North. Finland and Norway are neighbours to Russia, and thus the Community would share a land border with Russia.
Although the European political weather map has changed rapidly, climatic and geographical conditions have remained as they were. Finland is and continues to be an arctic and subarctic country. Even in the southernmost parts of the country the growing season lasts only about 190 days, while in Denmark it is already about a month longer. We have a cold climate and sparse population.
The present agricultural and regional policies of the European Community were developed for the needs of Central and Southern Europe. As such they are not suitable for the conditions of Northern Europe. That is why we have to be able to negotiate and agree upon complementing the CAP and the Community's regional policies so that the specific situations of the new member countries are taken into account. In our discussions with the Community and its Member States we have reached a common understanding in principle about this. Changes are necessary in order for Finland to apply the principles and objectives of the EC.
Foreign and security policy does not seem to pose problems for Finnish membership: the foreign policy objectives of the Community are similar to ours. Finland is prepared to participate actively in the development of the common foreign and security policy of the Community.
In the field of military security, the European Community and also NATO do not appear to aim at changing the recently established politico-military constellation in the new Europe. Finland's and Sweden's neutrality - their non-membership in military alliances and their independent, credible defence - seem to fit well to the present European security architecture.
It is natural that as member in the EC, Finland would not wish to hamper the development of the Community's defence dimension as agreed in Maastricht. We are ready to participate in this work constructively and contribute to, i.a., peacekeeping operations. Neither do we preclude the possibility of participating, at some point in the future, in the European Union's possible common defence within the WEU or acceding to NATO.
We thus have an open mind in building up our relations to the new Europe. This is the only correct attitude in our constantly changing environment. The most important thing for us is that future decisions strengthen security and stability in Northern Europe.
We must also discuss our participation in the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) with the EC. Our particular problems in economic and financial policy are due to the Finnish economy being particularly susceptible to cyclical fluctuations. When joining the EMU, we have to develop effective national tools in incomes and fiscal policy to ensure the balanced development of our economy. In the course of the accession negotiations we have to clarify how these tools can be combined with, i.a., EC plans to harmonize taxation. We also want to discuss how member countries could be helped within the EC in making their economies less susceptible to economic cycles and soothen the effects of these fluctuations.
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Each of the EFTA countries having applied for membership have thus formulated a great number of objectives for the accession negotiations. Each candidate negotiates separately with the Community. All twelve Member States have to agree unanimously on the Community's objectives. When the negotiations are to be conducted in parallel, a complex negotiating structure is created. This is why the most ambitious goals regarding the timetable may prove unrealistic.
Finland for its part is prepared for a brisk pace in the negotiations. Our approach to the negotiations is based on openly taking up all the problems which membership might pose to us or the Community. This is why the negotiations may be very difficult. But if they can be brought to a satisfactory conclusion, Finland will become an exemplary member.
Denmark is one of the foremost EC countries in fulfilling membership obligations. The rejection of the Maastricht Treaty in the Danish referendum created a difficult situation for the Community. The solutions agreed upon in Edinburgh were in many ways positive for the further development of the Community as a whole.
First, Edinburgh made it clear that the EC is made up of independent and sovereign states having freely decided to exercise in common some of their competences. Secondly, every Member State can introduce more stringent measures than required by the Community in the fields of, e.g., social policy, environment, working conditions and consumer protection and pursue its own policy with regard to distribution of income or maintaining or improving social welfare. Thirdly, the principles of transparency and subsidiarity are now employed as widely as possible in Community decision-making, and internal democracy within the EC will be enhanced.
It is often asked whether we Finns should also pursue a Danish solution. In this respect it must be said that every country naturally hopes to find solutions which best
serve its own interests. We aim at the best possible Finnish solution.
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The creation of the European Economic Area (EEA) and enlargement of the EC transform the environment in which Nordic co-operation is carried out. This co-operation is faced with new challenges and new possibilities in connection with the accession negotiations and later co-operation within the EC. We are very glad to be able to launch our membership negotiations while Denmark is holding the EC Presidency.
In the negotiations, Finland, Sweden and Norway have many identical or similar objectives. We can support one another. This is particularly true in the case of
agricultural and regional policies, where we have to find principles which take specific Nordic conditions into account.
As members, we can promote objectives shared by all Nordic countries. This does not mean we should form some sort a block acting against others. I am rather referring to the fact that our Nordic societies have, in many respects, a solid foundation both in an ecological sense and in relation to people's spiritual and social well-being. The Nordic model of society has been based on enduring values and has had correct objectives. We have, however, often promoted them in an incorrect manner. The innovative Nordic model of society may have a lot to give to the European Community and all its member countries in their efforts to solve complex problems in their societies.
In the new Europe, co-operation among the Nordic countries also has new possibilities. This was one of the reasons for the reform now underway in the work of the Nordic Council and the Nordic Ministerial Council. Bold steps are now called for in the fields of industrial co-operation, transport and energy. One of the urgent tasks is the setting up of a Nordic natural gas network.
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Although we live in a new Europe, many people continue to think with the concepts and mind-set of the old Europe. Many have not noticed that after the disintegration of Eastern Europe, a new kind of pan-European integration has begun. Through it, the nations of Eastern Europe will be brought to close co-operation with the Western parts of the continent. Although late outbursts of winter are always possible in a capricious climate, we can rest assured that a large pan-European community, uniting all European nations, will be gradually formed.
We also have to redress our relations with our newly reconstituted, open and democratic neighbours around the Baltic Sea and in the Barents region. In particular, the
Baltic countries and Russia need our help. They will become important co-operation partners for us. Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and the western parts of Russia - the
Arkhangelsk and Murmansk regions, the Karelian Republic, the Leningrad region and the city of St. Petersburg - are our closest neighbours, and their development is very significant for us. They will also become neighbouring countries and regions to the Community once Finland, Sweden and Norway become EC members. On the basis of general EC principles, we have good possibilities to generate joint Community funds for the development of these regions.
The EC and its Member States as well as all Western European nations have a great responsibility for the further development of Eastern Europe. The Eastern
European nations need technical assistance and economic support, and markets for their products. The destinies of European nations are joined together. If the eastern parts of the continent suffer, we will also suffer. Once their economic and social development picks up, we will also benefit. That is why we must boldly face this challenge and vigorously set to work.
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During the past few years, we have heard it said that Nordic co-operation isn't needed any more with all of Europe integrating. This notion is not correct. In the
new Europe, it is ever more important that Nordic countries co-operate with each other. This co-operation has enhanced opportunities. It is up to us to make use of these opportunities.