Mr Foreign Minister, Ladies and Gentlemen,
In the course of the past eighteen months, Foreign Minister Kozyrev and I have met quite often. Our meeting today has special significance: the Foreign Minister of Russia is on his first official visit to Finland. It is worth noting that no less than 28 years have elapsed since the last official visit to Finland by a Foreign Minister of the Soviet Union.
Finland has acted as a pioneer in establishing relations with Russia. We started official negotiations on agreements with the Government of Russia ahead of other countries. Thanks to this, Finland was the first state to sign political treaties with the newly born Russian state approximately a year ago. We were among the first countries to support full-scale participation by Russia in all multilateral international co-operation.
The period of the Cold War having come to an end, we now live in a new Europe, where the nations are united by the same fundamental values and objectives. We now live in a Europe of co-operation, where the old contrarieties have ceased to exist and where we respond together to the difficult challenges concerning the maintenance of peace and security, the promotion of economic and social development, and the safeguarding of human rights and the rights of minorities.
In this new Europe, the basis and objectives for Finland's foreign policy are the same as before - the same as they have been throughout our independence. We endeavour to promote our national interests by looking after our nation's independence, security, and well-being. We understand that our national interests are inseparably linked with the common interest of the nations of Europe and the entire world. In these activities we are inspired by those human principles and objectives that are contained, for instance, in the CSCE Final Act, the Charter of Paris, and the UN Charter.
In this new Europe, Finland's traditional, comprehensive policy of neutrality has lost its significance. In the present conditions, the emphasis is on the essence of our neutrality, i.e. military non-alignment and independent, credible defence. In other words, the foundation of our security policy status has remained unchanged.
In view of Finland's security, it is of primary importance that we have good relations with all our neighbours and that the conditions in the regions in our close vicinity are stable. In these respects we will spare no efforts. We are happy that after the disintegration of the Soviet Union we were able immediately to create operational relations of co-operation with its successor state, Russia.
Finland is not threatened militarily. Nevertheless, we take a keen interest in the military development in the areas adjacent to our territory. Therefore we have started bilateral discussions with Russia, within the scope of which, in accordance with the general European practice, we can receive information on the troops and their weaponry located close to our frontiers. Corresponding information on Finland's defence arrangements is available to Russia.
In Finland's view, the reductions of forces that have already been carried out and will be carried out in the future in Central Europe have contributed even to our security and will continue to do so. We hope that this favourable development can continue and lead to a reduction of troops and armaments even in the areas in our close vicinity. For this reason we are trying, e.g. to form a so-called regional table in the Vienna forum on security to deal with issues relating to North Europe.
Russia, like the other members of the former Warsaw Pact, is a member of the North Atlantic Co-operation Council, NACC. Finland has wanted to have the chance of observing this new type of activity, which is connected with a security thinking based on co-operation. Accordingly, Finland has been invited to attend the NACC ministerial meetings as an observer. We hope that the stability and security of North Europe can be promoted even in this forum.
Today, inseparably attached to the concept of security are our efforts for the promotion of co-operation, in all respects, in Europe and its sub-regions. The significance of sub-regional co-operation in particular is gaining importance.
Mr Kozyrev and I came to Finland together from Kirkenes, where we had been for the purpose of establishing the Council of the Barents Sea Area. Last March saw the establishment of the Council of the Baltic Sea States. These two councils comprise all the parts of Russia bordering on the Nordic region. Although this "adjacent area" in Russia, which is common to the Nordic countries, has been divided into two in this context, we should examine it also as an undivided entirety. I hope that the Nordic countries and Russia will be able to create extensive adjacent-area co-operation. Finland and Russia have acted as pioneers even in this respect by concluding an intergovernmental agreement on co-operation in the Murmansk area, in the Republic of Karelia, in St.Petersburg, and in the Leningrad area.
Finland pays serious attention to the situation in the Baltic countries. We hope that the relations of Russia with Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania will develop favourably and that a speedy solution will be found to the controversial issues still open. This is of great importance to the security and co-operation of the Baltic Sea area. Finland, for one, has endeavoured to promote the attainment of favourable results and is prepared to pursue the same course also in the future.
Mr Foreign Minister,
I wish to thank you for the interesting discussions we had yesterday informally and today as part of the official programme of your visit. Our discussions were particularly productive because you, Mr Minister, hold a central position in the policy of internal reform pursued in Russia and especially in the process of developing your country's foreign policy. Mr Minister, I now invite you to take the floor.