It is a great pleasure and honour for me to address the distinguished members of this important Committee for the first time today.
The European Parliament plays a crucial role in the enlargement process of the Community. We in Finland are aware of and appreciate the thorough way in which the European Parliament is preparing itself to deal with this issue.
The present enlargement of the European Community is important not only to the applicant countries and the Community, but for
Europe as a whole. The Community is increasingly seen as a cornerstone for political and economic stability. It also offers a perspective for the peoples in the Eastern part of our continent aspiring for a better economic and social future.
By enlarging the Community we will build security in the widest sense of the word on our Continent. If the momentum for rapidly concluding our negotiations is lost, the signal thereby given could have very negative consequences indeed.
In this respect, the timetable for the enlargement, 1 January 1995, set by the Copenhagen summit, is welcome for us. It corresponds to our intention to participate as a Member State in the 1996 process.
In applying for membership Finland is not seeking special treatment or derogations, but we must be able to secure our equal status with other members and a fair share of the benefits that accrue from membership. The goals of the Union are acceptable for us.
The means to achieve those goals have naturally been designed to suit the needs of the present Member States. Finland, however, is a very different country in many respects: its geographical location, its climate, its large territory, its low population density, its long distance from the European centres, its long border with Russia.
Turning now to the ongoing accession negotiations, I can note that our negotiations in the fields covered by the EEA agreement have so far proceeded in a satisfactory pace. Altogether, one third of the total of 29 negotiating chapters have been agreed upon.
In the coming weeks the negotiations will be concentrated on the rest of the traditional Community sectors. In some of these sectors special measures are needed to complement present Community policies to compensate for the disadvantages of our country to which I just referred. There is nothing new or dramatic in this. Adjustments have been made in earlier enlargements, too. If they are not done this time, the goals of the Community will not be achieved in Finland. This applies notably to agriculture and and regional policy.
Finland fully shares the objectives of the Common Agricultural Policy as defined in the Treaty of Rome. However, implementing the CAP in Finland imposes major changes on Finnish agriculture. Without any compensatory measures there would be a drastic decline in farm income, in production volumes and in the number of farms.
Finland also agrees with the mechanisms of the CAP. This is why the main emphasis in our proposals is laid on direct support measures per acreage and livestock unit instead of price support.
Apart from the issues of principle and equality, the small size of Finland's agricultural sector, when compared with that of the Community, is a fact worth mentioning. Our production volumes for the main products are about one per cent of the Community
total. This means that the financial implications for the Community of the measures that we propose are very limited.
The basic objectives of Finnish regional policy are similar to those of the Community. Our aim in the negotiations is to ensure the harmonious and balanced development and population distribution of our regions. This is important for economic, societal as well as for security policy reasons. It is important to us to be able to keep the whole country populated.
The acquis communautaire in regional and structural policy in broad terms is sufficient to meet these needs. However, when new regions are included, it is also important that there will be new instruments to respond the challenges. A large area with very low population density, long distances and harsh climatic conditions are among the characteristics which reflect our reality.
There also are some fields where solutions must be tailor-made to allow time for adaptation to the Community rules. An example
is the Customs Union. In order to safeguard the competitiveness of our industry, full compliance with the prerequisites of the Customs Union cannot be achieved without transition periods in sensitive sectors. Another problem is how to maintain free trade between Finland and the Baltic States, important to both of us. We believe that solutions will be found to these questions. Beyond them, we do not see the provisions of the Customs Union or application of the common trade policy as such be problematic for Finland.
The ratification of the Maastricht Treaty has now been assured. This important event will also make it possible in the accession
negotiations to take up significant issues covered by the Treaty. One of them is the field of foreign and security policy.
Finland's decision to apply for membership in the Community was based not only on economic reasons but also on security considerations, although we do not feel ourselves threatened in any way.
Finland approaches the negotiations from a position of military non-alliance and an independent defence. The country is large in area and small in population. Geopolitically we are located in a sensitive region. We have gradually built a defence capability which meets our needs and suits our resources and is respected by other states.
This is our contribution to strengthening security and stability in Northern Europe and the continent as a whole. This remains foremost on our agenda.
In this context, let me, however, recall that Finland is fully prepared to participate actively in the common foreign and security policy as outlined in the Maastricht Treaty. Finland is also ready to participate in the further development of that policy as a loyal member of the Union and does not foreclose any ensuing options. As regards our relationship with the WEU we will take the appropriate decision in light of the development of the European security structures.
For us it is obvious that the increased capabilities of the European Union in the area of foreign and security policy serve the interests of Finland as well.
In addition to foreign and security policy, there are other issues related to the Maastricht Treaty which have to be addressed in our negotiations. Among them, economic and monetary affairs as well as co-operation in the fields of justice and home affairs are of particular interest. I am confident that solutions in these fields will be found without major difficulties.
For example, the criteria of the third stage of the EMU coincide with the economic policy objectives of the Finnish Government. The primary objectives of our monetary policy remain monetary stability and control of inflation.
We should also start in the negotiations the work on institutional and budgetary issues. We know that all enlargements necessitate certain institutional adjustments. These should not cause particular problems in the negotiations to the extent that the negotiations shall - as was decided in the Lisbon and Copenhagen meetings of the European Council - take place in the existing institutional framework.
To conclude, I would like to sum up by saying that Finland is ready to accede to the European Union and to assume its share of the responsibilities that membership entails, but also expects to be treated fairly as far as the benefits are concerned. By becoming a member Finland will change, but every enlargement also changes the Community. I am convinced that the changes - inevitable as they are - will be for the benefit of both.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.