Dear Hanating participants,
Kära vänner av nordiskt samarbete,
It is a great privilege to have an opportunity to address this seminar.
We are living in unusual times, but it brings some comfort that we are able continue some well-established annual seminars, like the Hanating, via the web this time.
It is also nice to see my close colleague Peter Hultqvist on the line; hopefully all is well in Stockholm.
In my remarks, I will first offer some comments on the overall security situation in our neighbourhood. I will then briefly address how we plan to deal with these issues in Finland. Finally, I will share my thoughts on the Nordic defence cooperation.
Ladies and gentlemen,
This has been an exceptional year. The COVID-19 pandemic has had an impact on us all in many ways. The crisis is still far from being over but some signs of hope can be seen. The good news about the development of a vaccination is definitely one of them.
I, as the defence minister, need to look at this situation from a security perspective. Also in the middle of the pandemic, we need to remember that other security threats persist.
The Finnish Government adopted in October a new Foreign and Security Policy Report. It describes a realistic and a somewhat gloomy picture of the security situation.
As the report states, the security situation in the neighbouring areas of Finland and Europe is unstable. There are many reasons for this. The increasing competition between the great powers and their weakening commitment to the rules-based international system and international law could be mentioned here as an example.
Dear seminar participants,
How do we plan to tackle the security challenges?
The key elements of Finland's security are societal crisis resilience – security of supply included, strong national defence capability, the united and operational European Union and close international foreign, security and defence policy cooperation.
We maintain our crisis resilience through wide-ranging collaboration with various sectors of society. Our national comprehensive security model is the foundation of our preparedness. Our preparedness also raises a preventive threshold against external influencing targeted against the Finnish society.
One of the lessons of the pandemic is that the Finnish Government, together with the President, and the Parliament are capable to act decisively, if needed. In the spring, we activated parts of the Emergency Powers Act. It was for the first time after the Second World War that the state of emergency was declared in Finland.
Despite the increasingly tense international situation, Finland is not under any immediate military threat. Nonetheless, we must prepare for the use or the threat of use of military force against us.
Finland is a militarily non-aligned state which maintains a credible national defence capability. By maintaining our defence capability, we prevent the use of military force against Finland, show readiness to respond to the use or the threat of use of military force, and the capacity to repel any attacks against our country.
To strengthen our own defence capability, we participates actively in international defence policy cooperation, which has been increasing and getting deeper in recent years. We will analyse these issues more in depth in a New Defence Report that will be adopted the next year by the Government of Finland.
Dear Friends of Nordic cooperation,
Defence policy cooperation strengthens our national defence capability. The Nordic cooperation in general, and especially in defence matters, remains extremely important. It also enjoys strong public and political support in Finland.
As our new Foreign and Security Policy Report states, Sweden is the most important bilateral partner for Finland. Our countries share the same assessment of how our operating environment is developing.
We continue to deepen our defence cooperation with Sweden without any predetermined limitations.
The aim of the Finnish-Swedish defence cooperation is to be ready for joint action and operations in peace, crisis and war, if such political decisions are made.
The defence cooperation between Finland and Sweden is thus on a solid base, on all levels. I have met with Peter already almost 20 times during my one and half years as a defence minister.
Last time we met was in October during the Finnish Air Forces’ Ruska exercise in Lapland. It showed that our cooperation continues and remains strong despite of the challenging pandemic conditions.
Finland believes in the strength of the Nordic defence cooperation. Over the years, we have always found pragmatic and flexible ways to cooperate.
One recent example of our defence cooperation is the Trilateral Statement of Intent between Finland, Sweden and Norway on enhanced operational cooperation. It is another important tool in fulfilling the common Nordic ambition to maintain peace and stability in our region.
The Statement of Intent is a natural step forward in our defence co-operation with Sweden and Norway. Our countries share common interests, long traditions for cooperation and high-level of mutual trust and confidence.
The work done in NORDEFCO remains highly important. In accordance with the NORDEFCO Vision 2025, the cooperation will be improved with a view to times of peace, crisis and conflict.
Although the circumstances for close international cooperation have been difficult in 2020, I’m glad to say that we have been able to make progress in NORDEFCO. I would like to thank present chair country, Denmark, for that.
Next year it is again Finland’s turn to take over the NORDEFCO chairmanship. Finland will focus on building continuity after Denmark’s chairmanship by working consistently towards our common goals set in the NORDEFCO Vision. More information on our chairmanship goals will come out soon.
Last year the Nordic countries commissioned Islandic Björn Bjarnason to write a report about Nordic cooperation in the field of foreign and security policy. In March just before the pandemic broke out in Europe, I had the pleasure of meeting Mr Bjarnason when he visited Helsinki. We had a good discussion.
The themes of the so called Bjarnason report are highly topical and important. In the framework of Nordic defence cooperation, or NORDEFCO, we are already working closely together with many of these themes. We have established cyber cooperation at the military level and cyber security has been discussed also at the ministry level this year during the Danish chairmanship. Additionally, we have been cooperating in the fields of security of supply and total defence for some years already.
All in all, we see many opportunities in the Nordic cooperation.
And we will keep on working in finding common solutions.
Thank you for your attention.