Honourable guests, Dear Friends, Dear colleagues,
it’s a pleasure to address you at the annual Europe Forum in Turku.
Let me continue my colleagues’ excellent statements by focusing on values and leadership. And, emphasizing, that upholding and promoting our common values is necessary if Europe wishes to have influence.
Europe, the European Union is one of the greatest economic powers in today’s world. It is also a home for 450 million people. It is the most wanted trading partner for all major economies of the world. It’s material resources - be they research and financial institutions, combined military budgets, or development aid – are sufficient for a central role in world stage. The leadership role in the world is for Europe to take.
How does this translate into right concept of our strategic autonomy.? What does it take to become more resilient?
What Europe needs is more efficient decision making and especially reliance in our values. Democratic values are universal values that also appeal to the citizens of authoritarian states. Today it is too early to draw too far-reaching conclusions about the setbacks in Afghanistan - or in Belarus, for that matter.
Democratic states must not lose confidence in themselves and in their values. Democracies can succeed if they themselves believe in their values. And, conversely, if we lose our confidence in our values, if we lose confidence in ourselves, we are reduced to insignificance. Their weakening influence is not due to any lack of resources but to the deterioration of their values. Only a European Union that relies on its value base can be strong and credible global operator.
The European identity is about a common and diverse cultural heritage, and reliance on democracy, and fundamental and human rights. Human rights, especially the rights of women and girls, are ever so important. This core idea of Europe is deeply rooted in all of us. And the foundation of this idea is the rule of law.
For Finland, the idea of rule of law has a long and praiseworthy history. It’s origins date long before the idea of popular democracy.
What are we talking about as we speak about the rule of law? The rule of law is about making sure the single market functions smoothly and safeguarding the equity and equality of citizens. It is the force that holds the EU together and maintains our mutual trust.
Finland has actively highlighted shortcomings in the rule of law within the EU. We have called on the governments concerned to take responsibility for their actions. This shall continue.
The EU must be strong and united in order to have an impact on the world stage. For Finland it is clear that the strength of the EU is based on unity and the correct understanding of strategic autonomy and on cooperation with our close partners, especially Great Britain and United States.
The EU must make use of its economic power and its competitiveness. Europe’s strategic autonomy, the strength of the EU economy, is founded on open and rules-based world trade. When it comes to European trade and competition policy, Finland is particularly well placed to advocate for an open global economic system. We need an open market.
The debate on strategic autonomy can lead into making excuses for protectionism. This is something that must be stopped in its tracks. Instead of 450 million customers, the European pharmaceutical industry needs eight billion customers. Instead of the EU market, the European climate and energy transition needs worldwide subcontracting chains and open global markets.
Europe has done well in maintaining a competitive single market. We cannot afford losing that. Only a truly competitive EU can be an economic superpower with a say in global matters.
Past year and a half have yet again tested EU’s capability to handle crisis and work together. The global Covid-19 pandemic has taken new forms such as Delta. This crisis has also showed that EU can deliver. With Covid-19, we have ensured global supply chains and green lines, created Digital Green Certificate and ensured vaccines. And, it is worth noting, that these policies were implemented without seriously compromising freedom of global markets.
The latest challenge for EU and for all democratic powers is the dire situation in Afghanistan. At the moment the top priority is evacuating foreign nationals out of Kabul. The same goes with the Afghan nationals who have helped us and our partners. The next thing is to try to convince Afghanistan’s new rulers the necessity to maintain at least a minimum standard of human rights. We can only hope that the new government understands that it is in it’s interest not to waste the human capital created in past twenty years.
Unfortunately, it has become evident that the European Union has had practically no role in solving the terrible emergency situation in Kabul. Of course, there are EU-institutions that support the evacuation operation. And there are European civilian and military personnel in place to make things happen.
For the future crisis, in similar situations, we must have the European Battle Group in place. Securing an airport is mentioned as an example for the use of EU battle group, and so is the evacuation of EU nationals. We must improve the decision-making process in order to make sure the troops are there when a rapid reaction is needed.
In the European Union the first order of business is to reform the decision making that enables the Union to take a leading role in peace-keeping operations, conflict prevention and in the strengthening of the international security. The majority voting must have a greater role, a much greater role.
The unstable situation at Afghanistan has made it clear to all of us how important, yet fragile rule-based world can be.
What is the meaning of losing Afghanistan? Self-reflection does not mean self-pity. It does not mean abandoning our ideals. It is too early to conclude that the cause of democracy, the cause of human rights, is lost for good. Our leaders must avoid pointless blaming and self-pity. The leaders of democracies must show determination and leadership.
As I noted the strength of democracies in both sides of Atlantic is undeniable if we look the numbers: the economic power, the population base, even military capabilities. We have the assets. Our challenge is to have courage and self-respect to use these.
In the early years of the cold war the leaders of democracies were true visionaries. They had a vision to create structures for defence, to invest in development. And in Europe the greatest visionaries understood that united Europe was possible. They were not fatalists saying that Europe’s destiny is forever wars. Their vision was of ever closer union of European nations.
Honourable guests, dear Friends,
The Turku Europe Forum, which is now getting under way, is one of many citizens’ events at the European Conference on the Future. I and the whole government have high ambition on the Conference and it’s conclusions during the forthcoming French Presidency. Let’s listen to the citizens that have long urged for more resilient EU.
On behalf of the Government, I would like to thank the organisers of the Turku Europe Forum for their valuable work to strengthen the debate on Europe. This forum offers us all a great opportunity to engage in extensive discussion on the future of Europe.
I wish you all many interesting and enjoyable moments at the various events of the Forum.