Distinguished EU Ambassadors, Special Representatives, Heads of CSDP missions, dear all,
Thank you for the invitation to the EU Ambassador's Conference 2022. I am delighted to address such an influential audience.
We all here today share the aim of making the EU ever stronger as a global actor. We want a unified, powerful EU that uses all its tools to advance its foreign and security policy objectives and is also internally resilient to shocks.
During the past six months, the EU has been just that.
My main message today is that we should build on the leadership that the European Union has shown in its response to Russian brutal aggression in Ukraine.
In February, the EU, more or less within one week, condemned Russia’s aggression, imposed sanctions, closed airspace to Russian aircraft, and decided to deliver defence material to Ukraine.
Since then the EU has continued to exercise its economic, defense and political power. The member states are bolstering European defense capabilities. For the first time, the EU has sent arms assistance to a partner country. Granting Ukraine EU candidate status sent a strong political signal on our firm support for Ukraine’s European path.
Now we need to step up action on our own resilience and end our dependency on Russian energy and raw materials. Focus must be on green transition. Fossil fuels belong to the past.
In the coming winter Russia will try to use every possible opportunity to divide us. We need to remain united.
Most importantly, we must remain firm on our support to Ukraine - as long as it is needed.
Finland has applied for NATO membership, together with Sweden. What led us to apply? I have based my own assessment on five factors that have implications to our security environment.
First, Russia takes increased risks compared to previous conflicts in Georgia, Crimea and eastern Ukraine. We must be prepared for further escalation.
Second, the Russia exerted pressure on one of its neighbours by concentrating more than 100,000 soldiers on the border, without resorting to general mobilization. As of today, the events on the battlefield seem to undermine Russia’s capabilities but we must be prepared for a long war.
Third, we have seen loose speech by Russia on the use of nuclear and chemical weapons. This raises the legitimate question on the cooperation we need to address the threat of unconventional weapons.
Fourth, wars have rules. We cannot accept atrocities against civilians, such as those we have now witnessed in Ukraine, in violation of international law. These war crimes need to be investigated.
Fifth, Russia demanded non-expansion of NATO. Finland maintained since 2004 the policy that when our security environment changes, NATO membership can be reassessed. We did not want anyone to decide on our behalf.
European Union, to which a large number of NATO members belong, will continue to be the key reference framework, and channel of influence for Finland.
We joined the EU in 1995. The concept of the European Union as a peace project was very much present when people went to the polling stations. Due to our history and geography, we Finns are security-oriented.
Finland will continue to emphasize the credibility and efficiency of the mutual assistance clause, article 42.7. It strengthens the Union as a security community and increases solidarity among the Member States.
Finland is committed to enhancing our Common Foreign and Security Policy. Approval of the EU’s Strategic Compass for Security and Defence in March was timely. EU level cooperation on cyber and hybrid issues will strengthen our common resilience, and we will continue to invest in the Civilian and Military CSDP missions to promote stability and peace.
With our NATO membership, we will be able to engage in enhancing EU-NATO cooperation and trans-Atlantic bond. The EU’s Strategic Compass and NATO’s new Strategic Concept provide a solid basis. The new EU-NATO joint declaration would be an important step in the right direction.
The multilateral structures are often at risk during major wars. This time around, we must preserve and strengthen them – including the UN, the OSCE and the Council of Europe.
During the past spring and summer, the United Nations Security Council has received plenty of legitimate criticism over its inability to stop the Russian aggression.
When working for the United Nations, I could testify that, even when the Security Council in New York was paralyzed, UN staff on the ground and in crisis areas was doing incredibly valuable work. Humanitarian aid reached the needy, shelters were built for refugees and search patrols were provided in earthquake areas to find those still alive.
To this UN I have always raised my hat, and I do so again now. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and UN negotiators were able to reach a solution to secure grain transports from Ukraine. Every grain vessel that travels safely to the Black Sea demonstrates that even in the midst of the darkest crisis, reason can sometimes prevail.
Famine remains a serious international threat that requires collective action. This is a global question. The EU, and you distinguished ambassadors, have a key role in containing Russia´s malign influence in third countries.
The rather weak support of African countries in condemning Russia’s aggression has been a disappointment. This was also evident in the meeting between the Foreign Ministers of the Nordic and of 18 African countries this June in Helsinki. The meeting was a good occasion to explain our views to African partners and understand better theirs.
Moreover, the Chinese narrative and development model competes effectively with ours. Many countries see potential in benefiting from cooperation with China, be it on infrastructure investments, green transition or education.
Sometimes I sense a nostalgia to cold war era in this. Competition and a more divided world could actually seem to benefit some, as the countries would have different options to turn to and might try to get the best deal where they can.
Moral high ground is certainly not the approach we should take to respond. Instead, we must offer a competitive alternative. Following through with our commitments and mobilizing the Global Gateway funds for Africa, as pledged in the EU-AU Summit this February, is an important step to this end.
We must remain firm on our principles - human rights, democracy and the rule of law. As the EU, we should intensify cooperation especially with more like-minded countries.
The question remains how to work with those that do not share our views? In my view, we should avoid polarisation and new dividing lines. Our common global challenges, such as climate change and food security, will require joint efforts.
This goes ultimately to Russia as well. In broad lines, I observe two lines of thought on Russia: on the one hand those who consider that Russia always remains the same and, on the other hand, those who see a constant change.
I admit to lean towards the latter – just think of the eras of Alexander II, Stalin, Khrushchev, Gorbachev, Yeltsin and now Putin. Russia and its foreign and security policy does change and the EU can support a positive change.
Today, our task is to isolate the current imperialistic approach of Russia, and the leadership that supports it. The upcoming vote on the UNGA resolution on Russia’s illegal annexation of the Ukrainian territories will be a test case for us all.
I appreciate the initiative the EEAS has taken in coordinating the EU outreach. You, Ambassadors, have a key role in this endeavour.
Reacting to the Russian aggression in Ukraine the EU showed true leadership in the most serious security situation since the Cold War. This leadership builds a solid ground for our future action.
The External Action Service and you Ambassadors have the crucial, albeit often ungrateful, task of finding a common line and steering our common action, whether in Brussels or in your duty stations.
We need ever more unified EU influence and voice in this fragmented world. I applaud all of you that work to make that happen.