Skip to content

Speech by Minister Soini at the Institute of International and European Affairs

Ministry for Foreign Affairs
Publication date 5.7.2017 14.56
Press release

Speech by Foreign Minister Timo Soini at the Institute of International and European Affairs, Dublin, 4 July 2017.

Greater security for Europeans through closer cooperation on EU security and defence

I am delighted to be here as guest of the Institute of International and European Affairs. My address today, I understand, is one in a series of invited lectures on the future of Europe by EU27 ministers of foreign affairs. This seems to me an excellent way to stimulate debate on this important topic and I’m pleased to be able to add my voice to those of my good colleagues. I’m happy to see a full house, and looking forward to our discussion.

Ireland and Finland have quite a lot in common – more than one would perhaps realise at the first glance. We are both small countries, situated next to big neighbours, at the outer flanks of the EU. We are open economies that have benefited greatly from EU membership. Our histories carry tough memories and times have been rough also recently, especially in economic terms.

Yesterday I had very good discussions with my colleague Minister Simon Coveney. While admiring your beautiful country on our way to Monaghan, we found many similarities in our approaches. We agreed that we’d like to see even closer contacts between our countries, from government to the grass root level. There are many sectors where we can increase cooperation - at EU level and bilaterally.

There are of course also some differences, such as in our approaches to EU security and defence cooperation. As this is an area where Finland has long been in the forefront in developing EU policy, it is only natural that it should also be my topic today. In the following, my intention is to give you the Finnish take on EU security and defence: our vision on why it matters so much, what its aims should be and how we all can gain from it – member states, the union as a whole and even the world at large.

To understand the Finnish present approach, let me refresh reasons for Finland's membership in the EU. For us joining the EU was fundamentally a question of security – although this was never said aloud. Thus, since the beginning the European Union is the frame of reference of Finland’s foreign and security policy. . Over the years, this dimension has not diminished – rather the opposite.

Therefore, our government defined strengthening the EU as a security community was defined as a key priority of Finnish foreign and security policy in the Government White Paper on foreign and security policy presented last year. This policy is related to the profound changes that have taken place in our security environment over the past few years.

In the current security situation, cooperation is more important than ever. For Finland, isolation is not an option – nor do we want to isolate ourselves. As a member of the EU Finland cannot, and will not, remain an outsider, should security in our vicinity or elsewhere in Europe come under threat.

Finland has consistently underlined the importance, both in principle and in practice, of the EU’s mutual assistance. Against this background we have recently amended our legislation to allow for providing and receiving international assistance, including military aid in case of crises..

My understanding is that after the invocation of the mutual assistance clause in response to the terrorist attacks in Paris and with the changed security environment, there is a renewed emphasis on solidarity and mutual assistance in the EU debate. This has been translated to the major developments taking place at the EU level.

Also in the EU, there is now a growing realisation that what is needed to respond to the many challenges ahead is more, and closer, cooperation. Existing EU tools need to be utilised more effectively, new forms of cooperation explored and the full potential of the Treaty untapped.

Since the presentation of the EU Global Strategy last summer, a number of important developments have taken place. A major change is focusing our attention more to the security threats directly affecting Europe. This is very good news. EU needs to do things that really matter for its citizens. In the Global Strategy, the protection of Europe was defined as a strategic priority of the EU, along with crisis management and supporting the capacity building of partner countries. The Common Security and Defence Policy has to be a vehicle for strengthening the security of the EU and of EU citizens.

Another significant development is the new initiatives presented by the Commission to enhance defence cooperation. Commission's “Defence package” was presented in the beginning of June. For the first time, the Commission is taking on an active role in this field, and EU budget funding to support defence cooperation is being considered.

At the EU27 summit in Bratislava, internal and external security were identified as one of the four priorities for the future. And in the Rome declaration, EU leaders agreed to work towards a more competitive and integrated defence industry.

Most recently, the June European Council took the political decision to launch Permanent Structured Cooperation and decided on a concrete roadmap towards that goal.

With these developments, a new dynamic and momentum has been set in motion. In the words of Ms Mogherini: More has been achieved in the past few months than in the past 60 years. I agree with this. And I am pleased we are finally doing something that is a core priority for the people: security. We need to work together only on issues that we can do better at the EU level and that bring added value to our national efforts.

Expanding the scope of CSDP beyond external action, and normalising defence policy – bringing it closer to the standard practices in other policy areas – have been our long-standing aims. We are pleased to now see them turned into concrete EU action.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Defence cooperation, for us, serves two purposes. First, the political aim of strengthening the EU as a security community: increasing solidarity and bringing the member states closer together through more binding commitments and deeper integration.

By strengthening cooperation we are sending a strong signal to our citizens and the outside world: The EU is standing together and shouldering responsibility. Today, this message is more important than ever.

Secondly, the practical purpose of making the best of scarce resources: cooperation simply makes financial sense. Essentially, the practical argument boils down to simple mathematics. Somebody has said smartly: It is the economy - Stupid!: The Commission has calculated the cost of “non-Europe” as something between 25 and 100 billion euros annually in inefficiencies, lack of competition and lack of economies of scale for defence industry and production. We as small countries would have additional benefit from cooperation since it enables access to capabilities that would otherwise be beyond our reach.

Going forward, it is important to be clear on what defence cooperation is and what it is not. It is not about collective defence. We are not turning the EU into a military alliance or creating a European army. This bears repeating, since misconceptions – and blatant misrepresentations – still persist.

The responsibility for national defence will remain firmly in the hands of the member states. But the EU has a wealth of tools to support strengthening national capability development, European defence industry and markets, and security of supply within Europe. Many of these tools are civilian in nature: funding for research, incentives for investments, facilitating cooperative networks, and legislation to ensure a level playing field for our industries.

The Finnish defence industry is relatively small and consists mainly of small and medium sized enterprises. The access of Finnish companies to European supply chains and the development of the internal market for defence are therefore key questions for us. The active role of the Commission in this field is very much in our interest.

Security of supply is particularly important for Finland due to our geographic location. Within the EU, our aim is to ensure quick and efficient arrangements for the delivery of critical items such as energy and defence material between member states also in emergency situations. Here, too, we have valued the support of the Commission.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

A few words on the concrete proposals on the table:

The work ahead is structured around three topics: the implementation of the Global Strategy, the Commission’s European Defence Action Plan, and the joint EU–NATO declaration adopted in Warsaw last year.

Under the Global Strategy, the main focus is on Permanent Structured Cooperation.

Much work remains to be done before the actual launch of PESCO can take place hopefully later this year or early next year. Finland has been actively involved in the preparatory work, with the clear aim of participating in the cooperation once launched.

We have put forward proposals for projects to be developed under PESCO, based on our national priorities, and are currently looking for partners with whom to take these forward. Our proposals include, among others, space cooperation, maritime defence, logistics forces and developing the EU’s cyber defence capability.

In our view, PESCO is a key element in taking forward EU defence cooperation – an important signal politically, and potentially of great practical value through concrete capability projects. Crucially, PESCO will be a concrete example of how multi-speed cooperation can be implemented in the defence sector. PESCO will be adopted jointly, but member states will be able to advance at different speeds, depending on the projects they decide to take part in.

This two-tier approach allows for combining the seemingly opposing aims of inclusiveness and ambition, and should ensure the flexibility needed to account for different national approaches and priorities. All member states that are willing to make the jointly agreed commitments should be able to take part in the cooperation, if they so decide.

The second topic: The Commission’s proposal on a European Defence Fund also has our full support. As part of the normalisation of defence policy, we have been advocating increased EU budget funding for the defence sector for quite some time. The first part of the fund, the pilot action for defence related research, is already well under way and we are actively involved. The proposed Defence Industrial Development Programme, aimed at supporting the development phase of capability cooperation, is also very welcome. Ensuring the access of SMEs to the programme is a key priority – duly recognised as such also at the European Council in June.

Finland is also ready to participate in the Coordinated Annual Review on Defence, to be launched as a pilot this coming autumn. In our view, CARD should be a flexible, practical tool for defence ministers to share information on national planning. By increasing transparency, CARD will also facilitate the identification of possible cooperation projects to be pursued under PESCO and/or the defence fund.

Creating a coherent narrative on these three topics is necessary for effective public communication. Acronyms – PESCO, CARD, EDF – do not make for good headlines. Instead, we need to be able to explain in layman’s terms what the aims of these initiatives are, and how they connect to each other.

While the main focus at the moment is on defence cooperation, we should not forget about the other two strategic priorities of the Global Strategy: managing crises and supporting partners.

In the current security situation, enhancing the effectiveness of EU crisis management – both civilian and military – is essential. More work is needed in developing our rapid response and civilian crisis management capabilities. In crisis management, too, we should sharpen the tools in our toolbox. Ireland and Finland have a long history in working together in crisis management and I hope this will continue also in the future.

Last but absolutely not least: EU–NATO cooperation. Here, too tremendous progress has been achieved over the past few months. Now it's important to maintain the positive momentum.

Within both EU and NATO, there is currently a very strong consensus in favour of expanding cooperation even further. The reasons for this are clear: our security is interconnected and together we can mobilize a broad range of tools to respond to the challenges we face.

Since last year, many concrete advances have been made – in hybrid, cyber, maritime security and in exercises, to name just a few topics – but perhaps even more important is the cultural change that has taken place: cooperation is fast becoming the normal way of working in both organisations. This is exactly what we should aim at – cooperation as the rule, not the exception.

From the perspective of the EU, strengthening EU–NATO cooperation is a key component of developing EU security and defence policy. A stronger EU is also in NATO’s interest, and an important contribution to transatlantic burden-sharing.

EU defence cooperation should be developed in close coordination with NATO, so as to maximise synergies and avoid duplication. This is important also for Finland as a NATO partner.

A stronger NATO and a stronger EU are mutually reinforcing. The different strengths and capabilities of the Union and the Alliance complement each other. A case in point is countering hybrid threats. Cooperation on hybrid is clearly a win-win. In this case it is the EU that has the broader range of tools at its disposal.

The European Centre of Excellence for countering Hybrid Threats established in Helsinki this summer is a concrete sign of cooperation. We look forward to working with EU and NATO, and EU and NATO countries, in the framework of the centre. As an independent actor outside formal EU and NATO structures the centre can open new avenues for cooperation on this important topic.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Coming back to the overall theme of my intervention, the future of Europe, finally a few remarks on the Commission’s reflection paper on European defence until 2025.

The reflection paper is one of five similar papers presented by the Commission as a follow-up to its White Paper on the future of Europe earlier this year. It is, as the name states, a reflection paper – the Commission does not put forward any proposals, but instead asks questions and presents ideas on possible future developments.

The starting premise is clear, and generally accepted: our security environment has changed, and the EU simply needs to do more in the area of defence.

The most important added value of the reflection paper is the long-term perspective it offers. It complements the practical work already under way to implement the various proposals on the table.

In the paper, the Commission outlines three scenarios for the potential future of EU defence in 2025. To put it simply, the first one shows us where the implementation of the initiatives already underway will lead us. The second is an estimation of the results that would be achieved should we decide to upgrade our cooperation a notch or two. Finally, the third scenario is an illustration of what the full utilisation of the potential of the Lisbon treaty could look like.

For the most part, the ideas presented are not new, and work is already underway to implement them. There are positive elements in all three scenarios, and much of what is described is already a part of our cooperation. In all scenarios, the importance of using EU tools more effectively is underlined. All emphasise the need for EU–NATO cooperation.

Most importantly, all three scenarios point to the same direction, towards closer cooperation. Only the pace of progress differs. This, in my view, reflects the reality we live in. And there is a broad consensus on the need to strengthen cooperation, but opinions vary on the speed that should be adopted.

From the Finnish perspective, even the second and the third scenario include many elements that we have actively promoted: investing in the protection of European citizens and territory, strengthening the EU as a security provider and a security community, emphasising solidarity and mutual assistance, etc.

As a whole, however, the third scenario is hypothetical: the possibility of common defence is of course foreseen in the Treaty, but so far the idea has not been seriously discussed at EU level.

All in all, the reflection paper is a welcome contribution to the ongoing debate. The best means to achieve progress however, are the concrete initiatives on the table: PESCO, CARD and the defence fund. In these, we should be ambitious, but pursue our goals in small, concrete steps. Cooperation, in our view, should be open and inclusive, but not based on the lowest common denominator.

For Finland, it is also clear that no Treaty amendments are needed, and none should be pursued. All the necessary reforms can be done within the existing legal framework. On defence cooperation, the treaties do not present any barriers – limits, where they exist, are political, and defined in member states’ capitals.

To conclude, a change of perspective: So far, I’ve talked mostly about what the EU, EU member states, and EU citizens need and deserve. This is a sign of the times, indeed. Yet in the current situation, a stronger EU is needed globally, too. More than in a long while, there is a need for a strong, credible, responsible multilateral actor, be it in trade, development or climate issues – or in security and defence, for that matter.

The ability of the EU to act more independently in security and defence will ensure that the EU can set its own strategic priorities and promote its own values and interests also in the future. In the EU, there is a clear understanding that there is more to security than military security, and we will act accordingly. Today’s security threats cannot be countered by military force alone, but a much broader toolbox, such as the EU’s, is needed.

We owe it not only to ourselves, but to our global partners, to keep our tools sharp and at the ready – the soft ones as well as the hard ones.

Timo Soini