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Speech by Minister Anders Adlercreutz at the Finnish Institute of International Affairs on 20 March 2024

Prime Minister's Office
Publication date 21.3.2024 10.34

Minister for European Affairs and Ownership Steering Anders Adlercreutz spoke at the Finnish Institute of International Affairs Forum in Helsinki on 20 March 2024

It is good to be here at the FIIA Forum to address the very important topic of EU enlargement. Thanks to the Finnish Institute of International Affairs for organising this event. You have been able to time this seminar perfectly, of course, as we are right in the middle of a process that will hopefully lead to a larger European Union. But we are obviously still very far from the actual enlargement.

The reason we are where we are, also when it comes to EU enlargement, can be summarised in two words: 

Vladimir Putin. 

He is also the reason Finland and Sweden are members of NATO today. Our NATO membership has been a long-time goal of my political party, and of our sister parties in Sweden, but obviously the reason this became a reality – the war – is awful, and takes away some of the fanfare of this political victory. 

Russia’s brutal war of aggression against Ukraine is still going on today, as we speak. In its third year. It is our duty, and it has to be our highest priority, to make sure Ukraine prevails in this war. 

Russia cannot get anything that even resembles a victory in this war, as that would set a precedent that is not only immoral and wrong, but also very dangerous for Europe and beyond. 

In this fight, we also have to be honest and acknowledge that we, as individual countries, have to do better. Finland is preparing its 23rd aid package to Ukraine: the total sum of aid is more than 1.8 billion euros as of today.

If all European countries had contributed on the same level, counted as a percentage of GDP, as the Nordic and Baltic countries have, Ukraine would already have received 70 billion more in much-needed aid.

We obviously cannot say for sure what kind of effect that would have had, but it is fairly clear that it would have made a huge difference.

I just got back, late last night in fact, from the General Affairs Council in Brussels. Yesterday, too, I made these same points, as I have done from the day I was appointed to this position. We have to step up and do better. 

There has been a lot of talk, but in many countries, we have seen a lack of action, and that simply has to change. We need arms production to reflect the reality of the situation. Our defence companies need orders so they can invest. The governments of Europe have to step up their game. Many have, Finland has, but everyone needs to follow.

The situation in Ukraine is terrible of course, but all countries between the EU and Russia are living under different kinds of constant harassment. The zone between the free West, the European Union countries, and the brutal dictatorship of Russia has become an unpredictable zone of harassment. Countries like Moldova, like Georgia, like Serbia, like the Western Balkans see various kinds of interference daily. In some cases, straight up hybrid warfare, as in Moldova, in some cases a straight up military presence on their soil, as in Georgia. But in all cases, it is a level of interference that is just not acceptable. 

And the only solution that we directly can facilitate is EU membership.

And this process is ongoing. We receive regular reports on the progress made in the countries that want, and that need to join the EU. Things have moved remarkably well in Ukraine, not least of all considering the fact that Russia is shelling and bombing them indiscriminately every day. The path forward is clear, and steps are being taken forward in a merit-based system. We have to make sure the process is fair and transparent, and that the progress made is judged equally for all. I am fully aware that there will be, and that there has been criticism regarding this. Actually, I think that it is unfortunately inevitable that countries will complain about how other countries are treated in the process. It shouldn’t be like that, of course, but in a complicated political process, and a landscape with many moving parts, this is what happens. 

This should obviously not discourage us from moving ahead and making sure there is as little reason to complain as possible. “Merit-based” means just that. As issues are being solved and things move forward, there are rewards for this on the path to full membership.

In December, the Council decided to open accession talks with Ukraine and Moldova and granted candidate status to Georgia. The other EU candidate countries are, as you know, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia and Türkiye. Clearly these countries are in very different stages on their way to membership. Will they all get there? Time will tell. The journey can and should be a goal of its own, though. Step by step, we are moving closer to each other through the process that is laid out. Ideally that is. We can do our part, and make sure progress is not lacking because of actions our governments take. So I choose to remain hopeful, there is a European path that leads you where you want to go, and that leads to peace and freedom. 

Europe Whole and Free.

It can happen. Thank you.