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Speech by Minister for European Affairs and Ownership Steering Tytti Tuppurainen at the 'Les Rencontres Économiques' event on 8 July 2022

Government Communications Department
Publication date 8.7.2022 15.52
Minister Tuppurainen having a speech in an event

With the return of war on our continent, how can we respond to the threats to peace within the Union and what role can Europeans play in the face of the disorders in the world?

As we follow Russia waging war in Ukraine, we must recognise our habit to avoid harsh truths. There always seems to be hope over experience. We did not take it seriously when President Putin declared, in 2005, that the breakup of Soviet Union was the greatest geopolitical catastrophe in the 20th century. We did not pay attention to war in Georgia, the annexation of Crimea, or warfare in Eastern Ukraine. 

It is still hard to accept that the liberal world order is seriously challenged: that there are great powers that do not accept a system of relatively free trade, respect for human rights and peaceful co-operation between states. It is especially hard for us Europeans, because the European Union, as a European peace experiment, is such a sharp contrast to preceding period of wars and totalitarianism.

History does not repeat itself, but it has long-term development paths. Sometimes today’s state of affairs can be seen as a deviation from these long-term developments. And if tyranny and war have been part of European history, so perhaps the past decades of peace and democracy have been an exception. And perhaps a new cold war is the best we can expect.

However, history lessons should inspire us, instead of scaring us to defeatism. The period of cold war is usually seen as frightening time. No one wishes its return. Yet, we could and should draw some lessons from that period. 

Above all, there was a degree of stability. There were guardrails that were not broken or threatened. For example, there was no loose talk about using battlefield nuclear weapons. Instead, a number of nuclear arms reduction agreements after another was made. 

Finding a new stability requires the European Union and its citizens to accept that today’s tensions will last for a long time. The Zeitenwende translates as a new era. Year 2023 will not see return to normal in economic and political transactions between European Union and Russia. And quick fixes for economic hardships are not available. Yes, energy is expensive. And, no, we cannot go on subsidising energy use for years.

Moreover, we have to recognise an ideological component in the confrontation between EU and authoritarian world powers. This is not 18th century Europe with more or less similar monarchies fighting over regime successions. 

While today the capitalism as an economic system is not fundamentally challenged, there are major differences within that system. Economist Branko Milanovic has defined two variants of capitalism. One is the liberal kind, the one that respects the rule of law, draws a line between political power form and economic decision making in order to diminish corruption. It accepts free trade at least as an ideal. The other is political capitalism, where the political elites also dominate the economy. In that system, the capital may be privately owned, but that ownership may be taken away anytime without any due process. In that system the concept of grand corruption has no meaning: the men in high offices are expected to enjoy unlimited economic benefits.

These two different capitalisms produce two different political systems. The liberal capitalism is based on political competition. The political capitalism sees such competition as harmful. The liberal capitalism enhances liberal values. The political capitalism sees citizens as part of nation-state and expects them to conform to national values.

Recognising these ideological differences means that we have to take the liberal values of our system seriously. The rule of law cannot be compromised, not in any situation. Upholding human rights must be part of our policies, both domestically and internationally. 

While the war in Ukraine has frightened us Europeans, there are billions of people who see it as a war like any other. We do not have to loudly repent our past sins in Africa or in Asia. But we do have to keep in mind that upholding respect for universal human rights mean that we see these rights truly universal.