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Speech by Minister Valtonen at FIIA Forum 2024 20 March 2024

Ministry for Foreign Affairs
Publication date 21.3.2024 15.52

Speech by Minister for Foreign Affairs Elina Valtonen at the FIIA (Finnish Institute of International Affairs) Forum on 20 March 2024.

Ladies and Gentlemen, dear friends,

Jean Monnet stated in 1943 the following:

“The countries of Europe are not strong enough individually to be able to guarantee prosperity and social development for their peoples. The States of Europe must therefore form a federation or a European entity that would make them into a common economic unit.”

This was at a time when Europe was deeply involved in a World War, and his own country France was under occupation. But Monnet had the courage even in those circumstances to present a vision for the future, for peace and for European integration.

We must have the same courage to see beyond the carnage of present conflicts and beyond the deficiencies of our common European project.

In the European Union we tend to focus more on our problems and less on our undeniable successes. I think that when travelling in other continents we have all found great interest in the European model and recognition of the unique depth of integration that we have achieved.

For Finland, the European Union is the most important community of values as well as the most important home base politically and economically. Finland is an active, reliable and solution-oriented member of the European family.

Next June, in just three and a half months, citizens will take to the polls in the election of the European Parliament. Among them will be millions of first-time voters.

Unfortunately the significance of European decision-making has not been reflected in the voter turnout. In 2019 the overall turnout in Finland was 42,7 %. There was a slight increase from 2014, but the Finnish turnout was clearly below European average.

In June the European Council is planning to adopt the new EU strategic agenda, direction and goals of the Union for 2024-2029.

After that, we will see the new European Commission and its Work Programme.

The priorities of my Government in the discussion on the Strategic Agenda and on the Commission programme will be 1) Strengthening Europe's strategic competitiveness, 2) Improving comprehensive security in Europe, 3)  Promoting a clean transition and opportunities for the bioeconomy and circular economy.

Finland wants the EU to play big on big issues and small on small issues.

Responsible and sustainable management of public finances of the EU and its Member States is a starting point for making Europe more resilient.

We need a stronger, deeper and wider single market. There should be no room for nationalistic protectionism within the European continent and neither so within our transatlantic alliance. We need to focus on the competiveness of our market and make it the best place for any company - big or small - to start innovating and offering solutions.

While cherishing a transparent market economy and the consumer’s freedom to choose, we need to reduce our systemic dependencies on outside autocratic powers. We need to decentralise and diversify supply chains and focus on efficient risk management.

Parallel to strategic autonomy we need emphasis on strategic competitiveness. We cannot and will not become self-sufficient on everything. Instead, we need to focus on creating a flourishing business environment, attracting the best talent, achieving sustainable economic growth and aiming for technological advancement. We need more, not less, free trade agreements and special focus on economic partnerships with African countries.

Finland wants to see a globally strong and prospering European Union. The Union will be working with new and old partners around the world to promote our values and interests.

I am inspired and excited about promoting the EU’s Global Gateway concept, which gives a real stake for our partners to deepen cooperation with the European Union. My heartfelt thanks go to Commissioner Jutta Urpilainen, who has played a key role in making the Global Gateway a viable and concrete European initiative.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

On the Second Anniversary of Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine there was no shortage of eloquent statements of support to Ukraine and strong condemnations of Russian war of aggression.

This was absolutely right. Russia’s continuing war against Ukraine is the most serious and direct threat to European security. Unfortunately, we see Russia remain a strategic and existential threat for the long-term.

Now, what we urgently need more of is renewed action in supporting Ukraine and a credible long-term commitment.

Everyone wants the war to end. However, the way to end the war is not to give in to Russia’s imperialism but to fight it on Ukraine’s side. Russia has been waging war in Ukraine for 10 years. Turning a blind eye and stepping back will not appease but encourage further aggression. Russia has to be stopped.

We have to rapidly find agreement on the Ukraine Assistance Fund under the European Peace Facility. We also support swift conclusion of EU’s security commitments to Ukraine.

We also need to strengthen the capacity of the European defense industry, and ramp up ammunition production. This would strengthen Ukraine and our own defence. The aim should be to create a single market for defense materiel in the Union.

Nationally, we aim to significantly increase our ammunition production. Bilaterally Finland has provided 1,8 billion euros worth of defense material to Ukraine, and all assistance included, the total is around 2,5 billion euros. Finland’s support will continue.

Further, we need to keep containing Russia and keep up the sanctions pressure. I am truly glad that recently, the 13th sanctions’ package was adopted. There is still work to be done in widening the scope of sanctions and in increasing pressure on Russia. Furthermore, as EU Member States, we need to block remaining loopholes of effective implementation of sanctions and of prevention of circumvention.

Accountability is a condition for a just peace in Ukraine. Russia must be held accountable for its violations of international law, including reparations for the damage the war has wrought. We should also take further steps on using the revenues from immobilised Russian assets. 

Fortunately, there are also good news.

The European Council adopted the 50 billion euro Ukraine facility, which will provide to Ukraine regular and predictable financial support between now and 2027.

The Ukraine Defense Contact Group, the so called Ramstein group of 54 countries, continues its valuable coordination of sending military equipment.

The Ramstein group has a connection to NATO. NATO generates transatlantic political support to Ukraine and is running its own Comprehensive Assistance Package, which is designed to give practical support to Ukraine’s security and to help modernisation of Ukraine’s defence sector. Here again continuing good cooperation and dialogue between the European Union and NATO is of utmost importance.

Ukraine’s place is in the European Union and it has done remarkable work under extremely difficult circumstances. Eventually Ukraine’s EU membership and accession to NATO will complement each other.

So let me conclude with a few thoughts on EU enlargement.

Finland clearly sees its benefits to security and stability on our continent. At the same time the process needs to continue based on full completion of membership criteria, with rule of law reforms and a well-functioning market economy paving the way to the Union. This merit-based approach is ultimately in the interest of both the acceding countries and EU member states.

We strongly welcome the decisions to open accession negotiations with Ukraine and Moldova and to grant candidate status to Georgia. We must also make sure to support the countries of Western Balkans on their EU path. 

The EU must also internally prepare for the next enlargement. There is no contradiction between widening and deepening European integration.

Dear Friends,

Our goal is a safe, prosperous and competitive Europe.

Thank you.