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Speech by the Minister for Foreign Affairs Elina Valtonen at the Europe Forum

Ministry for Foreign Affairs
Publication date 1.9.2023 13.42
Speech

Turku 1.9.2023 “Politics of the Zeitenwende: The Baltic Sea, Europe and the Transatlantic Alliance”

Honoured Friends of Europe and European affairs, ladies and gentlemen,

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has profoundly changed the security landscape in Europe. Russia targets not only Ukraine but also the entire European security order. By attacking its independent, democratic neighbour, Russia is blatantly breaching the UN Charter and international law.

For the world, Russia’s invasion has truly marked a Zeitenwende. A paradigm shift in both thoughts and action - most pronounced for us in the immediate vicinity and throughout the transatlantic community. Its effect is felt in the Indo-Pacific and in the global South - not least due to the fact that Russia has actively started to weaponize food by exiting the Black Sea Grain agreement. The devastating consequences are felt everywhere.

The Zeitenwende marks a realisation that Europe has to strategically invest into its own defence and break with unhealthy links to the Russian economy, while providing strong multi-level support to Ukraine who is fighting for its own freedom but also for that of the rest of us. The Zeitenwende also underscores the significance of Europe’s long-term strategic competitiveness for the prevalence of our shared values, in geopolitics, economy and tech.

We Finns have for many years maintained and developed our defense capabilities and resilience. Our government priority is to support Ukraine for as long as it’s needed. Ukraine’s future is in the European Union and in NATO.

The European Union is Finland’s most important frame of reference and the channel of influence. Finland's priority is to strengthen the EU's global role and deepen its security and defence dimension.

Russia’s war of aggression has made the roles of NATO and the EU more clear and concrete with respect to European foreign and security policy. NATO is responsible for European military defence through its command structure, collective defence planning and nuclear deterrence.

Finland supports deepening European defence cooperation, not as a substitute but as a complement to NATO, including through the objectives of the Strategic Compass. Important areas for cooperation include the defence industry and its product development, military mobility, hybrid and cyber capabilities, and common rapid reaction forces.

The implementation of the Strategic Compass has already progressed in a number of areas. These include establishing EU strategies for space and cyber security; compiling EU’s hybrid toolkit; and updating the EU’s plan for better mobility of troops and defence capabilities within the EU. EU has also established new crisis management missions.

Finland calls for decisive and swift action to strengthen the European defence industry and its output as well as cooperation in defence investment. Finland’s objective is to create a single market for defence materiel in the Union.

We promote a common European policy on arms exports, the EU’s common defence procurement, and increased funding for research and development related to future defence technologies. Finland further supports the inclusion of the EU defence industry in the taxonomy of sustainable financing.

In addition to hard military capabilities, we will need to make sure that our logistics, warehouses and supply chains meet the requirements of the current security environment.

The EU has shown considerable unity in imposing massive and unprecedented sanctions against Russia, and in mobilizing significant military support for Ukraine. By now, the EU has provided over 3.6 billion euros in military equipment support to Ukraine through the European Peace Facility (EPF). The EU will also provide training for thirty-thousand Ukrainian soldiers this year.

Finland has always been a strong promoter of EU-NATO cooperation and will do so also in the future. Areas of cooperation include resilience and the protection of critical infrastructure, emerging and disruptive technologies, space, the security implications of climate change; and foreign information manipulation and interference.

The present and the future of the European security architecture build on a strong Euro-Atlantic bond. The cornerstone of the transatlantic link is NATO. A strong and united NATO is in Finland’s core interest. 

Finland’s NATO membership significantly strengthens the security of the Baltic Sea region, that of Europe and of NATO as a whole. Yet, the picture is not complete without Sweden. The planning of NATO’s collective defence in the Baltic Sea region and Northern Europe is possible to the fullest only with Sweden becoming a member, too. We will make our utmost to ensure Sweden’s accession to NATO as soon as possible.

It is also essential for Finland that NATO further strengthens its deterrence and defence. Finland will lead by example. This year, we spend 2.4 % of our GDP in defence, well above the NATO floor. In due course, decisions will be made regarding Finnish contributions to peacetime operations.

The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) has traditionally played a significant role in the European security architecture bringing together non-like-minded countries to discuss and to cooperate on security related issues. Starting from the Helsinki Final Act, there has been a dialogue to search for understanding and building trust among the 57 participating states.

OSCE’s motto goes “from Vancouver to Vladivostok”. The organization is based on a dialogue between the “east” and the “west”. This is the specific character of the organization. The OSCE is also a transatlantic security organization.

With Russia shamelessly violating UN charter and all OSCE’s core principles, the organization, that is based on consensus-principle, is now facing the biggest challenge in its history. The traditional architecture for European security has been severely broken. 

Even if the OSCE was not able to prevent the invasion of Ukraine by Russia, it may still be useful in the post-conflict solution. The European security landscape certainly looks dramatically different from what  it did when Finland committed to take up the OSCE chairpersonship in 2025.

As a chair, Finland aims to pursue to preserve the OSCE as a platform for discussion on security and cooperation in Europe. Finland stands ready, should there be room for dialogue and negotiation in the future. Diplomacy and dialogue is needed. Russia should end its senseless war.

In addition, we should not forget the wide variety of OSCE work across the OSCE region, be it in Moldova, in Western Balkans, or in Central Asia. OSCE’s work for democracy, such as election monitoring, or its work to promote human rights are all crucial for stability.

Ladies and gentlemen,

International cooperation, dialogue and commitment to a rules-based European security order is key to long-term stability and security in Europe. Finland will do its utmost to pursue this. 

 

Thank you.