Mr. Chairman, Distinguished participants, Ladies and Gentlemen
For the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland it has been an honour to host this important event, the closing session of a series of 7 seminars, here in Helsinki. The theme of this continuum of seminars has been very challenging : constructing a global vision for the EU and for it’s future external relations. The previous sessions have concentrated on different regional aspects, and during these two innovative days the findings have been summarized. In today’s seminar we have also focused on a theme especially current and important in the view of a future Union – the neighbourhood of the EU.
In this last session, the spectrum of the discussions has been very wide, dealing with questions such as the adaptation of the international diplomatic system to 21-st century challenges. Without a doubt we could say, that there seems to be emerging a clear vision of a coherent Union, with a strong global role. There also seems to be an explicit need for this, in a world built of mutual interdependencies and of complexities too. The challenges of today call for unified action – and I would like to argue that the Union truly has taken a more prominent role as an international player.
The European Union is an increasingly important global actor. This is already very evident when considering Union’s role in trade policy or development cooperation. The combined Gross National Product of Member States amounts to a fourth of the world’s total Gross National Product. The Union’s weight in trade policy is decisively large, as the EU holds a third of the world trade. The EU accounts for about a half of all world’s development aid. The Union has also been a pioneer in developing international environmental policy and promoting sustainable development. The union inter alia has played a significant role in consolidation of international law, and markedly effected to such important projects as the International Court of Justice.
As regards Union’s external policies, the development of the Common Foreign and Security Policy has been very rapid in the last ten years, especially in the area of security and defence. The new Constitutional Treaty will bring new stronger elements into this, making the CFSP even more coherent and coordinated. Also, the EU’s Security Strategy, adopted last year by the Council, sets guidelines for the future EU external action.
The new Treaty is clearly a step forward. The Union will became stronger, more effective and more democratic. The Constitutional Treaty will make the Union more understandable. A single Treaty will replace the current collection of treaties, which is complicated and non-coherent. This will definitely increase the Union’s legitimacy.
The Treaty will also strengthen the EU’s role in international relations. For example, in the future the Union Minister for Foreign Affairs will coordinate the different sectors of the Union’s external relations, which will bring more coherence to Union’s external action.
In addition, the clearer definition of shared values and the progress made in the field of the EU’s security and defence policy will enhance solidarity between the Member States. This will give the EU added credibility as a global actor. And this process we wish to reinforce, as visioned during this series of seminars.
The Neighbourhood of the EU
As part of the emerging global vision for the Union, I wish to remind us all of the importance of the relations to our close neighbours. The enlargement process of the EU has brought new countries closer to us, diminishing the distance between different regions. This association demonstrates clearly how the internal developments and changes of the Union have their effects to the surrounding environment, changing our viewpoints as well. The enlargement in itself has further strenghtened democracy, stability and prosperity on our continent. The advantages of the very process have been clear, and consequently the prospect of EU membership has contributed greatly to political stability and economic progress in acceding countries. The enlargement has been and remains a high priority for the Finnish government.
As a recent development, the Union is also about to adopt a new neighbourhood policy, which is a clear step towards more comprehensive relations with the neighbouring countries of the South and East. This new policy will cover as well political and economical aspects as justice and home affairs, to mention a few.
This policy emphasizes the principle of joint ownership and underlines the common understanding of the Union and the individual countries of the need for cooperation. However, this new policy does not exclude individual diffrentiation, but allows room for each country to proceed on the basis of their needs and capasity.
The outcome of the new neighbourhood policy can be visionalized as a circle of countries (in the South and East), who share the same values and objectives as the EU and see the benefits of the closer cooperation and are attracted to this cooperation. In this vision we can also see increased stability, security and well being, benefitting all partners equally. This same vision of stability we see, when we picture the role for the Union in the future : a coherent actor, with a strong global role.
Mr. Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen,
We have seen this event in Helsinki as a valuable opportunity to discuss important themes, aims and methods with a group of experts specialized in external affairs, in formulating a future vision for the EU. The findings of this seminar continue to be an important basis for the future discussions, giving building blocks for the future. This last session, taking place here in Helsinki, has finalized the process of one year, but only to begin a new one. The process will continue in year 2005 by taking this process to each region, envisaged in 2003 and 2004, extending the viewpoints of these discussions. The findings of these seminars will also be distributed to a wider audience, also legitimizing these important conversations.
I would like to thank Europe 2020 for bringing this seminar to Helsinki, and setting a stage for an innovative debate. This session has been essential in contributing to the shaping of a vision for a future Europe and it’s external relations. Even though the Union has gained a stronger and more effective global role, visioning is clearly still needed. The final goal remains the same : an unified and coherent Union becoming an even stronger player in a globalising world.
Thank you. Mr Jaakko Laajava, Under-Secretary of State, Finland