Minister for Foreign Affairs, my dear Timo,
Ladies and gentlemen,
Kiitos paljon kutsusta. (Thank you for the invitation.)
I am very pleased that we have gathered here today to mark the 100th anniversary of the establishment of the
Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland:
From Sumatra to Northern Ireland and the Western Balkans to the South Caucasus and Namibia, Finnish mediators have made a significant contribution to a peaceful world.
And all of you, as diplomats, have shown the world time and again how to sustain the balance between large neighbours in the long term.
Finland has made this an essential instrument of the global foreign-policy toolbox – also thanks to Martti Ahtisaari, who received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2008 “for his important efforts, on several continents and over more than three decades, to resolve international conflicts”.
Ladies and gentlemen,
This year, we’re also marking the 100th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Finland and Germany.
However, Finns and Germans have enjoyed relations for far longer. For instance, a plaque in Wittenberg recalls the great Finnish Reformer Mikael Agricola, who was a student of Martin Luther’s.
Finland has become a key partner for Germany in political terms. We can rely on each other and are committed to the same values.
This is why I was very pleased to accept your invitation to this special event. Many thanks once again!
Today, we want to take a look together at the challenges for Europe in a changing world.
One thing has become very clear to me in the weeks since I took office – nothing works without a united European Union.
Only together can we continue to stand up on the global stage for our interests, values and goals.
A key question in this regard is: will we manage to preserve and strengthen the cohesion of the EU member states?
As a country at the heart of Europe, we have a strategic interest in a “large” and inclusive Europe.
For all Europeans, Europe remains our best hope to make our voices heard in the world and to stand up for our interests.
The European Union will be vital for all of the major issues of the future, such as migration, trade, climate and digital policy – and also in foreign and security policy.
It is crucial for Europe to remain united and not to allow itself to be divided on key issues. At the same time, we must improve our ability to act, shape policy and respond.
This is the only way to ensure that we have a strong and stable Union. A Union in which we Europeans are able to hold our own in a globally interconnected world with players such as China, India and Russia.
Cohesion is a question of overcoming the major divisions that have opened up in the European Union. Divisions between east and west, as well as between south and north.
East and west: We want to involve our eastern neighbours – especially Poland and the Visegrad states – to a greater extent.
For this, we need to balance interests on issues such as security, and also in migration and finance policy.
We must insist that they meet their obligations with respect to the foundations of Europe, such as the rule of law.
Now South and north: Our interest is similar here. We must be prepared to make painful compromises, but without overstepping our constitutional and financial limits.
If we fail to build bridges, then cohesion between the member states is at risk of eroding. And trust between the European Union and its citizens would be shaken.
This is why cohesion in Europe and reforming the Union are among the top priorities of this German Government.
To make the European voice even better heard in the world, four aspects are vital:
1) I want to strengthen the institutions that conduct the foreign policy of the European Union. Take, for example, the role of the High Representative: She needs a political mandate from the member states that gives her enough leeway.
For this, we – Germany and Finland –launched an initiative together with four other member states last year.
I want to build on this initiative, because we must also strengthen the Council’s ability to take decisions.
The legal options for doing so already exist in the Treaties. However, they need to be used. One example is that we can increase the use of constructive abstention. It would also be helpful to examine Jean-Claude Juncker’s proposal to employ the instrument of qualified majority voting in some areas of the Common Foreign and Security Policy.
2) To strengthen the European Union’s foreign policy role, we need an effective Common Security and Defence Policy.
The security environment has changed, and the European Union therefore must have civilian and military capabilities for independent crisis management.
With this in mind, we want to develop and deepen the CSDP, creating a European Security and Defence Union.
Last year, we took an important step in this direction by launching Permanent Structured Cooperation in the field of defence.
25 member states, including Finland, were part of this effort, and we are implementing the first projects right now.
3) One of the key European policy issues in the coming months will be the Financial Framework. The Commission recently presented its proposal. Our core objective is to reinforce the European Union’s ability to act.
To do this, the European Union must set the right priorities in its current budget.
It must focus expenditure more strongly on creating added value for Europe, and on tackling our common challenges.
Germany and Finland both agree that this includes better protection of the external borders, and more cooperation on defence policy.
The Commission’s proposal is an important first step. We must now do everything we can to achieve a good outcome as soon as possible.
If we succeed, then the new Financial Framework will be more than just a modern budget.
It will also strengthen cohesion throughout the Union. And that will benefit us all.
4) My fourth and last point: Another issue close to my heart is the rule of law. Fundamental principles like the rule of law and an independent justice sector are how the European Union operates.
They also play a key role for the European Union’s foreign policy and credibility.
We therefore must absolutely insist that these principles be observed.
Germany and Finland share this belief –because, for us, the European Union is also a community of values.
We must take a very close look wherever the rule of law may be coming under pressure. We must think about how we can strengthen and safeguard the rule of law in Europe. To do this, we need a positive agenda. The approach presented by the European Commission, that is, tying the rule of law to funding, is one possible option.
In my opinion, the risk of division would be greatest if we couldn’t even agree on what our common values are. This is the responsibility of all member states!
I think we must engage in a dialogue with our citizens about Europe. Those are exactly the issues I want to debate in the public square. I want to make the case for Europe. If nationalism and populism rise up and cause Europe’s citizens to lose faith in the Union, then this will threaten Europe in a fundamental way.
This is why Germany is working at European level to improve the European Citizens’ Initiative. I am happy that Finland is a part of these activities.
Ladies and gentlemen,
We will only be able to further develop the European Union if we can convince other member states to become our partners in this effort.
No single member state can reform Europe on its own. Even if France and Germany worked together, this couldn’t be achieved.
We will only succeed if all of Europe joins in. There is one Europe. We may be at the centre or not, large or small – but we are all are members of the same Union.
It’s like Paul‑Henri Spaak, former Belgian Prime Minister and one of our founding fathers said: “There are only two kinds of states in Europe: small states, and small states that have not yet realized they are small”.
Our two countries share a very similar understanding of European policy. In most areas, we pursue the same, or at least very similar, aims.
However, our two countries are not the only ones that have this view. Many of our direct neighbours feel the same. Based on these beliefs, we can together tackle the challenges that Europe faces today.