President of the Republic Sauli Niinistö delivered a foreign policy address to the heads of Finland’s diplomatic missions abroad who were in Helsinki for the annual Ambassador Seminar in late August.
“How do I view Finland’s position? What are our objectives in our neighbouring regions? How should we view the present European crisis? And how should we promote our interests at the global level?” These were some of the questions that President Niinistö addressed in his speech.
“Solving the world’s problems has proved even more difficult than expected,” President Niinistö said. Security threats are ever more apparent, and the importance of the economy is continuing to increase. At the same time, natural resources are becoming scarcer. “We are eating beyond our means, with no guarantees that we will earn enough tomorrow to fill the gap. Not everyone will.”
He stressed that while interdependence in the world has increased, there is also a void in leadership. The borderlines of the new multipolar world system are not yet properly established, and existing platforms of multilateral cooperation do not match the increasing new threats.
President Niinistö stressed the key role and importance of the Nordic countries, Baltic countries and Russia to Finland. Not just the Baltic Sea but also the Arctic region is important to Finland, both from an economic and environmental point of view.
“Joining the European Union nearly 18 years ago was an irrevocable choice for Finland, and it was the right choice,” the President pointed out. Finland has sought sustainable results by following common EU rules. The EU is currently faced with a structural crisis in which it is not at all clear how the European standard of living and way of life can be preserved. “One thing is certain,” he said: “the international position of Europe will not be the same again.”
The best way for EU countries to exert an influence on global politics is for them to work closely together. Mutual trust among the Member States must be restored and cooperation enhanced in the areas of security and defence policy.
In this process, the President continued, “we cannot afford to flex our muscles arrogantly, any more than we can afford to allow others to walk over us.” It’s important that we continue to keep our own house in good order, and require the same from others. “The development of the European Union needs to be sustainable from the perspective of morals and democracy.”
“We must find new ways of promoting Finland, not only in terms of exports but also as an attractive investment target as well as a valuable partner,” the President explained. He reminded that with the continued ageing of the population, Finland is now faced with a new kind of reconstruction project.
“Those who retreat into their shells will not succeed in the newly shaping international environment”, he said, drawing attention to the importance of bearing global responsibility rather than just promoting Finland’s own interests.
“We must not limit our focus to neighbouring regions or Europe.” Instead we must stay close to the global centres of power, the United States and emerging powers and be sensitive to new opportunities for cooperation.
Indeed Finland has now taken action towards bringing about a conference on a WMD-free zone in the Middle East, and is also applying for non-permanent membership of the UN Security Council for the next two-year term. “The UN Security Council is an excellent arena for bearing responsibility and finding solutions,” he observed. The campaign itself, he continued, had contributed to strengthen Finland’s international connections.
The President of the Republic reminded that a functional society of highly-educated individuals and balanced public finances ultimately determine Finland’s international position.
“Our values – justice, sustainable development, democracy, human rights and the rule of law – are stable and recognised. We are known as peacekeepers and mediators, and for our development cooperation efforts.”
Finland could become a superpower of functional everyday life, President Niinistö said in his speech at the Ambassador Seminar. Indeed everything starts from taking care of ourselves: “It is only through welfare that Finland can take strong responsibility for the world.”