Yes to ENP, a more qualified attitude towards enlargements

Because of geo­graph­i­cal prox­im­i­ty and his­tor­i­cal back­ground, Finns are always eager to dis­cuss issues relat­ed to Rus­sia and the case was even more so dur­ing and after ‘Geor­gia’. NATO is the oth­er inter­na­tion­al issue debat­ed inten­sive­ly on a reg­u­lar basis. More­over, Fin­land held the OSCE-Pres­i­den­cy in 2008, its own politi­cians were “out there” dur­ing the con­flict, and all these rea­sons height­ened inter­est in the issue. For­eign Min­is­ter Alexan­der Stubb, went as far as to call ‘Geor­gia’ as “one of the big turn­ing points of his­to­ry after the end of cold war”[1] – a state­ment that was slight­ly mod­i­fied lat­er in autumn.

European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP)

The impor­tance for there to be a neigh­bour­hood pol­i­cy was wide­ly acknowl­edged, as well as the need to devel­op it fur­ther. As one researcher point­ed out, “Fin­land has tak­en a strong inter­est in the Union’s sev­er­al neigh­bour­hood poli­cies, sup­port­ing their bal­anced enhance­ment in all direc­tions. When it comes to the East, Fin­land has sup­port­ed the ini­tia­tive for an East­ern Partnership.”[2] Even when the ENP was crit­i­cized, crit­ics were rarely against ENP. Hei­di Hau­ta­la, MP of the green par­lia­men­tary group, point­ed out that the cri­sis could have been avoid­ed, had the EU been coop­er­at­ing more inten­sive­ly with its East­ern neigh­bours, thus reduc­ing the need for Geor­gia to rely sole­ly on the US.[3]

Prime Min­is­ter Mat­ti Van­hanen con­clud­ed after the extra­or­di­nary sum­mit that “Fin­land has an unam­bigu­ous aim: it does not want the con­nec­tion between Rus­sia and the EU to be cut off”.[4] Along the same lines, Min­is­ter of Defence, Jyri Häkämies, said that faith in the sta­bil­is­ing effect of the eco­nom­ic coop­er­a­tion between the EU and Rus­sia remains, even if it has been seri­ous­ly tested.[5]

For­eign Min­is­ter Alexan­der Stubb not­ed that there is a need for two East­ern poli­cies: one towards Rus­sia and the oth­er towards Ukraine, Moldo­va, Belarus, South­ern Cau­ca­sus and Cen­tral Asia. The lat­ter group should not be treat­ed only as remains of the Sovi­et Union, because their polit­i­cal sta­bil­i­ty, democ­ra­cy, eco­nom­ic devel­op­ment and ener­gy issues are impor­tant for the EU.[6] The next chal­lenge for the Union is the cred­i­bil­i­ty of its East­ern pol­i­cy, which should “offer the East­ern Euro­pean coun­tries a sol­id direc­tion for devel­op­ment with­out for­get­ting the option of enlarge­ment”. The Geor­gian cri­sis has shown that the Union lacks a com­pre­hen­sive approach towards the South­ern Cau­ca­sus, Stubb said.[7]

In August, For­eign Min­is­ter Stubb gave an assign­ment to each Finnish ambas­sador to write a two-page analy­sis of the cur­rent inter­na­tion­al sit­u­a­tion. The news­pa­per, “Helsin­gin Sanomat”, received a third of these and sum­ma­rized them in an arti­cle. Accord­ing to the news­pa­per, the ambas­sadors were unan­i­mous in say­ing that Rus­sia has gained strength and new means to fur­ther its goals. Coop­er­a­tion with Rus­sia has changed, too: instead of being based on com­mon val­ues, it is now based on com­mon interests.[8]

On the aca­d­e­m­ic front, the role of the EU was seen as very cen­tral. Tom­mi Koivu­la, senior researcher at the strat­e­gy depart­ment of the Nation­al Defence Uni­ver­si­ty, remind­ed that the sharp­en­ing of Rus­sia-pol­i­tics would be of great ben­e­fit, espe­cial­ly to the small mem­ber states.[9]

Markku Kivi­nen, direc­tor of the “Alek­san­teri Insti­tute”, the “Finnish Cen­tre for Russ­ian and East­ern Euro­pean Stud­ies” with­in Helsin­ki Uni­ver­si­ty, said that the EU should base its pol­i­cy on the secu­ri­ty of the “every­day” and by that show to the Rus­sians that there is no need to try to estab­lish order by means of pow­er polit­i­cal huff­ing and puff­ing. Mart­ti Kosken­nie­mi, acad­e­my pro­fes­sor and inter­na­tion­al lawyer, rec­om­mend­ed ‘fin­ladi­s­a­tion’ to Geor­gia: it has to get its rela­tions with Rus­sia into work­ing order. He also had a mes­sage to the EU: “As its first step, the Union should with­draw its Baltic rep­re­sen­ta­tives from nego­ti­a­tions with Geor­gia. I believe that they gave Saakašvili the impres­sion that he can do anything.”[10] Arkady Mosh­es, direc­tor of the Rus­sia pro­gramme at the FIIA, was more pes­simistic. He empha­sised that even though the sit­u­a­tion was in no way com­pa­ra­ble to the Cold War, the dis­tance between the EU and Rus­sia had grown: “we are even fur­ther from gen­uine part­ner­ship than before. The last remains of mutu­al trust burned in the flames of Tskhin­vali and Gori. The next thing to col­lapse may well be the coop­er­a­tion between the gov­ern­ments on the lev­el of officials.”[11]

Enlargement

Short­ly after the cri­sis, Min­is­ter Stubb stressed how the cri­sis high­light­ed the fact that the EU’s East­ern enlarge­ment had been the right deci­sion: “Where would we be now if the Baltic coun­tries had been out­side the inte­gra­tion frame­work?” This applies equal­ly to the enlarge­ment of NATO, he said.[12] Of future EU enlarge­ments, he said that enlarge­ment is very much both the EU’s present and future. He stressed that the union should keep the door open to all Euro­pean coun­tries: “The rules are sim­ple. The appli­cant has to fill all the con­di­tions for mem­ber­ship and the EU has to keep its promis­es”. All appli­cants must be treat­ed equally.[13] The for­eign min­is­ter was sup­port­ed by his ambas­sadors – if men­tioned, EU enlarge­ment was main­ly sup­port­ed in their analy­ses. Nobody sug­gest­ed that Geor­gia should become a member.[14]

How­ev­er, there were also more scep­ti­cal voic­es. Accord­ing to the analy­sis of Markku Kivi­nen, Rus­sia has now shown unam­bigu­ous­ly, for the first time, that it “has had enough”. This affects the Ukran­ian ambi­tions to become an EU member.[15] His­ki Haukkala, researcher, con­clud­ed that Fin­land has not exclud­ed the enlarge­ment of the Union entire­ly in the East, but has repeat­ed­ly stressed that the open nature of EU mem­ber­ship should be pre­served also in the future.[16]

As His­ki Haukkala points out, because Fin­land is not a mem­ber of NATO, the issue of extend­ing the alliance’s mem­ber­ship in the East has not real­ly sur­faced in the coun­try. On the lev­el of prin­ci­ple, Fin­land does how­ev­er view that all coun­tries should freely be allowed to choose their own for­eign and secu­ri­ty poli­cies, includ­ing pos­si­ble mil­i­tary alliances.[17] The few instances when the ques­tion was han­dled were main­ly by aca­d­e­mics, with, for exam­ple, Mart­ti Kosken­nie­mi point­ing out that “all talk about the Geor­gian NATO mem­ber­ship should cease. Old NATO mem­bers are at risk of becom­ing pris­on­ers of these unsta­ble countries.”[18]

Finland and NATO

In addi­tion to the more gen­er­al dis­cus­sion about the enlarge­ment of NATO and the EU, the cri­sis gave fuel to the dis­cus­sion about Finland’s own secu­ri­ty and whether the coun­try should join NATO. Posi­tions remained large­ly what they had been before the crisis,[19] with the prime min­is­ter, pres­i­dent, and the largest oppo­si­tion par­ty, the Social Democ­rats, being against NATO mem­ber­ship, and the right-from-cen­tre Nation­al Coali­tion Par­ty sup­port­ing it.[20] Fol­low­ing the cri­sis in Geor­gia, For­eign Min­is­ter Alexan­der Stubb (Nation­al Coali­tion Par­ty) reit­er­at­ed his posi­tion that Fin­land should apply for NATO mem­ber­ship. How­ev­er, he qual­i­fied the state­ment by say­ing that “this is not the moment for deci­sions. Due to the Geor­gian cri­sis the issue has been moved low­er in the pri­or­i­ty list.”[21]

A slight change was seen in the cit­i­zens’ posi­tion: accord­ing to a sur­vey by the Advi­so­ry Board for Defence Infor­ma­tion (ABDI), uncer­tain­ty about Finland’s NATO-mem­ber­ship has increased.[22]

 

 

 

[1] Alexan­der Stubb, Min­is­ter for For­eign Affairs: Open­ing speech at the Annu­al Meet­ing of Heads of Mis­sions, 25 August 2008, avail­able at:http://www.formin.fi/public/default.aspx?contentid=135322&nodeid=15149&contentlan=2&culture=en-US (last access: 27 Jan­u­ary 2009).
[2] His­ki Haukkala, spe­cial advis­er at the Min­istry for For­eign Affairs of Fin­land, per­son­al inter­view, 10 Decem­ber 2008.
[3] Hei­di Hau­ta­la, MP: Com­ment at FIIA sem­i­nar ”After­math of the Sum­mit”, 15 Decem­ber 2008.
[4] ”Van­hanen EU:n Venäjä-päätök­ses­tä: Halut­ti­in tehdä selväk­si, että unioni on tosis­saan”, Suomen kuvale­hi (web edi­tion), 1 Sep­tem­ber 2008, avail­able at: http://www.suomenkuvalehti.fi/etusivu/uutiset-ja-politiikka/ulkomaat/vanhanen-eun-venaja.aspx (last access: 27 Jan­u­ary 2009).
[5] Jyri Häkämies, Min­is­ter of Defence: Speech at the open­ing cer­e­mo­ny of the Nation­al Defence Course, 22 Sep­tem­ber 2008, avail­able at: http://www.defmin.fi/?661_m=3835&s=270 (last access: 25 Jan­u­ary 2009).
[6] ”Alexan­der Stubb, Min­is­ter for For­eign Affairs: EU tarvit­see kak­si idän­poli­ti­ikkaa”, in: Ulkopoli­ti­ik­ka 4/2008.
[7] Alexan­der Stubb, Min­is­ter for For­eign Affairs: Open­ing speech at the Annu­al Meet­ing of Heads of Mis­sions, 25 August 2008, avail­able at: http://www.formin.fi/public/default.aspx?contentid=135322&nodeid=15149&contentlan=2&culture=en-US (last access: 27 Jan­u­ary 2009).
[8] ”Diplo­maat­tien tun­nus­tuk­set”, Helsin­gin sanomat, 5 Octo­ber 2008.
[9] ”EU:n heikkous näkyi Geor­gias­sa”, Helsin­gin Sanomat, 25 August 2008.
[10] ”Ahti­saari: Kaukasian tilan­net­ta ja Kosovoa ei voi rin­nas­taa, kuten Venäjä väit­tää”, Suomen kuvale­hti, 5 Sep­tem­ber 2008.
[11] ”Kylmän sodan asen­teet eivät päde”, Helsin­gin Sanomat, 2 Sep­tem­ber 2008.
[12] Alexan­der Stubb, Min­is­ter for For­eign Affairs: Open­ing speech at the Annu­al Meet­ing of Heads of Mis­sions, 25 August 2008, avail­able at: http://www.formin.fi/public/default.aspx?contentid=135322&nodeid=15149&contentlan=2&culture=en-US (last access: 27 Jan­u­ary 2009).
[13] ”EU:n on laa­jen­nut­ta­va johdon­mukaisel­la poli­ti­ikalla”, Helsin­gin Sanomat, 8 Novem­ber 2008.
[14] ”Diplo­maat­tien tun­nus­tuk­set”, Helsin­gin sanomat, 5 Octo­ber 2008.
[15] ”Ahti­saari: Kaukasian tilan­net­ta ja Kosovoa ei voi rin­nas­taa, kuten Venäjä väit­tää”, Suomen kuvale­hti, 5 Sep­tem­ber 2008.
[16] His­ki Haukkala, spe­cial advis­er at the Min­istry for For­eign Affairs of Fin­land, per­son­al inter­view, 10 Decem­ber 2008.
[17] His­ki Haukkala, per­son­al inter­view, 10 Decem­ber 2008.
[18] ”Ahti­saari: Kaukasian tilan­net­ta ja Kosovoa ei voi rin­nas­taa, kuten Venäjä väit­tää”, Suomen kuvaleti, 5 Sep­tem­ber 2008.
[19] The offi­cial posi­tion remained fair­ly unmoved too, which was con­firmed in the defence white paper. See ”Suomen tur­val­lisu­us- ja puo­lus­tus­poli­ti­ik­ka 2009”, 23 Jan­u­ary 2009, avail­able at: http://www.valtioneuvosto.fi/tiedostot/julkinen/pdf/2009/turvallisuus-ja-puolustuspoliittinen-selonteko/selonteko.pdf (last access: 29 Jan­u­ary 2009).
[20] ”Lin­ja hukas­sa”, Suomen Kuvale­hti, 5 Sep­tem­ber 2008; Jut­ta Urpi­lainen, leader of the Social Democ­rats: Speech at a meet­ing of the Social Demo­c­rat MP’s, 2/3 Sep­tem­ber 2008, avail­able at: http://www.sdp.fi/fi/ajankohtaista/puheet/?a=viewItem&itemid=1116 (last access: 25 Jan­u­ary 2009).
[21] ”Alexan­der Stubb: Geor­gia lykkäsi Nato-fan­ta­sioi­ta”, Helsin­gin Sanomat, 18 Sep­tem­ber 2008.
[22] ”Suo­ma­lais­ten mielip­iteitä ulko- ja tur­val­lisu­us­poli­ti­ikas­ta, maan­puo­lus­tuk­ses­ta ja tur­val­lisu­ud­es­ta 2008”, opin­ion poll by the Finnish Min­istry of Defence, 2 Decem­ber 2008, avail­able at: http://www.defmin.fi/files/1320/raportti_08_nettiversiosuomi.pdf (last access: 25 Jan­u­ary 2009). Accord­ing to the sur­vey, com­pared to the year 2007, the amount of Finns hav­ing a neg­a­tive stake on Finland’s NATO-mem­ber­ship has clear­ly decreased, the num­ber of uncer­tain ones has increased and the num­ber of those who have a pos­i­tive view of Finland’s NATO-mem­ber­ship has slight­ly increased. At the moment, 60 per­cent of the cit­i­zens are against the NATO-membership.