Foreign Minister Stubb’s Ten Theses on Europe
Seminar “Vision for Finland’s EU Policy in the 2010s”
2 February 2009, Finlandia Hall, Helsinki
Minister for Foreign Affairs of Finland Alexander Stubb
Outline of the speech for discussion of “The Internal Strength and Efficiency of the Union”
Check against delivery
The internal strength and efficiency of the Union is a fitting heading. In my view, it condenses the basic aim of Finland’s EU policy well. In my presentation, however, I will try first to specify what this aim means in practice. I will then present ten theses on implementation of the aim in the European Union’s internal and external activities. Finally, I will present some general observations on the trend of our EU policy.
• The most important event in Finland’s recent history was accession to membership of the European Union. Membership of the EU has become a cornerstone of Finland’s identity. Finns have a healthy, critical attitude towards the EU, but not many support secession from the Union. In this sense, too, we have become very European — we criticise the EU because we expect so much from it. The European Union is so important to Finland that there is every reason to keep an eye on it constantly.
• Strengthening of the European Union can mean many things. It is therefore important to define in what sense one wants to strengthen the Union. The most essential is to keep the powers of the EU and the use of those powers separate. I think that most of us want to concentrate on more effective use of the Union’s current powers. It makes no sense to increase the powers of the European Union if its current powers cannot be used fully. Thus we are probably more or less in agreement that the most important is to strengthen the operational capacity of the Union, not its powers. This was precisely the aim of the Lisbon Treaty, which was ratified in Finland with a broad political consensus.
• Division between the Union’s external and internal operational capacity is a thin line. The Union has only one institutional system, which it uses to handle both external and internal affairs. The aims and values recorded in treaties concern both external and internal activities. Finland should be in the forefront that strives to strengthen the Union’s operational capacity across the board. The European Union should effectively exercise all the powers granted to it. That is the best way to serve the Union’s citizens. I will now present ten ways in which this can be achieved. Following the structure of this seminar, I will first deal with the Union’s internal activities and then with its external activities.
The Union’s internal activities have been developed in many stages and for many purposes. An area of freedom, justice and security has been built up around the internal market. The Union’s internal operational capacity, however, cannot be considered anything near satisfactory. I will now present goals for reform concerning the EU’s energy and climate policy, economic policy, use of funds, justice and home affairs, and the Baltic Sea.
1. The EU’s energy and climate policy has rapidly risen to the top of the list in opinion polls asking citizens what they want the priorities of the Union’s activities to be. To me, this indicates how well informed EU citizens on average are. They don’t need to be told what this generation’s pivotal issue is: it is the building of a sustainable energy and climate policy. Realisation of this goal is not promoted by concentrating on drawing lines to determine which issues may, or may not, be decided by the EU. Creation of a common energy and climate policy for the EU is completely possible on the basis of the current powers. It only requires a clear common vision, broken down into sector-specific goals with timetables. A common energy market is only the first step towards an integrated energy supply, which must be the ultimate goal.
2. In economic policy, the situation in my view is largely the same as for energy and climate policy: environmental changes force deeper integration of the EU, which is completely possible with the powers now available. A common economic policy does not mean that money is transferred from one Member State to another. It means an economic policy that is decided and reconciled together, the ultimate goal being a new upswing for the European economy. Here, too, EU citizens turn their gaze to the Union, and justifiably so. If the European Union has succeeded in establishing an internal market and a common currency, how can it watch passively while the world economy collapses?
3. The use of funds in the European Union must be reformed. It is already clear that the Union cannot continue its use of funds up to the year 2013 without change, as if nothing has happened. Finland must boldly support the discussion of new priorities for the Union’s use of funds, to be launched this year. On the whole, we did not get our way when the current financial framework was decided, so we are fully entitled to speak when it is discussed. The yield from euros invested into the European Union is not optimal. The Union’s funding must be redirected so that it yields additional growth. I don’t understand why this fact may not be said aloud. It doesn’t mean that the Union’s agricultural and regional policies should be dismantled. It means that these policies must be revised. The competitive ability of the European Union must be improved.
4. The changes needed in justice and home affairs are more technical. In one way or another, justice and home affairs must switch to a model where legislation arises from the logic of the internal market. This means that the guiding star is the citizen’s interests – not the special legal features of each Member State. Finland, too, should gradually get accustomed to the idea that our legislation is European – not in any way characteristically Finnish or Nordic.
5. The Baltic Sea, in my opinion, is a completely logical special project in which Finland could wholeheartedly pursue national interests. There is nothing wrong if the Member States of a particular geographical area raise issues they share because of their geographical location. As has often been said, we can do nothing about geography. Finland will always be on the coast of the Baltic Sea, so we have good reason to demand that the European Union has a coherent policy for this area. In the end, no country on the Baltic rim benefits from bilateral agreements on what is done to the Baltic Sea. The Baltic Sea, if any area, is an area where the European Union can generate added value.
The external affairs of the European Union have developed quickly in the last few years. EU external relations have received new content, new instruments and additional funds. For this reason, one often forgets that the European Union has had external powers throughout its entire history. I would like to point out that already in 1957, the Treaty of Rome established a common trade policy, which among other things included the European Economic Community’s right to make commitments binding all Member States and the obligation that all Members States should act uniformly in international contexts. These principles are still the cornerstone on which the EU’s external activities should be built. My theses concern the unity, funding, preparation, visibility and defence dimension of the EU’s external affairs.
1. The European Union is no foreign policy dwarf, but it must be made a stronger giant. The EU’s foreign policy is still weakened by its fragmentation into endless different sectors, institutions, agreement arrangements, budget lines and instruments. These fragments make up a tremendous volume, but that volume trickles out to the world in thousands of brooks that must be directed into one channel.
2. The European Union must put its money where its mouth is. This is the first responsibility of a foreign policy giant. As a taxpayer I wonder that the bulk of the Union’s foreign policy funds is spent on issues that the EU foreign ministers seldom if ever mention in concerned statements when concluding their meetings. The European Union must increase the funding and capacity for solving urgent crises. Without genuine operational capacity, our condolences are shouts in the wind.
3. A common policy and funding require joint preparation. To me, the External Relations Council of the European Union bears too much resemblance to international conferences where participating states complain about their own worries. We need a much more uniform and effective preparatory machinery that brings more specifically selected and better thought-out proposals to the negotiations. The quarrelsome and dispersed actors of Brussels must be forced, once and for all, to work in better cooperation. The EU foreign ministers should be able to concentrate on major policy lines rather than tinkering with minute details.
4. Strong and steady external representation by the EU is to Finland’s advantage. Finland has perhaps given too much weight to the unity of the EU Member States. This nearly always means that the various Member States speak about an issue in the same way. This is naturally a good thing, but by no means is it an adequate goal. It would be best if EU unity were also visible as a united front. It is therefore to Finland’s advantage that the EU would be represented by a President or Foreign Minister and not by a fragmented five-person delegation, as was the case just recently in the Middle East. That is the only way to attract real attention in Washington, Moscow or Beijing.
5. Finland must learn to speak about the EU defence naturally and from a wide angle. In EU circles, defence does not mean only wars, armies and military alliances. The EU defence encompasses a comprehensive sphere that includes military and civilian resources, military and civilian operations and all the capacity associated with crisis management, understood in a very broad sense. The strict distinction made in Finland between crisis management and defence does not promote our participation in development of the EU’s defence. We must therefore rid ourselves of this distinction. Finland must support the EU defence unreservedly.
Finally, the more general conclusions about Finland’s EU policy I promised:
• A strong point in Finland’s EU policy is its coherence. The basic lines of our EU policy have remained similar in direction through five different-coloured Governments. For just this reason, some individual divergences from these basic policy lines have attracted so much attention.
• In my opinion, our EU policy does not need a major overhaul. It may be, however, that it needs some revving up; this seminar has given some indications of such a need. It isn’t enough that we want the right things – we must also do the right things. The government report on the EU should pay particular attention to the implementation of EU policy. Who does what, with whom and at what stage should be clear to all EU actors. Perhaps in this specific aspect – the style of EC policy – there has been more variation during Finland’s membership. The offensive game on the entire playing field, characteristic of the early stage of membership, has gradually given way to a sort of defensive game. We try to keep others’ game in check and to defend our own half of the playing field. Herein lies one of the greatest dilemmas of our EU policy: How can we get the initiative back into our own hands? Talk of the core of the European Union, or the lack of a core, which is so persistent in Finland, is linked with this. Instead of seeking cores, it would be worthwhile for us to concentrate our energy on being in the forefront that determines the direction of the EU’s development. This aim is even written into the programme of the present Government, and to me it is the core of our entire EU policy.
• It is thus important that EU policy is not considered a collection of phrases. Demands for EU efficiency or unity do not carry issues forward unless at the same time the person making those demands says how these good goals are achieved. For this reason, my own theses are so concrete.
• I have worked in all EU institutions. My uppermost observation of the strategies used by the Member States for exerting influence in the EU is that all of them have room for improvement. From Finland’s perspective, it is comforting that different Member States make different mistakes and no one has total control of the whole field. The best results are achieved by combining different approaches. We should strive to exert influence in all EU institutions at all levels. It is essential to be active at the right level and at the right time. In addition, the message should be suitable for each level of influence. In my opinion, all of this can be recorded in the government report.
• Finally, I would like to point out a basic fact that we hit upon even before Finland’s first Presidency of the European Union, about ten years ago: EU policy should be fun. The EU shouldn’t be approached gritting one’s teeth; excessive effort unfortunately doesn’t help get the message across. Perhaps our EU policy would benefit from a somewhat more cheerful approach.