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Anförande vid invigningen av ICDS

Anförande vid invigningen av ICDS, Tallinn, Estland

I warmly welcome the setting up of the International Center for Defence Studies here in Tallinn.

This is indeed a time when it is highly necessary to think about the state of the world and where we are heading.

It might well be argued that we are in the most challenging international situation for decades - and that the challenges are increasing.

While in Tallinn it is appropriate to mention some of the spectacular successes that we have been able to achieve during the past few decades.

It was by no means a given thing that the singing revolution here in Estonia would be able to reach its noble aims. We knew from history that large empires very rarely disappear and dissolve without convulsions leading to conflict and war.

But we did manage those truly dangerous years.

Your courage in pursuing what you knew was right was undoubtedly the decisive factor. But some of us were proud to be in a position to be able to give you the support we could.

This was the beginning of the vast transformation of Europe that we are still in the midst of.

Where there was previously a belt of occupation, deprivation and despair throughout Europe, we now see a belt of freedom, peace and prosperity.

Ten nations and a 100 million people from the Gulf of Finland down towards the Bosphorous have adopted the principles of rule of the law and democratic governance and developed open and competitive economies that are the core of the European Union.

This has been made possible also by the extension of the Atlantic institutions of security to cover these nations. The significance of that is obvious also to those of us not part of these institutions and structures.

It's a truly new Europe that is emerging. Step by step.

In away that was unthinkable in the previous decades we are aiming at building a common European foreign and security policy.

And the new dynamism that enlargement has given our economies have further facilitated the fact that our European economy - the largest integrated market in the world - is by far the largest trading and exporting entity in the rapidly growing global economy. We are in fact on the global markets larger than the United States and Japan taken together.

There is little doubt that the enlargements of the European Union have contributed to both peace and prosperity in our part of the world - and that they have sent a powerful message of the virtues of peaceful integration to the rest of the world.

I see no reason whatsoever that what has been right and beneficial so far should be wrong and detrimental as we move forward.

The peace and prosperity for the 100 million people of Southeastern Europe that are now either in or on their way towards an accession processis certainly of paramount importance to all of Europe. Nevertheless we must recognize that this process might take longer and be more challenging than previous enlargements. We must be ready to adapt our structures as well work on retaining wide political support for the process in all our respective countries.

But all these factors are - in my opinion - convincing arguments in favour of us intensifying our efforts - certainly not in favour of us abandoning them.

In a world that might well be characterized by increasing instability - and in particularly in the parts of Asia and Africa that is closer to our Europe - there is every reason for us to look at ways in which we can block instability and promote stability in Europe itself as well as in its immediate vicinity.

Here the process, prospect and promise of further enlargement - firmly enshrined in the Treaty of Rome -remains of utmost importance.

If the door were to be seen as closed to key countries like Serbia, Turkey or the Ukraine there is little doubt that we would be heading towards a less stable Europe. Indeed, by keeping it open, and gradually enhancing exchange in all aspects of society -we can head towards a much more stable and prosperous Europe.

In the Balkans. In the critically important area of the Eastern Mediterranean. In the wider East of Europe.

In all three are as we are facing major challenges.

The Western Balkans is in a sensitive stage of transition.

Next year we will see Bosnia emerging from the semi-protectorate of the international community - that it de facto has been in for more than a decade - become a truly independent and sovereign state ready to enter the process of European integration. There is no reason to expect that process to be either easy or smooth. Nevertheless there is no reason to further delay what one day must come.

This will happen at the same time as we are likely to see a more final separation between Serbia and Kosovo. The real one occurred as Milosevic in 1999 handed the province over to the United Nations, paving the way both for a true state-building process in Kosovo and a true entry of Serbia into the processes of European integration.

Here, there is even less of a reason to assume that the process will be smooth and easy, but neither is there any reason to delay for ever what obviously must come.

We should not let Serbia be dragged down by the burden that Kosovo de facto has been throughout modern history of the region. Serbia's and Kosovo's destinies are with the European Union, joining a Croatia that is making good progress, and thus together also giving a firm framework of stability for Bosnia.

One sometimes encounters a somewhat simplistic belief that once some sort of status decision concerning Kosovo has been reached we can all forget about the place and fly home.

This is dangerous. We will be doing a transition from one challenging phase in the evolution of the issue to another.

Indeed, the present estimates for the cost of the assumed European Union mission in Kosovo is substantially above the cost of all the ESDP missions that the Union is involved in this year. And this does not take into account any amounts that might be needed in debt relief or outright assistance in order to prevent too dramatic a decline in the economy of Kosovo.

And with the status issue during the years to come - it will take its time - on a path towards stability, there will be e very reason to return to the critical important standard issues. We all know that what has been achieved in these respects in the last few years is substantially less than we all had hoped for.

There is thus every reason for the European Union to start thinking seriously about how these challenges should be handled. Failure will have serious consequences throughout a fragile region. We must avoid having to administer a state failing or fracturing.

Inability to solve local or regional conflicts - believing that it is enough to put them in some sort of freezer and hope for time to sort things out - almost always brings new problems further down the road.

This is what we very clearly are seeing today with the Cyprus issue. A divided city and a divided country should not be tolerated in the Europe that we are building.

The painful failure of the ambitious UN peace plan of 2004 - supported by the EuropeanUnion as well as by most of the international community - has lead to a situation that now creates serious risks for the entire strategic situation in the area.

Let's be frank; we have a profound interest in continued European modernisation of Turkey, and in brave reforms that are putting the country on the path towards membership in the European Union.

If there was to be a break of a more serious nature in this process there is an obvious risk that we would be entering a downward spiral of blockages and demands which it could be very difficult to get out of. It would be a strategic calamity of the first order.

The Finnish Presidency of the European Union is trying to find away around the blockages that are there at the moment. These efforts have our full support.

There is no question about the duty of Turkey to fulfil its obligations to fully implement the Ankara protocol.

But we should not be blind to the fact that the European Union has undertaken to take measures to improve the situation in northern Cyprus in a number of different ways. And we should also let the situation that we are now in remind us of the necessity of not waiting with activating the efforts of the United Nations to get a settlement of the conflict.

Perhaps it is time to look more closely at these issues also in the context of the present diplomacy.

Issues like these also come in when we are discussing our relationship with the Ukraine. Its politics might have moved in a direction somewhat different from the days of the Orange Revolution, but our support then was support for freedom and democracy, and the free and democratic choice made by Ukraine since then must naturally be respected.

It will take its time for Ukraine to fully develop a national consensus on which direction the country wants to take. But I am convinced that as that choice emerges, it will be one for Europe and closer integration with the West, obviously preserving its important cultural, human, economic and even political links with Russia.

To make this happen the European Union must be ready to further intensify its efforts to support the democratic stability and promote the economic reforms of the Ukraine.

Ideas for joining Ukraine with the European Union in an agreement of deep free trade that includes also extensive regulatory harmonisation deserves to be seriously explored. And we should intensify our dialogue with Ukraine also when it comes to issues like the undemocratic regime in Minsk and the unresolved conflict inMoldova.

We wish Kiev to be our partner for both democracy and peace in the East of Europe.

The country that has now taken up the flag of reforms in the former Soviet era is obviously Georgia down in the Caucasus. This year's important survey by the World Bank -"Doing Business"- of business conditions around the world puts Georgia at the very top of the list of reform countries.

Georgia has in one year moved up from position 112 to position 37 - an impressive achievement in itself.

It's worth noting not only that Russia remains on position 96, but also that Estonia impresses with position 17 - not far behind Finland with position 14 and Sweden with position 13.

Part of the reason for this impressive achievement in the Caucasus has undoubtedly been that there seems to have been established a sort of axis of reform betweenTallinn and Tbilisi.

Your success does indeed serve as an inspiration to others - and so it should.

It remains important that the leadership in Tbilisi continues to focus on the important reforms necessary to further strengthen its economy and improve its social situation. In the same way as the Estonian reforms of the early 1990's become a beacon and a model for a wider region.

The Georgian reforms we are now seeing could have a similar effect in that wider region. And we should not underestimate the importance that continued success in these economic reforms has in creating conditions for overcoming the conflicts in both Abkhazia and South Ossetia while fully respecting the important territorial integrity of the country.

We should not forget that there were times when Estonia faced situations that could have evolved in a similar direction.

Today the economic success of your country has contributed to a situation when the tensions of those distant days are nearly forgotten.

Perhaps there could be room for an extension of the Tallinn - Tbilisi axis of reform to include also the important issues of reintegration and reconciliation.

Thank you!

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