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Anförande vid Max Jakobson International Seminar

Anförande i Helsingfors, Finland

One often starts remarks like this by saying that it is an honour being invited. This time, I really mean it.

Finland is always Finland. Max Jakobson was a truly eminent diplomat, a truly great writer and a truly pleasant and interesting person.

Decades ago, he was generous enough to share his wisdom even with a young man like myself, and he was always of key importance in maintaining the dialogue and understanding between our two countries.

And his books remain among the most interesting and important written about the art and practice of diplomacy in our part of the world and in our age. I am trying to implement his Diplomacy of the Winter War in the training of all our new diplomats.

They remind us of how important it is to also be able to look back when we are trying to shape the future.

Next year will be the year in which the lessons of 1914 and what is generally seen as the great catastrophe that started then will be debated all over Europe.

The perspective from here might of course have been slightly different, since the Great War led to the collapse of great European empires, and gave a number of nations in our Baltic world - Finland prominently among them - the possibility of a future in independence.

The century of the Grand Duchy had made it possible for the nation of Finland to emerge. One could not be Swedish - one did not wish to be Russian - one had to be Finnish.

And when the Russian Empire descended into chaos and Bolshevism, it was only natural to seek true independence.

But slightly more than two decades later, Stalin was trying to win back much of what Russia had lost, and in the 'devil's deal' with Hitler in April 1939 was given a free hand in the Baltic area in exchange for giving Hitler a free hand against Poland. The Second World War was the immediate result.

Finland was alone among the countries affected to survive with its sovereignty more or less intact, although it lost substantial territory, including the multi-cultural trading town of Viborg where Max Jakobsen had been born.

In the immediate post-war years, the general expectation in the West was that Finland sooner rather than later was bound to share the fate of those other countries that had acquired their independence after the Russian collapse of 1917.

But Finland stood by its sovereignty, its Nordic identity and its right to shape its own policies according to its position throughout decades that often were far from easy.

And Max Jakobson was the most eloquent of diplomats trying to explain to an often slightly critical audience in the West the paths that Finland had chosen to take.

But gradually things changed - for the better.

And in 1995, when our two countries together, virtually hand in hand, could enter the European Union, Max Jakobson was among those who rejoiced. This was a big step for a country that decades earlier had been denied entry to even the European Council.

He wrote that finally his country could seek a "safe harbour... we had for almost fifty years been living a schizophrenic life."

"Ideologically and economically we were part of democratic Europe, but all the same we belonged to the military sphere of interest of the communist Soviet power... In joining the EU we were able to get rid of our bicameral reality."

The decades since then have - in spite of the tragedy of a decade of wars in the Balkans - been very good decades for Europe.

The peaceful reunification of Germany, the re-establishing of the independence of the three Baltic states, the withdrawal of huge Soviet armies and arsenals from Germany and Central Europe - these were geopolitical miracles that no one could have predicted.

And they were followed by the gradual inclusion of not only former Soviet satellite countries but also three former Soviet republics into both the security alliance of NATO and the political and economic alliance of the European Union.

The EU Security Strategy a decade ago could proudly claim that never before had Europe been so secure, so prosperous, or so free.

As we look at things today, I am not entirely certain that we would characterise ourselves in the same way. There are new clouds on the horizon, more uncertainties ahead and new challenges we need to address.

The crisis in some of the Euro countries, primarily in southern Europe, but also the wider financial uncertainties, have shaken the self-confidence of the European Union after its decades of profound success.

And our policies have been forced to turn more inwards as we are also facing long-term issues of the competitiveness of our economies and the sustainability of our public finances in light of changing demographic realities.

A consequence has been that security issues have often taken a back-seat in the public discourse in our different countries in the past few years.

But the world keeps changing.

Across the Atlantic, we talk in this regard about it now being time primarily for so-called nation-building at home and about a pivot to Asia. Last year, the last US tank was withdrawn from Europe.

And indeed the economies and nations of Asia are rising, with the risks of new tensions between them. We see it these days in the form of air control zones in the East China Sea - tomorrow it might well be some other zones in the South China Sea.

But Europe happens to be located where Europe is located.

To the north, with a warming climate, we see an entirely new region arise.

To our south, we find a neighbourhood in increasing turbulence in virtually every respect.

And we know that the countries of North Africa and the Middle East will add a further 50 per cent to their populations in the next few decades. We see sectarian and all other tensions rapidly rising.

There is even talk about the risk of the entire post-1917 order in that region unravelling in the years ahead. And the neighbourhoods of these neighbourhoods also requires increasing attention.

We see fragile states and new tensions stretching from Dakar to Djibouti.

In 1950, there were 200 million people living in sub-Saharan Africa. In 2050 or earlier, there will be 2 billion people, and 60 per cent of them will be 30 years of age or younger.

To our wider east we have a neighbourhood where the struggle between more democratic and more authoritarian principles of governance has by no means been decided, where the rule of law is not yet firmly entrenched and where the risk remains of old both tensions and ambitions bursting to the surface again.

At the moment, the issue of Ukraine is in focus.

We have offered to open up our markets to Ukraine and other countries, and help with modernisation of regulatory and other regimes, in what may possibly be the most generous and ambitions agreement ever offered by the European Union.

And we have done so in response to the explicit wishes of these countries themselves. But this has now been met with strong opposition by Russia.

It has declared that if Ukraine enters into a free-trade agreement with the European Union, Russia will put extra tariffs or charges on Ukraine's trade with Russia, although the relationship between these two countries is in no way affected by the agreement with the EU.

And in view of these threats, which at times have been rather brutal, the Ukraine leadership has, for the time being, backed away from signing the agreement.

Two philosophies stand against each other.

One that seems to see everything as a zero-sum game.

One that sees trade and economic links as a win-win situation for all.

Somewhat more than two decades ago, the Turkish economy was an uncompetitive mess, and Poland was on roughly the same level of development as Ukraine.

Since then, Turkey has been part of the EU customs union, and Poland has of course become a full member of our union. The Turkish economy has been one of the truly impressive success stories of the past decade, and Poles now live on average 9 years longer than people in Ukraine and have a GDP per capita three times the level of Ukraine.

It goes without saying that it would have been in the interest of everyone, notably of Russia, if Ukraine had managed even half of this. The prosperity of Europe is as much in the interest of everyone as is the peace of Europe.

But it is not only the mounting challenges of our neighbourhoods we need to discuss.

From outer space to cyberspace, over the oceans and across the skies, we see how the wellbeing of our societies and economies are a function of the rapidly increasing flows that are at the core of the accelerating process of globalisation.

Security is no longer just the security of our territories. Security is also the security of these increasingly important flows.

From the perspectives of either Stockholm or Helsinki, it should be obvious that we can only handle these challenges by working more closely together. And the same should also be obvious from the perspective of Berlin, London or Paris.

In today's world there are no great European powers. We can only be truly relevant global players by combining the powers and possibilities our small nation states still have.

The European Union is, at its core, about security.

The security of its own members states by making war between them unthinkable.

The security of our region by extending our networks of integration, good governance, rule of law and prosperity to as many countries as possible.

And the wider global security by being a truly relevant partner in different efforts to address its different challenges.

We certainly need a European Union that is smaller on small things, but we also need a European Union that is bigger on big things.

And among the issues on the agenda for our heads of state and government as they gather in Brussels next week to also address our common security and defence issues is the need for a thorough dialogue on a European global strategy.

I hope that they will all see this need.

The European Union does not aspire to be a global power in the traditional sense of the word, but we must develop as a global partner in order to help address all the different global challenges.

And when we discuss true partnerships, we are talking about the relationship across the Atlantic with the United States.

This is the most important partnership in the world. Because of its depth. And because of the breath of the different issues it covers.

It is important to our societies and economies. But it is of great global significance as well.

There are few global challenges that can be met if we do not develop a true partnership across the Atlantic. We don't always succeed when we work together - but we are bound to fail if we don't work together.

I think we should recognise that the security of Europe is even more dependent on the integration and strength of the European Union. The strong support of the United States for our efforts in this regard is no coincidence.

Not even a security guarantee from the United States would be able to save our continent from the consequences of a weakened, fractured or even dissolved European Union.

Were that ever to happen, the US pivot to Asia might truly happen, and we would be left to the mercy of other forces emerging out of our past.

1913 was a long time ago - 1914 even marginally so.

But this might be one of the key lessons to draw from what happened then - and out of this follows our duties when trying to shape our policies for the future.

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