Finnish foreign minister: Holding door to NATO open in Finland's interests, ties with Sweden, Estonia special (7)
In a speech addressed to foreign ambassadors on Monday, Finland's Minister of Foreign Affairs Timo Soini highlighted three primary topics — the EU, Russia and NATO.
The Finnish minister likewise stressed just how important Finland's "special relatoinships" with Sweden and Estonia were, reported the Finnish Broadcasting Company (Yle).
Soini explained that it was in everybody's interest if Finland and Sweden, who have strengthened their cooperation with NATO, joined the alliance in any meetings discussing issues related to the Baltic Sea region. The foreign minister repeated that Finland was not currently applying for NATO membership, however he added that the possibility to do so remained and it would depend primarily upon the European security situation.
"The situation is the same," he stated. "Holding [NATO's] door open is in the interests of Finnish security."
In Soini's opinion, care must be taken with Finland's security and defense capabilities, and on this issue Finland could not afford to allow itself isolation.
In a situation wherein Sweden is "always the closest and most trustworthy partner" for Finland, it is likewise natural for the two states to increase defense cooperation. Soini also recalled that Finland has a "special relationship" with Estonia as well.
At the same time, Russia was also an important neighboring country for Finland. "We cannot and also do not want to turn our backs on Russia," said the Finnish minister. "At the same time, one must be honest: in the case of Crimea, Russia has broken European rules."
Soini stressed the fact that the EU's united sanctions policy will remain in place and there are still no alternatives to the fulfilment of the conditions set forth by the Minsk Agreement. Whether or not the EU and Russia's relations could once again normalize would depend on Russia's own actions, Soini found.
As instability in Europe and insecurity in Europe's immediate vicinity continue to grow, transatlantic bonds remain a cornerstone for European security, noted the minister. Finland, in turn, is protected by its membership in the EU.
"The EU is a security-political alliance whose importance should not be underestimated," explained Soini. "As a security-political alliance, the EU is also in line with Finnish interests."
Brexit consequences remain unclear
Soini also counted the results of the UK's referendum on EU membership among the most important news of the year.
"That was a true 'Where were you then' moment," recalled the minister. "I, for example, was at my summer cottage."
While Soini himself did not believe in continuous, ongoing European integration, he also did not wish to see the EU crumble, as he found that further opportunities still existed.
The EU could still "survive and adapt" if joint agreements are respected, the minister found, although he also asserted that Europe as a value-based community exists regardless of the EU.