The post-Cold War promise of a stable and prosperous Europe without boundaries has not been achieved, Finnish President Sauli Niinistö said in his keynote speech at the Lennart Meri Conference in Tallinn on Saturday.
"Many say that geopolitics is back," Niinistö said. "Hard words have been followed by hard actions. There is no denying that European security is ridden with deep mistrust."
The Finnish president described the annexation of Crimea by Russia as a heavy blow. "Finland is steadfast in defending the principles underlying European security," he said. "Finland wants to send a strong signal that it takes security very seriously."
The EU is of particular relevance for Finland, said the president, noting that he has been raising the subject of defense cooperation in the EU for more than a decade already. "The EU is hardly a true union if it does not play its part in ensuring the security of its own citizens," he commented. "There is a great deal we can do together under the banner of protecting Europe. The public has expectations in the security field."
Niinistö noted that in 2013, the EU decided to start spending money on defense, deciding on a road map as well.
"This year we have seen attempts to create the EU as a security community," he continued. "We are close to agreeing on PESCO in defense; Finland fully supports this development," he said in reference to an agreement on permanent structured cooperation in the field of defense within the EU.
"We need to strike the right balance — to be ambitious but see the value of inclusivenes," said the president. "This should be reflected in the field of security, must ensure that the instruments remain inclusive and bring real value added to European citizens." He added that Finland will continue to do its share for European security, citing the initiative on civil aviation safety in the Baltic Sea area as an example of this.
Globally, two of the biggest concerns today are the use of chemical weapons in Syria and the prospect of nuclear proliferation in North Korea, Niinistö said.
The U.S: and Russia must return to strategic armament talks, he said, adding that conventional arms control is also crucial in preventing conflict. It is also necessary to move forward with the so-called Steinmeier dialogue on arms control. "We also need to reduce risks and military activities," he commented. "I believe now is the time for genuine engagement on arms control and confidence-building."
Editor: Aili Vahtla