News

«I Am Confident that the EU Will Overcome Enlargement Fatigue»

08:15 09.07.10
Ukraine deserves to be a member of the European Union.

Finland`s foreign minister Alexander Stubb said in his speech. He participated in a discussion with Ukrainian experts, journalists, and students at the Institute of World Policy, July 8, 2010, Kyiv. Here is a full transcript.

Serhiy Solodkyy, Deputy director of the Institute of World Policy:

Welcome to the discussion on the topic «Ukraine, Finland, And the European Union: The Past, The Present, And the Future.» We will have the following agenda: in the beginning, Mr. Minister`s address, then a session of questions and answers. I would like to remind that the current discussion is supported by the U.S. Democracy Support Fund. Welcome, Mr. Minister!

Alexander Stubb:

Thank you, thank you indeed for the invitation and the organization. After looking at pictures around of all the distinguished people speaking, I have no idea why I have been invited, but thank you anyway. (laughter)

I am reminded a little bit with the topic… It is a kind of nice topic, because I can speak pretty much about anything that I want, and it won`t take any more than twenty minutes of your time. What I want to do is to go through three things. First of all, I would like to talk about the development of the EU, and, perhaps, give my insight as an EU nerd of what`s going on now. Secondly, I will take a look about the view I take on the EU and Ukraine. Thirdly, I will try and pin out some similarities between Ukraine and Finland. Before I do that, may I tell you a little anecdote? It is a story that I have heard in Brussels, and it goes like this: you may remember Henry Kissinger, when he asked a question, «European foreign policy is a good thing, but whom should I call?» The story has it that Hillary Clinton who visited here last week was talking to president Obama about this particular Kissinger story, and Obama said to Clinton, «You know what? I think Kissinger was wrong. I think I found a European phone number to call, and I called it.» And Clinton said, «Oh, who did you call at?» «Herman Van Rompuy,» (the guy who is coming to Kyiv tomorrow.) «nteresting», said Hillary, «What did Van Rompuy say when you called him?» «The problem was, I forgot about the time difference, so I have only got an answering machine, but the answering machine was very astute. It said, «You have called the phone number of Europe. Herman Van Rompuy, unfortunately, is not able to take your phone right now, but if you want the German view, press one; (laughter) if you want the French view, press two; and If you want the British view, press three.»

I will try to convince you today that what we have seen is an embryo of a true European foreign policy, where we don`t need these kinds of answering machines yet. This is why I am going to focus on, point number one, development of EU. I will take you right from the back: I am an EU nerd. I have basically only done EU institutions all my life: academically, as a civil servant, and as a member of the European parliament.

There are a lot of people who have been tolling the bell calling for the doomsday of the European Union for many years. Especially in the past few months, everyone is saying that Europe is going down, it is going through a middle-age crisis, it does not have a project, Europe is tired, and the rest of it. I buy a little bit of that argument in the sense that we are living in a completely new world. Previously, the world was simple: the Soviet Union, the United States… It was bi-polar.

Then, it became a little more complicated: with the U.S. the only undisputed superpower, the world became unipolar. Now, it is even more complex: it is multi-polar: we started to see the emergence of the others. I would argue that the problem is that the EU cannot find its proper place here, because the EU is not a state. It is more than an international organization, but less than a state. It falls rather uncomfortably between the two. It does not know how to live in G-20, it does not know how to live in G-8, and it doesn`t have a true place around the table in the UN Security Council. So, it is trying to find its place. Therefore, we have to do a lot of work. Some people are going as far as to say, «Look what we have right now in the world: the United States is a foreign policy superpower.» We all agree with that, right? China is an emerging economic superpower. What is Europe, then? Well, Europe is lifestyle superpower! We have how to live the true life, and we have the bucks to do it. Before we go into this type of «miserable» analysis, I would like to remind everyone that Europe, the European Union, is, by far, the largest economy in the world. Twenty seven percent of the world economy is the European Union. The United States is a little bit less than 24 percent. Japan is nine, China is 8.5, and Russia has three percent of the world economy. Three percent versus 27 percent, we should not forget that! On top, remember that the European Union is the biggest trading power in the world. When we speak in the WTO, people listen. And we speak in WTO usually with one voice, you may like it or not, but we do. Finally, we are the biggest donor of world aid: over 55 percent of the world`s aid comes from the EU and its member states. But it seems there is a vested interest of a lot of people is in trying to downplay the role of the European Union, and I understand it.

However, I do argue that we are in the midst of a chronic crisis. We have three crises inside the European Union. Crisis number one is institutional.

First, it was about the constitutional treaty and not obtaining it. Then, we were about to do the Lisbon Treaty, everyone though, «Great! Here we have it! Let us just start implementing it.» Well, seven month later, we all know it has not been implemented, and, in fact, infightings in Brussels between the Commission, Council, and the European Parliament, and now the European Council as well, are probably tougher than ever. It hasn`t been easy.

Second, there is the financial crisis, and, combined with it, the debt crisis, which all of us are grappling with. I will get to this in a second.

Finally, one could argue that we have a mission`s crisis, or crisis of raison d`être. Europe is based on big projects: in 1950s, it was coal and steel, in the 1960s, it was customs, in the 1970s and 1980s, it was the internal market, in the 1990s, and it was the Euro. From 2000 onward, we have been sort of lacking the reason to exist; there was a lack of a big project every one of us was looking for. Enlargement was not that big of a project: it was important but it wasn`t seen as the big one. My argument on theses three crisis, institutional, financial, and mission, is that we will be back, don`t worry about it.

First of all, on the institutional crisis: nothing is new under the sun! Remember the EU is about crisis management. We go from one crisis to another: whether it is the «empty seat» crisis, whether it is the crisis of not getting a single European act on the Maastricht Treaty or the Amsterdam Treaty. It simply takes a long time. So, the state of crisis is nothing new for the European Union and its institutions.

The second crisis is the financial crisis. I think something good is going to come out of it. I think the good is already coming out of it, short-term and long-term. Short term, the Euro is a Darwinist system. It has been created for Germany and the countries that take care of their public finances in the way, in which Germany does. The markets have and will punish those countries, which do not take care of their business properly. I think Greece is a god example. Some people tell me, «Look, Greece is a free rider! Finland is going to suffer and have to pay.» I ask them, «Do you want to be Greek or Finnish?»

I watch the news in Ukraine. I was listening to the parliamentary debate today, which is a little bit on the wild side, I must admit. But I listened to it, and one of the examples used was, «Oh, look, we are going to become another Greece!» But my argument is: it is the survival of the fittest. The Euro will be stronger for it. Countries, such as Finland, which take care of their public finances, will get more foreign investment and will get better credit and reliability ratings.

Secondly, long-term: I think you cannot have a common monetary policy without a common economic policy. We started to see closer economic coordination. Of course, finance ministers are kicking and screaming, «Are you sure that you want to do this?» But, look, we have got into this mess – we have to get out of it together. So, I think, in the long run, this is going to benefit the Euro and the Euro zone.

The mission crisis is about what is the project? That is the one that I struggled to find. Someone might say that the project is about protecting the European welfare model. I do not like it as a project, because it is very defensive. Europe is about freedom: it is about free movement of goods, services, money, and people. It is not about protecting them. It is about letting the flowers bloom.

So, we need to find something else. One of the things that I have been trying to push forward is the idea of a new carbon-free economy, - that being the big project. Like in telecommunications, Europe is going to have a competitive advantage, so the European Union will have a competitive advantage to the rest of the world. We have legislation in place: the 20/20 decision to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent, to increase renewables by 20 percent by the year 2020. I think that this is going to work, because the legislation forces companies to change. I hope that is going to be our next big project.

So, I am not excessively worried about the European Union. It will muddle through as it always has.

The second issue today is about the EU and Ukraine. Here, my take and the take of Finland are very clear: Ukraine is a European state, always has been, and always will be: in geography, history, and culture. I think the EU integration is the ultimate goal, and it should be the ultimate goal of Ukraine.

Some people worry that we have forgotten Ukraine. No, we haven`t. I should have probably mentioned the forth crisis, which is enlargement: there is a certain enlargement fatigue in Europe, and this is why it is difficult to use enlargement as a positive argument. I don`t like it; everyone is blaming Brussels: everything that`s bad is because of Brussels; everything that`s good is thanks to me. This is the mentality that a lot of people have. Enlargement, it is so easy to bash – or something that is outside the European Union. A lot of people, unfortunately, do it.

I think we have three strategic enlargement cases on the move right now: one is Turkey, - strategically, probably the most important one - , second, is western Balkans, extremely important in terms of stability; and the third one is the so called «easier ones» – Norway, Iceland, or Switzerland. We also have a fourth category, which is linked to the Eastern Partnership, and Ukraine falls into that category.

However, we should not be too romantic about the enlargement taking place quickly. We should be more realistic. Why do I say that? I say it out of my experience. For Finland, it took an extremely long time –almost 34 years to join the European Union. (I am not saying it will take 34 year for Ukraine from today!)

But I will give you a few examples. 1956, Finland joined GAAT, which became the WTO. 1961, Finland signed a free trade agreement with EFTA. 1972, Finland signed a free trade agreement with the European Economic Community.

Now, WTO for Ukraine, 2008… A free trade agreement with EFTA, 2010... A free trade agreement with the EU, I hope, 2011 the latest. We joined EFTA in 1986; filed an EU membership application in 1992 and became a member after 18 rigorous months of negotiation in 1995.

So, the process is long. And there is a lot of change, and a lot of tough decisions, which go with that process. However, I feel that the path of Ukraine is European integration, and I will support it inside the European Union strongly.

In Finland`s case, we were able to file for membership in the European Union and integrate close to Western institutions, where I always felt we belong to, because of the dismantling of the Soviet Union. That was the release bell for many of us. We believe in free trade, in free markets. This belief led us to prosperity. I think we were, moderately speaking, a backward country in the 1970s, from the Western prospective. Now, we are one of the richest countries in the world! We top most competitiveness assessments; we top most school assessments; we top most GDP per capita assessments; and we top most happiness indices. Does this mean that we are a perfect country? No. In the summer it`s nice if it`s 25 and sunny, but it`s pretty rough in the fall and the winter. But the opening up, the decision to integrate with others in the West was the right one. The one should seize the opportunity.

What, then, should Ukraine do? One, an association agreement: fifteen rounds, hopefully 2010-2011. Two, deep free trade agreement. Get it move on; we really need it seriously. Then, three, visa freedom and the action plan. I don`t think there is anything that improves European integration more than visa facilitation and visa freedom.

So, what is my conceptual argument here? My conceptual argument is that Ukraine`s path within European integration is not only theoretical, it is real. The association agreement is linking the Ukrainian state to the EU; the free trade agreement is linking the Ukrainian economy to the EU; and the visa free regime is linking the Ukrainian population to the European Union. And this is the path that I would choose. And I hope that that is the line that will continue.

I will finish off fairly shortly with the third and the final part, and that is my humble analysis on the similarities between Finland and Ukraine as a sort of borderlands, if you will. We have a fairly similar history, actually, believe it or not. We were a part of a Western superpower for a long time, Finland for 700 years under Sweden, and you within the Polish-Lithuanian framework for a long time. You became a part of an Eastern empire in 1654; we became a part, - autonomous part -, of the Russian Empire in 1809. (Or 1808 depending on how you count.) Both of us fought for independence in 1917, which we were at the time fortunate enough to get. And, then, you got your independence in 1991. At the same time, we started out path towards the European Union. So, in a sense, there are a few similarities: one is the direction in which we have gone. We have gone West, then East, then again the West. The difference is, of course, timing. We haven`t done it exactly at the same time, but, in the course of history, when we read history books a hundred years from now, people will see that we were actually quite close.

Of course, there is a difference between the two of us, but one of the similarities is that we had been if not victims, then a part of a power shift in balances, or at least in the Western hemisphere. So, in a sense, I would argue that we in Finland understand what Ukraine is about. There is a certain intellectual link that we live with, and, or course, right now we are living with a huge neighbor, with Russia, coming from different prospective. So, all in all, I am really glad to be here today. It has been a great privilege to souse out and outline a few word to you about, first of all, the development of the EU policies now, secondly, the Ukrainian and the EU (relations), and, finally, a few of the similarities between Ukraine and Finland. After these words we can go for some questions and answers. And I am really glad that you (points to Solodkyy) have two Nokias on the table. (laughter)

Serhiy Solodkyy:

In am going to go forward and use my host position to ask the first question. In continuation of your pointing to similarities between Ukraine and Finland… Ukraine possibly turned out to become less fortunate, because she was influenced to a higher degree by a strong neighbor, Russia. However, the idea of «finlandization» is still discussed in Ukraine. This is a scientific term, which is used in a somewhat negative light in political science. I know that the ambassador of Finland has a somewhat different point of view… What is your opinion? To what extent such «finlandization» could be useful for Ukraine? What is your analysis of the government to develop Ukraine as a non-bloc state?

Alexander Stubb:

Sure. To my generation, finlandization is something negative. I certainly coil and reject anything that has to do with finlandization. It was a concept that got a bad brand. At the same time, one might be happy that Finland, - if you discount that narrow pass of the border between Norway and Russia -, was the only democratic state neighboring the Soviet Union to survive at the time. So, there was something that worked in that system. It was a value-driven foreign policy, in other words, in democracy and Western institutions. But it also was an interest-driven foreign policy, and the interest was to remain independent to a certain extent. It was successful in that sense. If finlandization is used in a positive way to refer to something pragmatic, a stabilizing factor, that`s fine. But don`t be too eager to give up your values.

Another question is one about policy line that the government or Ukraine is taking. I can only give you a sentiment of the discussion that we had in Brussels during the regime change. In Brussels, there was a tremendous euphoria around the orange revolution at the time, in 2004, - same as in Ukraine. I remember I was in the European Parliament, and people were waiving orange scarves, much like they were watching the World Cup between Holland and Spain. It was serious. Yushchenko came and gave a speech. There was a sense that here is a European country that has just find a sense, a way to have a free and fair election, has a vibrant democratic culture, and freedom of speech and debate. It was something positive.

At the same time, five years since, I will be frank, the political system did not look very stable. In other words, it was a little bit rough around the edges. But that`s part of democracy; I don`t really have a problem with it. But then, when the regime change happened (in 2010), in the beginning, several questions were posed. But then people looked at the way that the president has taken, when he went to Brussels, to Moscow; and he talked to Obama. The triangle of the Ukrainian foreign policy was very welcomed, as now there is a feeling of stabilization. Some people ask, is it too stable? I don`t know. In a way, one could say that Ukraine choose a little bit similar path to Finland`s in terms of major memberships: joining the European Union, but staying outside NATO, and at the same time working closely with NATO. Of course, I am just a humble foreign affairs minister of Finland; therefore, I will not analyze or question Ukraine`s foreign policy. All I can say is that I had an absolutely fantastic visit so far. It is not often, when you visit a country for the first time, to meet the foreign minister, to meet the prime minister, to meet the president, to meet the speaker of the house (parliament), to meet two opposition leaders, to give interviews, and to give a speech at an academic institution. So, I really appreciate (this opportunity) and I am sucking in all the information that I can get.

..It`s too hot for questions here.

Serhiy Solodkyy:

Okay, then there is one hot question, which preoccupies a lot of people in Ukraine, which is the policy of the European Union with regards to a visa-free regime. What is Finland`s position in the framework of the European Union regarding the negotiations? How much does she support Ukraine in the negotiations? When Ukraine could actually obtain this visa-free regime, if she implements the conditions, which it will take on?

Alexander Stubb:

On visas. You might have seen or you might not have seen that, couple of month ago, I sent a letter to my colleagues promoting the idea of a visa free regime with all countries within the Eastern Partnership framework, and also with Russia. There are, of course, special cases, separate cases, and they should be dealt with separately. Issues of security, border control, biometric passports, other important questions. But I certainly want to see the day, when we have a fully visa-free regime with, for instance, a country like Ukraine. That is a tangible asset for Ukrainians, and also for Europeans. So, I would welcome visa facilitation and visa freedom indeed.

Olesya Ogryzko, student of the Institute of International Relations. :

Good afternoon, Minister Stubb. Thank you very much for a very informative meeting. My name is Olesya Ogryzko. I am a student of the Institute of International Relations. I would like to ask you in about one of energy issues, which you developed, particularly, about alternative energy sources. I believe that any economic policy, which is built on using oil and gas exclusively, has a very short vision span. Because, in time, all those source will drain, and it will become necessary to use alternative sources. In your presentation, you mentioned super-projects, around which the European Community got together for decades in 1960, 1970s, and 1980s. Do you think that such a new European common project should be built on developing alternative sources for the pan-European region? Thank you.

Alexander Stubb:

Yes, this is a kind of the argument that was talking; this is a very good question and a good point. My argument about trying to find a new mission for Europe, a new project, was indeed a green tech economy. My argument is quite simple, and this is because I am just a humble political scientist, and not an economist providing elaborate theory. But I would argue that Europe will get a competitive advantage in this particular green sector, and it will get better, - it has already gotten -, because of the legislation that has been put in place currently in trying to meet the 20/20 goals.

I will give you one example. I hope I am giving the correct figures… The Obama administration, as part of a stimulus package, launched a competition for $2 billion for so called green tech projects. Seventy five percent of those projects were won by European companies. So, here is an example of good stimulation for European economies, but also an indication that we have a competitive advantage in this sector. I would not call it any more a «green hype.» Of course, it is about global warming, but there is too much thinking in the world that there is some link between economic growth and pollution. I think we need to get away from that. There can be a reverse link as well, in other words, less pollution – and economic growth. That is why I would argue that one of the big projects that we have, which glues us together, is on the green side.

Ivanna Klympush Tsintsadze, Open Ukraine fund:

Dear Mr. Minister, besides solving those three crises, which you named, inside the European Union, if, for example, the European Union is stuck for long in those three crises, do you see any aperture for the enlargement fatigue would be somehow overcome in the nearest future in the European Union? Unless the three crises that you`ve mentioned in the European Union are overcome, do you think it would be possible to come over the enlargement fatigue?

Alexander Stubb:

Yes, thanks. I think it is a very good question. My first observation is, as I said earlier, is that the EU is in the constant crisis situation: it is about crisis management, if you will. There is always some kind of an institutional crisis looming, and wait now, today, for instance, the European Parliament approved the External Action Service of the European Union. That was the institutional crisis of sorts. There were so far seven months of trying to build that service. But we will have it in place only within a few months. And, probably, someone will find some other example of an institutional crisis. Concerning the financial crisis, I think, in the end of the day, it will strengthen the European economies, because those sectors, which were not integrated before, people will realize that we must do something about them. The mission crisis, - going back to the previous question -, if we find the green project (as the main one,) it will work. Enlargement fatigue – you will always have it there. The logic of the enlargement fatigue is that you lose your own voice within the broader community. Now, imagine yourself being France or Germany, two of the six founding states. And now, suddenly, you have twenty seven member states. You might be a little jealous since they came. Listen, it used to be much easier to sit around the fireplace, and have a little cognac, and smoke a sigar, and talk about the functional future of the European Union. Now, suddenly, you have 27 member states. Take another practical example, European Council meetings. Before, there was a change to the current form of only one representative, we had a president or a prime minister, - and a foreign affairs minister. That`s 54 people. Of course, the Commission, the Council… You know, you have 80 or 90 people in the room. It does not like a comfortable fireplace anymore!

Link to that a public fear that the enlargement is somehow bad. We talked about the services directive, and suddenly, in fact, the French are talking about «the Polish plumber.» To me, it is borderline racism, nationalism, and xenophobia. It is as if trying to say people should not move freely from one country to another. We did a little bit of a research in the French Plumbing Association, - they are 6,000 plumbers -, and there was a shortage of about 3,000 plumbers. And only 100 of them were Polish! And all of them were legally in the country.

What I am trying to say, it is very easy to incite anti-enlargement rhetoric. But I think enragement is the best policy the European Union has ever had. The European Union – of course, the big idea is peace. It is also about the promotion of liberal democracy, combined with a social market economy and freedom. When you have these three things together, the soft power is wonderful. That`s what we have been doing in the EU for the past sixty years, and it worked. So, I do not want us to start closing borders or closing doors, and I am sure that we will overcome enlargement fatigue, but this requires responsibilities from politicians, some of whom I don`t think are responsible right now.

Serhiy Solodkyy:

Thank you so much. The last question, please.

Kalugina Yelena, National Aviation University:

Good afternoon, Mr. Stubb. I had a good opportunity to talk and to ask you about the integration. I am Kogina Yelena, National Aviation University. About the integration. Can you tell me about the most progressive measure for Ukraine to integrate into the European Union? Thank you.

Alexander Stubb:

The key is to focus on three issues right now. One is the association agreement, which is a very important tool in the process of European integration. Everyone has to do that. The second thing is the FDTA, or Free Trade Agreement. That is very important, because you need to combine your national legislation with the 90,000 pages of European legislation: you need to «Europeanize» you own legislation. It is not going to be easy. Even today I hear voices speaking against geographic demarcation of goods, so that you could only call fete cheese a feta cheese only if it comes from Greece, or champaign only if it comes from Champaign, or cognac only if it comes from Cognac. So, you are going to have a lot of these «fun» kind of battles. I did my own vodka wars since I was in the European Parliament and was defending a resolution stating that vodka should be made from grain or potatoes only; otherwise you cannot call it vodka. (laughter) I lost, but I can survive with it. So, that side is very important. Third, it is visas. So these are the three things that one should work with. It is a long process: there are going to be moments of frustration for those who are strong believers in European integration. But it is what European integration is all about. Unfortunately, sometimes we have civil servants within the system who go to Brussels with a mentality that, wow, «I am ready to discuss as long as I do not have to change my own laws in which way,» but that`s not what the European integration is about: it is about pulling sovereignty in a new way, in a radical way, which is done nowhere else in the world. I hope that Ukraine will become a strong part of it one day. At least, this is the direction that I am going to work in.

What else can I say, except diakuju? I will leave you with one little anecdote, though, about languages, and it is almost a true story from the European Parliament. In the European Parliament, like in all EU institutions, have 23 official languages, and you have the right in the European Parliament to speak your own language. Most heads of states and heads of governments, when they are there giving speeches, often do that. Finland held presidency in 1999 and in 2006. In 2006, I was an M.E.P., listening to my Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen giving a speech in the European Parliament, which you do, when you call the presidency. He was giving it in Finnish, so I was listening to him in Finnish. Then he started to tell a joke. And you know jokes and interpretation?... The questionable side took minds of English fellows at line number two who listened to the sharpness of the interpreter. Fortunately, there was a very sharp interpreter in the booth. She, - a woman of course - , said, «Well, currently, Prime Minister Vanhanen is telling a joke. Unfortunately, it is impossible to interpret or translate it. But for courtesy`s sake, I would really appreciate if you could all laugh… now!» (laughter)

Serhiy Solodkyy:

Thank you all so much! (applause)

Photo by Roman Malko

Foreign Policy Forum
On 21st of December, on the eve of the Day of Diplomatic Service of Ukraine, IWP will hold the Foreign Policy Forum, summing up “Audit of Ukraine’s Foreign Policy ” project.
What is after the Budapest Memorandum?
On 5th of December, the anniversary of signing the Budapest Memorandum, the Institute of World Policy will hold a debate and presentation of the research on new opportunities for strengthening security of Ukraine.
Subscribe for IWP newsletter
×
Subscribe for IWP newsletter
If you wish to receive IWP news, you can subscribe to. Letters will be sent when fresh news will appear, but not often than three times a week.