Statement by Pertti Salolainen
"Common Experiences - Common Perspectives"
10 Years of Austrian Membership of the EU
Vienna, 25 and 26 February 2005
Deputy Prime Minister of Finnland 1991-1995
Roger de Weck (Moderator):
Pertti Salolainen, Sie waren Chefunterhändler für Finnland bei den Beitrittsverhandlungen. Was ist Ihre markante Erinnerung an diese Verhandlungen?
Well, Good Morning!
Thank you very much indeed for inviting me here. It's a tremendous pleasure to be here, because there are so many good friends. I can see Alois Mock there, Ursula Plassnik, Franz Vranitzky is not here, but was very close during the negotiations. So was Wolfgang Schüssel: very good friends. My memories about the negotiations are very mixed, but to tell one example: Where I am very grateful to you Austrians, is that during the last night of EU-accession negotiations in Brussels - the night also called the night of "Long Knives" - we others, we could not organise any food for the negotiations and we had to go and steal your sandwiches. Without your sandwiches and pizzas and your drinks we would not have survived the negotiation.
Herr Salolainen, 10 Jahre Finnland in der Europäischen Union. Ein wirtschaftlicher Erfolg, ein politischer Erfolg. Sind Sie rundum glücklich? Welche Bilanz ziehen die Finnen von Ihrer Teilhabe am Brüsseler Tisch?
My short answer is that it's the best thing that has ever happened to independent Finland. That is my short answer. Now there will be a longer one:
Well, I'm very happy to see Georg Reisch here, who was the Secretary General of EFTA when we were negotiating the European Economic Area and I was negotiating for Austria 1 ½ years all together, three times six months. And when I came the first time to the EFTA headquarters, Georg Reisch came to me and said, "Ah, that young minister, I have a very good advice to you: European integration is like the elephant's love life. Everything happens on a very high level. There is much trumpeting and dust, but the final results take a very, very long time to mature."
Thank you, Georg, for this very good advice!
Well, I'm not speaking here as a foreign office person, I am speaking as a former deputy prime minister.
Well, as I already said, the results of the membership have been very beneficial to Finland. I would say that the whole general atmosphere in Finland has changed. Well, to illustrate that a bit: Previously we used to fear Russia and envy Sweden. Now, we feel that we are at the same level, not with Russia but with Sweden. So, by membership of the European Union the Finns wanted to become - as far as security policy is concerned - kind of untouchables. That certainly was one of the basic results with EU accession. You know Finnish history during the Second World War, when the Soviets had a plan to take Finland like they did, with the Baltics, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania. We fought back and Finland was never occupied. We are very proud of that.
Economy: when I became the Minister for Foreign Trade in '87, Nokia Company, a Finnish company by the way, if you don't know, Nokia Company was then producing kitchen tissues, car tyres, Wellington boots, cables and some old fashioned telephone exchanges and quite a lot of those exports went to the Soviet Union. When I became a Minister in '87, so I was a Minister in the Foreign Office, but I also had some sectors in the Ministry of Trade and Industry and one of the sectors was Prices. I was surprised to see that the prices of Nokia Wellington Boots were fixed by the Ministry. If you consider the distance from that situation in '87 to where we are now, you can understand that market economy has come to Finland.
The opening of our markets, the sort of abolishing of monopolies, was really because of the EU membership. I think that economically we have been the most successful nation, with Ireland, in Europe during the last fifteen years and I have certain proof for that: a very eminent Austrian professor, Fritz Breuss, has come to the same conclusion, so it must be true.
About the Introduction of the Euro: Well, where were we before the Euro? We had two digit devaluations every 10 years. That was our economic history. Every 10 years, two digit devaluations! So what has the Euro meant? The Euro has meant: stability, predictability and generally a wonderful situation for our economy. So it has been extremely beneficial for us.
Talking about the economy, I'm very unhappy about the stability pact, because I have the feeling that if we agree on rules everybody should follow the rules. And if they can’t follow the rules then they must change the rules and follow the new rules. And now we have a very demoralising situation, where countries which are very developed are not following the rules. If we are talking about what the general public thinks about the European Union we should understand that these are the things: If they see that we are not following the rules, that is very demoralising. Why are we then surprised that people are not appreciating the European Union. Well, this is very important!
Agriculture: well, Dr. Fischler, you know more about this than I do, but that was the biggest obstacle in our negotiations, agriculture, and our biggest problem. I can tell you a secret, because we are here, nobody will tell anybody, I know. So, I can tell you a secret now, after so many years. I was during the negotiations protected by our secret service, because my life and my family's life was threatened. So it was that serious and so heated in some circles.
Foreign Policy: Probably the most dramatic changes about our membership have taken place in the area of our foreign policy and defence policy, because we were neutral and we were talking about neutrality. Now, we are saying that we are militarily non-aligned. Well, you can ask that question very well: What does it mean? Because if we are creating rapid reaction forces with Germany now and Sweden and Netherlands and we are ready for any eventuality in the defence area, you can very well ask "What does the militarily non-aligned status mean in today's world"?
So I ask the question: "What does it mean?"
Well, I’m asking you the same question. I don’t know what it means, but it means certainly, that NATO membership discussion is going on in Finland. So that’s what it means, but remember one thing, if you want to think about the change in Finnish defence policy: In our Treaty after the war with the Soviet Union, it was specifically stated that we are not allowed to do any alliance with Germany, particularly with Germany! Now we are creating rapid reaction forces with Germany. So you understand the huge change in fifteen years.
We have had a huge constitutional change in Finland. The new Finnish constitution states that the president was stripped of quite a lot of our foreign policy powers and the powers of EU policy were shifted to the Prime Minister. Parliament has become much more effective in international affairs. There is much more knowledge about the foreign policy among the parliamentarians and the situation there is completely different.
Environment: A huge change is taking place in the Baltic, because we have a programme of northern dimension, where we try to clean the sewer of Baltic today as it is. All the sewage waters of St. Petersburg's ten million people came to the Gulf of Finland. And now there are huge projects to try to solve this terrible situation.
Well, there is so much talk about elitism and why people are so distant about the European Union. There’s a certain truth in that. You have to look in the mirror, they are distant and they look elitist, but we also have to look at it from another angle. Also the national politicians look distant. And if you ask opinion polls about national politicians they will be as negative as about the European Union. So we must understand that people always have a certain resistance to politicians.
What I want from the European Union: I want a much more ambitious European Union, that would be a moral leader in the world, because the European Union is the only group in the world that could be the moral leader in the world at this particular moment and that’s why I need a much more ambitious European Union that would be putting a lot of emphasis in research and development. It is outrageous that our best scientists in Europe have to go to America to get money. Why? We must be much more selfish in that sense that we create our own science. If we can build airbuses, which are beating the Boeings, if we can build Galileo, if we can do whatever things you know, why don’t we do more things together here in Europe? This is what we have to do for our people.
That is why I’m not so fascinated about this rapid, too rapid expansion and enlargement of the European Union. I mean, when a Minister goes to a potential candidate country the first thing that he will make in his opening speeches is, "I certainly welcome you to the European Union" etc. WHY? because, they want to be courteous and polite. That is not clever. We must be much more careful as far as enlargement is concerned. Enlargement is o.k., but these countries must really fulfil the criteria before they become members.
Now we have presidency together with Austria, yesterday I had a discussion with my very good old friend, Chancellor Wolfgang Schüssel, and he put it very nicely: I mean, you can say, that we would have two six months presidency. Well, the fact is, he put it nicely, we will have a twelve month presidency together. That was a very, very good way of looking at this. In April, we have the Finnish team here and we are coordinating what we are going to do next year together. We will have a twelve months presidency, kind of together, working very, very closely as it is suitable for excellent friends.
My last point is this: Finland is today, after EU membership, a completely different country: Better!