May 2000

“EU hard core membership important for security”

In the post-Cold War world non-alignment means military co-operation with NATO, but without membership in the alliance. This is a conclusion on Finland’s international position, drawn by Max Jakobson, the eminent Finnish ex-diplomat and commentator.

In a column published in the leading national daily, Helsingin Sanomat (26 May 2000), Jakobson writes that this non-alignment — or non-membership— is for Finland the secondary foreign policy element, the primary being EU membership. This membership means in practice a deeper alignment than NATO membership would entail.

Jakobson says that when one describes the EU as a community of solidarity, the membership in the Union contains an undeclared security guarantee.

“We don’t have to fear that we will once more be left alone in the ante-chamber of the big Eastern neighbour. Undoubtedly EU membership has brought a qualitative change to Finland’s relations with the East. But one must remember that EU solidarity is of ‘soft’ quality.

“This is why Finland — like Sweden — harmonises its defence forces with NATO and thinks that co-operation with NATO-led peace-keeping and crisis management operations is part of our own security.”

Jakobson cites General Gustav Hägglund who has said that “in a changed world Finland may be defended even in the Balkans”. Hägglund sees the actions in the Balkans as preventive defence. In this scenario, Finland simultaneously develops its own arrangements and co-operative capacity in view of a future situation where the country can be at the receiving end of foreign help.

In Jakobson’s view, it is very important for Finland to take fully part in the EU crisis management project.

“Solidarity requires reciprocity. Our position at the core of EU is not a definitely secured advantage. It can be tested when the enlargement of the Union will be put into practice. The consequence can be ‘flexibility’, i.e. the division of the Union into unequal groups.”

Referring to German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer’s recent controversial statement, Jakobson thinks that attempts to strengthen the inner group solidarity are inevitable. “Would Euro then be a sufficient membership card for Finland?” he asks.

“The answer depends on the future development of EU-Russian relations. The EU is aiming to enhance European security through integration. In Russia, however, the dominant security policy thinking is still based on traditional geopolitical views. President Vladimir Putin emphasises that Russia is a big power. Thus, it has the right to protect its borders with a sphere of interest. The old familiar concept of ‘legitimate security interests’ is back in use.”

Jakobson does not rule out the possibility of a clash between EU integration policy and Russian geopolitics. It is also possible that the Union’s enlargement will stop at NATO’s Eastern border and a new grey zone will emerge.

“In view of this kind of situation, it is important to ensure that Finland maintains her position in the EU hard core”, Jakobson concludes.

See translations of Max Jakobson's columns

See also:

In the archive:

Presidential candidates fudge foreign policy dilemmas

21 January 2000

"EU defence will make non-alignment redundant"

6 January 2000

Military non-alignment backed by majority

3 December 1999

EU preferred to NATO on crisis management

30 November 1999

Defence plans alarm small EU countries

16 October 1999

Aftermath of Kosovo: Europe takes military route to security

October 1999

Non-aligned countries face problems with EU defence

13 July 1999

Non-aligned countries watch warily as NATO sidelines UN

May 1999

Blair assures Finland of role for non-aligned countries

February 1999

Debate about Finnish neutrality in New Europe intensifies

January 1999

Neutrality said to leave Finland and Sweden weak in future Europe

November 1998


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