November 2000

What to do in the EU hard core

What is the EU core which Finland is trying to join? This question is put by Jyrki Käkönen, Jean Monnet Professor at the University of Tampere. Writing in Helsingin Sanomat (30 October 2000), Käkönen says that Finland tried to gain itself a position in the EU with the initiative on Northern Dimension. This did not work because Finland unrealistically expected the EU to take up the initiative and give it content. This failure, according to Käkönen, shows that entry into the inner core on its own is not enough. One needs to know what to do there.

But what is Finland's interest in the EU, and particularly in its hard core, Käkönen asks. On one hand it is probable that it is in Finland's interests to follow Germany because of its interest in Central and Eastern Europe, including Russia -- issues close to Finland.

"At the same time, Finland should make it clear for itself whether it wants to be part of a co-operative organisation between states or a union heading towards a federal state."

"The question is important not only to Finland but the whole European Union. Enlargement and deepening are two contradictory targets.

"Enlargement weakens the credibility of the Union as an actor in the international system. On the other hand, credibility weakens if enlargement is delayed because the process of accepting new members has already been begun."

According to Käkönen, this dilemma could be solved by developing a multi-layered union.

"Then the EU would no longer represent all its member countries. Instead, they would have a varying position in the Union in relation to each other."

Käkönen sees signs of a multi-layered future in France's wish to strengthen its co-operation with Germany. Another development pointing to this direction will be the growing gap between countries who are at the contributing end and those at the receiving end of the Union.

"With current structures of decision-making the enlarged Union could come to a situation where four new poor member states together with four old poor member countries could decide about the size of member's financial contributions and the use of common resources.

"This could be avoided by a multi-layered system and by members' different position and different rights. However, the aim of a multi-layered system is to strengthen the position of strong members in the Union."

Käkönen thinks that probably Finland would remain a silent partner in the hard core, although good administrative knowhow would strengthen its position.

Another problem for Finland in the hard core would emerge if responsibility for the EU's security policy falls on NATO, Käkönen writes. In order to participate in decision-making, Finland would have to become a NATO member. Käkönen thinks that NATO membership is not an impossible solution for the Finnish political elite whose aim has been to return to Western Europe. This return won't be accomplished fully before Finland is a member in a security organisation defending Western values.

"Finnish government has left the door open for NATO membership. We should, however, discuss why Finland should join NATO and what NATO is actually needed for in the post-Cold War world. It cannot, after all, be used in Union politics without the United States' consent."

Käkönen points out, however, that European security and wealth is being sought by so-called soft security methods, by increasing mutual co-operation and dependence.

"In this kind of security strategy there is room for the Finnish initiative on Northern Dimension. When it becomes a reality, it would strengthen Finland's position in the Union.

"Seeking security by hard methods would widen the gap between the Union and Russia and, consequently between Finland and Russia. In this case Finland's weight in the Union would be diminished."


From our archive:

"EU needs new philosophy to help enlargement"

11 August 2000

Schröder: No exclusive clubs within EU

17 July 2000

"EU hard core membership important for security"

31 May 2000

Citizens' rights emphasised as part of EU reform

26 October 1999

Changing EU voting rules would be undemocratic by Hannu Reime

October 1999

Power of big EU countries raises questions

October 1999


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