Good evening and a warm welcome to the Kultaranta Talks.
We have gathered here every June since 2013 to discuss current issues in foreign and security policy. Looking back, it turns out that five years is a very long time in international affairs. The change in the global picture has been quite dramatic. And unfortunately it has mainly not been for the better.
The rules-based international order has clearly been a victim of this change. We seem to be sliding into a world where strongman personalities outweigh permanent institutions, where unilateral power speaks louder than multilateral agreements and common norms and values.
This is a very serious situation. We have to stop and think: what is at stake here? To put it bluntly, the absence of order means disorder, or even chaos. The absence of rules means no rules. Or somebody else’s rules, rules dictated without our consent.
Just a week ago, we saw very different pictures emerging from two simulta-neous meetings. The G7 in Canada, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in China – one was portraying images of division, the other images of unity.
Concrete results may tell a different story, but appearances do matter in to-day’s world. If the West is seen as weak and divided, it will be much more dif-ficult to defend the order we have created, and the values this order repre-sents. Yesterday’s rule-makers can become tomorrow’s rule-takers.
There is ample reason to be concerned about the international order falling apart in front of our eyes. For a country like Finland, a reliable multilateral system is an essential component of our security and welfare.
But it is not enough to be worried about the past and present developments. Our concern does not change anything. What we need is action to turn the tide. That is why we are here.
Tonight, we will begin by setting the scene and taking a broad look at the state of the international order. Can the international organizations created after the Second World War, the United Nations at the forefront, still make a difference, or are we about to enter a completely new era? Are institutions and agreements still to be trusted, or are they only pawns of the great-power game? How are we going to deal with questions of peace and security, trade and the environment, human rights and arms control?
Tomorrow we will continue with a closer focus on the European Union. The EU itself is the main representation of the rules-based order on our continent and globally. And in its common foreign and security policy the EU has always spoken about the value of multilateralism. But is anyone listening? A European Union seen as weak and divided will not be able to shape the international order. How can the EU be made stronger, internally as well as externally? I expect these questions to be equally valid a year from now, when Finland takes on the Presidency of the European Union.
The EU already is an economic superpower, and it has sought a leading global role in protecting the environment. Tomorrow we will also look for ways of combining these two elements in a sustainable way.
In the smaller break-out discussions tomorrow, we will dive into Finnish per-spectives on the future of the United Nations, on equality, and on climate change. Major international topics, all of them, but also ones where the work needs to begin at home.
To address this wide-ranging agenda, I am delighted to have such an excellent line-up of speakers: beginning with this evening’s distinguished panel and ending with the Secretary-General of the United Nations tomorrow afternoon.
But the real strength of the Kultaranta Talks always comes from the whole group of people in this tent, not just the ones on the podium. This is supposed to be a genuine conversation, where every participant has an equal voice. I encourage you all to use it. Let’s challenge each other, but let’s also listen to each other.
I will now give the floor to the moderator of the first session, Ms. Tuija Talvitie. I look forward to our discussions today and tomorrow. Thank you.