Opening words by President of the Republic Sauli Niinistö at the Kultaranta talks on 11 June 2017

The theme of this year’s Kultaranta Talks is “The Future”. Tomorrow we will be pondering the future of Finland. But our opening panel deals with “The Future of European Security Institutions”. You are all warmly welcome.

At the heart of European integration lies a paradox: The European project was born out of war and it was intended to ensure peace on the continent but it was meant to do so without an explicit mandate to discuss, let alone act on the topic.

Yet the question of European security, even common defence, has never been far from the surface. Soon after the Schuman declaration on May 9th 1950 the Pleven plan for European Defence Community was mooted – and quickly abandoned.

Since then the Europeans have taken repeated bites out of the forbidden fruit of European defence. In the process the fruit has become less forbidden and the need to act together in the field of security more pressing.

The Helsinki Headline Goals of 1999 were an important milestone in launching the EU as a security actor. Yet for all intents and purposes the EU in a way still outsources its security. There are good reasons for this and hardly anyone would question the key arrangements. At the same time it is becoming increasingly clear that we, as Europeans, have to devote more attention to our own security.

One should be very clear about what we mean by the terms. When we are talking about European defence co-operation we are not talking about collective defence, at least not yet. That is still the remit of NATO. 

But under the banner of ‘protecting Europe’ we are increasingly asking ourselves, what more we can and must do together on the European level to better protect our citizens, common interests and values. 

For me the issue boils down to this: any Union worthy of the name must play its full share in ensuring the security of its citizens. This might, in due course, entail common European defence. 

But we are not there yet. For the moment we have more questions than answers: How do we share the responsibilities between the EU and NATO? What can the two do better together, and what must be done separately? How much we Europeans must be willing to contribute to our own security, and how best to organise it? Do we all agree what the key threats are and how best to respond to them? And how do we interpret the Article 42.7 of the Treaty of Lisbon?

Finland’s approach is very straightforward: We see a lot of untapped potential in EU defence co-operation. We view the EU as a security community that is built on solidarity and mutual dependence.

We want the EU to be ambitious but at the same time we believe that taking small and concrete steps is the best way forward. We want the future arrangements to be open and inclusive but not to the point of the lowest common denominator. And finally, we want to help the EU and NATO to work better together to ensure an inter-locking and not an inter-blocking system of security in Europe.

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The Kultaranta Talks is a forum for open exchange and debate. I trust the Spirit of Kultaranta will guide our discussions and I warmly welcome you all once again. I also want to thank our distinguished international guests for accepting my invitation: The title of our opening panel has never been more timely or topical.

I invite the moderator of the opening session, Monsieur François Heisbourg on the stage. He is the Chairman of the IISS and the Geneva Centre for Security Policy, and a Special Adviser of the Paris-based Fondation pour la Recherche Stratégique. He is a great friend of Finland and one of the foremost experts on the topic of the day. He is uniquely qualified to introduce and moderate our opening debate. François, the floor is yours.