Security in Baltic and Nordic Regions in Broader EU Perspective

Liettuan kristillisdemokraattien naisjärjestön Women and Security -konferenssissa 12.4. pidetty puhe.


Distinguished participants, ladies and gentlemen,

As the other speakers have noted, we live in a rapidly changing geopolitical environment. The challenge posed by the crisis in Ukraine has transformed the national security debate also in Finland, where we have a long-standing commitment to neutrality dating back to the end of the Second World War. The Finnish policy has been to maintain a credible defence capability that is based on conscription and a large military reserve that can be called upon during wartime. The idea behind this strategy has been to create a deterrent strong enough to make military action too costly for any potential enemy.

Although the size of the Finnish reserve has been cut back in recent years due to financial pressures and the ongoing reforms in our Defence Forces, it still comprises about 350 000 men and women. There is strong support in Finland for a strong defensive capability, although conscription is becoming increasingly rare in Europe. The recent conflict between Russia and Ukraine has increased support for joining NATO, although a strong majority is still against it. The fundamental question is whether the crisis is limited to the Crimean peninsula or if it should be seen as the first step in Russia’s plan for increasing its sphere of influence by military means.

As rapporteur for the OSCE General Committee on Political Affairs and Security, I have participated in formulating the Organization’s response to the crisis. The OSCE has been considered the most suitable organisation for diplomatic talks because its legitimacy is accepted by both Ukraine and Russia. Still, practically all international organisations have struggled in responding immediately and decisively in situations like these. There has been much discussion in recent years about new security threats, but the crisis in Ukraine is a chilling reminder that conventional military operations are a real and present threat to the security of Europe. Organisations such as the OSCE should have clear roadmaps or action plans so that responding to situations like this would be faster and more effective.

Developing the common security and defence policy of the European Union remains a pressing challenge. 22 of the 28 EU member states are currently members of NATO. But in recent years, the focus of NATO has increasingly been on conflict resolution outside of Europe’s borders. The current crisis in Ukraine could spark the debate of whether the organisation should return to its roots as a defensive military alliance, with the sovereignty of its members as its main priority. If the decision is made to deepen the common defence of the European Union, it will have to include the creation of new military formations and common material purchases. Whether there is enough political will for this remains to be seen.

The presence of traditional threats also bring to focus the development of conventional arms control treaties, which still have relevance in today’s security policy. My work as rapporteur has involved creating proposals within the OSCE to modernize these treaties. For example, the military exercise in September 2013 between Russia and Belarus involved joint operations at five different test grounds. Russia did not report all of its participating forces to the OSCE, which was in violation the agreed exchange of information between the participating States. According to Russia, 40 000 soldiers took part in the exercise, but the real number turned out to be over 100 000.

One related challenge has been the way different countries interpret the treaties, which has led to some unnecessary misunderstandings. I recently proposed a new arbitration system within the OSCE to resolve this problem in the future.

Arms control treaties should also be updated so that they focus more on the quality and potential of different elements of military force, not just quantity. In an age when one can theoretically cripple an entire nation with a successful cyber attack, simple counts of a country’s armored vehicles or artillery do not provide the full picture. Cyber attacks pose an increasing threat to privacy and human rights, and the OSCE should work to coordinate its efforts the the EU’s cyber security strategy. There should also be a new reporting and classification system for cyber attacks, should they occur.

Some additional issues that must be addressed are chemical and biological weapons, missile defence programs, conventional long-range precision weapons and strategic and tactical nuclear weapons. The list of modern security threats is long and poses an enormous challenge in drafting and updating treaties aiming to maintain stability in Europe and the rest of the world.

The role of women in the resolution of conflicts and their aftermath is a matter that demands urgent attention around the world. According to the UN, only 8 % of peace treaty negotiators in recent years have been female. There should be a strong effort to encourage women to seek leadership positions in international organisations and to participate in peace processes around the world. At the same time, the international community should apply pressure to countries and organisations that actively discriminate against women by not allowing their full participation. Making sure that the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325, adopted in 2000, is fully complied to around the world remains an important task. The resolution calls for all parties in conflict situations to respect women’s rights and to support their participation in peace negotiations and rebuilding efforts.

This issue is crucially important in Afghanistan, where international troops are gradually withdrawing. The future of that country depends largely on how well women are included in rebuilding efforts and the development of civil society. There are many examples of this in different conflict zones around the world. In Liberia, for example, women held peace demonstrations during the bloody civil war. They brought the country’s warring sides to take part in negotiations, and did not stop until the conflict was resolved. Women have also had an active role in rebuilding Liberia after the war.

As the former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has said, study after study has taught us that there is no tool for development that is more effective than the empowerment of women. No other policy is as likely to raise economic productivity, to promote health or to improving the education for the next generation. The prevention of conflicts and achieving reconciliation also depend on the participation of women.

I am proud of the progress that my own country has achieved in this matter. 40 % of the civilian crisis management professionals we send on international missions are women, which is a very high number even on EU standards. Women have an important role in the Finnish government, parliament and the private sector. Other Nordic countries also have a long history of including women in political and security issues. Next year, Norway will expand its military conscription to include all women. According to the Norwegian military, there has been a consistent effort to recruit more women to their armed forces. Social skills, cultural knowledge and a high sense of ethics are some of the qualities women can bring to this field.

With the security of the continent threatened, the European Union needs to stand as an example and present a united front. Although there are always things to improve, the active participation of women in our societies is something that we can be proud of today and that gives us increased credibility on the world stage. When united, Europe can be a strong international force and live up to its full potential.

Right now, the most pressing task is to continue pushing for a diplomatic solution to the crisis in Ukraine and the Crimea. The Baltic states and Finland have a long history of balancing between the East and the West, and the lessons learned from this experience are needed now as much as ever.

Thank you.


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