Full text  

                 Ambassador René Nyberg,
Head of Division for Eastern Affairs,
Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland, 
Moscow, 15 July 1999 
 

"EU Common Strategy on Russia"
 There should be no doubt about the fact that the European Union is today undertaking a concerted effort vis-à-vis Russia. It would be wrong to claim that this is because of Finland, but it remains a fact that the 1995 enlargement of the EU introduced a new dimension in the relationship between the EU and Russia. Russia became a neighbour of the EU. Russia’s shortest route to Europe is no longer due west, but instead due north-west - along the road and railway corridors via St. Petersburg to Helsinki. The Finno-Russian border lies only a thousand km from Moscow and it is the best functioning border that Russia has. It is orderly and almost never congested. 

This is the seminal observation that led to the concept of a "Northern Dimension of the European Union". It describes the new reality that the EU had gained a "northern dimension" - to complement its other dimensions, notably its southern dimension - through the accession of Finland and Sweden. Politically the Northern Dimension describes the challenge that the enlarging EU faces vis-à-vis Russia. During the next decade we will welcome four new members who share a common border with Russia - Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. 

The legal basis of the relationship between the EU and Russia remains the Partnership and Co-operation Agreement (PCA) signed in Corfu, Greece, in 1994, at the same European Summit where Finland joined the EU. The PCA came into force only in December 1997. The PCA provides the framework and the mechanisms for the development of a close relationship. Its ultimate goal is a free trade agreement between the EU and Russia. 

It is not easy to explain the intricate mechanisms of the Union. The European Union is neither an international organisation nor a confederation of states. It is a Union of European states that have in the course of post-war European history joined forces, and by doing so voluntarily gave up a substantial part of their sovereignty. What started in 1951 as a Coal and Steel Union - to make war between Germany and France impossible - has grown into a enormously complicated and powerful Union that has created a unified market of 350 million people and removed all internal borders. By the introduction in 1999 of the euro, the Union took the unprecedented step of abolishing national currencies. Today, the Finnish and the German marks are but variations of the euro and the monetary policy of "Euroland" is in essence made in Frankfurt. 

The Union is a strange animal and it is - once again - on the brink of yet another significant change. The Union Treaty of Amsterdam 1998 is the latest codification of constant change. It will be upon the Finnish Presidency to continue the work started by Amsterdam in order to make the Union ready for its next enlargement. 

The common strategy is a child of the Amsterdam Treaty. The Treaty obligates the Union to define common strategies in areas of notable common interest to the Member States of the Union. The strategies are adopted by the European Heads of State and Government by consensus and then implementation of the strategies can be decided upon by a qualified majority of the Member States. This makes the Common Strategy an efficient new tool for the European Union´s Common Foreign and Security Policy. Enhancing this policy is one of the priorities of the Finnish Presidency. 

Common strategies can also be thematic, for example dealing with human rights. The next strategies the European Union is about to adopt concern Ukraine, the Western Balkans and the Mediterranean. 

The Common Strategy on Russia adopted at the European Summit in Cologne in June this year has a twofold task. The external message is clear; it confirms the resolve of the EU to enhance and develop its relationship with a democratic Russia. Internally the Common Strategy represents by far the most ambitious step to co-ordinate and provide consistency within the policies and programmes of the EU. 

The content of the strategy annotates existing programmes and goals and also defines the immediate priorities. It remains the task of the Finnish Presidency to start the implementation of the Common Strategy. The Chair of the Council of Ministers, Foreign Minister Ms Tarja Halonen, will present the work programme to the Council next week. The Finnish Presidency intends to report to the European Council in Helsinki in December on the progress in implementing the strategy. Thereafter, the Portuguese Presidency will take over the reins. 

Without a proper response from the Russian side, a Common Strategy of the Union on Russia remains an academic exercise. We are, indeed, gratified by the reaction of the Russian Government, which early on promised to reciprocate with a Russian strategy for the European Union. This kind of dialogue is of fundamental importance. 

It has been the goal of the Finnish Government from the early days of Finnish EU membership to make the Union "think Russia". This is very much the background to the introduction of the Northern Dimension. But it does not suffice to "think Russia" in Brussels and the capitals of the Union. We also need Russia to "think Europe". The nature and the position of the European Union are not always well understood in Russia. It is my feeling that only with the introduction of a common European currency, the euro, did the European Union finally penetrate Russian political thinking. 

The Common Strategy on Russia is the first common strategy of the Union and as such creates an important precedent. Conceptually the Common Strategy is based on an analysis which defines the promotion of the rule of law as the bedrock for future relations between the Union and Russia. The political message is evident. A democratic Russia is a strategic partner of growing significance for the Union. The EU is already the most important trading partner of Russia. Forty per cent of Russia’s exports goes to Europe. With the enlargement of the Union the figure will grow to fifty per cent. 

The enlargement of the Union will have significant repercussions for Russia. At this very moment the acceding countries are in the midst of adopting European norms and legislation. This is no small or simple task. Just to illustrate what this means let me reflect that when Austria, Finland and Sweden joined the Union we signed a document of 80 000 pages. When the turn of Poland and the Baltic States comes the number of pages will have reached 100 000. 

The fact that countries bordering Russia - Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland - will soon be fully integrated into the world of the European Union represents a major challenge to Russia. It enhances economic dynamism and political stability at the western borders of Russia, thus offering unique possibilities for economic co-operation to the neighbouring Russian regions. But simultaneously European integration threatens to create a normative divide unless Russia also adopts norms and standards of its most important market and trading partner - the European Union. These problems can only be alleviated by Russia´s own efforts and the EU is ready to help Russia. 

The gist of the PCA and the essence of all international efforts - including the negotiations Russia is conducting with the IMF - is to support the reforms of the Russian Government in order to integrate Russia into European and world structures, notably the WTO. 

Let me touch upon a practical example that in many ways reflects the Finnish experience in dealing with Russia. The European Union is particularly pleased with the Russian Government’s initiative to discuss the effects of the enlargement of the Union on Kaliningrad, in the context of the PCA mechanism. We are all well aware of the fact that Kaliningrad, Russia’s only exclave, is about to become an enclave within the Union. 

The signing in 1992 of a Co-operation Agreement concerning the Neighbouring Areas of Finland and the Russian Federation introduced the revolutionary concept of direct contacts over the border to the regions and between the regions. Watching Lithuania and Poland today develop their ties to Kaliningrad is gratifying and very much in line with the policies of the Union. The Union supports the steps taken by Lithuania in developing cross-border contacts with Kaliningrad and providing humanitarian aid for the most vulnerable part of the population.

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Rapid and dynamic European integration is in many ways the antithesis of autarky. It is based on a deep commitment to the benefits of positive interdependence. The co-operation offer of the Union is an offer of interdependence. It demonstrates the firm conviction that a relationship that makes wars impossible - the fundamental post-war European axiom - can also create synergy and communality. 

Transportation, ports and access routes are the best examples of interdependence, what we call the "Rotterdam syndrome". The largest port of Germany is Rotterdam in the Netherlands - not Hamburg - and the second largest German port is Antwerp in Belgium - not Bremerhaven. The second example well known to all is energy. Europe’s need of imported gas is constantly growing and the most important market for Russian gas is Europe. 

The Common Strategy enunciates the Union’s commitment to partnership with a democratic Russia. It also rests on the fact that the western borders of Russia are stable. Europe is Russia’s best partner and friend. - Russia’s bread is buttered on its western side.