The operating environment of foreign and security policy, both in the immediate vicinity of Finland as well as globally, are in an intense state of flux…
Strengthening the European Union as a security community is one of the focus areas of Finland’s foreign and security policy…
Strengthening the Common Foreign and Security Policy increases security and stability in Europe and the influence of the Union.
GDL: What foreign policy does Finland exercise as a Member State of the European Union and as a member of the international community?
JP: The Government Report on Finnish Foreign and Security Policy from 2016 lays the foundation for steering Finland’s foreign and security policy. The scope of the Report extends beyond the present Government’s term in office, reaching into the mid-2020s.
The operating environment of foreign and security policy, both in the immediate vicinity of Finland as well as globally, are in an intense state of flux. Nation states and other actors are increasingly interlinked and interdependent. Many drivers of change in our operating environment are opening opportunities for advancing our international objectives. The recent changes in our operating environment have also created new threats and instability. From the European perspective the international security situation has deteriorated in recent years.
Finland’s foreign and security policy is predicated on the values and rights enshrined in the Constitution, and it promotes them. Shared values, democracy, accountable governance and well-functioning institutions lay the foundation for stability, internal security and wellbeing, supported by sustainable economic growth. A safe society based on trust is an important part of credible and successful foreign and security policy.
The goal of Finland’s foreign and security policy is to strengthen Finland’s international position, to secure its independence and territorial integrity, to improve the security and well-being of Finns and to ensure that the society functions efficiently. The primary aim of Finland’s foreign and security policy is to avoid becoming a party to a military conflict. Finland actively implements a bilateral and multilateral foreign and security policy. In a world of global inter-dependencies, Finland promotes international stability, peace, democracy, human rights, the rule of law and equality.
GDL: Where is your country’s security policy based upon and what is the role of the EU’s Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP)?
JP: The European Union is the central frame of reference of Finland’s foreign and security policy, and an important security community. The European Union which emerged as this continent’s internal peace movement supports a rules-based international order and global governance in its external action.
Strengthening the European Union as a security community is one of the focus areas of Finland’s foreign and security policy. The European Union is Finland’s value community. Finland aims at bolstering the EU as a security community that cultivates cooperation among its Member States. Strengthening the Common Foreign and Security Policy increases security and stability in Europe and the influence of the Union.
Finland promotes the development of defence cooperation within the EU so that the Union and its Member States can be better prepared to meet the security requirements of the future and to improve their crisis resilience. Maintaining and developing capabilities demands a sufficient technological and industrial base, as well as arrangements for security of supply. It is important to develop the EU’s defence cooperation in concert with NATO, which also serves Finland’s interests. Finland fully participates in the development of the Common Security and Defence Policy in crisis management, as well.
“Economic and social inequality and the impacts of climate change constitute major barriers to development. This is where development policy and development cooperation can make a difference. A stable, equal and safe world is in the interest of all of us…
The aim of all our activities is to strengthen developing countries’ own resources to allow them to be less dependent on development aid.”
GDL: Nordic countries are superpowers in mediation – expertise and impartiality are their strengths. Is Finnish Diplomacy a prime example of successful peace diplomacy?
JP: I would say, yes. Finland might not be the most prominent actor in the field of international mediation, but mediation is among the strategic priorities of our foreign policy. Finland and Finnish people have been engaged in significant mediation tasks, the prime example being our former President of the Republic and Nobel Peace laureate Mr. Martti Ahtisaari. More effective ways of mediation are sought by means of training and developing the skills and competencies of Foreign Service officials working in these positions. Finland’s diplomatic and consular missions abroad play an important role when the grounds of Finland’s participation in mediation are discussed.
Our approach to mediation is holistic. It includes conflict prevention, as well as the promotion of national dialogues and the inclusive participation of civil society actors in peace processes. We emphasise full participation of both women and youth and traditional and religious leaders in mediation processes.
GDL: Finland supports developing countries’ own development efforts by means of both political advocacy and financing. Can you elaborate more upon this initiative?
JP: Development policy is an important part of Finland’s foreign and security policy. Development cooperation is one means to implement the policy. Economic and social inequality and the impacts of climate change constitute major barriers to development. This is where development policy and development cooperation can make a difference. A stable, equal and safe world is in the interest of all of us.
Durable results can be attained only through development that is economically, socially and environmentally sustainable. This calls for coherence in the cooperation between the different policy sectors influencing the development.
The goal of Finland’s development policy is the eradication of poverty and inequality and the promotion of sustainable development. Development policy also facilitates finding solutions to other global challenges, such as climate change.
The aim of all our activities is to strengthen developing countries’ own resources to allow them to be less dependent on development aid. Achieving sustainable results is only possible through economically, socially and environmentally sustainable development.
Finland’s action draws upon the inherent values and underlying principles of Nordic societies, the implementation of human rights being a key goal. Finnish development policy strives to strengthen the rights of the most vulnerable, promote gender equality and improve climate change preparedness and mitigation.
Finland focuses its action on four priority areas: the rights and status of women and girls; the growth of developing countries’ economies to generate more jobs, livelihoods and well-being; democratic and better-functioning societies; food security, access to water and energy and sustainable use of natural resources.
“For Finland as a small and open economy, support for the rules-based multilateral trading system is an important aspect of our foreign policy and external economic relations. A trade war would imply an attack on this very system that the multilateral community has developed together over many decades. And as history tells, the implications of a trade war would not stop at the protagonists, but would spread more broadly in terms of jobs being lost and competitive capacity reduced.”
GDL: If China and the United States continue raising tariffs on each other’s products, it is said that the greatest victim will be the rules-based system of liberal trade. Finland as an open economy also relies on a free, rules-based international trading system abiding with free-trade commitments. What is your Government’s position on the potential trade war?
JP: As said, for Finland as a small and open economy, support for the rules-based multilateral trading system is an important aspect of our foreign policy and external economic relations. A trade war would imply an attack on this very system that the multilateral community has developed together over many decades. And as history tells the implications of a trade war would not stop at the protagonists, but would spread more broadly in terms of jobs being lost and competitive capacity reduced. Consequently, we think that it is of utmost importance to try to avoid the escalation of the situation into a trade war.
GDL: How does Finland feel on the practice of some countries stealing information on critical infrastructure or putting pressure on foreign companies to hand over technology?
JP: As a high-tech country, the protection of intellectual property rights is very important for Finland and for Finnish businesses operating around the world. The Finnish legal system protects intellectual property rights and Finland adheres to numerous international agreements concerning intellectual property. We expect the same from our trade and investment partners. Moreover, it is naturally in our interest to safeguard our critical infrastructure from any disadvantageous activity.
GDL: One hundred years ago (in December 2017), Finland became an independent state. It was a poor country after the end of the civil war in 1918, and in 100 years, the country has come a long way – from an agrarian state to the welfare society and a high-tech country that Finland is known for today. What were the ingredients for this historical success?
JP: There are of course many contributing developments that created the Finnish welfare society and our edge on high-tech and innovation that we have today: Education, guaranteeing equal social and economic rights and opportunities to all citizens including furtherance of gender equality, and consensus-spirited trust in institutions and amongst the population are among the most important factors. The same holds for the future, as well: knowledge and knowhow, continuing investment in research and innovation, entrepreneurship and cooperation.
“Two broad sectors where I see more immediate opportunities for increasing mutually beneficial cooperation are education and energy. Both these sectors are going through a reform process in Greece at the moment.”
GDL: What are the level of bilateral relations between Finland and Greece and in which sectors are you actively pursuing an increased cooperation?
JP: Our bilateral relations are very good but as always, there is ample room for more interaction and collaboration in many walks of life. Last year, we celebrated the centenary of the independence of the Republic of Finland here in Greece, as well. I would like to use this opportunity to thank once more our Greek hosts for their support for and involvement in these festivities. Next year we will be celebrating the centenary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between our two countries.
Two broad sectors where I see more immediate opportunities for increasing mutually beneficial cooperation are education and energy. Both these sectors are going through a reform process in Greece at the moment. In the longer term, there will certainly be interesting opportunities in various other high-tech sectors where there is Finnish expertise.
GDL: Mr. Ambassador, since assuming your post here a year ago, both you and your wife are active members of the Diplomatic Corps. On a more personal note, did you choose Athens, or did the Foreign Service Organisation choose for you? Was this the first time that you had been in Greece and how do you like it so far?
JP: I together with my family certainly chose Greece, as the country was very high on my list, and our whole family was very happy to come here. On the other hand, I was extremely happy professionally that our Foreign Service gave me this opportunity.
This is both my and my family’s first time staying in Athens. My wife had visited Athens some 30 years ago with her parents, and believe or not, my wife and I when were where still dating some 25 years ago, were tenting on Corfu. That was my first encounter with this beautiful country.
Interview by Nicolas Boutsicos
Editor, Greek Diplomatic Life