President Sauli Niinistö delivered one of the keynote speeches at the 2017 Lennart Meri Conference in Tallinn on 13 May, 2017.

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President Sauli Niinistö has expressed his concerns about the security-related uncertainties lingering in Europe.

“I take it that we can all agree that Europe is not as stable and secure as we would like it to be. We are forced to admit that the post-Cold War promise of [a] stable and prosperous Europe without dividing lines has not been achieved,” he said in his speech at the Lennart Meri Conference in Tallinn on Saturday.

“Increased tensions, arms races and rise of terrorism show no signs of abating,” he added.

The Lennart Meri Conference is an annual high-level forum for foreign and security policy discussions named after Lennart Meri, the President of Estonia in 1992–2001.

Niinistö also echoed the concerns of many about the apparent re-emergence of geopolitics by calling attention to the growing tendency to back hard words with hard actions.

“Military activities and build-up are increasing, and military operations and exercises are conducted in previously unseen ways. Threat perceptions also include asymmetric threats, such as hybrid and cyber [threats]. Even the very foundations of our democracy, elections, have been targeted with malign intents.”

“There is no denying that European security is riven by deep mistrust. Our joint co-operation platform, the OSCE, struggles as key commitments have been breached: the annexation of Crimea by Russia was a heavy blow,” he said.

Finland, he assured, remains resolute in its defence of the fundamental principles and structures of stability in Europe: “We want to send a strong signal that we take security seriously. We work closely with our partners in Nato and our bilateral defence co-operation with Sweden is progressing rapidly.”

The European Union is of particular importance for the country, reminded Niinistö. The union, however, is hardly a true union if it fails to contribute to the security of its citizens.

Niinistö also pointed out that although Nato is the primary forum of defence co-operation for many other EU member states, the union as a whole has a number of measures at its disposal to protect Europe.

“I am happy to note that at last discussions concerning defence co-operation are bearing fruit. We are close to agreeing on activating the [protocol on] permanent structured co-operation [PESCO] in defence,” he stated.

Finland, he added, fully supports and will contribute to the development process, which must be both ambitious and inclusive.

“We are a union and this should be reflected also in the field of security. We must ensure that the arrangements are and will remain inclusive while bringing concrete steps forward and real added value to the security of ordinary Europeans. Developing key capabilities, enhancing our operational readiness, but importantly also our willingness, are important.”

Niinistö also estimated that two of the most pressing concerns are presently the use of chemical weapons in Syria and the lack of progress in nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation – also in North Korea.

“We must strictly enforce the Chemical Weapons Convention. These weapons should never be used. It is also important that the nuclear weapon states, in particular the United States and Russia, get back on track in their strategic talks and seek to reduce all types of nuclear weapons.”

Aleksi Teivainen – HT
Photo: Raul Mee – STR/Lehtikuva
Source: Uusi Suomi

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