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Kokoomus.fi / Julkaisut / Politiikka / Ministeri Stubbin puhe College of Europessa

Minis­teri Stub­bin puhe College of Euro­pessa


This speech is perso­nal, very perso­nal. Why? Because Bruges is a special place for me.

I gradua­ted from the College of Europe in 1995. So did my wife. We met at Gouden Hand­straat. Our class voted us the “most likely couple to get married”, and we did not let them down. She was, and is, smar­ter than me - a lawyer. I am just a humble poli­tical scien­tist.

But don’t worry, this speech is not about the “College of Love”, it is about Euro­pean inte­gra­tion. It is perso­nal because I do not want anyone else to take the respon­si­bi­lity for what I am about to say, especially not my govern­ment part­ners. They should not be held accoun­table for my views.

This will be a perso­nal assess­ment of the state of the Euro­pean Union in 2015 when you, dear students, are about to venture into one of your most memo­rable years of study.

In the next eight months you will probably learn more about Euro­pean insti­tu­tions and natio­na­li­ties than… well, you might want to know. I have only one piece of advice for you: work hard and play hard. And trust me, you will not only learn a lot, but have a hell of a lot of fun too.

Let me begin with a disclai­mer. I am an avid pro-Euro­pean. Some might even call me a fede­ra­list. As a poli­tician I try to take distance from acade­mic defi­ni­tions, but let it be clear that I often prefer more, rather than less inte­gra­tion.

It all began in the United States, at Furman Univer­sity in 1989. As a young student I watc­hed the Cold War unra­vel and celebra­ted the reuni­fica­tion of Germany from afar, yet so close. Little did I unders­tand that it would define my own path in life.

Profes­sor Brent Nelsen intro­duced me to inte­gra­tion theo­ries from Ernst Haas’ func­tio­na­lism to Andrew Moravc­sik’s libe­ral inter­go­vern­men­ta­lism, not to forget the Leon Lind­berg’s neofunc­tio­na­lism and John Pinder’s fede­ra­lism.

I wanted to become an acade­mic, with a focus on Euro­pean inte­gra­tion. And I did indeed pursue a short, albeit prac­tical acade­mic career. I got my PhD from the London School of Econo­mics in 1999, publis­hed a few books and acade­mic articles on the EU, and even taught here at Bruges from 2000 to 2007.

Theory became prac­tice as Finland joined the Euro­pean Union in 1995. The world of civil service brought me the prac­tical expe­rience of nego­tia­ting in the inter­go­vern­men­tal confe­rences leading to the trea­ties of Amster­dam, Nice and Lisbon. I became a hybrid, oscil­la­ting between acade­mia and diplo­macy.

Inte­gra­tion theory suddenly seemed rather detac­hed from the prac­tice of nego­tia­ting the balance of power between insti­tu­tions and member states. But it had provi­ded me with a wonder­ful base for ente­ring poli­tics, in the ever so exci­ting world of the Euro­pean Parlia­ment in 2004.

I have now been a govern­ment minis­ter close to eight years. In diffe­rent port­fo­lios - ranging from Foreign Affairs to Trade, from Prime Minis­ter to now Finance Minis­ter - I have had the front seat in the crisis from Geor­gia to Ukraine, the euro to refu­gees.

In my 25 years of trying to unders­tand EU policy as an acade­mic, bureauc­rat and poli­tician, my conclusion is rather simple: the EU is cons­tant crisis mana­ge­ment. We keep on moving from one crisis to anot­her, one more serious than the other.

But some­how we always manage to find a solu­tion. It is never pretty, but always better than no solu­tion at all. The EU will never be perfect, but I am yet to find a system that would be better at provi­ding peace, pros­pe­rity and secu­rity for its members.

I firmly believe that the Euro­pean Union is the most success­ful expe­ri­ment mana­ging rela­tions between nation states. It is a Union of values, which is based on two solid pillars: libe­ral democ­racy and market economy.

If the EU had a hash­tag it would be free­dom. If the EU had an app it would be tole­rance. If the EU was a tweet it would have… well… 140 charac­ters. But the EU is a bit more complex than a hash­tag, an app or a tweet.

The EU is much more than an inter­na­tio­nal orga­ni­sa­tion, yet less than a state. Compe­ti­tion, trade, customs, agricul­ture and mone­tary policy are the exclusive compe­tence of the EU.

We have deci­ded to pool sove­reignty through common insti­tu­tions and laws. Member states do not do this because they think it is fun, they do it because they have common values and it is in their inte­rest to inte­grate.

Euro­pean laws stand above natio­nal laws. The Euro­pean Court of Justice molds our legis­la­tive landscape. The inter­nal market is the world’s biggest economy. Yes, it is bigger than the United States and over twice the size of China! Goods, services, people and money move freely inside the EU.

I also believe that there is an imbed­ded logic of the way in which Euro­pean inte­gra­tion advances. First there is a crisis, then there is mayhem and finally EU members decide to take steps which deepen inte­gra­tion furt­her.

I believe that inte­gra­tion in one area leads to pres­sure to inte­grate in anot­her. I do not think the EU will ever have a fina­lité poli­tique, an end state. It is simply an ever evol­ving process towards some kind of a closer union.

This is obviously not the ideal way of advancing Euro­pean inte­gra­tion. It leads to sub-opti­mal results. A common vision would be a better master than force or time pres­sure. But there is no common vision, and there­fore we always have a tendency to force change in a crisis. I guess this is an example that we do not live in a perfect world.

At the same time I am beco­ming increa­singly concer­ned about the democ­ra­tic legi­ti­macy of the Euro­pean Union. It has always been a top-down process, where big deci­sions from Inter­go­vern­men­tal Confe­rences are trickled down to a “take-it or leave-it” deci­sion by natio­nal parlia­ments, with or without refe­renda.

This problem is by no means speci­fic to the EU. It actually pertains to all industrial democ­racies from the US to Canada and from Japan to Austra­lia. In all of these count­ries ordi­nary voters often feel increa­singly distant from the poli­ticians and officials making deci­sions that affect their every­day lives.

I am also worried that some member states are star­ting to feel isola­ted inside the Euro­pean Union. The ongoing EU debate in the UK is a case in point. It would be a travesty for both the EU and the UK if the refe­ren­dum would lead to Brexit.

As you enter your acade­mic year at Bruges the Euro­pean Union stands at a cross­roads, simi­lar to those of 1950 and 1990. The post World War II 1950s saw the crea­tion of a Coal and Steel Commu­nity. The post Cold War 1990s saw the birth of Euro­pean Union. Now, like then, the answer should be more, not less, inte­gra­tion.

There are three major crises which will drive the inte­gra­tion process forward: the euro, the refu­gee crisis and secu­rity. They are inti­ma­tely linked to the three funda­men­tal goals of the EU: peace, pros­pe­rity and secu­rity. So far we have mudd­led through the crises. But it is clear that more funda­men­tal reform will be needed.

This will raise many issues of balance of power - between member states and EU insti­tu­tions, between the insti­tu­tions them­sel­ves, and between member states. This will also most probably lead to increa­sing diffe­ren­tia­tion inside the EU. There will have to be a clea­rer defi­ni­tion of tasks between ins and outs in the euro, immi­gra­tion and secu­rity policy.

I do not, howe­ver, believe that we will see a quan­tum leap forward toward some kind of a fede­ral state. The reason for that is simple: the member states will not allow it to happen. Money, borders and secu­rity have tradi­tio­nally been an inte­gral part of the tasks of a nation state.

Let me deal with each of the three crises - euro, refu­gees and secu­rity - in turn.

The euro crisis, some say, had its roots in the collapse of Lehman Brot­hers. The answer is obviously not that easy. In 2008 we moved quickly from a market crisis to a financial crisis and furt­her from a sove­reign debt crisis to a euro crisis.

The actual roots lie in the Maastricht Treaty, when the choice was made that the Euro­pean Union would have respon­si­bi­lity over mone­tary policy, whilst the member states would manage their own econo­mic policy.

It all worked well until euro members star­ted to violate the very rules that they them­sel­ves had set. Be that the stabi­lity and growth pact or just basic econo­mic statis­tical repor­ting.

The way in which the member states and the insti­tu­tions dealt with the euro was a clas­sic example of “crisis-mayhem-solution”-policy. We had never been in a simi­lar situa­tion. The stakes where as high as they could be. It was not only about tax-payers money and poli­tical survi­val. It was about the future of the whole Euro­pean project.

The human mind, especially that of a lawyer or an econo­mist, has a tendency to come up with crea­tive solu­tions in difficult moments. Stabi­lity mecha­nisms, reso­lu­tion funds, fiscal compacts, six- and two-pack legis­la­tion, quan­ti­ta­tive easing, emer­gency liqui­dity assets… you name it, and it was done.

I remem­ber some scary moments in 2009-2013 when I was not sure whet­her the euro would survive. At the same time, deep inside I knew it would. Despite all the dooms­day analysts who kept on shou­ting exit with all kinds prefixes.

Simi­larly this summer, at the height of the Greek crisis, I felt that the euro stood at anot­her cross­roads. One sign poin­ted to Grexit, the other to yet anot­her bailout.

As we weat­he­red the storm people star­ted to think about the future of EMU. Somet­hing needed to be done. A first attempt was made in a Blueprint for the future of the euro. It came in the midst of the crisis, went rather far, and was conve­niently buried.

This summer came a more serious attempt at a road­map for comple­ting the EMU. It is known as the Five Presi­dent’s report. It calls for progress in two stages on four fronts: Econo­mic Union, Financial Union, Fiscal Union and finally a Poli­tical Union. The first stage ends in 2017 builds on exis­ting instru­ments. The second stage, ending in 2025 would see the comple­tion of a “deep and genuine EMU”.

Going by past expe­rience the EU is not going to make a quick move towards a Fiscal or a Poli­tical Union, i.e. some kind of a fede­ra­tion. Taxes will remain natio­nal and the EU budget will remain rela­ti­vely small. Welfare services and the final say on econo­mic policy will remain in the hands of natio­nal parlia­ments.

Against this background we need to conti­nue work on a banking union and a capi­tal markets union. A good start would be that all member states would imple­ment the measu­res already deci­ded on banking union. Yes, this a stab at a majo­rity of euro count­ries who have not done it!

Also, much remains to be done in clea­ning up bank balance sheets and harmo­nizing bank regu­la­tion before we can talk about a truly level playing field. Even­tually, we will establish a common reso­lu­tion backs­top and perhaps even a Euro­pean depo­sit insu­rance system, but we are not quite there yet.

A capi­tal markets union should be seen as a prio­rity. It applies to all 28 member states, but is particu­larly rele­vant to the euro area. I welcome the initial propo­sals of the Commis­sion. A common market requi­res a common capi­tal market. As for the rest, well I’ll get back to you in 2025.

Secondly let me turn to the refu­gee crisis. We have all seen heart-wrenc­hing images of people struggling to land on the shores of Europe. And then batt­ling their way through barbed wire-fences and onwards to refu­gee centers around Europe. Over a million refu­gees so far. More on their way.

The refu­gee crisis is a defi­ning moment for Europe. If we fail to deal with the influx of refu­gees human tragedy will follow. In the midst of the crisis we should all have a warm heart and keep a cool head. We must be result orien­ted.

People need help, and we must help. There is no alter­na­tive. At the same time we must seek prac­tical solu­tions to avoid the situa­tion beco­ming uncont­rol­lable. This balancing act is not easy. Much like in the euro-crisis we seem to be finding solu­tions in the middle of the mayhem as we go along.

Let me be clear: there are only Euro­pean solu­tions to this crisis. No country can deal with this crisis alone. Greece, Italy and Hungary are struggling to cope as entry-count­ries. It is not any easier for tran­sit count­ries or end stations. We are all in this toget­her.

Just to give you an example from Finland. Last week we recei­ved as many refu­gees, over 3000, as we did all last year. This year we are expec­ting to deal with over 50 000 asylum seekers.

What kind of solu­tions then? Firstly, I welcome the deci­sion on reloca­tion. Finland was the first country to announce it would take its share from the EU quota. And we realise we will probably need to do more. This is Euro­pean soli­da­rity and burden-sharing at its best.

Second, we must build “hots­pots” for recei­ving refu­gees and dealing with applica­tions. This is a matter of prio­rity and urgency. Funding for these “hots­pots”, mainly in Greece and Italy at the point of entry, should be Euro­pean.

Thirdly, we need a list of so called “secure count­ries”. It is absurd that we have not been able to agree on a common list inside the EU. A common list would send a clear message that the EU has a common way of dealing with refu­gees.

Fourthly, we need to improve cont­rols of our exter­nal borders. This basically means Fron­tex. The Commis­sion will give its propo­sal on border cont­rols by the end of the year.

Finally, we need closer coope­ra­tion with the main count­ries - such as Afgha­nis­tan, Iraq, Syria and many African count­ries - in order to be able to deal with the root causes of immi­gra­tion in the country of origin.

Much of this has already been agreed. But too little has been done. Now we need swift imple­men­ta­tion.

But we should also go furt­her. We must harmo­nise the way EU states deal with asylum seekers. I am talking about the crite­ria for asylum and the bene­fits offe­red. It is coun­ter­pro­duc­tive that we encou­rage people to hide from autho­ri­ties and travel through Europe in hope of a better treat­ment.

You cannot blame the asylum seekers for doing so. They are ratio­nal people acting the way any of us would. It is the fault of the policy makers if terms and bene­fits vary signi­ficantly from one EU state to the other. Here, again, the solu­tion is more inte­gra­tion. In this case better harmo­ni­sa­tion of natio­nal asylum systems.

All talk about closing inter­nal borders is utter rubbish. The 25th anni­ver­sary of German reuni­fica­tion is a timely remin­der that Europe is about tearing down, not buil­ding WALLS.

The third pres­sure point on Europe is secu­rity. There’s no hiding the fact that inter­na­tio­nal secu­rity is in a terrible state. Almost the whole of the Middle East is marred by terrible conflicts that have repercus­sions throug­hout the world.

The crisis in Ukraine has gone on for way too long and only the most recent peace efforts have shown glim­mers of hope. The Arab spring did not fulfill its promise and North Africa is a dange­rous trouble spot on our sout­hern flank. Sadly, we have expe­rienced a resur­gence of violent terro­rism in Europe.

Finland has a 1,300 kilo­me­ter long border with Russia, more than double than the rest of the EU combi­ned. Against this background we often reflect on secu­rity policy through a Russian lens.

I was one of those libe­ral opti­mists who hoped to see a “reset” in EU - Russia rela­tions under Presi­dent Medve­dev. It is never easy for a poli­tician to say they have been wrong. But on this one we were clearly off the mark.

I was also one of those realists who believe that the war in Geor­gia saw the return of power poli­tics and sphe­res of inte­rest to the borders of Europe. I was afraid that this would spell an end of a more inter­na­tio­nally enga­ged Russia that we had seen after the Cold War. I wanted to be wrong, but I was not. Ukraine proved the case in point, unfor­tu­na­tely.

Some say Russia never genui­nely wanted to reset its rela­tions with the West. Instead it wanted to re-establish itself as a global player.

Russia’s power poli­tics in Ukraine, Moldova and most recently Syria is probably moti­va­ted by two intertwi­ned goals: One is to hold on to its shrin­king sphere of influence. The other is keeping democ­ra­tic “colour” revo­lu­tions at bay.

How has Europe respon­ded to the new, gloo­mier secu­rity envi­ron­ment? Better than most people expec­ted, I would argue.

The old cliché is that the EU is an econo­mic giant but a poli­tical dwarf. But let’s look at the facts. The EU was instru­men­tal in finding a solu­tion for Iran. The EU stayed united when dealing with the crisis in Ukraine. The EU has been able to help construct a rim of rela­ti­vely peace­ful count­ries in South-East Europe. The EU has imple­men­ted tens of success­ful crisis mana­ge­ment opera­tions, mostly in areas where other actors have been absent.

Take Ukraine. Russia has clearly taken great pains to divide Europe in its reac­tion to the ille­gal annexa­tion of Crimea. A massive Russian infor­ma­tion campaign has been coupled with secu­rity threats to some EU states and econo­mic perks to others.

But the Euro­pean Union has stood remar­kably united. We have condem­ned the events in Crimea and Eastern Ukraine and impo­sed econo­mic sanc­tions on Russia to push it to a diplo­ma­tic solu­tion.

In many ways Ukraine has been the finest hour of EU’s foreign policy. Have we solved the Ukraine crisis? No, but we have made our disap­pro­val crys­tal clear and applied very heavy pres­sure on Russia using the power we have - namely econo­mic weight.

The EU and its member states should always seek a reset in its Russia rela­tions. Finland, for one, would clearly bene­fit from it. Our economy is partially depen­dent on Russia.

But as long as Russia viola­tes inter­na­tio­nal law and as long as it breaks Euro­pean secu­rity arran­ge­ments, we must put our short-term econo­mic inte­rests aside and focus on what matters the most: peace and secu­rity.

I reject the notion that the EU is a secu­rity poli­tical paper tiger. The Euro­pean Union is clearly not a mili­tary alliance. Nor should it be because NATO is the back­bone of Euro­pe’s collec­tive defence - at least for most EU states.

But it is unthin­kable other member states would not help if one of us was the victim of armed aggres­sion. As the Lisbon Treaty stipu­la­tes, we have an obli­ga­tion of assis­tance by all means. It is time we remind oursel­ves of the commit­ment we made in Lisbon.

Let’s also not forget that EU secu­rity policy enjoys wide public support in almost all EU member states. It also enjoys strong support almost across the poli­tical spect­rum in Europe. Even most popu­lists think it’s a good thing.

Let me conclude with the following. You are ente­ring your acade­mic year during a time when the EU is more rele­vant than ever. Peace, pros­pe­rity and secu­rity in have been achie­ved, but they are cons­tantly under threat.

The Euro­pean Union deve­lops through crisis. At the moment the focus is on the euro, refu­gees and secu­rity. The answer to all of these crises is more, not less inte­gra­tion. But this will not happen over­night. It will happen one step at a time, as it always does.

At the same time we are begin­ning to reach the limits of democ­ra­tic legi­ti­macy on a supra­na­tio­nal level. Somet­hing needs to be done. The EU cannot conti­nue as a process in which the supra­na­tio­nal level is the scape­goat, regard­less of whet­her it does too much or too little, too early or too late. The member states have called the shots for quite some time in the Euro­pean Union. They should not shy away from the respon­si­bi­lity that comes with it.

Many of the popu­list move­ments, from both right and left, capture the imagi­na­tion of those who feel that their voice is not heard; whet­her it is about the economy, the euro or the refu­gee crisis.

The para­dox is that our answer to every problem is deeper inte­gra­tion. At the same time we take deci­sions which often increase tensions among the gene­ral public, be it with the euro, refu­gees or secu­rity.

My worry is that if these frustra­tions are not dealt with the situa­tion will worsen. Animo­sity will grow, tensions will come to the fore and natio­na­lism will increase. I am not saying that Europe will snap, but we are reac­hing the limits of tole­rance. The exact tole­rance that Europe was once built on.

I summa­rise my argu­ment of today with three points:

1. Deepe­ning the EMU is neces­sary. The financial crisis laid bare its flaws. Much has been done already but we are not out of the woods yet. At this stage we should focus on Banking Union and Capi­tal Markets Union. Fiscal Union and Poli­tical Union are not realis­tic in the near future. Inte­gra­tion proceeds one step at a time.

2. The refu­gee crisis is a defi­ning moment for Europe. Either we rise to the chal­lenge toget­her or we fail toget­her. No member state can nor should handle the situa­tion alone. If we fail, disas­ter will follow. If we do the right things, the EU will come out of the crisis stron­ger. This will entail difficult deci­sions, inclu­ding the harmo­ni­sa­tion of asylum policy.

3. We need stron­ger commit­ment to the Euro­pean Union. EU bashing is the easy way out. By now it should be clear that we need common solu­tions to common problems across the policy spect­rum - from economy to migra­tion to secu­rity. This also means that natio­nal poli­ticians should defend difficult Euro­pean deci­sions.

In the Nether­lands there is popu­lar TV programme called the “College Tour”. In the format a well known person is inter­viewed in front of univer­sity students. The programme ends with a perso­nal piece of advice to the students.

Given that we are at the College of Europe, let me leave with four words that I think you should cherish: dream, believe, work hard and succeed! These four words should help you out during your acade­mic year, and hope­fully beyond.

Thank you!

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