Article by President of the Republic Martti Ahtisaari in Der Tagesspiegel on 9.10.1997


Next year we shall be celebrating the 350th anniversary of the Peace of Westphalia. It helped to create in our continent a security system founded on interaction between nation-states. Unfortunately, a lasting peace did not come into being in Westphalia. In the period of over three centuries that followed, power politics and the supporting phenomena of chauvinism, imperialistic faith in progress as well as fundamentalism determined relations between states. Only the ending of the Cold War with the reunification of Germany in 1990 has created the prerequisites for a lasting peace in our continent of Europe.

The tumultuous changes that Europe has witnessed in recent years are the result of both internal European and global factors. On the threshold of a new millennium, we are truly in the middle of a revolution. It is taking place peaceably and contains the possibility of real change.

The history of Europe really teaches us humility. As Goethe put it: "A human being is not born to solve the problems of mankind, but rather to seek the underlying cause of the problem and remain within the bounds of what he is capable of controlling." The great German thinker understood the dangers of fundamentalism. But even he could hardly have had any foresight of what the 20th century would bring.

From the perspective of our accustomed view of the world, maintaining peace may seem a more difficult challenge than preventing war. There are regions of Europe where relations between nationalities are still reminiscent of the time before the Peace of Westphalia. Extreme nationalism and a fundamentalist mindset, sicknesses alien to the true tradition of civilisation in Europe, have not yet completely vanished from our continent.

Fortunately, however, the most enduring aspect of European culture has strengthened in the course of the centuries. By that I mean our ability to understand each other despite diversity of language and nationality. But we must not take this situation for granted; the ongoing process of European integration must be actively supported and strengthened. We cannot afford regression, and especially not new economic and political demarcation lines or spheres of interest that divide our continent. Although it does not seem like a probable alternative today, a return to the past in one form or another is nevertheless always possible.

How can we today create the kinds of mental stimuli that strengthen our faith in the future? How can we avoid a return to a fundamentalist mindset in conditions where the borders between nation-states are lowering, migration is increasing and, unfortunately, many social problems like mass-unemployment continue to plague our continent?

It is my view that we must above all manage those developmental phenomena that most strongly affect our future. I shall highlight three such factors: Œ globalisation,  European integration, and Ž predicting and preventing threats to security.

It is only since the end of the Cold War that the pace of globalisation has become well and truly dynamic. Besides markets, ideas, communications technology, culture and even the labour market are coming within the scope of global interdependence. Distance is losing its significance as a cost factor in the economy. At the same time, new prosperity is being created in the international community, especially in Asia, where many countries are in a phase of powerful economic growth. For us Europeans, this development means that we must adjust to economic interdependence, create a functioning internal market and establish Economic and Monetary Union following the agreed timetable. It has been calculated that the Euro will win a share of around 40% of currency markets, which will make it a leading global currency alongside the US Dollar.

The European Union has become the anchor of economic and political stability in our continent. Our goal is a new kind of international community of states, in which we entrust to the Union responsibility for decision-making in matters where nation-states’ own unilateral actions would be fruitless. The upcoming EU summit in Luxembourg is intended to produce a decision on enlargement. We are now in a situation where we can tentatively draw the geographical limits of the expanded Union. More than ten new member states are likely to be added over the next decade, or at least in that time we can expect to reach agreements providing for membership of the Union to be enlarged to that extent. Obviously, we must ensure that the capability of the EU to function is determinedly developed at the same time. The Union must create a united voice and combine its influence in international relations.

The relative decline in the position of nation-states that has resulted from globalisation and European integration has accentuated the importance of regions and of intrastate and supranational networks. One such "new network" is developing in the Baltic Sea region, for example. A Europe of the regions is more genuinely a Europe of civil societies. Thus we must ensure that the EU’s eastern frontier does not become a new political and economic dividing line. Far less that the EU might become an introverted "civilisation" that would drift into competition and confrontation with other "civilisations". One possibility of precluding such a potential dividing line is to create a separate Northern dimension within the EU in the next few years, an arrangement in which Russia, the EU and also the United States and Canada would in a natural fashion deepen their cooperation to solve the enormous ecological and economic challenges that the northernmost regions of our continent face.

Finland will do her best to contribute to managing those tasks, especially when she assumes the EU Presidency after Germany in 1999.

Globalisation and European integration can develop only if we are able to foresee threats to security, new and old. After the dividing line of the Cold War, the new security order is founded more on common goals and values than on military deterrents. Nevertheless we need strong institutional arrangements to consolidate the security order.

We have succeeded in dismantling the most dangerous military deterrents. The summit between the Russian and American presidents in Helsinki last March contributed to preventing a new pattern of confrontation in Europe. NATO and Russia signed a cooperation agreement in Paris last May. The NATO summit in Madrid last summer laid a foundation on which we can gradually build the necessary cooperation arrangements for collective security measures. By that I mean the establishment of a Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council. We must develop the EAPC into the collective body that is needed to take care of such measures.

A positive development of a cooperation-based military security system is providing better opportunities to manage new kinds of security concerns. These include human rights violations, organised crime and uncontrolled migration. Global warming and many other ecological problems are, regrettably, caused by people. We must be capable of critically examining the way we live. We must be able to channel the concerns that one hears expressed in society into positive solutions in order to strengthen our common security. That will be a major challenge for Europe in the beginning of the 21st century. Germany will have a central role in this. Seven years after reunification, Germany is a state that binds a Europe in which democratic principles are firmly rooted in society.