Finland has no energy crisis; India is our potential partner from green tech to security: Foreign Minister Pekka Haaivisto | The Financial Express

Finland has no energy crisis; India is our potential partner from green tech to security: Foreign Minister Pekka Haaivisto

Finland is at the crossroads. Geopolitics are changing rapidly –more conflicts on the horizon. Finland is also radically redefining its role in the geopolitics, leading the Nordic into security alliance with NATO. In an exclusive interaction, held in the Parliament of Finland, the Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto speaks with Manish Kumar Jha on the wide range of issues, including the grave security challenges and his constructive talks with S Jaishankar.

Finland has no energy crisis; India is our potential partner from green tech to security: Foreign Minister Pekka Haaivisto
Foreign Minister of Finland, Pekka Haavisto talks with FE

Finland is at the crossroads. It represents some of the finest democratic traditions and values today. At the same time, geopolitics are changing rapidly –more conflicts on the horizon. Finland is also radically redefining its role in the geopolitics, leading the Nordic into security alliance with NATO. In an exclusive interaction, held in the Parliament of Finland, the Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto speaks with Manish Kumar Jha on the wide range of issues, including the grave security challenges and his constructive talks with S Jaishankar.   

Foreign Minister Pekka talks about Finland’s place, position and roles in terms of its foreign policies and its global outreach today.

How grave is this situation in the region? Taking cue from the multiple warnings of nuclear strikes out of Russia-Ukraine war, air forces from across NATO has begun exercise nuclear deterrence capabilities over north-western Europe. NATO’s new Strategic Concept, adopted at the Madrid Summit in June talks about the “the fundamental purpose of NATO’s nuclear capability is to preserve peace, prevent coercion and deter aggression.”

Pekka dwells on the economic relations (trade & investment) with India as a place for the strategic partnership. He looks at EU- FTA and puts his priority on this to unlock immense potential

Finnish companies have been regarded as among the pioneers in areas like telecommunications, quantum computing, 5G technology, renewable energy and low emission mobility. What is your vision and model for such the innovation ecosystem in Finland? He talks about greater collaboration with India in such areas.

Finland committed to the most ambitious and boldest Climate Change target to be the first to reach net zero, in 2035. How is Finland making it possible?

Excerpts:

Finland represents some of the finest democratic traditions and values today. At the same time, geopolitics are changing radically –more conflicts on the horizon. Finland is finding its new position in the geopolitics, which is also changing very fast. Could you please elaborate Finland’s place and roles in terms of its foreign policies and its global outreach today?  Why Finland is looking at new approach to his foreign policy and how radical is this change which is mostly based on your credible neutrality and objectivity?

That is a good question.

First of all, on the issue of neutrality, of course during the Cold War, we ourselves also identified ourselves as a neutral country and so forth. But then in the end of the Cold War, we joined European Union in 1995. I was part of the government that time that was the first government is as a member of European union. And of course, it was a dramatic change already. Because, we started to take all our political positions.

 Also, according to the lines of European Union (EU), thinking that in that time, the neutrality was the past and then the European union membership was the new area where we entered in and that was actually the European Union of 15 countries.

So, when Sweden, Austria and Finland joined, it was something new at that time, of the European Union members of 12 countries. We are now much bigger with 27 members and even if we lost UK, which I regret, we still have a big entity comprised of not only commercial and economic, but the political entity in EU. And I’m saying this because when you look at the reaction to war in Ukraine, many people say that EU has been on the front line while NATO, little bit on the back on this.

That’s really in the spring when the Russian attacked Ukraine on 24 February. We actually analysed the situation. Our first issue that we were afraid was of course, as how strong will be the Ukrainian defence in these circumstances and what will happen if Ukraine failed to defend itself unluckily?

It is the not only the strong capability of Ukraine for defence but also the willingness of Ukraine to defend its territory, impressed us a lot. Of course, as soon as possible, we will ask also from EU and including Finland, for the military support, and economic support to Ukraine.

At the same time, we could see that Russia was acting, first of all, against the Minsk agreements on Ukraine but also against the European rules, building aggression as the way of trying to solve the problem attacking Ukraine. And that triggered in Finland. It was a big disappointment and irrational behaviour. That triggered the debate for our National Security.

In these new circumstances when violence is used in Europe, or is used as a tool in Europe, then we had to add in our security white paper since year 2004, for what we call the NATO option. We are probably the only country in the world that has NATO option that it was idea in our security white papers since 2004, arguing that in the white paper that if security situation changes in Europe, we are ready to consider the NATO membership and that has been since 2004.

Then right after 24th of February, we settle down with the government and together with the President that since the security situation now changed so dramatically that we should use our NATO option. As such is the unified position by the president, by the government and also by the parliament here.

And not to speak about the people of Finland who immediately asked that if the similar attacks happen one day against us, that is now used against Ukraine, what will happen and who will come to help us?

The case that the major military mobilization really happened against Finland, or if when this loose talk about unconventional weapons, nuclear or chemical weapons would come true, how would we defend ourselves in those circumstances?

And actually, that debate triggered very rapid reaction and also asked that we should apply NATO membership but that we should apply together with Sweden because we have very similar defence systems in our country but also, we have a very strong bilateral defence cooperation already. Then we have been partners of the NATO and then we, of course, called to Sweden–what about joining NATO? And you can imagine the first reaction.

As dramatic is the turn of the event, step-by-step, Swedish government came to the same conclusion as Finland.

I want to understand from your perspective, you had a very great understanding of both sides as you being the key member of the EU. You also maintained good relations with Russia, sharing the largest border. So, did EU fail to gauge the situation that something is coming in such a critical way? Did you fail to anticipate such situation? And having said that Finland is reacting because of the sudden crisis, leading to change of your foreign policies and be more assertive?  

But first of all, if I failed in analyzing European union and European countries failing on analysis? And I think, when, when Russia was gathering the troops on the Ukrainian border in Europe, many reactions were — we have seen this earlier as that has happened as the collection of the forces as earlier Russia explained it as a military exercise.

At the same time, the other side of the Atlantic from Washington. We heard that this is serious and this has to be taken seriously. This is not only a game. while we were in the middle of these analysis. Of course, Finnish as the people is very security orientated and we’re thinking of the worst-case scenario that this is serious. But of course, it was a big disappointment that Russia chose the military way because Russian to the end was playing the game that they are negotiating and was playing the game that they are negotiating under the Minsk agreements.

So, Europe had that trust and this is the case. So, our Military Intelligence on the other side of the Atlantic in Washington was clearer on the warnings and we’re definitely right on this, despite of that the rapid reaction to help Ukraine militarily was also done by European Union Very rapidly. We established the European facility for helping Ukraine out with arms at the very early part of the conflict. And, I think that even if people speculate that European Union of 27 countries, there are so many different opinions, but I have to say that in the time of Crisis, somehow, EU gets its act together.  

Even on the migration towards Poland and Baltic states in the previous autumn of last year, EU reacted together to support Poland and Baltic states. And now, when this attack against Ukraine happened by Russia, again, European union acted together rapidly.

So, at the same time, having recognized the aggressor and if we take their argument for the objective analysis, it is based on the understating that there are “buffer zones” which Russia always demanded that should be maintained. Perhaps as Russia calls it their “sphere of influence” in the backyard. According to Russia, that is broken if Ukraine becomes part of the NATO. How do you look at such argument?

This is that we certainly have been listening from Russian that they have a sphere of interest and which they think that they can take an influence. But at the same time actually when you look a little bit longer perspective of President Putin’s politics, he is always stressing that collapse of Soviet Union and losing the territories and it was the biggest mistake in the history.

This, of course, leads you easily to think that his [Putin] goal is to regain or reach back those territories that they long to Soviet Union. And when you look them up, it’s a wide map, including Central Asian republics and it also Includes the Baltic states and so forth.

It is a huge claim. If you say that this territory belongs somehow to Russia or they see at these territories as their sphere of interest. So, we have seen now during the conflict against Ukraine already as how Central Asian republics have been reacting. They are, of course, depending on Russian energy economy, but they get politically more distanced. And of course, it’s a for the nightmare scenario for the Baltic states.

If somebody is dreaming about re-establishing Soviet Union, you have to take into account what has happened. Since the collapse of Soviet Union and the circumstances therefore, Ukraine has right to their borders and to the territories, but also right to choose their own future. And I have to say that now, with this military operation against Ukraine, it looks like Russia has lost the last goodwill in Ukraine.

Even in the Russian-speaking territories of Ukraine this means that this war memories will remain for generations.

Foreign Minister: Let me go back to the question of NATO membership which is very well accepted by other countries and unanimously agreed, including Sweden to be the part of NATO and forging a greater military alliance. But there are some spoilsports as I hear Turkey putting condition after condition on unfilled extradition of the terrorists. What are grounds for such demands? And do you think it’s a is a way to delay your membership in the NATO?

Basically, there are 30 NATO member states. And when this process started in Madrid Summit in June, and very rapidly, 28 countries gratified. So, we have two remaining—Hungary and Turkey

The Parliamentary process will take more time. Hungary has some criticism or our positions. But these are the general rules in the European Union. But as we heard from Hungary, they said, they don’t make any difference between Finland and Sweden and they process should be ready in the mid-December.  And we are happy about that.

With Turkey, we established the tripartite arrangement between Finland, Sweden and turkey in Madrid present. I was present there. We decided to have that to clarify those concerns of turkey we meet. We had the first meeting in August in Helsinki in good spirit and we had some bilateral. Our people from the ministry of Justice were yesterday in Ankara. We’re looking for the next tripartite meeting in November. We feel that that these general concerns about the terrorism which are from the Turkish perspective extended to some other EU countries and NATO countries. So, it’s not only Finland and Sweden, they are concerned about that.

Of course, this is an opportunity for turkey to underline their views and concerns about the terrorism. And of course, from our perspective, we are taking terrorism, seriously. That is the main concern, Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) is forbidden organization, not only in Turkey, but also in European union and Finland. They have also some wider views on terrorism. They say that they follow the UN and EU regulation on these issues and then on issues like the questions of deportation and we are bound to have our own legislation.

So, it is appropriate to ask at this moment and what it has to do with the NATO membership. Is it just a sort of irritation?

NATO has this open-door policy. It’s an important principle that the country that fulfils the criteria of NATO on the defence and defence spending. It includes that

Each country has to ratify and every country has opportunity to put the certain conditions from the perspective. If we speak about the longer delay, it has also security impacts because we are living in a quite vulnerable world in Baltic Sea regions. We have seen the Nord Stream pipeline explosion. We have seen the Russian mobilization against the Ukraine and so forth.

We understand you have your own issues– domestic policy issues.  But look at security situation at the same time how it is developing.  While several countries including the US, UK and many big European countries immediately reacted in a way that if you are threatened, before you are covered by NATO, Article 5 will be applicable to your help.

So, we are not concerned about our own security, but of course, we would like also to add our own capabilities to NATO. And then if you want to separate Finland and Sweden, which also sometimes has been in the Turkish agenda. When you look at the map, it is very difficult to make proper and defence planning on this. So, when you look at different kind of trans-Atlantic routes to deliberate and to have connections, it’s very important that Sweden is in NATO with Finland.

What is the solution you offering?  It’s escalating and will impact you more because you share the geographical proximity with Russia and it is important that you take this leadership position. So, what is the way out of this?

Well, first of all, when we are asked, what kind of border we bring it to NATO. Yes, it’s a long border with Russia but it’s a peaceful border and it’s currently peaceful nothing. Nothing that is concerning us. Of course, we have also currently limited Visa to Russian citizens. But if you work in Finland, if you study in Finland, if you have relatives, close relatives, you can cross the border.

Our perspective is that the sooner we are accepted in NATO, better out Parliament will be ready to deal with the membership.

When we look at our military, we have the conscription army. We have 300,000 people in reserve. That’s one of the biggest reservists’ groups in Europe. We have just ordered 64 new F-35 fighter jets. So, we are investing into our own military actually, and, using more than 2% of GDP now.

And when you look at the Swedish capability, for example, their submarines, or their fighters, and the military industry, Sweden is very capable member of NATO. But we are saying to NATO that we are not only consumers of security but the providers or security

So how ready are you to strengthen your defence capabilities as the modernization of the armed forces is due for a long time also.  And how are you planning to add military capabilities to NATO?

We are a little bit old-fashioned people here in Finland. So, firstly the security and it has been throughout the Cold War, but also throughout the peaceful year. So, we have been maintaining system and investment tool to Military.

We are also very resilient to have multiple sources of energy and this is our case. We have hydro, nuclear and other renewables. We have the gas pipe line and now, we are changing that to LNG and so forth. So, we are quite balanced on energy issues.

And now, with the green energy transition, our wind power capacity is now growing and growing and then we have a good possibility to grow even further. We are all fashioned in a way that we still have bomb shelters in Finland.

We can cope with our energy production and we can cope with our food security and other kind of things. Security oriented thinking is very important in Finland.

Now on India, I would like to know your strategic and economic relations with India as you have been engaging with EAM S. Jaishankar on many issues. How do you look at Indo-specific strategy? Also, if you could talk about climate change policies?

I have to say that one of those foreign ministers, that we are in regular touch with, is S. Jaishankar. On green transition, on energy issues and on new Investments to the green technologies but also on all sectors, we really see India as a very potential partner.

I’m very happy that he has the same view and actually the whole European Union. Minister Jaishankar has been one of the most regular visitors in the EU.

So, it is not only because of India but because of India’s role in the whole region. And for example, when the Afghanistan crisis happened, Jaishankar and I were one of those who exchanged notes most regularly on challenges.

India’s role in the whole region in the whole ASEAN cooperation is very important for us. And in the Indo-Pacific with India, we are looking at the like-minded countries in the Indo-pacific that would strengthen our cooperation.

With India, we are looking at this from more technologically advanced perspective for further research cooperation, but also other economic cooperation. And I understand that, Prime Minister Modi’s visit and meetings with the Nordic leaders in Copenhagen was also quite successful.

EU- FTA–Why is it moving at such a slow pace and how Finland looks at the potential?

Well, it’s, of course, important topic. it’s very favourably seen in the context of trade between India and European Union and India and Finland? And on the issues, we have to mention we have many Indians working, for example, in hi-tech IT sector here in Finland.

On the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi Gandhi, I, along with minister Jaishanka attended the unveiling ceremony at Allotrianpuisto in Hämeentie area in Helsinki. The Indian Community was invited there and there were hundreds of people coming to the celebration. I could see with my own eyes, we had so many people from India? So, we actually have many issues that are in common but these high-tech and developing the high-tech and IT solutions among others are definitely something that is common to us.

So, we are we are open to all that kind of cooperation with India,

It is important to mention that you take the climate change very seriously. In fact, people do care about such issues here, which is my personal experience.

Finland is committed to the most ambitious and boldest Climate Change target to be the first to reach net zero, in 2035. How are your making its possible? Finland is also hosting the Antarctic Treaty Consultative in 2023. What are the core agendas and how do you see the role of India?

First of all, on this 2035 targets, it was by purpose, decided by this government that we want to be very ambitious on the climate and that this climate issue should be in all of our policies. It’s in agriculture, in forestry and in the industrial development.

Actually, we can fulfil the target. Core sectors are included. And of course, the key sectors like energy production as I mentioned, we have a huge program now to invest into the wind energy and so forth. And our new nuclear power plant started—the fifth one. So, these are our ways to address the climate issue. I also have to say that issue of the biodiversity and species and others is also coming hand-in-hand in the climate target.

On the wider climate issues, regions in the Himalayas versus the arctic areas, we can see that actually a lot of scientific knowledge is being exchanged by our government. Nepal has been our long-term development partner and we have been looking at the environmental component and other cooperation with Nepal. We are very concerned about the development of the Arctic. People would like to have more scientific cooperation as how to avoid this rapid melting of the ice there. We invite each and every country who who’s concerned about the climate effect, also in the arctic areas or in the other polar area on what can we do together. And we would like to keep the polar areas out of any military competition and conflict and concentrate on the environmental concerns.

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First published on: 29-10-2022 at 18:32 IST