Stormy European waters – why more cooperation is needed

Julkaistu: 16.12.2021

The President of European Movement Finland’s speech at The Grand Integration Depate on December 15th, 2021


Ladies and gentlemen,

These past few years have been turbulent. The European Union has witnessed storms in the forms of pandemic, hybrid threats, and worsening conflict situations near our EU borders as well as further away.

The COVID-pandemic is an obvious storm that we have had to weather for two years. The forecasts have changed many times and now we are about to face another COVID-winter with worsening daily number of cases. The pandemic has not necessarily changed so many things, but rather exposed the looming division we have between people, within nations and the whole world.

Fellow Europeans,

This summer we saw a breaking of a storm in Afghanistan when the removal of US troops led to widespread panic at the airports and the Taliban taking back control in the country. The Eu was unable to act with haste and coordination and ended up having to lean on the US to get our citizens evacuated.

Since the Autumn, we witnessed a severe hybrid threat on our boarders with Belarus using migrants to wreak havoc and cause a humanitarian crisis, where people seeking a better life have been used as pawns. Hybrid threats together with cyber-attacks and disinformation are becoming increasingly more common as they are easier and cheaper ways to disturb societies and create fault-lines among the population.

The difficulties and looming dread are likely to continue over winter’s freezing months as we look with concern to Ukraine and its borders, where Russia has been amassing its troops and making demands over NATO’s eastern enlargement.

It is thus safe to say, that the weather has not been clear nor sunny. Yet, despite these stormy clouds and challenges, the EU has managed to weather through them rather well. Nonetheless, stronger European cooperation is needed to make sure that we keep sailing surely through the years to come.

Especially in the field of common foreign and security policy, we see the increasing need for more cooperation and steps have been taken to this direction, with the leadership of France and Germany.  Stronger European defense capabilities and security policy would help us to face many of the earlier mentioned challenges.

With stronger and more independent foreign policy, the EU can better act in the areas that are important for our security, such as the southern neighborhood, which is likely to remain volatile.

As we have seen, the US has pulled its troops back home from many Middle Eastern and North African conflicts. The stability of both regions is of crucial importance for the EU. We need to be strategically independent actor in areas that directly impact European interests.

However, independence in this field does not mean that the role or importance of for example NATO would decrease. NATO is and will remain the core of defense policy for most of the EU members, a group of which Finland is not part of.

European strategic independence is needed at a time when the US is likely to look more and more to east, to Asia. Thus, the EU needs to be able to shoulder more burdens as well as be sufficiently able to deter Russia, which will continue to challenge the EU with mixed methods and will keep on seeking ways to create division among the Member States.

We are likely to see more hybrid threats and disinformation campaigns in the future. The EU has already taken steps towards eliminating hybrid threats with the establishment of European Centre of Excellence for Countering Hybrid Threats, located here in Helsinki. But we must also keep on looking for more ways to combat new threats.

Fellow Europeans,

The coming years and decades will bring forth new threats and challenges that pile on the old ones, which have not gone away. Europe is ill-prepared for mass migration that climate change might set in motion. Nor are we ready for the challenges in the field of technology.

We are about to encounter the era of artificial intelligence together with advanced forms of military technology, a world where waging war could become so much easier. These new technologies come at a time when great power rivalry is once again intensifying especially between the United States and China. Compared to these two countries, Europe lacks behind in its capacities.

While Europe has no wish to partake in rivalries, we must still stay in the game. For if we are left significantly behind and have no authority in matters, who will listen to us? And if we are not heard, how do we stand up for the values we uphold? How do we make an impact?

Ultimately European stability and security are in our hands as well as our capability to share our values. We must act together with a clear vision and leadership for us to have a say in the matters that are of importance to us. No one else will sail us through the storms.

So far, the EU has mostly evolved through crises, when there is no choice but to do so fast without much time to ponder the choices or possibilities. Now, we must act together, for our European citizens and for the world. For this, as humans and as societies, we must be braver and bolder in our actions while learning to handle and accept incompleteness and failures.


Ville Kaunisto
Member of Finnish Parliament, National Coalition Party
The President of European Movement Finland