The future of EU enlargement: Finland’s special status in the process

Finnish Institute of International Affairs

Enlargement is one of the central goals of Finnish EU politics and thus Finland has consistently supported the enlargement process. Along with the enlargement process, bilateral relations with new member states have become closer.[1] According to the Finnish point of view, there is no need to restart discussing the enlargement policies of the Union. The Finnish position on the Commission’s enlargement strategy and progress reports is the following: 1) the enlargement strategy of the Commission is consistent with the Finnish goals regarding enlargement. 2) The intention of the Commission to pay more attention to public administration and judicial systems is seen as a positive issue in Finland. 3) Finland also shares the position of the Commission regarding the progress of Croatia, Turkey, Macedonia/FYROM, Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro, Serbia and Kosovo.[2] Finland has traditionally emphasized progress in fulfilling the commitments both in the enlargement negotiations as in the SAA process.[3]
 
In addition, Finland has a special status in this process in that a Finn takes care of the Enlargement Commissioner’s portfolio. Indeed, this is why the Finnish media seems to pay more attention on news regarding enlargement than what is done in other countries. Commissioner Olli Rehn’s words on the positive affects of the enlargement process regarding stability, welfare and peace in Europe have been heard repeatedly in Finnish media.[4] In addition, Commissioner Rehn is a very appreciated figure in Finland and thus enjoys public popularity. Regarding different competence areas, EU’s migration policy is related to this topic and concerns Finland (as well as whole Europe) for demographic reasons.[5]
 
After the Commission’s annual strategy document of 6 November 2007 on EU enlargement, the media emphasized how the reform process in Turkey had not achieved expected results, especially regarding the famous article 301 of the penal code. Regarding the Balkans, the biggest obstacles mentioned were corruption and crime. The biggest newspaper in Finland clearly stated that the “Balkan mafia” threatens the security in Europe.[6] An interesting point to notice is that even though Croatia has proceeded most in the process of negotiations, only little media coverage has been given to Croatia. 
 
According to the Eurobarometer, 59% of Finns are against further enlargement of the European Union to include other countries in coming years, whereas 41% are in favour of further enlargement. But when asked about the impact of the May 2004 enlargement, only 27% think that the impact has been negative. Compared to other EU27 member states, the Finns seem to be more against the future enlargement in general. In EU-27, 49% were against further enlargement.[7] The reason might be the Finnish awareness of the fact that during the first ten years of membership, Finland was in “balance” with the EU budget. Finland’s position within the EU’s financial framework has, however, changed. When Finland joined the Union, only three states out of 15 were poorer than Finland. Today 18 out of 27 member states are poorer than Finland.[8] 
 
Status of Kosovo and the future of EU-Serbia relations
 
The future of Kosovo is being followed very carefully in Finland also due to the fact that the former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari has worked as a Special Envoy for the Future Status Process for Kosovo since November 2005 and the implementation of the Ahtisaari plan has now started. Finland is also known as an advocate for civilian crisis management and peacekeeping activities. In addition, the Finnish Commissioner for Enlargement, Olli Rehn has a noticeable role in supporting Kosovo’s EU path. Finally, as Finland holds the OSCE Presidency in 2008, the decision of keeping 1000 OSCE observers in Kosovo means more work. This is due to the fact that on the demand of Russia and Serbia, the mission continues only one month at a time. In other words, Finland has to persuade Russia and Serbia once a month to continue the mission. The OSCE mission does not have such a big role in Kosovo than for instance NATO-led crisis management troops or civil administration (currently under UN’s subordination but the EU about to take over in the summer), but it is stressed in Finland that the OSCE is the only place, in addition to the UN, where Russia and the West are on the same side of the table.[9]
 
Finland is to recognize Kosovo’s independence on 7th of March. At the same time, Finland wants to support keeping the democratic forces in power in Serbia.[10] A special concern is the rising nationalism in Serbia. The credibility of the ESDP is much dependent on the way things are going to develop in Kosovo and it is thus seen as a touchstone for the EU’s common foreign and security policy.[11] Finland is expected to send 60-70 troops to the area in the context of EULEX.[12] At the moment, Finland has 450 peacekeepers in Kosovo.[13] The coordination between EULEX, UNMIK and KFOR is considered as the biggest problem in the Kosovo process.


[1] Ministry for Foreign Affairs, available at: http://formin.finland.fi/public/default.aspx?nodeid=15624&contentlan=1&c....

[2] Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Document UM2007-02864, 30.11.2007.

[3] Lindroos-Binham, Merja, Head of the Unit for Enlargement, Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs, E-mail, 24.1.2007.

[4] Rehn, Olli, Enlargement Commissioner, Speech, 15.11.2007, available at: http://europa.eu/rapid/pressReleasesAction.do? reference=SPEECH/07/724&format=HTML&aged=0&language=FI&guiLanguage=en.

[5] Hulkkonen, Minna, Counsel to the Grand Committee, Meeting, 29.1.2008.

[6] Helsingin Sanomat, Article, 6.11.2007.

[7] Standard Eurobarometer 67, available at: http://ec.europa.eu/public_opinion/archives/eb/eb68/eb68_en.htm and http://ec.europa.eu/public_opinion/archives/eb/eb67/eb67_en.pdf.

[8] Kiviniemi, Mari, Minister of Public Administration and Local Government, Speech, 5.11.2007, available at: http://www.vm.fi/vm/fi/03_tiedotteet_ja_puheet/02_puheet/20071105Hallin/....

[9] Helsingin Sanomat, Article, 29.12.2007.

[10] Aamulehti Newspaper, p. A12, 29.1.2008.

[11] Tamminen, Tanja, E-mail, 24.1.2008.

[12] Kinnunen, Mikko, Director, Civilian Crisis Management, Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Meeting, 25.1.2008.

[13] Helsingin Sanomat, Article, 11.1.2008.