Speaking at the German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF) on April 14, 2016, Finnish Finance Minister Alexander Stubb discussed the importance of integration and solidarity in light of the challenges facing the Nordic region, Europe, and the transatlantic partnership. GMF President Karen Donfried moderated the discussion, which is part of the ongoing Transatlantic Talks series.
Stubb began by underscoring the wide-ranging crises facing Europe today, and pointed to a cycle of integration in the European Union driven by crises. According to Stubb, European integration occurs in three phases: crisis, chaos, and then a suboptimal solution. When considering the ongoing euro zone crisis, Stubb indicated that Europe is taking steps in the right direction. He praised the EU for creating rescue packages, highlighting Ireland, Portugal, Spain, and Cyprus as success stories; creating stability mechanisms; and creating a banking and deposit guarantee scheme.
Turning next to the refugee crisis, Stubb acknowledged that despite appearing as though it is “everyone for themselves,” solidarity does exist amongst member states. Stubb argued that the EU should continue with the relocation quota system, noting that while Finland typically accepts 3,000 asylum seekers each year, it has accepted 35,000 asylum seekers in 2015 alone. Stubb also highlighted the need for a fully-fledged common asylum policy, funding for external border controls, and authorities that are linked with asylum seekers.
When discussing Finland’s relationship with Russia, Stubb noted that Finland has a pragmatic relationship with Russia. He indicated that Western policymakers should not view Russia through the lens of the Cold War, as “we draw too many historical parallels to a time that does not exist anymore.” However, he also stressed that the Finnish are “firm believers in liberal democracy and social market economy,” and that Finland has a strong relationship with Western institutions, including NATO. Stubb concluded by discussing the nature of the transatlantic alliance. He indicated his support for continued U.S. engagement in Europe, as the “more we work together, the better off we are.”