Close partners in important issues
There was plenty of opportunity to discuss the European and international agenda, expressed Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel in Helsinki. Here, there was a "large degree of agreement in the assessment" of the situation. In her current video podcast, Merkel had already stressed that Germany works together very well with Finland.
Agreement in the Ukraine Crisis
There is close cooperation with Finland at the European level, says the Federal Chancellor. The country has an important role in the Ukraine crisis (especially in dealing with Russia), as Finland shares the longest border of all EU countries with Russia.
Merkel said that she had spoken with Prime Minister Alexander Stubb about the annexation of the Crimea and the situation in the areas, Donetsk and Lugansk, which are controlled by separatists. The EU sanctions against Russia were also a subject where both had many commonalities.
The question that also played a large role was "How can we contribute to getting talks back on track to bring about a ceasefire in the Ukraine and achieve a political solution to the conflict?"
It is important to maintain unity within the EU. That would not fail to have an effect on Russia, and she is "sure that we can protect ourselves from threats", emphasized Merkel. This applies to countries directly affected, such as the Ukraine, but also to Moldova. In this connection, Prime Minister Stubb spoke of a paradigm shift in Russian foreign policy since the war with Georgia in 2008.
From this perspective, the membership of the Baltic States and the countries of East-Central Europe in the EU and NATO is very important, as destabilization is occurring in a number of "frozen conflicts", in Moldova, Ukraine and Georgia. This also has an impact on the EU. Stubb said that he foresees that the conflict could last for a long time. "We have to be patient. We must try to find a solution."
CSCE — a milestone for self-determination
In this connection, Merkel recalled the signing of the final act of the CSCE in Helsinki forty years ago. These played a large role in that they could stand here today. The German unification "arose from a good mix of toughness towards the Soviet Union on the one hand and on the other hand from repeated attempts at political solutions", concluded the Federal Chancellor.
The fact that the successor agency, OSCE, with its observers monitors the ceasefire today in the Ukraine is a sign that such political solutions and institutions are needed time and time again. "However, at the time, the CSCE Act also stated that each country is free to choose its own way. This freedom of choice is now being questioned," criticized Merkel.
This was why she and the Finnish Prime Minister believe "that we do not want to have a security policy against Russia, but rather with Russia. A security policy, however, that is based on fundamental values, as they were laid down forty years ago in the CSCE Act — which was also signed by the Soviet Union at the time." Today, these core values are still valid for the reunified Germany, as well as for Finland.
Finland: A close partner and confident neighbour to Russia
On the one hand, Finland is a close partner of Russia. On the other hand, Finland has developed into a "very confident neighbour," Merkel said. However, she expects nothing more from Finland in the Ukraine conflict, than from Germany and the other EU partners.
With regard to what she had negotiated with French President Hollande in Minsk, the Federal Chancellor noted "we did not do that just for ourselves, but we were supported by all of our European partners, especially by Finland."
Together with Stubb, Merkel met with students of the University of Helsinki in the afternoon. The Federal Chancellor made a speech on the topic of "European security and the conflict in the Ukraine".
Overcoming the Greek debt crisis
Germany and Finland are connected by a "high degree of commonality"—also with regard to the crisis in the Eurozone, emphasized Merkel. The central question was: "Can Greece and will Greece meet the expectations that we all have?"
The Federal Chancellor stressed that the majority of the people in Greece are unified by the desire that Greece remains a part of the Eurozone. She experienced that in her discussion last week with the Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, said Merkel.
To achieve this, the Federal Chancellor is pursuing "dual tracks", which consists of the combination of solidarity as well as individual accountability and initiative. The examples of Portugal and Ireland proved the success of this "strategy", Merkel said.
Financial stability in focus
The Federal Chancellor emphasized that, at the moment, the objective was primarily to implement the document of the Euro Group from 20 February and initiate reforms: "There can be variations in the measures that a government takes, but the overall framework must be right in the end," she stressed and continued: "The financial stability of the country must be able to be achieved again—and Greece is now discussing this with the institutions."
We will now have to wait for the discussions and assessments of the institutions (i.e. the ECB, the IWF and the European Commission), said Merkel. The Euro Group would then decide on the basis of these. "That is the way, and that is the way it is going."