Tiilikainen's views on EU security guarantees cause confusion in Parliament
New Foreign Minister zigzags on consensus question
Views expressed by Foreign Ministry State Secretary Teija Tiilikainen on the implementation of the European Union's security guarantees caused a good deal of confusion in Parliament on Wednesday.
In a report issued last week, Tiilikainen said that the implementation of the obligation written into the Treaty of Lisbon requiring members to come to the aid of another member state would require unanimous agreement of all of the member states.
The consensus requirement could mean that just one member state could prevent aid from being sent to a country in trouble.
Finland's new Minister for Foreign Affairs, Alexander Stubb, was asked for the government's view on the matter.
The subject appeared to have taken Stubb off-guard, as he had to modify his views in the middle of the debate.
In her report on the implications of the Treaty of Lisbon, Tiilikainen said that from a purely legal point of view, "the implementation of the obligation to provide aid and the role of individual member states in it, would be agreed among member states unanimously".
The interpretation was brought into Wednesday's Parliamentary debate by Pertti Salolainen (Nat. Coalition Party), Chairman of the Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee. He noted that there was no mention of the consensus requirement in the government's proposal to ratify the treaty, and asked for Stubb's opinion on the matter.
"A unanimous decision lies behind all military questions. The unanimity requirement: yes", Stubb answered without hesitation.
"I question his interpretation", said Ben Zyskowicz (Nat. Coalition Party) immediately. He said that the obligation to provide aid is specifically targeted at the member states, not the European Union as a whole.
On the opposition side, Social Democratic Party leader Eero Heinäluoma agreed. "It is impossible to imagine that the obligation to provide aid would be linked to a requirement of a separate agreement from each member state."
Stubb then revised his views.
"We are in full agreement within the government", Stubb said in an answer to Zyskowicz and Heinäluoma, saying that consensus decision-making is liked with "the Union's defence dimension in general".
When Salolainen asked if one EU state really had the possibility to block assistance to another, Stubb answered that it is not possible.
"If some EU member state faces an emergency, we will not be stopping and staring at legal processes or decision-making mechanisms. Instead, everyone will rush to help. This is the starting point", the Foreign Minister noted.
The Foreign Affairs Committee plans to ask Tiilikainen directly when she testifies before the committee on Thursday.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Continued uncertainty on implementation of EU security guarantees (11.4.2008)
EU website: Treaty of Lisbon