Seminar in Budapest,
23 April 2004
The enlarged possibilities of Women NGOs and their
cooperation with other NGOs in the European Union
by Laura Finne-Elonen, President of ECICW
Women and the EU
Dear madame president Dr. Judit Asbot Thorma, distinguished
guests and speakers
It is a great honour for me to be invited to speak
here today on the eve of the new era in the history of Europe.
one week ten new countries will join the EU, which will
then get about
80 million new citizens. Tomorrow is a very exciting
day, as there will be a referendum in Cuprus. Let us hope the
is positive and both parts of Cyprus will accept the
of Kofi Annan and join the EU as one country.
I have been
listening to the opinions here, and they remind me very much
of the time when my home country Finland was
about to join the EU in 1995. The feelings were changing
and negative all the time, from big expectations and deep
doubts, the women being the most critical of the membership.
motives for the membership were above all – for historical
reasons – the psychological guarantee of peace
and security. Other wishes on the top of the list were
the EU could do
much for the environment, to combat the spreading of
drugs and criminality accross the frontiers.
afraid that our Nordic welfare model would be
ruined and that our social security system would weaken,
the food prices would rocket up and that people from
countries would come and buy all our summer-houses and
the lakes (a very important institution in Finland).
We were also afraid of loosing our cultural identity.
We do not have to be afraid of loosing the cultural identity,
time has shown that EU supports the cultural differences,
small languages and the characteristics of the regions,
even if we
have the same constitution, legal system and „bad
our common language.
It is probably true that the new
candidate countries joining the EU will experience many
periods of insecurity maybe in the labour market, in
the industry, in
the economic field, all caused by the competition from
other countries. There might be a period of structural
before new firms are established, instead of the old
nonprofit-making ones and so on.
But as a member state
of the EU the country and its citizens will get so many new
possibilities in the big economic
area with access to the common market. The country
EU for example for agriculture. Here I would like to
take as an example Ireland, formerly a poor agricultural
now florishing as the result of well used EU funding
I am sure that Hungary will make fast progress as it
is already a country where economic progression and
growth have been
well above the European average.
In the EU there is
free movement of goods and services, young people can study
abroad and the professional
degrees are valid in all countries. The aim of the
EU is that for example
after 10 years 3 million students can study in other
countries, as well as 50 000 adults.
What do ordinary
people for example in Finland think about the EU now? When
asked about the membership in
supports the membership but otherwise I suppose they
do not think much about it at all if there is not
shaking. But not even the coming elections seem to
increase the interest
in the EU. I am ashamed to tell you that in Finland,
lower percantage of people voting in the elections
in 1999, only 33 % voted.
The EU is often accused of being too far away from
the people. Its decision-making procedure is very
complicated to understand
and the issues may not seem to be so very relevant
the eyes of the citizens. This although 60-70 percent
concerning the legislation in a country are being
made in the EU.
This leads me to the question of the
legitimacy of the whole union, if the people do not believe
it, do not
it, it has lost its legitimacy, it has no credibility.
the EU was founded after the second world war, it was strongly
felt to be a peace-making process
easying out the
Europe. People supported it strongly and were committed
to it. It had a great legitimacy. After that period
legitimacy for it from other points of view, such
as economical issues, and make it more able to
compete with the USA,
Japan and China in the future.
But these issues
do not very easily reach the minds of the average citizens.
This despite the extensive
citizens before each and every Inter-Governmental
The enlargement of the EU will certainly
bring the issue up again because of the motives of
countries for joining
differ even more from the original aims of
the Union. For example the membership in NATO is
felt much more
as a guarantee
peace than a membership in the EU.
I am very much concerned about the trends in the present discussions – I
find it unbelievable that the present members are so unwilling
to take their economic responsibility
enlargement and also want to restrict the free
movement of people, which is one of the basic ideas of the EU.
I also think that we talk too little about
the social dimensions of the EU which has
to be deepened
well as the cultural facts so that we all
can feel we are belonging
the same Europe where every individual is
important, where she or he is cared for even if he or
she is a member of
a minority. Everyone should get a chance
to education and better
The NGOs have a very important role
in the shaping of the social Europe. On the local
to notice unfavourable changes in the society.
They are capable of taking the very first
actions to help
to bring forward the message to the decision-makers
and also to
suggest what to do in a particular, perhaps
even in a very difficult case. And by tradition
who notice these
changes, because they care as mothers for
the future of the society.
The NGOs are
also willing to follow up and monitor the decisions made on
community, on the national
and European level. Thus the NGOs are
important in the
development of democracy in the society.
The better possibilities they
to function the stronger is the democracy.
Good functioning of the society leads
to economic growth.
The various levels in decision-making
ought to recognise the NGOs as realiable
important partners and
start a real dialogue
and make it possible for the NGOs to
have an input as well as on the local
as in the
a status as social partners in the
EU, the other
NGOs ought to get one as they by tradion
have one in the
would bring the EU closer to the citizens.
Citizens in the member
countries working together on the grassroot
level improve better understanding
and thus contribute
Presentation of the Ukrainian translation of Topelius’ Stories
Kyiv, 21st of May, 2008 at the Embassy of Finland to Ukraine
The View from Finland
European Centre of the International Council of Women. Seminar "Women of Europe - Towards Equality".
Berkshire Conference Suite, Holiday Inn, Maidenhead, Friday 25 April 2008
Women and the EU
Seminar in Budapest, 23 April 2004
The enlarged possibilities of Women NGOs and their cooperation with other NGOs
in the European Union
The Aftermath of September 11:
Inversting in Democracy for a More Cohesive Society
Dialogue with NGO leaders 21 January 2002, Council of Europe,
Palais de l'Europe
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Investir dans la démocratie pour une société plus solidaire"
Dialogue avec des dirigeants d'ONG, 21
janvier 2002, Salle 1, Palais de l'Europe, Strasbourg