Elinkeinoelämän Valtuuskunta EVAn puheenjohtaja , vuorineuvos Georg Ehrnrooth puhui Kansallisopperalla 10.6 järjestetyllä gaala-illallisella. Juhlapuhujana ja -vieraana oli tasavallan presidentti Tarja Halonen.
Your Excellency the President of the Republic of Finland and Doctor Arajärvi, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a great pleasure and a privilege for me to welcome you to this Gala Dinner to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Finnish Business and Policy Forum EVA. It is a special honour for EVA that the President of the Republic of Finland is present here tonight. I am delighted to see many representatives of the international network of private business organisations here. The Counterpart Network provides all of its members with an international perspective that is indispensable for all of us in this time of globalisation. I am pleased to see that the Network is in good health.
The Finnish Business and Policy Forum EVA was established thirty years ago as a counter-weight to the very leftist trends that we at that time experienced in Finland, as well as in many other European countries. It has succeeded very well. If you ask former EVA directors what they think have been the main accomplishments of the organisation they will tell you that EVA was responsible for two things: Finland’s membership in the EU and for the collapse of communism. Modesty has never been part of the EVA style.
Over the decades EVA has had three distinct missions. The first mission was to provide an intellectual alternative to the socialist discourse that dominated the public discussion in the 1970:
It was a time when private ownership was considered unhealthy, a time when market economy was seen as a relic of the distant past. The future belonged to a mixed economy that was characterised by a heavy dose of state intervention and socialism. Radical leftist movements were rife in western countries, and Finland had her fair share of them.
EVA was founded to remind the Finnish public of the virtues of the market economy and to speak in favour of more Western orientation in Finnish foreign policy.
A special feature of Finland’s relationship with the Soviet Union was a phenomenon called Finlandisation. It was elegantly defined by a non-Finnish commentator as “silk glove hegemony”. It meant that Moscow could – and would – influence Finnish domestic and foreign policy.
At the time Finns vehemently denied the existence of the concept. In hindsight it is easy to acknowledge that Finlandisation did exist. Yet, it was not a one-way street. By cooperating with the Soviet Union Finland was able to strengthen its freedom of action. Indeed, Finland was clearly one of the winners of the Cold War: we managed to maintain our freedom, build a respectable international status and develop a robust economy.
EVA was part of this success story. Ambassador Max Jakobson, the first managing director of EVA, must be personally congratulated on the contribution that he made to Finland, first as a diplomat and an advisor to the Finnish President, and then as personification of a Finland that was firmly part of the West. We are happy to have Max here with us this evening.
The second mission of EVA was to overcome internal divisions – to achieve national consensus on key economic policy issues. This work was deepened and developed by EVA’s second managing director, Dr. Kauko Sipponen, who emphasised the need for balanced regional development in Finland. Kauko, it is wonderful to see you here tonight.
EVA’s third mission was to promote Finland’s membership in the European Union. This work was carried out during the tenure of Ambassador Jaakko Iloniemi. Mr Iloniemi became the personification of a fact based pro-European stand that became the hallmark of EVA’s approach to Europe. Jaakko, we are delighted that you, too, are here with us this evening.
Parallel to these three missions EVA has played an important role in surveying Finnish public opinion. Large-scale attitude surveys were commenced in the mid-1980s, and they are now a regular part of our work programme. They are highly appreciated both by the media and by the academic community, as they provide a consistent database on the development of the Finnish opinion climate over two decades. The data from the surveys is deposited at the University of Tampere where scholars, both in Finland and abroad, frequently use them.
Over the past three years EVA has worked in close cooperation with ETLA, the Research Institute of the Finnish Economy. This relationship has been symbolised by the fact that the two organisations have had the same managing director, Dr Pentti Vartia. Despite this arrangement EVA has had a distinct profile of its own. While ETLA has concentrated on research, the new mission of EVA has been to promote discussion on issues that have an impact on Finland’s long-term success.
The issues that EVA deals with nowadays vary from Finland’s long-term competitiveness to our role in the European Union. We do this through EVA Forums – which are broadcast by the Finnish Broadcasting Corporation, reports and by articles and speeches. Our fellows include leading professors as well as our former Prime Minister, Esko Aho, who just published an EVA report on the future of transatlantic relations. We also have Junior Fellows, young, talented Finns and non-Finns that share an interest in Finland’s future. Much of the credit for EVA’s newfound dynamism goes to Director Risto Penttilä.
In the future one of the challenges is to develop the cooperation with ETLA further. Another challenge is to make more use of the counterpart organisation. In this respect I am happy to report that EVA and SNS, our Swedish counterpart organisation have launched a joint project that looks at the plusses and minuses of Finnish-Swedish economic integration.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The theme of the counterpart conference this year is Business and Culture: Competitiveness through Creativity. There are three reasons for choosing this theme.
First, creative industries are playing an increasingly important role in the OECD countries.
Second, arts-organisations are becoming more business-like at the same time as companies are recognising the importance of creativity and the significance of cultural literacy – the ability to understand and operate in other cultures.
Third, there are new forms of partnership between the business community and the artistic community that add value to both parties.
Mr Colin Tweedy, the chief executive of Arts and Business in the UK has explained what his organisation stands for by stating: “We help business people support the arts AND the arts inspire business people, because good business AND great art together create a richer society”.
When we decided about the theme for the conference, I must admit, that I felt that we took some risk. The theme was not very conventional. But thanks to absolutely excellent speeches and discussions I think we have succeeded well. At least we have fulfilled one important criteria, the hosts have enjoyed the day, so I want to thank all speakers’ moderators and panelists for your contribution.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Against the background of the exciting discussions that we have had, it is a great privilege to announce the birth of a new initiative that is intended to continue to further develop the theme of our conference.
The new initiative is an association called Creative Finland. It is a forum for cooperation between business leaders, artist and cultural institutions. It is modeled after the example of the various Arts and Business organizations that function in most EU member states.
Krister Ahlström has kindly promised to act as the first chairman of the association. The association will be independent of EVA. However, EVA has promised to provide the association with a home base for the first year of operations.
I am convinced this will be a major contribution to both business and cultural life in Finland.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Last but not least I would like to take the opportunity to thank EVA’s “owners” – the organizations that have provided EVA with funding over three decades.
Finally, Ladies and Gentlemen, it is my pleasure to propose a toast to the continued well-being of EVA and the International Network of Private Business Organizations.