EU must fill gap left by US isolationism, says peace broker Ahtisaari

Former Finnish president Martti Ahtisaari delivers lecture in Dublin

Martti Ahtisaari delivering the Iveagh House lecture at the Department of Foreign Affairs in   Dublin. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Martti Ahtisaari delivering the Iveagh House lecture at the Department of Foreign Affairs in Dublin. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill


Growing isolationism in the US has left Europe a responsibility to assume a greater role on the world stage, former Finnish president and international peace broker Martti Ahtisaari has said.

Delivering the annual Iveagh House lecture at the Department of Foreign Affairs, Mr Ahtisaari criticised the response of the EU and its member states to the influx of migrants in the Mediterranean.

“The member states have failed to develop a common response when it is urgently needed. European countries favoured short-term responses and measures that are believed to protect national interests.”

However, he said the EU’s values were “the best guarantees we have for peace in Europe”, and he urged the union to do more to replace the US on the world stage.

Mr Ahtisaari is best known in Ireland for his involvement with the peace process. Along with South African politician Cyril Ramaphosa, he inspected IRA arms dumps and witnessed weapons being put beyond use – enabling a crucial breakthrough in the process.

He was in 2008 awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to resolve international conflicts. Since then he has headed up a Finnish NGO which assists in conflict resolution and peace-making around the world.

Human rights

He is also a member of the Elders, a groups of elder statespeople put together by Nelson Mandela. The group includes former Irish president Mary Robinson, and seeks to promote human rights and end conflict around the world.

Asked if he was worried about the state of the world, Mr Ahtisaari said: “Instead of wasting my time worrying I am trying to see what we can do.”

His organisation, Crisis Management Initiative (CMI), is active in trouble-spots around the world.

“It’s easier for governments to ask a small Finnish NGO to assist them rather than a big organisation like the United Nations. Because if you ask an official actor it is already an acknowledgement that it’s a big issue,” said CMI director Ville Brummer, who accompanied Mr Ahtisaari to Dublin.


Mr Ahtisaari said he was “still angry at my friends in the Democratic Party that they handed over victory to [Donald] Trump”.

However, he said elections would come around again. “Trump’s party will control the president as well. Extreme elements will be controlled.”

He said you have to work with the people who are elected. Mr Ahtisaari cited a time when the Elders went to Moscow and spoke to president Vladimir Putin about Syria and the Ukraine.

Was Mr Putin someone you could do business with?

“You can do business with everybody,” he replied.