What are currently the biggest threats towards our security in the Baltic Sea region and how can we explore options to work toward a more peaceful future? These were the main questions during the Kastelholm talks in 2016, which were held under the patronage of President Tarja Halonen on 30th March at the Castle of Kastelholm on the Åland Islands. The title was ”A Sustainable Peace around the Baltic Sea – New Times, New Issues”.
The talks were held on the day of the Åland Islands’ demilitarisation and neutralisation. The special status of the Åland Islands was established as an alternative to military solutions, which was one of the starting points for the Kastelholm talks. President Tarja Halonen is the pa-tron of the Kastelholm talks and par-ticipated actively in the discussion as a member of the panel, as she did in 2014. The other members of the panel were Pekka Haavisto, Member of the Parliament of Finland and the Foreign Minister’s Special Representative for Peace Mediation; Lena Ek, chairperson of the Forestry Group Södra and former Minister for the environment in Sweden; Said Mahmoudi, Profes-sor of International Law at Stockholm University and Hanna Ojanen, Jean Monnet Professor at the University of Tampere. Associate professor and Head of Research at the Åland Islands Peace Institute, Sia Spilipoulou Åkermark, acted as the moderator of the event.
President Halonen initiated the discussion by reflecting on the themes, sustainable peace and sustainable development. She stated that peace doesn’t have to be defined in a narrow sense, as in absence of war, but that peace also entails providing equal opportunities for people to participate actively in society and for them to prosper. There was a consensus on this among the other panel members. International peace was viewed as strongly related to peaceful societies, where the population feel secure and can trust the state. The theme was discussed in a broad sense. Peace was discussed in relation to the environment, energy matters, democra-cy, identity and demography, among other issues.Afterwards, a follow-up round table discussion was held in the nearby Restaurant Smakbyn. Four commen-tators held speeches, which were sub-sequently discussed by the audience. The round table discussion was moderated by the Peace Institute’s Acting Director, Kjell-Åke Nordquist. The commentators consisted of the Peace Institute’s two Senior Advi-sers, former MP Gunnar Jansson and Peace Researcher Pertti Joenniemi, as well as Professor Timo Koivurova and Petra Granholm, Deputy Presi-dent of the NGO Åland Nature and Environment, and also, a member of the Sustainability Council.