Vuosi 1999 Suomen ulkopolitiikassa
President Martti Ahtisaari said in his New Year's speech that there were setbacks in the international community in the past year. Problems were encountered in the global economy and extensive cooperation was put to a severe test. Ahtisaari stressed that our goal must be to strengthen the role of the United Nations in resolving crises. The President also thought that a common security policy should be created in Europe, and stated that stability in our continent is closely linked to the development of the EU. He considered that Finland's international status is now stronger than ever in Finland's history, primarily thanks to its membership in the EU. According to President Ahtisaari, Finland's security policy solutions have proved to be correct and have been widely supported by the people. Ahtisaari also stated in his speech that the economic and political situation in Russia has become more difficult. As earlier, he encouraged cross-border contacts at the level of citizens. In addition, he stated that Finland and ten other EU member states have become part of the Euro Area on 1 January, which he considers has promoted economic stability. He supported EU expansion, as it would prevent future economic and political divisions of Europe.
Starting from the beginning of 1999, Finland became a member of the leading troika of the European Union owing to the fact that Finland will hold the presidency of the European Union for the latter half of the year. In the troika system, the Union is represented by these three member states whenever a standpoint is required on the EU's external affairs, which is often the case with acute crises.
Due to the international time differences, Finland was the first member state of the EU to join the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU). Minister of Finance, Sauli Niinistö, stated in Brussels the day before, that the success of the Euro will depend on the members maintaining confidence in this unique process. He pointed out that the success of the first year of the EMU will be assessed at the Helsinki EU summit at the end of 1999.
In an interview conducted by the Finnish Broadcasting Company's radio news Esko Aho, chairman of the Centre Party of Finland, criticised the decision that led Finland to join the EMU and to adopt the common currency, the Euro. He said that it will be difficult to carry out loyal pay policies, maintain regional integrity in Finland, and take care of the underprivileged. Aho thought that Finland should prepare itself for these new conditions more systematically than what it actually has done. According to Aho, there has been an assumption in Finland that the creation of the Euro Area would change nothing. Prime Minister Lipponen had, in turn, expressed the hope in the Finnish Broadcasting Company's TV news on 31 December 1998, that the Centre Party would also consider the EMU decision correct. He said this would make cooperation easier.
General Anatoly Kvashinin, Russia's Chief of Staff, met President Ahtisaari and Gustav Hägglund, Chief of Defence, during his visit to Finland. General Kvashinin said that Russia has reduced its armed forces in the regions adjoining Finland by fifty per cent.
The Committee for Constitutional Law completed its draft report suggesting that the nomination of the Prime Minister be clearly linked to the results of negotiations on the formation of the new Government. The Committee also wanted the President, assisted by the respective minister, to be able to decide upon matters relating to military commands according to the prescribed law. This change was suggested because the committee wanted to make it impossible for the President to give orders to the Chief of Defence without the Minister of Defence being informed.
Helsingin Sanomat published an interview, conducted by the news agency Reuters, in which Minister of Defence Anneli Taina was asked about Finland's position on NATO. Taina said that Finland will have to reconsider its policy of non-alliance if NATO strengthens its role in Europe's security arrangements. According to her, the EU is assigning NATO the leading role when creating its common foreign and security policy. According to Taina, Finland must reconsider its attitude if Sweden or the Baltic States take steps towards NATO membership. The Minister of Defence thought that there is no reason for Finland to join NATO in the near future. Finland's possible change of position would be a result of the security arrangements in Europe, rather than of external threats.
At the Finnish Embassy in Washington, Ambassador Alpo Rusi, Foreign Policy Adviser to the President of Finland, gave an account of Finland's plans for its EU presidency period. Rusi explained that Finland wants to promote regional cooperation, stability in the global economy, the EU`s crisis management capabilities, and the prevention of new security risks. He placed particular stress on Finland's initiative in the development of the EU's Northern Dimension, and said that Finland wants to further cooperation between the EU and Russia. Rusi reiterated the suggestion made by President Ahtisaari as long ago as 1995 that the leaders of the EU, the USA, and Russia should meet for a summit in Helsinki at the end of Finland's EU presidency. Rusi also stated that during its presidency Finland will also preside at the Euro Council of the EMU member states, which means that Finland will represent the Euro Area in the IMF and at G 7 meetings.
The EU Parliament made a stand for the Commission in a vote of confidence. Of the 552 MEPs who voted, there were 293 votes for the Commission, 232 against, and 27 abstentions. Of the 20 Finnish MEPs, only three gave a vote of no-confidence. The EU Parliament's confidence in the Commission was put to a vote due to the allegation of inefficiency, favouritism and fraud within the Commission.
The Government decided to increase Finland's contribution to the International Monetary Fund, IMF, by almost 150%, or by slightly less than FIM 2.9 billion. After the increase Finland's share in the fund will be slightly less than FIM 9 billion. The increase has been justified by the need to improve the financial position and performance of the monetary fund. The decision has been criticised in Finland because, according to critics, IMF policy has been unsatisfactory and because Finland is already a relatively large contributor to the IMF.
The Ministry of Defence suggested in its new Operations and Economic Plan that it be empowered to place five new orders for material procurements during the period 2000-2003, totalling almost FIM 7.86 billion. The focus of the material procurements for the Defence Forces will be transferred from the acquisition of interceptors to equipment for rapid deployment brigades in the year 2000. According to Lieutenant General Ilkka Hollo, who is the Operations Manager of the Defence Forces, the aim is to implement the plans according to the Report on Security and Defence Policy. He pointed out that ‘the focus will be on the development of fast reaction capabilities without neglecting the current needs of the different branches of the Defence Forces'.
Esko Aho, Chairman of the Centre Party of Finland, took a stand against the most important article of the Constitution that applies to the formation of the Government. Aho wanted the article, which was drawn up by way of compromise, to be opened for new negotiations. He wanted the regulations relating to the formation of the Government to be worded more clearly, and the article to include the provision that the person whose task is to select the members of the new Government be nominated by the Parliament. According to Aho's model, the President's role in the formation of the Government would be limited to the nomination of the new Government. Only if no candidate is backed by a majority of the Parliament would the President be allowed to enter the stage and participate in the selection process. Even though the wording of the article by the Committee for Constitutional Law gives the decision-making power to the Parliament, Aho was afraid that the wording still provides an inventive President with the opportunity to realize his own views. All the parties involved are unanimous in the need to increase the powers of the Parliament in the formation of the Government; the main dispute is about the definition of the matter in the article. Prime Minister Lipponen and Minister of Finance Niinistö did not support Aho's ideas.
In an interview given to chief and political editors of the media, which was broadcast on the radio Prime Minister Lipponen said that those who require a discussion of Finland's position on NATO should tell us why we should reappraise Finland's status and relationship to NATO. He also deliberated upon whether Finland's membership in NATO would place the responsibility for defending the Baltic States on Finland. According to him, not all Government parties have understood what security policy is about. Comments made in the Government tend to lessen the credibility of Finland's security policy. The Prime Minister's criticism referred to Minister of Defence Anneli Taina and Minister of European Affairs Ole Norrback, who have maintained discussions on NATO. Those who want discussion should analyse the situation and offer grounds for their demands. The Government does not want to restrict its freedom in matters relating to security policy by listing the prerequisites for Finland's membership in NATO.
Prime Minister Lipponen visited Greece and Poland. In Greece, he visited Parliament and met his Greek counterpart Konstantinos Simitis, President Konstantinos Stephanopoulos, and Minister for Foreign Affairs Theodoros Pangalos. The main topic was Agenda 2000, which is to reform the EU's financial, agricultural, and structural policies. Lipponen emphasized that a solution that is fair to all member states must be found in the Agenda. He assumed that the member states are willing to solve the problems related to the Agenda. The Prime Ministers also discussed the relations between Greece and Turkey. After Greece, Prime Minister Lipponen continued to Poland, where he had discussions with Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek on Poland's aspirations to join the EU. Lipponen recommended prompt agricultural reforms. Should Poland decide to acquire Hornet fighters, the Finnish Patria Group would be interested in cooperating with the country. Finland would be willing to offer, at least, maintenance services.
In the opening ceremony of the 150th National Defence Courses in Helsinki General Gustav Hägglund, Chief of Defence, requested, that rapid deployment brigades be provided with the maximum amount of equipment so that their operation could be guaranteed under all circumstances. According to Hägglund, Finland's defence requires that society's resources be used, for example, in materiel procurement. He estimated that the globalisation of the economy poses a threat to the rapid deployment brigades because logistics have to rely on international connections and that in turn reduces the reserves of the economy. Therefore, rapid deployment brigades cannot rely, to the same extent, on the acquisition of additional materials from society. Hägglund sees the development of the information society as another threat. Any disturbances in communications networks can lead to dangerous situations. Minister for Foreign Affairs Halonen thought that international cooperation aimed at maintaining security and peacekeeping operations have changed considerably. In addition to military defence capabilities, new skills are required to guarantee security now that new threats are posed by political instability, regional and internal conflicts, ethnic conflicts, poverty, the uneven distribution of wealth, and the destruction of the environment. She also stressed Finland's ability to cooperate with NATO member states.
During a lunch meeting with Swedish journalists in Stockholm, Esko Aho, chairman of the main opposition party the Centre Party of Finland, strongly criticised President Ahtisaari and the way he has attended to his duties. According to Aho, Ahtisaari has made a mistake by introducing American-style presidency into Finland. Aho thought that this model is not suitable in Finland because he believes that Finns want the President to remain above day-to-day politics. Chairman Aho hoped that Sweden will soon join the EMU because he considered that Sweden's joining the system is very important for Finland.
Norway's Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik held negotiations in Brussels with Jacques Santer, President of the European Commission. Bondevik stated that Norway wants to participate in the development of the EU´s Northern Dimension policy initiated by Finland. According to him, Norway has maintained close cooperation with Finland on this matter.
Half of Finland's forensic team left for Kosovo to examine the bodies of Albanians who were killed in a massacre at the village of Racak. On 20 January the head of the examination group, dentist Helena Ranta and the Finnish and German Ambassadors concluded an agreement with Serbia's Minister of Justice Dragoljub Jankovic on the examination to be carried out under an EU mandate. Ranta stated, at a press conference held in Pristina on 26 January, that the cause of death of the victims at Racak may never be determined. It is a question of whether a real massacre took place or whether some form of deception was planned by burying the bodies of those previously killed in action.
President Ahtisaari and Mrs Eeva Ahtisaari visited Holland. Ahtisaari met Queen Beatrix, Prince Claus, and Prime Minister Wim Kok. The discussions between Kok and Ahtisaari touched upon the crisis in Kosovo and the enlargement of the EU. Ahtisaari also gave a speech at the International Court of Justice of The Hague. He hoped that the international community would discuss the opportunities of preventing humanitarian catastrophes better than has been done in the past. He thought that the International Court, due to political reasons, has not always been able to offer sufficient means to resolve crises. He wanted to extend international law to humanitarian crimes committed within the boundaries of individual countries. In his speech Ahtisaari referred to Yugoslavia and Rwanda. President Ahtisaari also visited the international War Crimes Tribunal that handles war crimes committed in the territory of former Yugoslavia, as well as an international organisation banning chemical weapons. Ahtisaari suggested that a resolution of the Kosovo crisis should be sought for a longer time scale, with a perspective of 10-20 years.
The Ministry for Foreign Affairs nominated Dr. Pauli Järvenpää Defence Counsellor, Mission of Finland to Nato in Brussels. Järvenpää's position will be for three years starting from the beginning of March.
The Committee for Constitutional Law has completed its report on the reform of constitutional law. After the reform has been accepted by the current and the next Parliament, the powers of the President will be considerably limited. The constitution will transfer Finland from the era of a powerful President to an era of a powerful Parliament. The reform will mean that the Constitution Act becomes a constitutional law, the powers of the President will be restricted, and Parliament will play a prominent role in the formation of the new Government. In addition, the Government will have a stronger position in the decision-making processes related to foreign and security policy, and the President will give military commands in cooperation with the Government. If the law is to come into effect on 1 March, 2000, the present Parliament must pass it by a simple majority of votes and the next Parliament must pass it by a two-thirds majority. Party leaders summed up the work of the Committee for Constitutional Law as historic. Prime Minister Lipponen considered that the change would create a new balance.
Minister of Defence Taina said in Urjala that there is no reason to either provoke or stifle debate on a possible future military alliance for Finland. Taina stated that Finland, like other countries, has the right to decide upon its basic strategy relating to security policy. According to her, Finland is already economically and politically allied, as it is a member of the EU and the EMU. She stated that we must bear in mind our obligations when taking a stand on matters relating to international policy. However, despite our obligations there is no need for military alliances although we should not rule out any possibilities. She stressed that security arrangements and cooperation are currently in a state of change in Europe and that Finland must have the ability to react quickly to changing situations.
EU Ministers for Foreign Affairs decided, in Brussels, to continue the preparations for sanctions against Yugoslavia. Minister of European Affairs Norrback, who represented Finland in the meeting, said that the ministers stressed the need to use diplomatic means. According to Norrback, conciliation is difficult because the Albanians have not been able to nominate a representative and Yugoslavia, the other negotiating party, has adopted a dictatorial approach. The Council of Ministers hoped in its communiqué that the Kosovo Albanians would form a council so that negotiations with Belgrade can start. The Council of Ministers expressed that it was its shocked by the Racak massacre.
Minister of Development Cooperation Pekka Haavisto signed a resolution according to which non-governmental organisations (NGOs) carrying out development cooperation will be subsidised this year to the amount of FIM 185 million. This is an increase of FIM 20 million over the previous year. The sum given to NGO's is approximately 10% of the total development cooperation budget.
The international commission set up by the President of Estonia Lennart Meri and headed by Minister Max Jakobson held a meeting in Tallinn. The commission was set up to investigate crimes committed against humanity in Estonia, or against Estonians, between 1940 and 1991.
Gennadi Seleznyov, Speaker of the Russian Duma, visited Finland by invitation of the Speaker of the Parliament Riitta Uosukainen. In addition to Uosukainen, Seleznyov also met President Ahtisaari and Prime Minister Lipponen. The talks between Lipponen and Seleznyov touched upon economic relations between Finland and Russia as well as the meeting between the Prime Ministers of Finland and Russia that will soon be held in St. Petersburg. The topics of that meeting will be Finland's EU presidency and the Northern Dimension. Speaker Seleznyov referred to the debate on Karelia that is going on in Finland, and said that ‘those who would like to take up territorial issues hope to provoke discord in Russian and Finnish relations.'
By invitation of the Corporation of London, Prime Minister Lipponen paid a visit to the capital. During the organisation's meeting, which was held in the famous Guildhall, Lipponen stated that the EU's enlargement will be one of the key issues during Finland's EU presidency. According to him, a new Intergovernmental Conference, advocating EU reforms, could be started during Finland's presidency. He also said that Finland vigorously supports the strengthening of the Union's common foreign and security policy. Lipponen also met his counterpart Tony Blair in London. Their discussions focused on the EU's future, reforms, development of the defence dimension, and Agenda 2000. The Prime Ministers also decided that Finland and Britain will strengthen their cooperation to solve the problems caused by Russian nuclear power stations. Lipponen pointed out that attention has, so far, only focused on nuclear waste in the Kola Peninsula, ‘but the safety of Russia's nuclear power stations is a far more important issue.'
President Ahtisaari and Mrs Eeva Ahtisaari paid a state visit to Spain. The President was accompanied by Minister for Foreign Affairs Halonen, Minister of European Affairs Norrback, and a large-ranging delegation of corporate directors. Ahtisaari met King Juan Carlos, Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar, Minister for Foreign Affairs Abel Matutes, and Speaker of the Parliament Frederico Trillo, as well as representatives of the regional management of Madrid and officers of the Spanish armed forces. The discussions between Ahtisaari and Aznar touched upon Agenda 2000. Spain is afraid that the subsidies it receives from the EU will be reduced as the EU's present presidency, Germany, pursues a policy of subsidy reductions. Ahtisaari stated that ‘if Agenda 2000 fails during Germany's presidency, it will not be easy to realise it during Finland's presidency.' Spain is also worried about the effects of the Northern Dimension policy, which Finland is pursuing, and of the eastward expansion of the EU on the financing of Mediterranean cooperation. Minister Halonen assured Spain that the projects pursued by Finland do not require additional financing, only the reallocation of existing funds. On the concluding day of the visit Ahtisaari said that ‘Finland is in principle ready to participate in peacekeeping operations in Kosovo. However, the decisions cannot be made before it becomes clear whether the operations will start, what form they will take, and what we are asked to do.' The President refused to speculate on the number of soldiers that Finland would be able to send. In the speech he gave in Madrid he argued for extensive autonomy to be given to Kosovo.
Minister of Defence Taina argued in the newspaper Helsingin Sanomat that she would like to remove the restrictions of the Peacekeeping Act that make it impossible for Finns to participate in peace enforcement in crisis management operations. Taina also hoped that the law would be amended so that officers could serve abroad in crisis management operations. According to the Minister of Defence, the Crisis Management Act should be amended so that it would be in line with the legislation of other Partnership for Peace countries and thus develop further Finland´s crisis management cooperation. Taina suggested that the promotion of crisis management be included in the new Government Programme. According to her, the next Government and Parliament could decide upon the new strategies in crisis management. Taina stressed that the development of crisis management cooperation is not based on Finland's application for membership in NATO, but she admitted that close cooperation will advance possible membership. Taina also reiterated that ‘there is no visible political division in people's attitudes towards NATO. However, there are differences in the attitudes towards debate about NATO, notably whether it is allowed to discuss and assess the changing situation out loud.' According to Taina, ‘it is important that international cooperation and the change process are marketed and these topics must be discussed because cooperation is a continual process. We must be prepared to assess Finland's position during this change.'
Prime Minister Lipponen stated at a press conference in Helsinki, that he has never attempted to put to an end the discussions about the relationship between Finland and NATO that have been going on lately. He said that the discussions have not added anything new to the subject, and encouraged those who express their views to give reasons for their opinions.
In the monthly supplement of Helsingin Sanomat, former President Mauno Koivisto explained his reasons for allowing Ingrians to return to Finland as re-migrants. He stated that his initiative was not based on a willingness to make use of the Ingrians economically; rather, it was due to his bad conscience about their situation. Finland was according to the truce pact of 1944 compelled to return to Russia the Ingrian evacuees, who had been in Finland between 1942 and 1944. After the Ingrians had returned they were dispersed to different parts of Russia, contrary to agreements. Koivisto stated that he was satisfied with his 1990 statement about Ingrians being eligible for the status of re-migrants as well as with the way the Ingrian issue was then handled. However, he now considered that ‘from now on, we must consider things more carefully.' Koivisto thought that ‘those who are now moving to Finland are increasingly more Russian than Finnish. We must also consider this aspect.' When studying the criteria for Ingrians' re-migration in the early 1990s, it was sufficient that one of the grandparents was a Finn. Later on, these criteria were tightened, and from then on, documentation was required stating that at least two grandparents were Finns by nationality.
Minister for Foreign Affairs Halonen stated at a press conference that Finland will send peacekeeping troops to Kosovo under the mandate of the UN Security Council. Her attitude towards the peace talks conducted in France was confident and she expressed her satisfaction with the fact that both Serbs and Kosovo Albanians were participating in the talks.
Halonen also said that she does not support Minister of Defence Taina's suggestion that the Peacekeeping Act should be amended. Taina suggested that the Act be amended so that Finns would also be able to participate in crisis management operations in which peace is enforced using armed forces. Halonen estimated that there has already been rapid progress in matters relating to peacekeeping. She said that the Government will not present a bill like this, at least not to the present Parliament. Halonen emphasized that the Government must also in the future enjoy the political confidence of Parliament. Halonen thought that Taina wanted the Peacekeeping Act to be amended because she represents law enforcement, while Halonen, as the Minister for Foreign Affairs and the decision-maker in matters relating to the political action, wants to act under the mandate given to her by Parliament. Halonen found it rather odd that Taina explained that the fact that NATO is in charge of the operations would speak in favour of the amendment. Halonen wanted to wait and see how the crisis management operations develop before starting to investigate the need to amend legislation.
Former President Koivisto was Finland's official representative at the funeral of Jordan's King Hussein, who died on 7 February.
The Prime Ministers of the five Nordic countries and the three Baltic States participated in the joint meeting of the Nordic Council and the Baltic Council in the Finnish Parliament in Helsinki. In addition to the Prime Ministers, 170 Members of Parliament, 20 ministers, and a number of officials were also present at the meeting. During the meeting, those Nordic countries that are members of the EU gave their full support to Latvia's and Lithuania's aspirations to start negotiations concerning EU membership during the first wave of expansion negotiations. According to Prime Minister Lipponen, the issue will be discussed at the EU summit that will be held in Helsinki at the end of this year. Lipponen explained the Northern Dimension policy, and said that all EU member states are involved in it in the same way as they are in Mediterranean cooperation. He said that ‘the interests are common.' He stressed that the Northern Dimension is about partnership and equal cooperation. The EU is interested in what the Baltic States want from this cooperation. According to Lipponen, among the common interests is cooperation in the field of energy as the EU is dependent on energy imported from Russia. The Northern Dimension is not ‘a huge public-support programme.' The programme was introduced because the EU now shares a long border with Russia. The significance of relations with neighbouring countries is increasing as the EU expands. The Prime Minister stressed the fact that the programme will help normalise relations between Russia and the Baltic States. He also considered that the Northern Dimension will open, via arctic cooperation, many new opportunities for cooperation with countries outside the EU, such as the USA and Canada. At the meeting, some conservative Nordic politicians suggested that if Finland and Sweden would join NATO, the security problems in the Baltic Sea region would be solved. Minister of Defence Taina and Member of Parliament Erkki Tuomioja dissociated Finland the membership under the current circumstances, while Baltic Members of Parliament believed that protection can only be found within NATO.
Minister for Foreign Affairs Halonen paid a working visit to Russia, where she met her counterpart Igor Ivanov and Prime Minister Yevgeni Primakov. It was stated that there were no problems in the relationship between the two countries. During Ms Halonen's stay, preparations were made for the meeting between Primakov and Prime Minister Lipponen that was to be held in St. Petersburg later in February. Discussions also included Kosovo, Iraq, and the expansion of NATO. Russia repeated that it is opposed to NATO's expansion. Russia has indirectly threatened to break off its relations with NATO if NATO offers membership to Estonia, Latvia, or Lithuania. Ivanov stated that the position of Russian-speaking inhabitants in these countries continues to be a stumbling block in the relations between Russia and the Baltic States.
Swedish professor, Ambassador Krister Wahlbäck delivered a speech on the relations between Finland and Sweden at the Danielson-Kalmar Seminar at Vääksy. Wahlbäck stated that speeches given in honour of the occasion usually describe the relations between these countries as exceptionally good and warm due to similar social views and a common history. According to Wahlbäck, this is not the whole truth. At some point in the 20th century, the relations between Finland and Sweden were characterised by some kind of ‘psychological inbalance'. When Finland was a threatened country, it sought support from a more secure country - Sweden. The situation was humiliating to Finland while at the same time Sweden felt that it was the big brother. This subject has been a delicate one and we have not been able to discuss it openly and thoroughly. Wahlbäck now considers that, on the eve of the 21st century, this period belongs to the past. Finland and Sweden are more equal now than they have ever been. As things have changed so fundamentally, we should, according to Wahlbäck, be able to reassess our relations in the 20th century without being limited by the old ideas concerning the attitudes of neighbouring countries. A reappraisal would also help to correct the wrong preconceived impressions that Finnish and Swedish citizens have of each other.
In the third, and last reading the Parliament accepted by 170 votes to 4 a reform to the Constitution, which has been characterised as historic. If the new Parliament to be elected in March also accepts the reform, the new Constitution will come into force on 1 March, 2000. The same date will also mark the commencement of the term of office of the President who will be elected one year from now. Minister of Finance Niinistö stated that ‘the biggest reform is that we now have a uniform Constitution. Extensive changes, such as the direct presidential election, were carried out previously, but this reform marks the end of a process that was started in the 1970s.' In the new Constitution, the decision-making power of Parliament is strengthened and the powers of the President are restricted, more clearly than currently, to cooperation with the Government that has to enjoy the confidence of Parliament.
The Government's Foreign and Security Policy Committee gave the Ministry for Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Defence permission to participate in the planning of the peacekeeping operations that may be discussed at the Kosovo peace negotiations. The final decision as to whether Finland will participate will be made at a later stage on the basis of the Peacekeeping Act.
Satu Hassi, chairperson of the Green League of Finland, said in Espoo that Finland's membership in NATO would create instability rather than security. She thought that Finland has no real reasons to join NATO. By remaining outside alliances Finland can contribute constructively to the building of security in Europe and in more remote regions of the world. Hassi suggested that if Finland joins NATO, it might strengthen the trend where access to the EU is only allowed to members of NATO. This would make the EU a defence alliance, which would in turn change Russia's positive approach to the EU and EU expansion to a negative one. This could have a negative effect on the security of the whole of Europe. According to Hassi, more serious security threats are now posed by social crises and environmental catastrophes rather than by wars of aggression. Hassi stressed the significance of non-allied countries for conflict management.
The Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee completed a statement relating to the report on the re-migration of Ingrians that the Government had given to the committee on 9 December, 1998. According to the Foreign Affairs Committee, more emphasis should be placed on determining Finnish identity than at present when deciding on the re-migration of Ingrians. Chairman of the committee Markus Aaltonen said that re-migrants cannot have Finnish identity without knowing Finnish or Swedish language. Aaltonen interpreted the committee's wording in the statement to mean that Finland should not, in future, accept Ingrians who do not know the Finnish language. The committee does not want to accept re-migrants who only wish to improve their economic situation. It suggested that the Finnish State might investigate ways of providing financial aid to old Ingrians living in Russia and Estonia. The committee also offered scholarships to young Ingrians so that they can study in Finland.
Prime Minister Lipponen met his Russian counterpart Yevgeni Primakov in St. Petersburg. Their negotiations touched upon energy questions. Primakov stated that, in contrast to its previous opinion, Russia is now in favour of the construction of an oil pipeline from Russia to Porvoo, a coastal town in southern Finland. The project is in line with the wishes of Fortum, the Finnish State energy company. Primakov also said that he supports the construction of a natural gas pipeline via Finland. According to him, the gas pipeline that is important to Europe must also pass through Finland. According to a study ordered by the EU Commission, it would be possible to build a natural gas network in Finland, Sweden, and Denmark that would be able to fulfil the needs of these countries as well as to supply natural gas to Central Europe.
The EU's Ministers for Foreign Affairs held a meeting in Luxembourg with the main topic being the Agenda 2000 financial reform. France continued to refuse to accept any agricultural solutions before an agreement has been reached on the financing of the entire Agenda reform. Germany, which currently holds the EU presidency, will do all in its power to reach an agreement by the end of March. During the meeting the Ministers for Foreign Affairs hoped that the Kurdish leader Abdullah Öcalan will receive a fair trial. They requested that international observers be allowed to attend the trial. The ministers condemned the outrages of Kurdish demonstrators in European cities.
President Ahtisaari and Mrs Eeva Ahtisaari paid a state visit to Mexico, where President Ernesto Zedillo acted as their host. Ahtisaari promised that during its EU presidency Finland will promote relations between the EU and Mexico and try to conclude a contract on free trade between them. During the visit, a contract on the protection of investments relating to the forest industry was signed between Finland and Mexico. A tripartite agreement between Finland, Mexico, and Guatemala was also signed. The agreement aimed at helping people in Guatemala's border regions.
Kurds protested in Helsinki outside the Ministry for Foreign Affairs. The aim of the protest was to express the Kurds' solid support for Abdullah Öcalan, the leader of the Kurdistan Workers' Party PKK who had been arrested by Turkey. A group of Kurds had talks with the assistants of the Minister for Foreign Affairs Halonen and Minister of the Environment Haavisto. The Kurds asked Finland to send a delegation to Turkey and to raise Kurdish issues at the EU's General Affairs Council.
Prime Minister Lipponen said at a seminar held at the Baltic Sea Institute in Tampere that political parties should agree upon an increase in aid to the neighbouring regions during future Government negotiations. This would allow important environmental problems to be tackled in time. According to him, ‘we must be prepared to support the development of neighbouring regions and the preparation of the Baltic States for EU membership.' According to Lipponen, the main issues in the neighbouring regions are questions relating to nuclear safety and environmental protection in north-western Russia, the Baltic States, and Poland. He considered it extremely important to improve the safety of the nuclear power stations that are in use in the neighbouring regions. He also stressed that the development of a real partnership between the EU and Russia will be important during Finland's EU presidency. The Prime Minister identified the development of cooperation with Russia in the field of energy supply as the key aspect of the Northern Dimension.
Chairman of the Young Finns Party, Risto E.J. Penttilä, stated in Helsingin Sanomat that the chairmen of the Social Democratic Party, the Centre Party of Finland, and the National Coalition Party are avoiding the question of NATO membership in the pre-election debate. They are in favour of Finland's military non-alliance if the circumstances do not change radically. According to Penttilä, two serious mistakes are involved in this consensus. He said that Finland will not be able to join NATO after the security situation has become unstable because the door will most probably be closed by then. Another problem of the current doctrine is related to the definition of the current situation. Conditions are changing continually while Finland pursues a policy of non-alliance. According to Penttilä, these trends are gnawing at the credibility of military non-alliance and therefore Finland will be obliged to justify its standpoint on NATO better than previously. Party leader Penttilä estimated that there are three factors that are in favour of Finland's military alliance. Firstly, Finland has to join NATO to be able to act in the core of Europe. Secondly, if Finland remains outside NATO, it will prevent Estonia from joining the organisation, which will form a security vacuum close to Finland. Thirdly, Finland and Sweden should join NATO to enable genuine Nordic military cooperation. According to Penttilä, the fear of Russian isolation is not a realistic Governmental counter-argument. Russia's future does not depend on whether or not the neighbouring countries belong to a military alliance; it depends on its ability to restore its political system and economy.
Prime Minister Lipponen said, in a series of party leaders' interviews published in Helsingin Sanomat, that Finland's approach to Ingrian re-migration from Russia has hardened and that the revision of its policy towards Ingrians is about to start. Lipponen considered that it is justified to restrict re-migration ‘because Finland has fulfilled certain moral obligations.' The aim in the future is only to accept Finnish-speaking Ingrians as re-migrants. The change of policy has been carried out using administrative means, without substantial political decisions. However, this course of action was preceded by a Government report; when examining the report, the Foreign Affairs Committee requested that the Finnish language requirements be tightened.
Prime Minister Lipponen represented Finland at the unofficial summit meeting of the fifteen EU countries at Petersberg, Germany. The meeting was hosted by the German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder. The main topic of the meeting was Agenda 2000 which is supposed to help reform the EU's financing to enable the Union to admit new members. The reduction of agricultural subsidies that the Commission proposes means that Finland would lose FIM 770 million in subsidies, 10% of the total subsidy bill. Due to its special conditions, Finland demands full compensation for the loss in the form of direct income support. The meeting was not able to solve the agricultural problems even though the deadline for the conclusion of an agreement is in four weeks, from 24 to 25 March. During the unofficial meeting Lipponen and Schröder discussed the summit meeting to be held in Tampere in October. The meeting will focus on security issues.
The UN decided early in the morning, Finnish time, that it will start to withdraw its peacekeeping troops from Macedonia. The organisation's mandate ended because China exercised its veto on 25 February and prevented the six month extension that had been suggested for the UN troops. China expects the UN to start withdrawing on 1 March. Finland and Sweden, which are not members of NATO, are not able to transfer their peacekeepers to NATO control in Macedonia so the Finns will have to prepare themselves for withdrawal. President Ahtisaari noted on 26 February, during his visit to Mexico, that China's decision was expected after Macedonia had recognised Taiwan. China regards Taiwan as its own rebellious province.
Spain's Prime Minister José Maria Aznar visited Finland by invitation of Prime Minister Lipponen. In addition to Lipponen, he also met President Ahtisaari and Minister of Finance Niinistö. Their conversations touched upon bilateral issues between Finland and Spain, Finland's EU presidency, and the Agenda 2000 package. The Prime Ministers were unanimous in their opinion that the dispute over finances for the period 2000-2006 that has been going on in the EU lately should be resolved during Germany's presidency. According to Lipponen, the financial problem exists between large net payers, so it cannot be solved at the expense of the other countries. The Prime Ministers considered that no one should leave the Agenda negotiations as a loser. The new procurement of arms for the Spanish army were another key topic discussed during the meeting. The arms would be supplied by the Finnish company Patria Industries.
Internationally the total ban on anti-personnel landmines (APL) was strengthened with the entry into force of the Ottawa Convention. Finland is the only Nordic country and the only member state of the EU that has refused to sign the agreement. Finland has based its decision on the importance of the mines to Finland's defence and on the fact that it does not lay mines indiscriminately. Finland will investigate the possibility of replacing anti-personnel landmines, which are a cheap and effective means of defence.
The Green League of Finland organised a NATO Seminar in Helsinki, with researchers, officers, and representatives of non-governmental organisations as speakers. In her opening speech, chairperson of the Green League Satu Hassi repeated her opinion that Finland's membership of NATO would undermine Finland's security as Russia would feel its position threatened. According to Tuomas Forsberg, Director of the Finnish Institute of International Affairs, Hassi's view is one of the two predominant opinions. The other one is that the rest of the world cannot influence what is going on in Russia. Forsberg said that there are signs that Finland is considering membership of NATO more seriously than previously discussed in public. He also stressed that some parties' opposition to NATO has weakened, most notably in the Social Democratic Party. Forsberg stated that the Swedes do not suspect their politicians of surreptitiously attempting to join Sweden with NATO, like people in Finland do. Lieutenant General Arto Räty shared Forsberg's view. He said that Finland's opinion on NATO was very clear — Finland has purposefully, and step by step, developed its relationship with NATO, while Sweden's policy has been less clear. However, Forsberg noted that if Sweden would join NATO, it would be a decisive factor when weighing up the pros and cons of whether Finland should join. Räty, in turn, stressed that there are no secret protocols between NATO and Finland and that communication with NATO is open. He denied the accusations that NATO would be able to place nuclear weapons on Finnish soil without Finland's consent. According to him, joining NATO would cost a country the size of Finland some FIM 200 million. The USA, Germany, and Great Britain would continue to pay the majority of NATO's budget of USD 1.7 billion.
The Service Centre for Development Cooperation KEPA and the Finnish Institute of International Affairs published a report written by Dr. Heikki Patomäki concerning the Tobin Tax. KEPA believed that the Tobin Tax, or the tax levied on international capital movements, would help balance the financial markets and increase economic equality in the world. KEPA hoped that Finland would support the project and include it in the new Government Programme. Member of the European Parliament Outi Ojala, from the Left Alliance, also suggested that the party include the project in the next Government negotiations if the Left Alliance participates in these negotiations. According to Ojala, the new Government could promote the introduction of a tax levied on speculative, short-term capital movements first in EMU countries and later in the World Trade Organisation WTO and the UN. Ojala also thought that the Government could place this objective on the agenda during Finland's EU presidency next autumn.
The Court of Justice of the European Communities started the verbal hearing of the case relating to the publicity of EU documents. The hearing handled the extraordinary appeal lodged by MEP Heidi Hautala to the Court of First Instance because the EU Council of Ministers did not disclose documents relating to the export of weapons some years ago. Hautala thought that citizens must be given proper reasons if their request for access to a document is denied. According to her, openness should also be extended to foreign policy. Finland and Sweden have backed Hautala's demands, and want to annul the Council decision and return the matter to the Council.
The EU's Ministers of Agriculture reached in Brussels an agreement on the Union's agricultural reform, that was part of the Agenda 2000 package. In accordance with the agreement, Finland received full compensation for its farmers' lost income, for which it had applied. Minister of Agriculture and Forestry Kalevi Hemilä was satisfied with the agreement. He stressed that this was the first time during Finland's membership in the EU that Finland's special conditions have been recognised.
Minister of the Interior Jan-Erik Enestam said in an interview with the newspaper Hufvudstadsbladet that Finland cannot join NATO before all the Baltic States have joined the EU. According to Enestam, Finland will not join NATO for many years because Estonia, the first of the newly independent states to apply for EU membership will probably not become a member before 2005. It will then take some more years for the other Baltic States to join the Union. Enestam said that membership of NATO has to improve security both in Finland and in the neighbouring regions. This will require the Union's expansion into the Baltic States. Finland's joining NATO before these solutions would undermine security in the neighbouring regions and would also pose a security risk to Finland.
Tomas Ries, Senior Researcher at the National Defence College, concluded in the newspaper Hufvudstadsbladet that the threshold for Finland's membership of NATO has become lower due to the admission of Poland, the Czech Republic, and Hungary into NATO on 12 March. According to Ries, the best way of guaranteeing Finland's security is to join NATO. He did not believe that Finland would discuss its possible admission to NATO before the year 2000, by which time Finland will have finished its EU presidency, a position that requires all its concentration. He considered that Russia's reaction is the only valid reason for not joining NATO. However, he thought that Finland would be better off as a member of NATO because it can then participate in decision-making whereas small countries often tend to remain outsiders in world politics.
In an interview published in Helsingin Sanomat Rear Admiral Juhani Kaskeala assessed Finland's plans to join NATO now that Poland, the Czech Republic, and Hungary have joined. According to Kaskeala, Finland will not join NATO in the same way that Poland, the Czech Republic, and Hungary did; neither will Finland join after the Baltic States or because of an acute threat posed by Russia. Should Finland decide to join NATO, it will, according to Kaskeala's assessment, take place in step with the introduction of the EU's common defence system. Kaskeala did not consider it probable that the Parliament which will be elected later in March will have to decide the matter. Tuomas Forsberg, Director of the Finnish Institute of International Affairs, in turn noted that ‘membership can be realised through small, slow changes.' According to Forsberg, the EU's internal development is one factor that affects Finland's membership. The EU is looking for solutions that would allow all members of the Union to belong to NATO. Another change is that the Finns will look upon NATO and its significance in a different light in the course of time. We may consider it necessary for Finland to belong to the military core of Europe. Forsberg thought that big decisions will probably not be made before NATO's next summit meeting in 2001, partly due to the presidential elections to be held in Russia.
South Africa's President Nelson Mandela, who will complete his term of office at the June elections, paid a state visit to Finland. Mandela was accompanied by his wife, Mozambique's former Minister of Justice Graza Machel, as well as Minister for Foreign Affairs Alfred Nzo and an official delegation. During his visit Mandela met President Ahtisaari and visited Parliament. He also had a short meeting with Palestine's President Yasser Arafat. Mandela thanked Finland for the support it had given during South Africa's fight for freedom. He also called upon industrial countries to put the Jubilee 2000 campaign in a prominent position; the campaign is aimed at forgiving the debts of the poorest developing countries by the turn of the millennium. President Mandela thought that a free-trade agreement between the EU and South Africa will soon be concluded. The Finnish and South African Ministers also signed an agreement on cooperation in mine clearing.
Palestine's President Yasser Arafat paid a quick visit to Finland for talks with President Ahtisaari. Arafat tried to get Finland's support for the Palestinians' objectives in the peace talks in the Middle East as well as for the Palestinians' aspirations to establish an independent state in part of Gaza and parts of the West Bank. Arafat last visited Finland in October. The reason for Arafat's frequent visits is Finland's role as the next country to hold the EU's presidency.
Germany's Chancellor Gerhard Schröder visited Finland on the eve of the Berlin summit. He met President Ahtisaari and Prime Minister Lipponen. Both Schröder and Lipponen stressed in the press conference that the Berlin summit meeting must find a solution to the Agenda problem. However, Schröder wanted to amend slightly the agricultural agreement that had just been reached, to achieve additional savings. Lipponen said that Finland and Germany are conducting last-minute negotiations over structural funds before the Berlin meeting. Finland wants to increase the importance of unemployment in the criteria according to which structural funds are distributed.
A Committee of Independent Experts published a report in Brussels. The Committee seriously criticised the European Commission for fraud, favouritism, and malpractice. The socialists, forming the largest group in the European Parliament, demanded the entire Commission's resignation. Finnish MEPs disagreed over the report. Some demanded the resignation of the entire Commission, while others demanded the removal of individual Commissioners only. The Commission resigned on the night between March 15 and 16, but will continue as a caretaker Commission until further notice. Member states started arguing about how and when the new Commission should be selected. Prime Minister Lipponen thought that Finland's EU presidency, which will start in July, would be endangered if the Commission's resignation complicated the EU's major reform schedule, Agenda 2000. However, he did not believe that this would happen. Lipponen said that under the circumstances the Union must also restore its credibility and ability to perform. Prime Minister Lipponen praised the Commission for excellent cooperation with Finland, and said that the Finnish Commissioner Erkki Liikanen has his full confidence.
Parliament completed its work for this legislative period. In the speech given at the closing ceremony, President Ahtisaari demanded that social fairness be safeguarded. He also stated that Finland's international position has strengthened since the last parliamentary elections. He stated that ‘all governmental organisations have adapted well to the common European decision-making process.' According to President Ahtisaari, the changes that have taken place in the international environment have tested the limits of adaptability of many population groups. The past few years have been a demanding time of change for agriculture and the countryside. He praised the Government for its commitment to total compensation for the cuts that will be made in agricultural subsidies according to Agenda 2000. In his speech he stated that Russia is in crisis and will be in need of support when it starts to carry out reforms. Speaker of the Parliament Riitta Uosukainen stated that several events, such as the resignation of the EU Commission, have proved that the policy of transparency pursued by Finland is essential if the Union is to function fairly.
China's Minister for Foreign Affairs Tang Jiaxuan paid an official visit to Finland, and met President Ahtisaari, Prime Minister Lipponen, and Minister for Foreign Affairs Halonen. Minister Tang's visit was overshadowed by the dispute between western countries and China over the possible vote of censure by the UN Human Rights Commission. Tang attempted to assure the leaders of Finland and the other EU countries of the Chinese Government's willingness to improve the human rights situation in China. He also warned that the dispute over human rights may jeopardise the development of relations between these countries and undermine joint projects. During his visit to Finland, Tang stated that he was worried about the slow pace of the negotiations on China's membership in the WTO. Finland's Minister for Foreign Affairs Halonen assured him that Finland and the other EU countries want China's membership of the WTO to be realised as soon as possible. The Ministers for Foreign Affairs also discussed cooperation projects between the countries, among which are several development projects in China's regions inhabited by minorities.
The press attaché of the Swedish Supreme Commander Armed Forces Owe Wiktorin confirmed in the newspaper Helsingin Sanomat that the main command of the Swedish Armed Forces are opposed to sending joint Swedish and Finnish army units to Kosovo to participate in peacekeeping operations. According to Swedish officers, the situation in Kosovo is such that only a national peacekeeping force will be able to serve there with honour. The Swedish Armed Forces disagree with Sweden's Ministry of Defence, which has suggested that a Finnish-Swedish battalion with a strength of 630 men be set up. The establishment of a joint battalion is Sweden's initiative and the Finnish Government has authorized Finland's Ministry of Defence to prepare the matter.
Prime Minister Lipponen held a meeting with the Grand Committee of Parliament on the eve of the European Council meeting that was to be held in Berlin. He hoped that an agreement would be reached quickly on the name of the President for the European Commission. According to Lipponen, Italy's former Prime Minister Romano Prodi, NATO's Secretary General Javier Solana, who is Spanish, and Holland's Prime Minister Wim Kok would all be suitable Presidents of the Commission. As the Prime Minister put it, they are all prominent Europeans. The Prime Minister hoped that the Berlin summit would nominate at least one Commissioner to take care of the management of the Commission until the end of the year. Lipponen stated that all member states and the European Parliament would commit themselves and give their full support to the Commission that will continue the current Commission's work if the summit meeting finds the way out of the crisis caused by the Commission's resignation. According to Lipponen, this would help to restore the EU's ability to function and its credibility. Lipponen hoped that the Agenda 2000 package would retain its integrity at the summit. He said that Finland will suggest at the meeting that unemployment must be included in the criteria according to which financing is allocated from structural funds. According to the Prime Minister, Finland is ready to consider a reform to the system relating to the collection of the EU's internal funds if Finland achieves a positive result in questions relating to agricultural and structural funds. A model has been proposed according to which the gross national product of each country would pay a more significant role when collecting money for EU funding. This would increase Finland's net payment share.
After the Paris negotiations had failed, the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) started withdrawing observers from Kosovo after the crisis in the region had become critical and NATO had threatened Yugoslavia with air strikes. The observers of 38 countries, who had gone to Kosovo in September, 1998, were transferred to Skopje, the capital of Macedonia. Some thirty Finns were among them. With the exception of a group of 150 observers, they all continued on to their respective home countries. 20.3. Pertti Torstila, Director General for Political Affairs at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, noted that the withdrawal of the OSCE from Kosovo was expected. It was also necessary because the observers' operational possibilities had been considerably curtailed. Torstila pointed out that the task of the OSCE has not been completed. A major role has been allocated to the organisation in the peace plan and the fact that the core of the group of observers remained in Skopje means that their return to Kosovo is possible.
Despite losses, the Social Democratic Party gained the most support in the parliamentary elections; it received 22.9% of the vote, while the Centre Party of Finland and the National Coalition Party received 22.4% and 21.0% of the vote, respectively. The number of parties represented in the Parliament decreased by two as both Kirjava puolue (Diverse Party) and the Young Finns Party dropped out of Parliament. The result of the elections proved to be difficult from the point of view of Government negotiations, because no two parties together formed a majority in the new Parliament.
The EU's Ministers for Foreign Affairs held a meeting in Brussels. At the meeting the main focus was on Agenda 2000 and the resignation of the EU Commission. Germany presented an Agenda 2000 paper to the Ministers for Foreign Affairs. Among the suggestions made in the paper was a change in the financing of the Union from the collection of value added taxes to the collection of funds on the basis of gross national product. In practice this means that member states would contribute to EU funding according to their wealth. Minister for Foreign Affairs Halonen thought that an agreement on the Agenda matter may well be achieved. The Ministers for Foreign Affairs requested that Yugoslavia's President Slobodan Milosevic resolve the crisis in Kosovo peaceably. The Ministers did not agree upon a new way of exerting pressure on the warring parties. The meeting decided that the EU will not put forward a resolution to the UN in which it would condemn China's human rights record. The EU believes that the human rights situation will improve as long as discussion on human rights is maintained.
The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, NATO, informed of its decision to start air strikes on Serbia. According to NATO's Secretary General Javier Solana, the decision was made after in-depth negotiations with the Allies and the diplomatic efforts of the Envoy of the USA Richard Holbrooke had failed. On 24 March, NATO also started extensive air strikes on Yugoslavia. Serbian troops continued their attack against the Kosovo Albanians in the province of Kosovo. The EU agreed on a communiqué at the Berlin summit on 24 March, in which it strongly condemned Yugoslavia's President Milosevic and the Serbs' attacks. However, the communiqué did not give direct support to NATO's decision to attack military objects in Yugoslavia. President Ahtisaari stated, during a pause at the EU's summit meeting, that Yugoslavia's conduct with regard to its minorities is something ‘that the international community absolutely cannot tolerate'. Ahtisaari thought that international troops would be needed in the region if an agreement on peace in Kosovo is reached. Ahtisaari did not strongly criticise Russia's approach to the crisis in Kosovo.
The political leaders of the EU Member States decided, at the Berlin summit meeting, to select Italy's former Prime Minister Romano Prodi as the new President of the European Commission. President Ahtisaari, who took the floor on Finland's behalf in the event in which the President of the Commission was selected, supported Prodi's nomination. Prime Minister Lipponen was satisfied because Prodi is known to support Finland. Lipponen was also satisfied with the speed at which the process was completed. According to him, this was a proof of the Union's willingness to restore its ability to function as quickly as possible after the resignation of the Commission. The selection will make Finland's EU presidency period, which will commence in July, easier. The formation of the Commission, which will be Finland's responsibility, will probably be easier now that the Chairman has been nominated. During the Agenda 2000 negotiations conducted at the meeting, Germany presented a model that would slightly change the proposal for a compromise, made by the Ministers of Agriculture, relating to the reform of the EU's agricultural subsidy system. According to the compromise model, the EU would increasingly move to EU funding that is based on the gross national product of each country. On the morning of the 26 March, the summit meeting agreed upon the EU's major reform, Agenda 2000, on which the Union will base its agricultural policy, structural support system, and funding that will support expansion. The result of the negotiations was that the prices of agricultural products will be reduced and the highest regional subsidies will be provided to a smaller part of Europe. However, according to Lipponen, Finland achieved its objectives. Agriculture received full compensation for the drop in subsidised prices, and both Eastern and Northern Finland will enjoy the highest structural subsidy for the next seven years. Finland will more clearly be a net payer to the EU in the future but according to Lipponen, Finland will do well among the net payers.
The Ministers for Foreign Affairs of the fifteen EU member states and of ten Asian countries convened for the second ASEM Meeting in Berlin. The main topics of the ASEM Meeting were the economic crisis in Asia and the nomination of the Director General of the WTO. Finland was in favour of Thailand's Deputy Prime Minister Supachai Panitchpakdi as the successor to the Italian Renato Ruggiero. Minister for Foreign Affairs Halonen stated, as did all the others who supported Supachai's candidacy, that it was the right time to have a candidate from a developing country.
At the opening ceremony of the Parliament, President Ahtisaari strongly condemned Yugoslavian President Milosevic's policy in Kosovo. Ahtisaari stated that the tyrannical rule against civilians in Kosovo is ‘a flagrant offence against human rights, cooperation, and democracy.' He said that Finland is ready to participate in ‘securing peace and reconstruction in Kosovo'. Ahtisaari emphasised in his speech that Finland's future challenges will be globalisation, competitiveness, and unemployment. According to him, Finland must be ‘a country that attracts new production and investments' if it is to secure future employment and well-being. The President assessed that Finland's EU presidency period will be a demanding time. He stressed that EU expansion must be promoted with determination.
Prime Minister Paavo Lipponen made a statement at Helsinki-Vantaa airport concerning the Kosovo refugee crisis, in which he said that Finland must share the responsibility for dealing with the consequences of the crisis. He believed that Finland could initially take a few dozen, perhaps around fifty refugees. He also noted that the commonly held view is that the refugees should remain within the area if possible. He deemed Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to be responsible for Nato’s offensive and for finding a resolution in order to end Nato bombings.
The Government’s Foreign and Security Policy Committee made a decision that Finland should concentrate its aid for the Kosovo refugees on site. The Committee notified that it is prepared to temporarily accommodate "refugees in the poorest situation". The Finnish Government also promised to grant additional funds on top of the previous eight million marks. Finland has offered the service of its peacekeeping forces that are to be relieved from the UN operation in Macedonia. Finnish transport vehicles will also be available for the relief operation. The total sum of aid from Finland will approximate between 17 and 18 million marks. The International Red Cross has estimated the need in the Kosovo and Yugoslav relief operations to be 340 million marks.
Swedish Prime Minister Göran Persson made a statement in Stockholm saying that he was astonished at Finland’s intention to take only fifty refugees from Kosovo. He thought it alarming that Finland does not wish to set an example as the forthcoming President of the EU. According to Persson, the responsibility for taking refugees must be shared equally between countries. Prime Minister Lipponen stated in a press conference that he is surprised at "this somewhat arrogant attitude towards an issue that has not been agreed upon in the EU". He regarded Sweden to be in no position to lay down the number of refugees for each country. Mr Lipponen emphasised that an agreement must be reached in the EU on the refugee problem, instead of setting about a competition of numbers. The Prime Minister justified extensively Finland’s view of not removing the refugees from the area.
The EU countries’ Ministers of the Interior assembled in Luxembourg for a meeting concerning the crisis in Kosovo. The ministers maintained that taking in refugees in countries other than neighbouring ones ultimately would harm their eventual return. It would also give a false signal to the Serb Government who will have to allow the refugees to return back to Kosovo. The meeting did not decide on any quotas of refugees for countries. Finland, amongst others, opposed determining quotas. Finland’s Minister of the Interior, Jan-Erik Enestam, said "it is wiser to concentrate resources from the beginning for helping on site".
Rear Admiral Juhani Kaskeala, Director General of the Defence Policy Department, reported having received an inquiry from Nato about Finland joining the forces in Albania (AFOR = Albania force) that oversee the humanitarian relief operation. This question was addressed to countries participating in the Partnership for Peace programme. Kaskeala said that the Finnish Peacekeeping Law prevents Finland from taking part, even in humanitarian operations, unless the UN Security Council approves them. He said that Finland is examining the possibilities of participating in a civil operation. It was this Peacekeeping Law that prevented Finnish peacekeepers from staying in the aid operation in Macedonia when the UN mandate ended. However, some of the peacekeepers stayed, as they joined the Red Cross and the UN Refugee Office forces.
The Cabinet Committee on Economic Policy decided that Finland would give an extra 55 million marks in funds for the refugee situation in Kosovo.
The EU’s Ministers for Foreign Affairs convened in Luxembourg together with eight colleagues from the Balkans. The EU ministers demanded that the International Court of War Crimes bring to justice persons who have taken part in forcing out, torturing and murdering people in Yugoslavia. The ministers also endorsed the US initiated total commercial blockade and the ending of the oil trade with Yugoslavia. Furthermore, EU countries, including Finland, approved of Nato’s air strikes and the five requirements that Nato demands in order to end the bombings.
President Ahtisaari stated in a meeting of the National Defence Course Association that Russia’s recovery is the key issue in European security. He considered it "alarming that the country remains so far behind the EU’s dynamic development". The President said that he expects the EU’s new strategy towards Russia to add emphasis to cooperation between Russia and the EU. He laid stress upon the fact that Russia is dependent on access to European markets and the EU needs Russia’s energy resources. He estimated the state of Russia’s nuclear arms to be a serious matter. Ahtisaari also dealt with the Kosovo situation. He said that as the international community has used up negotiation routes to peace, "the use of force was an inevitable step to end the wide range of violations against human rights and ethnic cleansing". He also saw the Yugoslavian leaders as responsible for the use of force. He hoped that Russia would recommence its cooperation with Nato, after having frozen relations due to the crisis in Kosovo. Ahtisaari said that the new policy line for Nato’s Partnership for Peace, which will soon be signed in Washington, would grant Finland the opportunity to take part in Nato crisis management planning and action. After his speech Ahtisaari said that, if needed, Finland is ready to quickly form a battalion of 250 men together with Sweden for the Kosovo peacekeeping forces. However, he noted that Sweden has a timetable problem on this issue, though he hoped this would not make it necessary to change Finland’s partner. He also said that Finland would have to change the law concerning peacekeeping operations for such a move to go ahead. He said the new government and parliament would have to take a stance on whether peacekeepers will be used in humanitarian operations.
Paavo Lipponen’s second government’s programme and its division of ministerial posts were agreed upon. The Minister for Foreign Affairs will be Tarja Halonen and the Minister of Defence will be Jan-Erik Enestam. The Government’s aim is to strengthen Finland’s security and international security as well as promoting Finland’s interests in a world of ever-increasing cooperation. The foundation of Finland’s security policy lies in a convincing defence. A policy of non-alignment is the best way to promote stability in northern Europe. Finland will participate in peacekeeping and crisis management within the UN, OSCE, EU and Nato’s Partnership for Peace programme. Finland will put an emphasis on cooperation with Sweden and the other Scandinavian countries. In accord with the Amsterdam Treaty the Government also promised to make the EU’s common foreign and security policy more efficient and to increase its readiness to react to crisis situations. It pledged to improve the Defence Forces’ possibilities to take part in crisis management. Concerning development policy, the government promised to raise funds and to try to meet the UN recommended level as far as the country’s economy permits. The government promised to support EU enlargement. Finland’s relations with Russia, Scandinavia and the Baltics are to be further strengthened.
EU leaders announced in Brussels that they support Nato’s strikes against Yugoslavia. At the same time they discussed means of ending military actions. EU leaders and UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan suggested that peacekeeping forces under the auspices of the UN could be sent to Kosovo after the war. The EU would set up a provisional government and guarantee free elections. International forces would remain in Kosovo after the elections. Germany planned a central role for Nato in the operation. President Ahtisaari said that the EU is starting from the premise that Kosovo will remain a part of Yugoslavia. According to Ahtisaari, the EU is prepared to look after the administration of the area. He emphasised that Finland is ready to participate immediately in the peacekeeping operation in the event that one is started.
President Ahtisaari relieved the old government from its work in an open letter and appointed the new one - Paavo Lipponen’s second government - at the same time. In greeting the new government Ahtisaari emphasised the continuation in government work. He advised the government to prepare EU matters on a broad basis so that the decisions have wide national support. He noted that the international situation has become unstable and in the Balkans dangerous. He said that peace in the Balkans could only happen with a move to democracy and healthy economies. He thought all the nations in the area should belong to the European family. Ahtisaari said that the EU’s role would increase after peace has been restored. The Union has to show that "the enlarging Union is the anchor of peace and well-being".
President Ahtisaari expressed the hope in a MTV3 news broadcast that Russian leaders would attempt to make efforts in order to influence the Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic in favour of peace. Ahtisaari believed that Russia stands in good stead in the negotiations, since the EU has impeded its own way after having strictly condemned the Yugoslav leaders’ actions. Besides Russia, Ahtisaari considered UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to be influential. He did not take a position on the issue of Nato sending ground troops. He regarded it unnecessary to discuss any possible extension of military operations. He stressed that, for the time being, all efforts should be applied to achieving peace. He hoped that a conference on stability and development could be arranged either in Helsinki or in Brussels once Yugoslavia is willing to negotiate on peace.
The UN refugee organisation UNHCR asked Finland to take 1000 Albanian refugees from Kosovo as soon as possible. The first set of refugees, who were selected by the UNHCR, arrived on the 26.4 from a Macedonian refugee camp.
President Ahtisaari met former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan in New York. Ahtisaari and Annan discussed the Kosovo situation and the UN General Assembly of next autumn, of which the theme will be the change of the Millennium. 24.4. The President visited Washington to attend Nato’s 50th anniversary conference and celebrations. Originally, the meeting was supposed to concern Nato’s 50 years and to think about the future. The war in Kosovo, however, became the main topic of discussion through which the fundamental questions concerning Nato were reflected upon. The summit defined Nato’s new challenges to be regional and ethnic conflicts, weapons of mass destruction, and the spread of nuclear weapons and terrorism. The summit did not define dates for Nato’s expansion. 25.4. The summit negotiated with the countries in the Partnership for Peace programme. Minister for Foreign Affairs Halonen hoped that the Balkans could have a programme for stability as suggested by Germany. President Ahtisaari suggested in Washington in the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council meeting that the Finnish Peacekeeping Law should be changed so that Finnish peacekeepers could assist humanitarian organisations in crisis areas. Ahtisaari took the position of Nato in the Kosovo crisis. He held the Yugoslav leaders to be responsible for Nato’s use of force. Ahtisaari, Halonen and Minister of Defence Enestam all stressed the importance of Nato’s and Russia’s cooperation. Enestam said that Russia would have a significant role in rebuilding Kosovo.
The EU´s Ministers for Foreign Affairs held a meeting in Luxembourg, where Minister Tarja Halonen proposed that the Commission speed up the process of its motion on EU transparency. The suggestion was accepted unanimously and the Commission is expected to submit the proposal during the spring.
Diplomatic sources confirmed that President Ahtisaari has been asked to act as the UN’s special envoy for Kosovo. According to the sources, Ahtisaari has not been pressed to take the position since he is the current President of Finland.
Estonian Prime Minister Mart Laar visited Finland where he met his counterpart Lipponen. Relations between Finland and Estonia were considered to be excellent. Lipponen only stressed two issues to be problematic: the redemption of Finnish property in Estonia, and the issue of the shipping boycott. Laar expressed the wish that Finland would promote the positions of Latvia and Lithuania in EU negotiations. He said that he trusts that Finland is pursuing a policy for EU enlargement.
Helsingin Sanomat published an opinion poll, conducted by Suomen Gallup, in which Finns’ attitudes towards Nato’s military operations against Yugoslavia were surveyed. Of those polled, 54% approved of them, and 36% did not. Supporters of the National Coalition Party were most in favour of the bombings: ¾ supported the strikes. Finns held Yugoslav President Milosevic accountable for the war. 70% of those polled supported the Western attempts to overthrow him. Finns did not believe the war would expand and threaten Finland’s security.
The EU’s Treaty of Amsterdam came into force. The Treaty invests the Union with more authority and alters its structures of decision-making, concerning, for example, foreign and security policy. The Secretary General of the Council of Ministers will become the EU’s Minister for Foreign Affairs who will take part in preparing foreign and security policy decisions as well as representing the Union in the world at large. Also, cooperation in issues of justice and home affairs will increase. The powers of the European Parliament will grow at the expense of the Member States, indicating a step towards a federal Union. The President of the Commission will also be granted a stronger position as a political leader and in choosing the Commissioners.
Minister for Foreign Affairs Halonen expressed in Helsinki her concern about the prolonging of Nato’s air strikes against Yugoslavia. According to Halonen, the air campaign has not had the desired effect. She indicated that the campaign has reached the second phase, that of targeting the structures of Yugoslavia’s economy. Halonen made inquiries on the next stage in case the current measures will not suffice. She affirmed that the Finnish point of view is to look for a political solution. Halonen suspected that military action would add to the humanitarian problem and thereby complicate the adjustment to the situation after the war. Halonen maintained that the position of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs to Nato’s actions has not altered. The degree of concern, however, has increased. Halonen also stressed that during its EU presidency Finland might not have resources available to promote a peace initiative on behalf of the EU. She said that Finland supports and encourages peace initiatives. She noted that Finland would probably take more than a thousand refugees in the case that the war is drawn out. She noted that the total number of refugees in Finland is 20 000.
The Nordic countries´ Ministers of Defence met in Stavanger, in Norway. The ministers also held a separate meeting with the Russian Minister of Defence Igor Sergeyev. The main topics of discussion were the events in the Balkans, cooperation with Russia, the development of the European Security and Defence Identity, ESDI, developing cooperation in the Partnership for Peace, and Nordic collaboration in peace operations generally. The ministers reached an agreement on the Nordic helicopter acquisition. The agreement will be signed in June 1999, and the common bid for offers will be initiated, at the latest, in November. As for those countries that have not yet made a political decision on joining the purchase, the agreement leaves an option for joining later. Thus, Sweden and Finland will endorse the contract in June, Norway and Denmark will be allowed in later. Russian Minister Igor Sergeyev said in the meeting that non-aligned countries would prove important in the aftermath of the Kosovo crisis. Minister of Defence Enestam said, "non-aligned countries –especially Finland, Sweden and Austria –will become significant". He also said that Finland and Sweden are examining possibilities of sending common forces. A theoretical alternative, according to Enestam, is that Finland could send its own battalion.
Minister for Foreign Affairs Halonen, together with her Swedish counterpart, Anna Lindh, decided to support the G8 countries’ efforts to solve the Kosovo crisis. According to Halonen and Lindh, an agreement by the G8 countries´ Ministers for Foreign Affairs would be important in bringing back unity to the UN Security Council.
Taloustutkimus published an opinion poll conducted between 16.4 - 3.5 which revealed that 2/3 of Finns oppose Finland joining Nato. 66% answered no to joining, and 21% yes, and 13% did not know their position. At the end of last January, in a similar survey by Taloustutkimus, the comparable percentages were 52%, 31% and 17% respectively.
Minister of Health and Social Services Eva Biaudet said in a seminar on Finns and immigration that Finland is prepared to take 10 000 refugees from Kosovo.
The Swedish government made a decision to send troops for the peacekeeping operation in Kosovo. Finnish Minister of Defence Enestam said that Finland is considering sending troops, provided that Sweden holds on to the decision to send a battalion of its own. Finland’s contribution would be that of a light battalion of 400-500 peacekeepers. Enestam believed that Finland does not need to make a pre-decision like Sweden has, since Finland has got trained peacekeepers that can be mobilised in two weeks. Enestam expressed that he understands the Swedish military leaders’ standpoint that a joint Finnish-Swedish force would be problematic. According to Enestam, the Finnish military considers managing its own troops to be easier, even though it has consented to joint operations. Enestam said that the Finnish Peacekeeping Law should be changed so that Finnish forces will be able to take part in humanitarian operations outside of the UN, as the forces of the other Nordic countries are able to.
President Ahtisaari visited Hannover where he met the German Chancellor, Gerhard Schröder. Schröder intimated that Ahtisaari is going to have a vital role as a mediator in the Kosovo conflict. The Chancellor referred to the traditionally good relations between Finland and Russia. He presumed Russia’s involvement would be essential for the peace process to be successful. Schröder also stressed the fact that Ahtisaari has got wide experience in the EU and the UN. It cannot be disputed that he is particularly suitable for forwarding the peace process. He pointed out that Germany, the current holder of the EU Presidency, supports Ahtisaari.
President Ahtisaari spoke at the main event of Europe Day in Turku. He said that Finland would have a more responsible role in the Kosovo peace negotiations. According to Ahtisaari, the most important issues during Finland’s EU Presidency will concern Russia and the Balkans. Ahtisaari reminded that the implementation of the Treaty of Amsterdam and reform of EU structures will require a determined grasp. The Treaty promotes the Union´s common foreign and security policy by creating the post of High Representative for the common foreign and security policy as well as a policy planning and early warning unit. Ahtisaari said that Finland will demand much of the High Representative, who will be chosen in Cologne next June. Concerning the institutional questions relating to weighing of votes in the Council Ahtisaari said that the current system of Finland having three votes and Germany ten is a safety net for all countries. In order to make the Commission´s work more effective he suggested a system in which the President of the Commission "is assisted by two vice-presidents responsible for broader totalities, i.e. external relations and management of resources". Ahtisaari said that Finland supports the idea of a stabilisation conference for southeast Europe, in which participants would draft a comprehensive long-term plan to promoting peace, human rights and democracy in the region. He regarded, however, integration and EU enlargement as the best guarantees of peace.
Minister of Defence Enestam criticised the previous Parliament in Vasabladet for not having made a decision on the purchase of combat helicopters at the same time as the decision on transport helicopters was made. He considered it irresponsible. He said that the combat helicopters are needed for protecting the transport ones. He also stressed that security policy formulations in the Government’s programme do not mean drifting into Nato.
The Finnish Institute of International Affairs published a second report in its ‘Russia beyond 2000’ series under the title, ‘Foreign Policy of the Communists’. The report assesses the strengthening of the Communists’ position in Russia, which might augur the future return to a cold war setting. A cold war type of antagonism would not, however, indicate that Finland would return to its old neutrality of being between East and West. Finland is now attached to multilateral Western institutions through the EU and has also written off its special bilateral commitments with Russia, which defined Finland’s status militarily as belonging to the Soviet Union’s sphere of influence and as being politically neutral. In a potential new cold war situation, Finland could act as a bridge builder via Western institutions. The researchers believe that enhancing the role of the OSCE lies in the Finnish interest. The OSCE is a potential facilitator in tying communist Russia into cooperation with the rest of the Europe. According to the researchers, improving European crisis management capabilities would be beneficial to Finland. As a full member, Finland can influence the formation of crisis management strategies. In addition, connecting Russia to European crisis management would be easier than bringing it nearer to American-led institutions. If the Communists come to power in Russia it would have an effect on Finland’s future potential of joining Nato. The researchers conjecture that membership would become more difficult, but the situation would, however, remain open. Finland can "by means of good relations with Russia, best alleviate the Russia-Nato dispute by being a party who actively tries to build trust and a new foundation for détente in relations between Nato and Russia".
Finland signed a treaty, in Skopje, for six million marks of aid for
Macedonia. A similar treaty was made with Albania last April for aid of
14 million marks. Both are a part of the 55 million marks package on
which the Government decided in April. These funds come from the
development cooperation funds.
French President Jacques Chirac, Minister of Foreign Affairs Hubert Vedrine and Minister Delegate for European Affairs Pierre Moscovici visited Finland. President Chirac expressed the hope of France and other Nato countries that President Ahtisaari would undertake the role of the EU’s active envoy to Kosovo. Ahtisaari said, in return, that a mediator’s or a special role has not been put forward. However, he admitted having received phone calls on the matter, partly as a result of Finland’s EU Presidency, and partly because of his earlier experience in crisis areas. Chirac also met Prime Minister Lipponen. As a result of the meeting the Finnish and French Foreign and Defence Ministers will work for a new content for the EU’s common defence. According to Lipponen, Finland wants, as a non-allied country, to be contributing to the defence dimension as an equal member. Chirac and Lipponen conferred on the challenges of the EU Presidency. Both regarded the reform of the EU’s institutions and EU enlargement as the overriding issues. France supports Finland’s attendance at the G7 countries meetings for the duration of its EU Presidency. Lipponen hoped for results in the Kosovo peace efforts.
The WEU Foreign and Defence Ministers assembled in Bremen, in Germany. The ministers agreed to build common defence and crisis management capabilities for the EU by the end of next year. The Cologne summit is to agree on the content of common defence. Germany has prepared the agenda and timetable for joining the WEU and EU and for harmonising EU defence. Minister of Defence Enestam said that the merging of the WEU and EU would not be problematic for Finland so long as the obligation of common defence is removed from the terms of membership. Finland is an observer in the WEU. In this merging process, the Union will have the right, for example, to ask for Nato’s resources for crisis management. Minister Enestam said, "this does not by any means entail increased pressure for Finland to join Nato". In Bremen German Minister for Foreign Affairs Joschka Fischer said that a mediating role for Ahtisaari in Kosovo is being drafted. He said that Chancellor Schröder supports the idea.
The Government decided to set up a Ministerial Working Group on Immigration Policy and Ethnic Relations. The Minister of the Interior will be responsible for the convocation of its meetings. One task of the working group, among others, will be to arrange the placement of Kosovo refugees.
The US Deputy Secretary of State, Strobe Talbott, left Moscow for Finland in order to negotiate with President Ahtisaari about the situation in Kosovo as well as Ahtisaari’s role in the peace process. The US also supports Ahtisaari to represent the West in peace negotiations. 13.5. The Russian Balkan envoy Viktor Chernomyrdin and President Ahtisaari had discussions away from publicity in Helsinki. Prime Minister Lipponen attended the negotiations as well. 14.5. Ahtisaari met the UN Secretary- General Kofi Annan in Noordwijk, in Holland. Annan, together with Dutch Prime Minister Wim Kok, supported Ahtisaari’s role as a mediator in the peace talks. 16.5. Ahtisaari met with Norwegian Minister for Foreign Affairs Knut Vollebaek to discuss the international division of preparations and tasks in case peace will be restored in Yugoslavia. Norway is currently presiding over the OSCE. 17.5. German Chancellor Schröder expressed the full support of the EU for Ahtisaari in his efforts to achieve peace. 18. -19.5. Talbott and Chernomyrdin sought common peace proposals in Helsinki for Ahtisaari to present them in Yugoslavia. Discrepancies in views primarily concerned the international forces that will supervise Kosovo after the war. Russia also opposed Nato’s central role in the supervisory forces. 20.5. Ahtisaari travelled to Moscow where the three statesmen conferred again over Kosovo as Chernomyrdin had returned from Belgrade. Chernomyrdin and Milosevic agreed that any solution should be based on the principles that the G8 countries and Russia had settled two weeks earlier. 21.5. Ahtisaari returned from Moscow. He stated that he does not regard a cease-fire possible before a negotiated settlement has been reached. He said that the solution to be offered for Yugoslavia is nearly ready, and that this solution has been approved by Nato, the EU, the UN Secretary-General, Russia and the Western G8 countries. 22.5. Ahtisaari negotiated with Kofi Annan in Harpsund, in Sweden. Ahtisaari contended that the European summit in Cologne would be the desired date for the completion of the peace proposal. According to the President all parties are willing to settle the war only details need negotiating. 26.- 27.5. Ahtisaari, Chernomyrdin and Talbott held negotiations in Moscow. 27.5. Ahtisaari travelled to Bonn where he informed Chancellor Schröder about the results of the Kosovo peace talks, which he described as productive. He presumed that the Hague Tribunal’s decision to charge Milosevic for war crimes would not affect the peace process. According to a Russian news agency, Russia would be prepared to accept international forces in Kosovo as long as their commander would come from a neutral country, like Finland. Ahtisaari did not consider it realistic that the commander would be Finnish.
The Helsinki Court of Appeal sentenced Secretary of Foreign Affairs Olli Mattila to one year and four months in prison. The sentence however was suspended. Mattila was charged with spying, revealing classified security information, and the illicit exposure of documents. Additionally, Mattila was sentenced to redeem his office and military rank. Mattila had handed over non-public documents to the Russians during the period 26.3.1997 to 8.6.1998.
The Finnish Parliament celebrated the 50th Anniversary of the Council of Europe and Finland’s 10 years of membership within it. Minister for Foreign Affairs Halonen praised the Council for guiding its members towards democratic institutions. She suggested that the cooperation of central European organisations would be increased significantly.
Prime Minister Lipponen spoke at the 190th Anniversary Symposium of the Diet of Porvoo of 1809. According to Lipponen, Finland is living through the most significant period of its history in international relations. He postulated Finland’s likelihood of having an effect on international relations to be at its greatest extent "in a Union of 15 countries in which emphasis is placed on EU relations with Russia, and prior to the future enlargement of the Union". He presumed that the central point of attention will, as a result of enlargement, be in Eastern Europe and finally in Southern Europe, in the Mediterranean. He considered that President Ahtisaari’s role in resolving the Kosovo conflict signifies historical continuity in Finnish politics. Finland has chosen a policy, "of which the emphasis is to take part closely in European and international structures of cooperation".
Rear Admiral Juhani Kaskeala stated in the guest writers’ column in Helsingin Sanomat that peacekeeping and crisis management operations are not a part of the functions of the defence forces. He considers this a defect once one considers the increasing importance of these operations in security policy. Kaskeala hoped that the Peacekeeping Law could be broadened and founded on the UN Charter. According to him, a uniform legislation in common with the other Nordic countries would improve Finnish peacekeeping cooperation capabilities, however, it would not bring Finland into operations in which the use of force is initiated, active or unlimited. He said that the law should allow for Finnish participation in humanitarian operations outside the UN or the OSCE, if Parliament so decides. He believes that the defence forces have a vital role in the Finnish objective to strengthen European cooperation in security. He stated that international tasks must seriously be taken into account in developing Finnish defence.
Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Drnovsek visited Finland where he met President Ahtisaari and Prime Minister Lipponen. The main topic of discussion was the crisis in Kosovo, Slovenia being member of the UN Security Council and therefore trying to provide for a resolution in the crisis. During the visit, Lipponen asserted that Slovenia is as agreeable a newcomer in the EU as Estonia is. Prime Minister Drnovsek considered Finland’s EU Presidency, due to commence in July, as promising from the point of view of small states.
The Parliament’s Committee for Constitutional Law finished a report on a motion for a new Constitution for Finland, which had been set-aside during the recent elections. The Committee unanimously set out its position of support for the previous Parliament’s proposal.
Prime Minister Lipponen revealed in Turku that President Ahtisaari would not stand as a candidate in the presidential elections next year. Lipponen conveyed the President’s message, in which he said that, in giving his announcement on his decision not to stand as a candidate in the electoral primaries, he also meant that he is not available for a second term.
The Ministry of Defence estimated that the peacekeeping battalion, which is being planned for Kosovo, would double Finland’s peacekeeping expenses and nearly double its number of peacekeepers. According to the estimate, the peacekeeping operation would cost Finland over 400 million marks in the first year. The aim is to send 700-800 peacekeepers. At the most, Finland can have 2000 peacekeepers deployed at any one time. If the limit is approached in Kosovo operations peacekeepers in other locations will be removed. The current Peacekeeping Law is also being criticised in that it does not allow Finns to participate in peacekeeping operations without the approval of the UN. Problems are also caused by the question of armaments. The Ministry of Defence regards it reasonable that political decision-makers should decide on these matters in order to free the Commander of the Finnish forces from interpreting the law.
The EU’s and Nato’s European member states’ ministers of defence assembled in Bonn. The main topic of the unofficial discussions was the European security architecture. Minister of Defence Enestam, who represented Finland in the meeting, said that the WEU is not going to be merged with the EU as such. He stated that it is problematic for non-aligned Finland that the WEU’s 5th Article requires common armed defence. According to Enestam, most countries agreed in Bonn that the merger of the EU and the WEU would not be attempted.
The UN’s special Balkans envoy and Slovakian Minister of Foreign Affairs Eduard Kukan had negotiations in Helsinki with President Ahtisaari about the crisis in Kosovo and ways to resolve it.
Minister of Defence Enestam visited Sweden, where he met his counterpart Björn von Sydow. The ministers informed that Sweden and Finland have given up the plan to send joint armed forces to the potential peacekeeping operation in Kosovo. The countries had agreed, in accordance with the Rambouillet peace negotiations, that they would jointly send a troop of 700 soldiers to Kosovo. The situation changed as a result of the commencement of Nato’s air strikes. In consequence pressures for the involvement of non-aligned countries in the Kosovo peacekeeping operation turned out to be greater. Cooperation was not entirely called off but will operate within the realm of service of the troops. Along with the Kosovo peacekeeping operation, the Ministers of Defence discussed cooperation over defence materials and equipment and the Nordic helicopter acquisitions. Enestam said that Finland is planning to order 20-30 helicopters.
The EU’s Ministers of Foreign Affairs assembled in Brussels. The ministers hoped that President Ahtisaari would visit Belgrade as soon as possible in order to negotiate the terms of peace with Yugoslav leader Milosevic. The ministers hoped that Belgrade will carry out its statements of peace and will commit itself "strongly, clearly and evidently to accept the G8 and UN Security Council’s resolutions". The Ministers for Foreign Affairs said that they were prepared to negotiate the accession of Albania, Macedonia, Bosnia and Croatia into the EU. A timetable and concrete proposals will be discussed in the June meeting. The Ministers for Foreign Affairs could not reach a unanimous agreement on the details for common defence. Discrepancies arose from the non-allied countries, Sweden, Finland, Austria and Ireland ,which did not want to discuss the possible merger of the EU with the WEU. If they are merged, the non-allied countries want to abolish the obligation of common defence.
The former Minister of the Environment, Pekka Haavisto, commenced his work in Geneva as the Head of a UN working group of experts whose purpose is to survey and examine the environmental destruction caused during the Yugoslav War. The group will estimate, for instance, how much poison and oil has been released into the environment as a result of Nato’s bombing of factories, refineries and electric power stations. It will also survey the waste and water problems of the refugee camps.
The Finnish Embassy in Germany moved from Bonn to Berlin.
The EU’s Kosovo envoy, President Ahtisaari, met the Russian Balkan envoy, Chernomyrdin, the US Deputy Secretary of State, Talbott, and German Chancellor Schröder in Bonn. 1. -2.6. Ahtisaari and Chernomyrdin held tough negotiations in the Petersberg castle near Bonn. From Bonn, they moved on to Belgrade where Ahtisaari presented Yugoslavia’s leaders with an internationally agreed offer of terms of peace. He remained in Belgrade to wait for Milosevic’s reply and the Serbian Parliament’s position to the proposal. 3.6. Yugoslav President Milosevic, the Yugoslav Federal Government and the Serbian Parliament accepted the proposal of the Western community and Russia. Yugoslavia accepted Nato’s basic demands that it ends its aggression and withdraws its troops from Kosovo and accepts international peacekeeping forces to oversee that the peace will be restored. Nato will carry on the bombings, despite Russia’s objections, until Milosevic has removed his forces from Kosovo.
Prime Minister Lipponen told the Grand Committee of Parliament about the details of the forthcoming Cologne Summit. He said that Finland is ready to support Javier Solana as the EU’s High Representative or Common Foreign and Security Policy. Solana’s Nato background is unproblematic says Lipponen. Lipponen also said that he thinks Solana has good credentials for working in the new Commission. The Prime Minister supposed that responsibility for the reconstruction of Kosovo will be on European shoulders and as such it will be the leading topic of the Finnish EU Presidency.
President Ahtisaari said in an interview for Helsingin Sanomat on the way from Belgrade to Cologne that his participation in the peace negotiations resulted from a joint initiative of the US and Russia at the negotiations in Washington in May. The endorsed peace plan was produced as President Ahtisaari drafted it from the US and Russian negotiation proposals. Ahtisaari noted that he had said that Finnish forces would not take part in the supervisory operation in Kosovo unless Nato was at the core of it. He said that "they will be needed for creating an environment which is as safe as possible". Ahtisaari said that Chernomyrdin had consistently supported the negotiation conclusions. According to the President, he said he felt that Russia is as keen to find a solution as Finland is. That is why it was possible for Ahtisaari and Chernomyrdin to travel together to Belgrade to present the peace plan. 4.6. After having returned to Finland, Ahtisaari said that he has become the "guarantor" of the Kosovo peace plan.
The EU summit was held in Cologne. President Ahtisaari, Prime Minister Lipponen, Minister for Foreign Affairs Halonen and Minister of Finance Niinistö represented Finland in the meeting. President Ahtisaari was received in the meeting as a hero because of his role as a mediator in Yugoslavia. German Chancellor Schröder said that the day is not only significant for Europe and Yugoslavia, but also for the Finnish President, Ahtisaari. The summit in Cologne decided that the EU countries would begin to strengthen the common defence policy in the area of crisis management. Finland is expected to clarify and make concrete the proposals during its Presidency. After the summit, Finnish government leaders and civil servants stressed that these decisions on common defence do not imply that the European Union will develop into a military alliance. The general interpretation was that the Kosovo experience would increase the Union’s need to profile itself as a guarantor of European security. Prime Minister Lipponen and Minister for Foreign Affairs Halonen considered the decisions significant, although in need of reflection in order to make them tangible. Both of them pointed out that only crisis management is under consideration. Halonen expressed her view that the policies outlined by the summit as well as events in Kosovo compel the need to reconsider the Peacekeeping Law in Finland, although she said that she herself is happy with the current one.
The Parliament nearly unanimously passed the new Constitution for Finland, with a vote of 175-2. The new Constitution highlights the position of the parliament and reduces the powers of the president. The law will come into force on 1.3.2000. President Ahtisaari signed the Constitution on 11.6.
The Alternative to the EU movement (Vaihtoehto EU:lle, VEU) aired opinions in its press conference on the Cologne summit’s decisions on common defence. According to the movement, Finland is gradually being drawn into common defence arrangements, even though in public only crisis management and humanitarian aid are being spoken of. VEU would like these decisions on common defence to be reconsidered. VEU considers that a referendum on the matter should be arranged and contends that the plans integrate the EU too closely with Nato. VEU’s Chair, Ulla Klötzer, thinks that integration is stressed by the fact that Nato’s Secretary General Javier Solana has been chosen to be the EU’s foreign policy representative. VEU thinks that decisions, which concern Finland, have been made without consulting either the parliament or the government.
Nato’s and Yugoslavia’s military leaders met at the border of Kosovo and Macedonia. Rear Admiral Juhani Kaskeala and Brigadier General Kari Rimpi, Deputy Chief of Operations, Defence Staff, took part in the meeting as observers. The point of the meeting was to agree on the details of the withdrawal of Yugoslavia’s forces from Kosovo.
President Ahtisaari was supposed to travel to China to meet President Jiang Zemin and other Chinese leaders in order to explain to them the Kosovo crisis peace proposals. However, the trip was cancelled, "because of military technical negotiations" as the President’s office informed. Yugoslav military leaders said that they are not prepared to sign a treaty on how Yugoslavia will withdraw its forces from Kosovo.
President Ahtisaari negotiated with the G8 countries´ Ministers for Foreign Affairs on Kosovo in Petersberg near Bonn. The topic of the discussions was the wording of the UN Security Council’s decision. Ahtisaari pointed out to the G8 countries ministers that, in order to keep the peace process going, it should be quickly taken into the UN. Ahtisaari continued his journey from Bonn to Berlin where he met with Chancellor Schröder. Ahtisaari then flew via Finland to China. He made a statement at Helsinki-Vantaa airport in which he stressed that the UN Security Council’s resolution on international forces for Kosovo must be made as soon as possible and at the same time as the withdrawal of Serb forces. He said that a security vacuum must not, in any event, be created. The biggest problems for the UN resolution concern Russia’s role in the future peacekeeping forces to be deployed in Kosovo. 8.6. The G8 countries agreed in Cologne on the Kosovo paper, which was presented to the Security Council late in the evening.
Finland participated in the Barents 99 Partnership for Peace training operation in Finnmark, in Norway with a force of 283 men. Other participants were from Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Britain, Holland, Austria, Poland and the US, plus five international humanitarian organisations.
President Ahtisaari met President Jiang Zemin and Minister for Foreign Affairs Tang Jianxuan in China. He explained to them the details of the peace process. The Chinese Foreign Office repeated its stance that Nato’s bombings must end before the peace plan can be negotiated in the UN Security Council. Ahtisaari said in a press conference in Beijing that the Chinese hoped that he will continue his work in the peace process. He said that the Chinese would decide on their position towards the process and would keep him informed about it.
Yugoslavia endorsed the treaty on withdrawal in Kumanow, in Macedonia after long negotiations. 10.6. Nato declared that it had ceased its bombings after 79 days of air strikes. The UN Security Council also accepted the peace plan on Kosovo.
During the parliamentary question hour Prime Minister Lipponen said that the government would prepare a report on Finnish participation in the Kosovo peacekeeping operation because "authorised use of force will be wider than usual". There will be no vote on the report. Due to the lack of time, it will not go through the committee procedure.
President Ahtisaari said in a press conference in Helsinki that he is very satisfied with the progress of the Kosovo situation. He denied suggestions that he would have a role as a special UN envoy in the aftermath of the crisis. The President said that there have been several suggestions that he would remain in the process in the future as well. Ahtisaari considered it very important that the peacekeeping operation has and continues to enjoy the approval of the UN Security Council. Ahtisaari reminded that the bombings have not definitely ended, but have only been suspended for now. He presumed that everything would depend on the success of the Yugoslav withdrawal.
20 countries´ Ministers for Foreign Affairs and representatives of several international organisations assembled in Cologne to discuss a stabilisation programme for the Balkans. The aim of the programme is to support the countries in the Balkans so that better economic conditions for democracy and peaceful development would be created. Minister for Foreign Affairs Halonen said that the participants in the meeting assured that the future of the Balkans will be built on the whole on the basis of this programme. Halonen said that the present stabilisation programme has got a "hole in the map", without the whole of Yugoslavia, which must be set the same requirements of democracy as other countries in the region.
In Helsinki Prime Minister Lipponen took part in the Social Democrats’ election rally for the European Parliamentary elections. He said that he supports a strong Commission, for it counter-balances the big countries’ dominance in the EU. He also stated that a reform of the EU’s structures is in progress and understood that Europe is seeking its own structures on a practical basis. Lipponen also highlighted the point that European cooperation is needed especially for dealing with employment, peace and environmental problems. The Prime Minister presumed that the forthcoming EU Parliamentary election would provide grounds for assessing whether the electoral system and the timing of the elections ought to be changed.
The Speakers of the Parliament decided that a report on the Kosovo peacekeeping operation would be given to the Foreign Affairs Committee if they so desire it. The Chair of the Committee, Liisa Jaakonsaari, said that the Committee would require seeing the report if the peacekeeping tasks envisaged will be out of the ordinary. The Chair of the Constitutional Committee, Ville Itälä, pronounced the same message.
The G8 countries’ Ministers of Finance agreed in a meeting regarding Kosovo in Frankfurt that one Minister of Finance outside the G8 countries will attend meetings of the G8 countries and the main financiers in the future. The Finnish Minister of Finance, Sauli Niinistö will be the first external attendant as a result of Finland’s forthcoming term in the EU Presidency.
The European Parliamentary elections were held in all the Member States. The turn out in Finland was 31,4% (1996: 60,3%). The biggest parties got the following percentage of the votes: Finnish Centre Party 21,3%, Finnish Social Democratic Party 17,8%, National Coalition Party 25,3%, Left Alliance 9,1%, Swedish National Party 6,8%, Green League 13,4%. The overall turn out in the elections in Europe was less than 50% (1994: 57%). According to the results, the conservative PPE group will clearly be the biggest group in the Parliament. The change was historic, for the socialist parties have been dominant since the first elections were held in 1979.
Latvian Prime Minister Vilis Kristopans visited Helsinki where he met Prime Minister Lipponen. Prime Minister Kristopans assured that Latvia is both economically and legislatively ready to negotiate its EU membership. He hoped that the process could be started at the Helsinki summit.
The government decided on the contents of the report on the Kosovo peacekeeping operation. According to the government’s estimate, the first year of involvement will cost 470 million marks. 16.6. Parliament started a discussion on the report. The task definition for the forces became the main topic. The Kosovo forces mission statement by the UN was defined to be "to maintain a deterrent to prevent hostilities starting again, to supervise the truce, and if needed, to see to the abiding of the cease-fire". According to Lipponen, there is no conflict between the UN statement and the Peacekeeping Law. He stressed that this was in principle a similar type of operation to the SFOR operation in Bosnia. The Centre Party’s spokesman Juha Korkeaoja said in response that the Peacekeeping Law does not allow for peace enforcement. Minister of Defence Enestam estimated that, in order to avoid a conflict situation in the future, the government is likely to make a proposal for changing the Peacekeeping Law next autumn. He has set up a committee for the purpose of looking into the matter. The Ministry for Foreign Affairs is still reluctant for changes.
Minister for Foreign Affairs Halonen met her Swedish colleague Anna Lindh in Stockholm. Their discussions concerned Finland’s EU presidency, transparency and environmental questions. Halonen left Stockholm for Brussels and had discussions with Nato’s Secretary General Javier Solana. Solana, who has been appointed to the position of the EU’s High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy, said that his aim is to start his new task in the EU at the beginning of autumn when the new Commission will also start. The main issues discussed in the meeting concerned Finland’s EU presidency; its preparations, task allotment, and communication between the High Representative and the presiding Member State. In Brussels, Halonen also met the Belgian Minister for Foreign Affairs Erik Derycken. The meeting was part of Halonen’s tour to the capitals of EU countries before the Finnish presidency starts. Halonen stated that one of the objectives of the Finnish EU presidency is to make the EU a significant actor, not only in European politics, but also in the world at large. As an example she mentioned the Middle East peace process. Finland wants to speed up EU enlargement in the East as well.
The US and Russian Ministers of Defence, William Cohen and Igor Sergeyev, held negotiations in Helsinki concerning the Kosovo peacekeeping situation. 17.6. They were joined by the US and Russian Ministers for Foreign Affairs, Madeleine Albright and Igor Ivanov. The main issue under discussion was the command of the operation. Nato did not agree with Russia having its own sphere of responsibility in Kosovo. Nato feared that the Russian zone would be a refuge for the Serbs, and therefore would not allow the return of the Kosovo refugees. The Finnish observer at the negotiations was Rear Admiral Juhani Kaskeala. President Ahtisaari met both the American and Russian participants before and during the negotiations. 18.6. The US and Russia settled their dispute. Russia did not get a zone of its own, but Russian troops will be within the US, French and German areas and subject to them. According to Secretary of Defence Cohen, Russia will have representatives at all levels of command. From Nato’s perspective, it is important that the leadership remains unitary. Rear Admiral Juhani Kaskeala said that the settled negotiations had revived Nato-Russian cooperation.
Prime Minister Lipponen gave an account to the Parliament of the Finnish EU presidency’s objectives and undertakings. As stated by the Prime Minister, the Union’s foreign and security policy will stand as the main challenge during the Finnish presidency. He said: "calming down the Kosovo crisis, restoring stability in the west Balkan area, and outlining the future of the whole of south-west Europe signify perhaps the biggest challenges for the Finnish EU presidency and for the common external affairs policy." Lipponen reminded that the dispute over the Agenda 2000 programme was fortunately settled in the Berlin summit. One problem for the Finnish term stems from the EU Commission’s resignation. Lipponen expects it will be far into Finland’s presidential term before any comprehensive level of cooperation between the new Commission and the newly elected Parliament can start. Lipponen said, "The low turn out in the European elections gives reason for seriously reflecting on the relationship between the Union and its citizens". He pointed out that one of Finland’s aims is to strengthen the image of the Union as an effective and responsible actor. He presumed that during the six months of Finland’s presidency, the enlargement and the institutional changes that go along with it, will be in due progress. He said that the Tampere summit would concentrate on security issues and the Helsinki summit on external affairs.
The Foreign Affairs Committee pronounced unanimously in a report that there is no impediment for Finnish participation in the Kosovo peacekeeping operation. The Defence Committee also made a unanimous statement in favour of participation. The Foreign Affairs Committee stated that the forces must be recruited entirely from volunteers and amongst the trained recruits there should also be experienced people from the reserves. In addition, the Committee estimated that the operation would be dangerous and demanding at least in the early stage. According to the Committee, the Government must inform Parliament in case the mandate or the rules for using force are changed fundamentally in the future. The Parliament authorised Finnish participation in the UN mandated, Nato-led peacekeeping operation in Kosovo with a vote of 145-3 on the 18.6. 24.6. President Ahtisaari endorsed the decision that Finland will take part in the military crisis management operation in Kosovo. At the same time, it was decided that Finland would take part in the continuing SFOR peacekeeping operation in Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Former President Mauno Koivisto criticised Nato’s air campaign against Yugoslavia in Helsingin Sanomat. He believed that the air campaign breached the UN Charter and Nato’s principles. Koivisto also argued that the bombings were based on a total political miscalculation, for he presumed that Nato had reckoned that a few bombs would do the trick. Koivisto estimated that the Yugoslav leaders did not, in the framework of their own law, have any legitimate prerogative to accept the offer made in Rambouillet. According to Koivisto, a settlement could have been achieved with a little patience and without the use of force. Koivisto criticised the parties to the conflict for not having displayed more patience. Big and difficult problems were taken care of too quickly. He stressed that peace will now have to be built on shakier and more problematic ground. Koivisto was also amazed at how humbly Finland had accepted Nato’s actions. Prudence, Koivisto believes, is a reflection on the policy line according to which it is dangerous to criticise great powers. Koivisto regarded Ahtisaari’s role in the process as historic. He says that Ahtisaari has saved Nato from an impasse into which it had brought itself.
A summit meeting between the EU and the US was held in Bonn. German Chancellor Schröder told the press that a summit would also be arranged for Sarajevo in July to discuss stability in the Balkans. He stressed that by arranging the meeting in Bosnia, the EU and the US wished to give a clear signal. "The region can trust that we will not only talk about providing help, but that we actually do want to help", he said. Finland will have an important role in the Sarajevo meeting because of its EU presidency starting from 1.7.1999.
The EU’s Ministers for Foreign Affairs gathered in Luxembourg. The ministers tried to find suitable persons to organise Kosovo’s reconstruction and the stabilisation of the Balkans. President Ahtisaari has been put forward as the director of the UN operation. Minister for Foreign Affairs Halonen answered that Ahtisaari’s presidential term will end next March. The Ministers for Foreign Affairs commissioned the Commission to find out where more funds for the reconstruction of Kosovo could be found. Queries were also made about the administration of the EU’s Kosovo operation. The EU contemplated where in the Balkans the office for the Kosovo operation should be sited.
Prime Minister Lipponen took part in the Nordic prime ministers’ meeting in Reykjavik in Iceland. The central focus of the meeting was on the Kosovo crisis and EU questions. The prime ministers laid stress upon the fact that the Balkans should be included in EU enlargement. According to Lipponen, the Union ought to contrive bilateral cooperation agreements with each country in the first place, and the first ones should be with Albania and Macedonia. Lipponen says that later on, an agreement can be made with Yugoslavia. According to the Prime Minister, the country must not be excluded from the enlargement process. Lipponen envisioned, however, that Yugoslavia would have to show a desire for change and reform. This will also require a change in the attitudes of its leaders. Lipponen also presented the central aims of the Finnish EU presidency: Kosovo, the Balkans, foreign and security policy, the Northern Dimension. In foreign relations, Finland especially wants to strengthen the unity of the Union. 22.6. The prime ministers met Japanese Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi. The central issues discussed were Scandinavian society, questions of international politics and the economic problems of Japan. The Nordic prime ministers once again expressed their support that Japan and Germany should become members of the UN Security Council. Lipponen said: "in addition to Japan’s and Germany’s memberships, the Security Council should be widened so that Asia, Africa and Latin America would have permanent representatives".
German Minister of Defence Rudolf Scharping visited Finland where he met his Finnish colleague Enestam and President Ahtisaari. Scharping said that the crisis in Kosovo showed that the EU needs to develop its crisis management capabilities. As the German EU presidency comes to an end the onus is on Finland to make such preparations. According to Enestam, Finland’s task is to act according to the provisions of the Treaty of Amsterdam and the Cologne summit. Enestam said that the European Nato countries that are not EU members should be included in the crisis management system, because Nato will act as an institutional executor. He stated that these countries should be included as soon as possible and that Finland will pursue this idea during its presidency. Enestam conjectured that the role of Ministers of Defence would become more important in the EU. He called for a military committee within the EU to be established to which all the EU countries would belong independently of whether or not they are a part of Nato.
The EU Commissioner for external relations Hans van den Broek told in a press conference in Brussels that the EU will pay for about a half of the costs of Kosovo’s reconstruction. It is estimated that the reconstruction will cost about 6 billion marks per annum. The EU will thus pay 3 –4,2 billion marks. Other countries and international organisations will pay the rest. According to van den Broek, reconstruction will take at least three years. The operation is going to be organised and directed from within the area, unlike in the case of Bosnia.
Prime Minister Lipponen presented the programme for the Finnish EU presidency in Turku. Most of the objectives under its seven headings were passed on from the German presidency. Lipponen said that Finland is seeking credibility for the Union by putting an emphasis on transparency. Finland will also put an emphasis on the rights of small countries, productive work and strict economic policy. Lipponen promised, amongst other things, that Finland would make public all the agendas of ministerial councils at the beginning of the presidency. The most demanding challenge will be Kosovo’s reconstruction. Lipponen said that Kosovo would receive humanitarian aid but not help in its rebuilding. Yugoslavia will be expected to implement real reforms and democracy. In return, the EU will offer Yugoslavia membership in the European Union.
47 Slovakian Romanies arrived in Finland seeking asylum. By the end of June, 700 Romanies had asked for asylum. 30.6. Minister of the Interior, Kari Häkämies, suggested that the applications should be handled urgently because the applications were seen to be unsubstantiated. Slovakian Minister for Foreign Affairs, Eduard Kukan, asked Minister for Foreign Affairs Halonen to cooperate over the Romany issue. The Slovakian Secretary of State Jan Figel arrived in Finland on 5.7 to discuss the issue with the Secretary of State Jukka Valtasaari. 6.7. The Finnish Government decided to request a visa from all Slovakian citizens arriving in Finland. The President endorsed the decision so that it came into force at midnight. Through such a visa enforcement of four months Finland is trying to suppress Slovakian Romanies’ attempts to become asylum seekers in Finland. According to Valtasaari, Finland is indicating to Slovakia that Finland is understanding of Slovakian efforts to improve the situation of their minorities.
The EU Commission’s future President, Romano Prodi, and Prime Minister Paavo Lipponen met in Helsinki to discuss the EU’s new Commission. Lipponen made known that Finland will officially put forward the EU Commissioner responsible for personnel, administration and budgets Erkki Liikanen as Finland’s Commissioner. President Ahtisaari supported Liikanen as well. Prodi was happy that Finland was able to present its candidate early so that assembling the Commission will occur according to schedule. In addition to the composition of the Commission, they talked about the crisis in Kosovo, Finland’s EU presidency, and the EU’s enlargement eastwards.
The European Union leaders decided in the Rio de Janeiro summit that German Minister Bobo Hombach will be appointed to the position of the EU’s Balkan envoy to oversee the execution of the Balkan stabilisation programme. It was also decided that the next EU envoy to Bosnia would be Austrian Wolfgang Petrisch. The leaders decided that the office for Kosovo reconstruction will be in Thessaloniki in Greece.
Minister for Foreign Affairs Halonen took part in the G8 countries meeting in the UN Headquarters in New York. In addition to the G8 countries, the meeting was attended by China, Greece, Turkey, Finland, Holland and essential organisations relevant to Kosovo’s reconstruction. The meeting discussed how the UN civil operations and Nato-led Kfor forces could guarantee peace as the refugees return. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan encouraged the international meeting to work for faster action so that the UN’s civil operation could start consolidating the Kosovo situation quickly. According to Annan, the province urgently needs more Nato soldiers as well as UN police forces. The Secretary-General lamented that Britain and some Scandinavian countries do not want to send armed police forces. Halonen considered it deplorable that Finland does not want to send police forces in addition to peacekeepers. Halonen reassured Finland’s commitment to cooperate in the Kosovo operation during its EU presidency. A sensitive topic in the meeting concerned giving aid to the whole of Yugoslavia and not only to Kosovo. The meeting favoured providing humanitarian aid for Yugoslavia, but not aid for its reconstruction. Halonen did not want to specify where Finland draws the line between humanitarian and reconstruction aid.
An opinion poll conducted in May by Maanpuolustustiedotuksen suunnittelukunta MTS showed that ¾ of Finns believed that Finland should remain militarily non-aligned. Since the autumn of 1998, the policy of non-alignment has gained more supporters, up by 15%. Military alignment for Finland was supported in May by only 18%, whereas the number last autumn was 29%. Non-alignment was clearly supported by the Left Alliance and alignment by the Swedish Party and the Coalition Party. The survey also charted the sense of insecurity amongst Finns. The biggest concern for Finns was the situation in Russia, especially in respect to Russian nuclear power stations.
Finland took up the responsibility of the European Union Presidency. The motto of the Finnish period is: "Europe for the new millennium". Prime Minister Paavo Lipponen said in an interview with Helsingin Sanomat that "Finland has never had such an opportunity for international influence, and will probably never have such an opportunity again". After the EU has enlarged it is unlikely that Finland will have such a key role again, he presumed. Finland will arrange about 80 ministerial and civil servants’ meetings. In addition to these Finland will be in charge of approximately one thousand meetings in Brussels. According to estimates, the total cost for Finland will amount to 371 million marks.
Prime Minister Lipponen first acted publicly in the role of Prime Minister of the presiding EU country in the European vocational organisation EAY representatives meeting in Helsinki. He stated his desire to increase levels of cooperation between the 11 EMU countries in the EU through the unofficial Euro 11 group. He considered the group to be crucial primarily because it provides a forum in which to receive an early warning of unrest and destabilisation in the economic development and public economy of the Euro area. He stated that the common currency creates interdependence between the participating countries. Lipponen emphasised that the aim of the Euro 11 group is not to overtake or replace the Council of EU Finance Ministers (Ecofin). Earlier, on 30.6 in Copenhagen, the Danish Finance Minister Marianne Jelved had cautioned Finland not to favour the inner circle of the EMU.
Nato officially invited Finland to participate in the Kosovo peacekeeping operation in a letter addressed to the Ministry of Defence. According to the letter, Finnish forces will be placed within the British sector, i.e. the central Kosovo area around the capital Pristina. Finland will contribute to the KFOR operation with an enforced peacekeeping battalion of 700-800 soldiers. The total cost of the first 12 months was estimated to accrue to around 445 million marks.
Germany cancelled its participation in the EU’s Industrial Ministers’ meeting in Oulu for the reason that German was not one of the working languages in the unofficial meetings. Chancellor Gerhard Schröder had sent a letter concerning the matter to Prime Minister Lipponen. Foreign Minister Tarja Halonen questioned whether the dispute was actually one of a bigger EU country browbeating a smaller country. She held the boycott a regrettable start for the Finnish Presidency. If Germany is successful in getting its way the Foreign Minister believes it likely that other countries will demand interpretation into their own languages as well.
Norwegian Foreign Minister Knut Vollebaek met Foreign Minister Halonen in Helsinki. The aim of the meeting was to develop communications between northern European organisations. Norway is currently presiding over the OSCE and the Council of Baltic Sea States and Finland over the EU and the Barents Euro-Arctic Council. The ministers also discussed structures of European security, Kosovo, the EU’s development and Finland’s EU Presidency.
The President of the EU Commission, Romano Prodi, introduced the new Commissioners and their areas of responsibility. Finland’s Erkki Liikanen was given the post for industry, business and information society.
The EU Finance Ministers assembled in Brussels. Minister Sauli Niinistö presided over the meeting. The EU countries agreed to work towards a more unified European economy. They also decided to restrict their comments on the Euro, with the aim to stabilise the fluctuations of the weakening currency. Niinistö also presented the programme of the Finnish Presidency of the EU. Finland’s main objectives in the negotiations are to find a tax agreement and to improve co-ordination in economic policy.
President Ahtisaari said in an interview with The International Herald Tribune that he does not believe in the removal of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic from power in the near future, even though there have been daily demonstrations against Milosevic in Serbia. Ahtisaari was not surprised at the fact that Milosevic still holds power. He deemed it shortsighted that criticism is only laid upon Milosevic. He presumed that the Yugoslav people would elect other war criminals to replace the current leadership. Ahtisaari did not support the idea of removing all the embargoes placed upon Yugoslavia but did consider that supplies of water and electricity should not be adversely affected.
Palestinian President Yasser Arafat visited Finland. Arafat expressed the wish that the EU would support Palestinian demands in the Middle East peace process. At the same time, Egyptian Foreign Minister Amr Mussa, visiting Helsinki, expressed to Halonen Egyptian wishes that the EU would take a significant role in the Middle East peace process.
Queen Elizabeth II presented Councillor of State Harri Holkeri at Buckingham Palace with a prestigious British decoration for his work in the peace process in Northern Ireland. Holkeri became a Knight of the British Empire.
Prime Minister Lipponen met Lithuanian Prime Minister Rolandas Paksas in Helsinki. The main topics of discussion were Lithuania’s aspirations for EU membership and cooperation in the Baltic Sea. According to Lipponen, Lithuania stands a good chance of receiving an invitation to negotiate its EU membership at the end of the year in the Helsinki Summit. He believes that the EU’s demand that Lithuania close down the Ignalina nuclear power station will not be an obstacle.
The president of Montenegro, Milo Djukanovic, held discussions with Foreign Minister Halonen in Helsinki. Montenegro is preparing to arrange a referendum on its independence in the event that Serbia refuses to grant extended rights to it. Halonen stated, as the representative of the EU President, that the Union does not support independence moves. She said that the EU does not wish to see new borders in the Balkans, but rather desires deeper integration. The Union hopes that Serbia and Montenegro would reach an agreement on the reform of Yugoslavia’s federal structures. The negotiations started on the 14.7. Djukanovic also requested the EU to lift its economic constraints on the Yugoslav Federation due to the Kosovo crisis, for they also affect Montenegro.
The President of the Republic decided that Finland would initiate diplomatic relations with the Solomon and Samoa islands. The decision was based on the renewal of the so-called Lomé Treaty between the EU and the ACP countries (comprising of some 71 African, Caribbean and South Pacific countries).
The EU’s Foreign Ministers agreed in Brussels that the constraints on Kosovo and Montenegro would be lifted as soon as possible. The restraints on Belgrade and Serbia will remain in force. Foreign Minister Halonen said in the meeting that constraints concerning the people must be ended. The Foreign Ministers also agreed that a meeting concerning the reconstruction of the Balkans would be held on the 30.7. in Sarajevo. Finland will arrange the meeting with the help of many other countries and President Ahtisaari will act as the chairperson. It was also decided after prolonged negotiations in Brussels that the office for the management of reconstruction will be situated in Thessalonike in Greece and the working office will be in the capital of Kosovo, Pristina. Foreign Ministers called for the Union to develop a faster capability to react to international crises. It was also agreed that Halonen would tour Egypt, Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon as the representative of the EU. The purpose of the journey is the Middle East peace process and the relations between the countries in the area and the EU.
As Germany and Austria did not join the EU’s unofficial cultural and audio-visual ministers’ conference in Savonlinna as a result of the language dispute, Prime Minister Lipponen stated that Finland wishes to start discussions to solve the disagreement as soon as possible. Both parties to the dispute have referred to the common procedure, since there is no definite decision over the matter in the Union. Lipponen hoped that during the Finnish presidency explicit regulations would be decided on. Frankfurter Allgemeine published the letter that the German Minister of Culture, Michael Naumann, had addressed to his Finnish counterpart Suvi Linden. Naumann maintained that all the EU’s unofficial meetings have had interpretation into German since the French, British, Luxembourg, Dutch, Irish and naturally German and Austrian presidencies. He also reminded that German was the other unofficial working language besides French when the European community was established. English became one of the working languages only when Britain joined the community in 1973. Naumann also notified that German is a widely spread language in Europe. He proclaimed that the issue is not one of boycott or language imperialism.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and Prime Minister Lipponen discussed Hungary’s EU negotiations in Helsinki. The EU and Hungary will open negotiations on eight new sectors of cooperation at the end of the Finnish EU Presidency. Orban, who concerns himself with the matter of Hungarians abroad, said that Hungary hopes that the multinational province of Vojvodina in Serbia would receive attention in the Sarajevo’s stabilisation conference.
The European Parliament that was elected in June voted the French representative, Nicole Fontaine, to be its Chair. The Greens had put forward Heidi Hautala who received 49 votes.
In a joint statement Britain and Italy demanded a rapid improvement of European defence. Prime Ministers Tony Blair and Massimo D’Alema said that the EU and the WEU ought to decide on the criteria of improved and fortified defence capabilities by the end of this year. The Prime Ministers called for a timetable for strengthening European crisis management and peacekeeping capacities.
Foreign Minister Halonen introduced the agenda of the Finnish Presidency to the EU Parliament in Strasbourg. Halonen considered the Finnish Presidency to be at an opportune time for the furtherance of the causes of the effectiveness and openness of the EU, since Finland is a new President, the Parliament is fresh, the Commission is in the process of changing and the Union’s working methods as regulated by the Amsterdam Treaty have just come into force. Halonen hoped that the EU would concentrate on essential issues and thus gain in justification in the eyes of citizens. According to Halonen, it is important that the EU should act logically in its external affairs. She said that Finland would produce a report proposing how the functions of the EU should be reformed. On request of the Parliament she explained the EU’s and Finland’s opinion in the matter of the Kurdish leader Abdullah Öcalan’s death sentence. She noted that capital punishment is not in accordance with the Union’s common values and that the execution would be a regrettable turn in Turkish politics.
Prime Minister Lipponen spoke in a meeting of EU countries and EU applicants’ foreign affairs committees in Helsinki. He said that the conditions of 12 million Romanies are poor everywhere in Eastern Europe. According to Lipponen, Romanies are treated worse than other citizens in all sectors of society. The opportunities for Romany children are not at the level of other children. He encouraged applicant countries’ governments to take the problem seriously and stop discrimination.
He admitted that Finland has got problems concerning the matter too. The Prime Minister presumed that in order to achieve equality, Romanies must be allowed into the process of planning and implementation. Lipponen noted in the meeting that one of the conditions of EU membership is that the applicant country can prove that it is a country of legality in which human rights and law is respected. Lipponen proposed that the position of minorities should be dealt with in the Tampere Summit.
Prime Minister Lipponen met the President of Ukraine, Leonid Kutshma, at the third summit meeting between the EU and Ukraine. The EU’s nuclear energy organisation Euratom and Ukraine signed agreements on nuclear safety and fusion energy. Lipponen expressed his hope that the funding dispute of the Chernobyl nuclear power station would be solved because Kutshma threatens to postpone the closing of the plant otherwise. Lipponen’s stance on the dispute between Germany and Ukraine was that Ukraine should decide which energy replacement it is going to use instead of nuclear energy. President Kutshma expressed the hope in the meeting that Ukraine would become a member of the EU quickly. He feared that his country would be overshadowed by the Balkans. Prime Minister Lipponen promised that the EU’s strategy towards Ukraine would be finalised by the end of the Helsinki Summit in December. The EU wants to share with Ukraine a certain perspective of the requirements of membership within the EU, however, not at the same time raising Ukrainian hopes too high.
The unofficial environmental conference of the EU, chaired by Minister of the Environment Satu Hassi, was held in Helsinki. The central topic was that of preventing environmental damage of countries joining the EU, whose economies are expected to grow. The other topic was the environmental effects of the Kosovo war. Hassi also initiated the participants in the eutrophication problems of the Baltic Sea so that the EU could fund a new wastewater cleaner in St Petersburg. According to Hassi, the project is the one most important EU environmental project in the northern dimension.
In the role as the presiding EU country’s Foreign Minister, Halonen led the Union’s delegation in the conference of the South East Asian countries’ organisation ASEAN in Singapore. Halonen took part in the regional forum of ASEAN (ARF), in which the security questions of the area were dealt with. The EU warned North Korea about launching new missiles, as the EU regards such actions as having serious consequences to Asian security.
The French Minister of Justice Elisabeth Guigou visited Finland where she met her counterpart Johannes Koskinen, Prime Minister Lipponen and the Minister of the Interior Kari Häkämies. Guigou’s and Koskinen’s discussions concerned the extraordinary EU summit in Tampere in October, in which the EU’s common policy on immigration and refugee questions will be drawn. Guigou would like to see the establishment of a common criminal investigating body adjacent to the Europol.
Representatives of over a hundred prosperous countries and organisations assembled in Brussels. They offered approximately 12 billion marks of aid for Kosovo. Finland promised to grant one hundred million marks via the UN and Red Cross. Additionally, Finland will be giving money to the UN reconstruction fund to the sum of about 5 million marks.
Leaders of dozens of states assembled for a summit meeting in the capital of Bosnia-Herzegovina, Sarajevo, at which President Ahtisaari chaired, in order to formulate a stabilisation plan for the Balkans. The Serbian leaders did not receive an invitation. President Ahtisaari believed that in respect of an invitation to the leaders of Yugoslavia "there are no possibilities at this stage". At the end of the meeting, the leaders of nearly forty countries signed the "Sarajevo Declaration", aiming at the stabilisation of the Balkans. The declaration demanded that the Balkan countries do everything possible to create predictable economic environs, to fight corruption and to speed up market-oriented reforms, like the privatisation of state businesses. Ahtisaari emphasised that: "it is time to work now". Russian Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin severely criticised the organisers for not having invited Milosevic. He said however that Russia supports the stabilisation plan. Prime Minister Lipponen said: "In the future we also hope to be able to welcome Yugoslavia as an equal partner into the stabilisation agreement. Milosevic’s governance is responsible for the current exclusion".
Foreign Minister Halonen toured the Middle East in the role of the chair of the Council of the General Affairs of the EU. The delegation led by Halonen was comprised of the EU’s special envoy to the Middle East, Miguel Moratinos, representatives of the EU Council and the Commission. Halonen visited Egypt, Israel, the Palestinian area, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon. The topics of the visits were the Middle East peace process, other questions of international politics, and the EU’s relations to the countries visited. Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat demanded that the EU pressure Israel harder so that it would finally execute the signed peace pacts. Halonen stressed that "the Wye River Accord must be implemented so that people will see that something has happened". She urged Israel to keep the peace talks going.
Russian President Boris Yeltsin dismissed his government. He nominated the head of the security service agency, Vladimir Putin, to be the caretaking Prime Minister and requested the Duma to confirm the nomination. Prime Minister Lipponen spoke in Lappeenranta and underlined the fact that continuity will remain in relations with Russia. He said that Russia and Finland have plenty of joint projects, as do the EU and Russia. He believed in the possibilities of the projects continuing and he said that he trusted that "the Russian government will continue the policy that Russia has been pursuing in recent times".
President Ahtisaari made a statement on his provincial journey to Ahvenanmaa saying that the violence in Kosovo might continue for a long period of time. He does not consider the troubles to have taken him by surprise, since the method of applying the Kosovo peace treaty created a power vacuum in the region. The first Finnish peacekeepers left for Kosovo on the 11.8. The President said that the peace process has proceeded "pretty much in the expected manner". Ahtisaari noted that he was not involved in the implementation of the treaty. He deemed it important that Finland bears its responsibility in international duties "especially in peacekeeping, in which we are one of the leading countries in the world". Ahtisaari said that he was satisfied with Finland’s first month as the presiding EU country. He considered the EU Presidency to be six months hard labour without due reward.
A preparation force of 130 persons of Finland’s Kosovo battalion flew to Kosovo. Their task was to organise the basic services for the battalion. A twenty-person scout group left earlier. Finns will be located in the Lipljan area, which is the sector led by the British. The area Finns will be in charge of is approximately 400 square kilometres and populated by roughly 50 000 people.
Some of the Albanian refugees in Finland returned to Kosovo. This was the first return flight for the refugees and was arranged by the Ministry of Labour.
The German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine reported that an agreement in the language dispute between Finland and Germany had been reached. In the future, Finland will also arrange interpretation into German in all unofficial meetings, apart from one exception, which is the Housing Ministers’ conference in Kuopio. There interpretation will only be into English, French and Finnish. The matter was settled in negotiations between the German Foreign Office’s Secretary of State Hans von Ploez and the Finnish Secretary of State in charge of the EU Presidency, Alec Aalto.
The Ministry of Defence reported that the Danish, Finnish, Norwegian and Swedish Ministers of Defence have signed an agreement, the Memorandum of Understanding, concerning the medium range helicopters to be purchased jointly by the Ministries of Defence of these countries. Signing the agreement means that a bid of offers will be prepared for potential helicopter sub-contractors, which will be sent by the end of November 1999. According to the agenda the type of helicopter to be purchased will be decided at the end of the year 2000. The first helicopters are planned to be delivered in 2003. The plan for the joint purchase of helicopters has been in preparation since autumn 1996.
Norwegian Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik met Prime Minister Lipponen in Helsinki. The discussions entailed energy cooperation, the EU’s security and defence, political cooperation, and the Balkans. Lipponen suggested that the unrest in Dagestan in Southern Russia might entail the potential threat of the spreading of instability and conflict throughout the area. He hoped, as Prime Minister of the presiding EU country, that Russia and Chechnya would reach an understanding over the supervision of the border areas. Bondevik said that it is hoped in Norway that the EU’s cooperation in defence policy will not be deepened. Norway thinks that Nato should have the main responsibility for European security in the future. The EU could concentrate on crisis management instead. The Prime Ministers also discussed the shared gas pipeline that would allow Norway into the Baltic gas markets and provide Finland with more options besides eastern gas. According to Lipponen, both Finland and the EU have an interest in building a European energy network, in which Norway would also be an energy producer.
23 members of Finland’s rescue services, Finnrescueforce (FRF), travelled to Turkey in order to aid the victims of the earthquake which shook northwestern Turkey during the night of 16-17.8. The Ministry of the Interior decided on sending the group on 18.8 in response to the UN’s request for help in the rescue operation. The tasks of the Finns were searching for the injured, first aid and light clearing work.
Prime Minister Lipponen said in a speech to the General Staff Course that Finland endorses stable development in Europe without being militarily aligned. According to him, there are no signs that the discussion on the EU’s defence questions would necessitate Member States’ allying militarily. Lipponen said that Finland’s potential Nato membership must be perceived separately from the cooperation that Finland has had with Nato in the 1990s. Finland is, for example, a member of the Euro Atlantic Partnership Council and participates in Nato-led crisis management in Bosnia. Lipponen stated that Finland’s experiences have been positive and that we continue to be prepared to develop this cooperation.
Foreign Minister Halonen visited Turkey together with the EU’s Foreign Affairs Commissioner Hans van den Broek. They met Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit and Foreign Minister Ismail Cemin and visited the area destroyed by the earthquake. The intention of the meeting was to agree on the EU’s support for the area affected by the catastrophe. The meeting involved discussions on relations between the EU and Turkey. In order to improve cooperation Ecevit said that he is aware that Turkey needs reforms in the realm of human rights amongst others. According to Halonen, the EU is seeking to improve its relations with Turkey during Finland’s EU Presidency. She considered the earthquake in Turkey to have had positive long-standing effects on the traditionally unsettled relationship between Turkey and Greece.
Prime Minister Lipponen, in the role of the Presiding EU country’s prime minister, met the President of the EU Commission Romano Prodi. Prodi said that he has set up an independent group of three people in order to organise a new intergovernmental conference. The negotiations are expected to start during the Helsinki Summit in December. The discussions also included the earthquake in Turkey. Lipponen was satisfied with Prodi’s statement that the new Commission promises to grant 180-240 million marks for the rebuilding of houses in the earthquake zone. Lipponen also expressed the hope that the European Parliament would release the funds of nearly one billion marks previously granted to Turkey but which until now have been frozen. In a press conference Lipponen said that he hopes that the tragedy in Turkey would increase understanding between Turkey and the EU.
Former President Mauno Koivisto said in an interview conducted by Aamulehti and Turun Sanomat that he doubts whether the billions of aid for the Balkans, promised by Western countries and international organisations, will ever be gathered. He surmises that these funds will not be found either in the pockets of the EU or the US. He believed that Serbia would not receive any significant aid even if President Milosevic were overthrown. Koivisto called the southwest European stability conference a "promise conference" in which no "living organisation" is going to be founded. Koivisto criticised Germany, Austria and Hungary for pushing Yugoslavia into separation by their hurried acknowledgement of the federal republics in the beginning of the 1990s. Finland also acknowledged the fragments of Yugoslavia during Koivisto’s presidency in the wake of others doing so. He said that Finland had acknowledged them but had not practised an active policy in the region. However, Koivisto admitted, "Our decisions have had an effect, too". As said by Koivisto, he did not pay attention to Yugoslavia as he did to Russia. Koivisto said that the international community does not and did not have an option that would have justified non-intervention in Balkan affairs.
Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga, who had taken up the presidency in July, visited Finland where she met President Ahtisaari. Their discussions concerned Finland’s EU Presidency, the EU’s enlargement, and relations between Latvia and Finland. Vike-Freiberga hoped that her country would receive an invitation to begin EU membership negotiations during Finland’s Presidency. One difficulty might be Latvia’s language laws that the EU and Foreign Minister Halonen have criticised. The President of Latvia thanked Finland for the support for Latvia’s language programme.
Foreign Minister Halonen said in a speech to the Foreign Affairs Committee of the European Parliament in Brussels that the elections in East Timor had gone better that expected. Halonen stressed that the improvement of the security situation in East Timor requires an East Timorese commitment to a settlement, concrete actions by the Indonesian government to guarantee security, a UN presence, and the support of the international community.
Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi visited Finland where he met Foreign Minister Halonen, President Ahtisaari, Speaker of Parliament Riitta Uosukainen, and Foreign Trade Minister Kimmo Sasi. The discussions of the foreign ministers concerned the situation in the Middle East. The ministers disagreed on the peace process. Whilst Kharrazi regarded the situation appalling, Halonen said that the current negotiations were the best opportunity to move towards a lasting peace. Kharrazi expressed that Iran wishes to improve its relations with the EU.
The President of the United States thanked President Ahtisaari for the success of the Sarajevo conference. Thanks were directed to the president’s adviser Alpo Rusi and the Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs for composing the closing document. Clinton promised to work with Ahtisaari for a more peaceful and democratic southeastern Europe.
Minister for the Interior Kari Häkämies and Minister of Justice Johannes Koskinen introduced the topics to be discussed at the forthcoming Tampere Summit to a European Parliamentary committee. Also noted were the policies of the Finnish EU Presidency. Häkämies had to justify a restricted policy in the acceptance of refugees, which will be decided on separately. Germany, amongst others, has demanded that countries that have not taken many refugees should bear more responsibility. Häkämies admitted that solidarity is needed, however, assumed that the arrangements must be based on voluntary actions. He also remarked that the refugees own views must be noted, assuming that they wish to go to countries where there are other countrymen already.
Finance Minister Sauli Niinistö gave a speech to the resigning party leader Carl Bildt of the Swedish brother party. He indirectly urged the Swedish Social Democrat government that Sweden should join the EMU before the Swedish EU Presidency in 2001. Niinistö said that the currency questions are discussed unofficially only among the EMU countries. He reckoned that a EU country outside the EMU loses the benefits derived from this and remains sidelined, even though the decisions are made among the EU countries.
The EU’s special Balkan co-ordinator Bobo Hombach met President
Ahtisaari and Prime Minister Lipponen in Helsinki. During the
discussions it became apparent that the President’s adviser Alpo Rusi
will take a post under Hombach in the aftermath of the Balkan crisis.
Rusi’s area will be the security questions of the Balkans, such as crime
prevention and disarmament.
The EU foreign ministers and future High Representative for the CFSP Javier Solana participated in the unofficial foreign ministers’ meeting in Saariselkä, in Lapland. The discussions included lifting the embargoes raised against Serbia, the East Timor situation, and Turkey’s potential EU membership. Ministers agreed preliminarily on granting six million marks aid for earthquake-devastated Turkey. Turkey received cautious support for its membership aspirations from the EU ministers. Foreign Minister Halonen was pleased about the warming of relations between Turkey and the EU. The ministers discussed enthusiastically the EU’s crisis management capabilities, especially how a military operation could be carried out, for instance, in a situation like the Kosovo crisis. According to Halonen, the issue will be brought up in every conference this autumn. She was hopeful that something would be concluded by the Helsinki Summit. Defence ministers will take part in a foreign ministers conference for the first time in November. Finland proposed, in line with the Cologne agreements, that for the practical implementation of crisis management a political and security committee and headquarters in Brussels should be established for the EU. Finland did not take a stance on how the committee would be elected or what kind of powers it would have. Finland also proposed developing resources for crisis management by suggesting that EU countries should increase their defence budgets. The French foreign minister proposed that EU countries should develop their defence forces according to the convergence criteria as in the economic and monetary union EMU. As regards EU enlargement, France and Germany demanded that all the countries in the second group, Latvia, Lithuania, Bulgaria, Romania and Slovakia, should be included in negotiations. Foreign Minister Halonen, however, said that decisions must be made based on facts. Decisions will be made only when the Commission’s reports are ready. The new Commission aims to give assessments on the applicant countries during the autumn.
The Ministry of Defence announced that they are going to sign an agenda for cooperation with Nato’s Maintenance and Supply Organisation, NAMSO. The cooperation provides an additional option side by side with the maintenance services that the Defence Forces use for the upkeep of defence material and replacement acquisitions.
Foreign Minister Halonen took a position in Helsinki on the motion France originated in Saariselkä. France suggested that the EU countries should approach the EU’s defence forces in the manner of EMU criteria, and develop the defence forces with common convergence conditions. Italy and Britain have also spoken in favour of such convergence rules. Halonen considered this to be "creative French thinking", and that the defence criteria are not a question for the near future. Halonen let believe that common criteria do not construct a military union. According to her such "thinking has room for both, military union and non-military union". She stressed that the non-aligned countries (Finland, Sweden, Austria and Ireland) have not announced their intention to change their stance towards Nato. Halonen said that there is plenty of room for manoeuvre in defence policy even if no military union is constructed. The Foreign Minister also noted that many Nato countries are happy with the current system, so long as the European defence dimension can be increased. Finland emphasises that the defence dimension includes both military and civil crisis management. Halonen said that international police forces could take care of part of the Kosovo peacekeeping operation. An opinion poll made last spring during the Kosovo war showed that common security and defence policy has strong support in the EU. The most support is found in Italy, and the least in Finland.
The British Minister to Europe, Geoff Hoon, visited Finland. He pointed out that the EU needs one common and clear voice in matters of foreign policy. He said that he opposes a system in which each country may participate in the common foreign and security policy if and when they so wish, as is the case in the EMU. Hoon does not exclude a CFSP model in which Nato participates. He considered it, however, problematic, as many of the Nato countries do not belong to the EU. He considered it most probable that an appropriate mode of joining the EU and the WEU will be found. He suggested that the EU could use the CSFP for the efficient settling of crises, for instance the one in the Balkans. In the long term, it would be possible to make the EU’s crisis management capabilities more global. In other words, the EU could cooperate with the US, the UN or Nato in crisis management so that the EU’s forces could be a part of international peacekeeping forces in different parts of the world.
President Ahtisaari participated in the Baltic Sea and the Black Sea countries’ conference in Yalta, Ukraine. He said at the dinner laid on by President Leonid Kutshman that the break-up of Yugoslavia demonstrated to Europe the significance of Ukrainian stability. Ahtisaari declared that: "Ukraine sets an example as a state that has worked hard to build good relations with all neighbouring countries. Likewise exemplary is the determined way in which a dangerous internal crisis – here in the Crimea – has been defused. A united, multicultural, strong and democratic Ukraine is a pivotal factor in Europe".
Prime Minister Lipponen stated in Helsinki that the situation in East Timor is very severe. According to Lipponen, it has become apparent that the UN was not adequately prepared for the fact that a UN operation in East Timor would be necessary.
The EU’s finance ministers held an unofficial conference in Turku, led by Finance Minister Sauli Niinistö. The ministers agreed on a list of five services in which VAT can be reduced in order to improve employment. The Ecofin conference in Turku proved again the EU’s chances of harmonising taxation are small. Ministers discussed the Kosovo war, and the catastrophes in Kosovo, Turkey and Greece. According to them, new promises of aid for Kosovo are not needed at the moment; for Kosovo has not yet been able use the funds that have been granted to it already.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ismail Cem took part in the EU foreign ministers’ conference in Brussels. The meeting was significant, for Turkey has not participated since the EU excluded it from EU membership negotiations in December 1997. Minister Cem said in the meeting that relations between Turkey and both Greece and the EU have improved. He hoped that the development would continue. Foreign Minister Halonen said: "all 15 Member States are unanimous that Turkey will be taken into the European structures". Turkey’s poor record in human rights and the dispute over Cyprus with Greece will however delay Turkish membership. Moreover, the ministers prohibited arms exports to Indonesia and froze all military cooperation between any single EU country and Indonesia.
A Nordic Peace 1999 peacekeeping exercise, in the spirit of Nato’s Partnership for Peace, was held in Niinisalo and Säkylä. Troops of the strength of a company and high-ranking officers participated from Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland. Finnish international civil, police and rescue organisations also took part. The Baltic countries and Russia had been invited to the exercise as observers. The troops were practising traditional peacekeeping in accordance with the Finnish Peacekeeping Law.
The European Parliament accepted the new Commission. 414 voted in favour, 142 against whilst 35 MEPs did not vote. The Commission, led by the Italian Romano Prodi, started its work after having sworn the oath in the Court in Luxembourg on 17.9.
Foreign Minister Halonen introduced the themes that will occupy the Tampere Summit to the European Parliament in Strasbourg. These themes were immigration and refugee policy, cross border crime prevention, and the jurisdictional area of Europe. In the meeting Finland will encourage the intensification of international police cooperation. Halonen proposed that the Tampere summit would agree on employing international investigation groups for solving cross border crime. Finland wants to extend the work of Europol, the cooperation body of EU countries’ police forces, to cover money laundering amongst other things. Additionally, the Member States should have the duty to answer requests for help and investigation from each other. Halonen noted that as the powers of Europol increase, a political checking system should be created as well. According to the Foreign Minister, Finland is going to propose the harmonisation of the EU countries’ criminal laws at the summit. She also called for a unitary refugee and immigration policy for the EU countries. Halonen said that the EU must be able to quickly offer a shelter in the case of a mass flight of refugees. She suggested that community funding should be used in such situations. She reckoned that the Member States would reach an agreement on this in Tampere.
The EU’s Ministers for the Interior and Justice assembled in Turku for an unofficial meeting. The ministers agreed that the Union should have a common European refugee system. The contents of the system could not be agreed on, however. Germany and France made a joint initiative in the meeting proposing certain principles for the EU. The countries emphasised that immigration questions must be regarded as an integral part of the EU’s foreign policy.
Elisabeth Rehn, the presidential candidate of Finland’s Swedish Peoples’ Party, said in a business leaders’ conference in Munich that she would like to see a force of civilians and soldiers established who would be in constant preparedness for crisis situations. It could be used in conflicts or even preventatively. According to Rehn, the EU should consider how a basic organisation, which has readiness to act on short notice, could be created within the EU.
In the yearly reunion of the Progressive Liberal Finns’ Newspaper Association Prime Minister Lipponen called for a comprehensive reform of the EU’s administrative methods. According to Lipponen, "The EU has an historic opportunity to institute a comprehensive administrative reform… ". Lipponen also dealt with the heated debate aroused in Parliament by the issue of the transparency of EU documents. He said that there will be exemptions to the transparency rule if needed – confidential documents will be in use. Finland does not publish any positions of Member States that have not been confirmed. He stressed that "confidentiality must be kept in the sensitive stages of preparations". Lipponen also highlighted the US’s importance to Finland: "Today, even in the new Europe, the North American connection strengthens our identity as a small European nation." He believed that the global super power balances European development as it forms a counterweight to the European great powers.
Foreign Minister Halonen refused the proposal of the President of the EU Commission Romano Prodi (on 14.9.), which suggested that the EU would prepare a timetable for the applicant countries by the Helsinki summit in December. Halonen did not consider it realistic, as the most important issues have still not been negotiated with the applicant countries. In addition, the countries have not harmonised their laws to conform to EU legislation. Halonen said that she has encouraged the applicants to draw up a schedule for such harmonisation. As yet, the countries have only made promises of synchronising their legislation.
Former President Mauno Koivisto rejected the notion of Finnish membership in Nato in an interview with YLE TV1. He said: "What should we do within it, and what would we gain from it? We would be involved in taking decisions in which we would have a more marginal position of influence than in the EU." Koivisto said that the best guarantee for Finnish security is the continuation of European integration. According to him, as a member of the EU Finland has all the rights which accrue to membership. If the EU’s security enhancing possibilities are increased Finland will have a stable position and chances for shaping it. Koivisto thought that the Europeans should have been able to manage Kosovo better. President Koivisto was concerned about the status of the UN. He assumed that the UN’s status has deteriorated to the extent that its "standing is such that it will be invited in – if at all – only to deal with matters that others have already initiated." According to Koivisto, the question is "not only about Kosovo or Yugoslavia, but also about the UN and international relations in general". He posed the question whether we are heading towards arbitrary rule. Koivisto also asked: "Is the UN Charter being adhered to or is it not? Do people hope the UN to be replaced by something else?" According to Koivisto’s assessment, Ahtisaari saved Nato from getting into a more difficult situation. He also contended that the continuance of Milosevic’s leadership suits those who have promised to give funds for the reconstruction of Kosovo, for they can save money. He reproached the Finnish media for its one-sided reporting, in which the Serbs were the sole culprits for the events. He believed that the bombing of Serbia has not affected relations between Finland and Russia. Koivisto denied any differences in views with Ahtisaari.
Prime Minister Lipponen wrote in a column in Turun Sanomat and Savon Sanomat that he considers it important to maintain the trans-Atlantic security community. He also pointed out that the European Union’s defence dimension will be developed for crisis management. According to Lipponen, the integration of the EU countries’ defence forces via common criteria only concerns those troops and tasks that are meant for crisis management operations. The Prime Minister said that the crises in Kosovo and Bosnia have shown that solely military crisis management operations are not enough to create security. Besides that, civil crisis management must be considered. At the Helsinki Summit in December, Finland will put forward a report on the political and military structures that are needed for the development of the EU’s crisis management capabilities. The Prime Minister said that it is important for Finland to be able to decide independently on our own defence system. He also highlighted that the principle for decision-making in crisis management is that each operation is decided on separately, and that each Member State decides on its involvement, even after a common decision has been made.
General Gustav Hägglund, Chief of Defence, said at the opening of the national defence course in Helsinki that he would like to improve the readiness of the rapid deployment forces. Hägglund believed that a change in the law would make a rapid departure to crisis management assignments easier. He reminded that the troops that have been declared to be available for crisis management are expected to have a readiness capacity of 30 days after the national decision has been made. He noted however, that our readiness is not up to the expected level. Bringing together the Finnish troop for the Kosovo KFOR operation took nearly two months. Hägglund said that the aim of the renewed crisis management system is to provide an international operation with soldiers that have received the same training and are committed to leave for an operation as a united force. Those sent to the Kosovo KFOR operation had to be supplemented by UN reserve soldiers.
In its role as the President of the EU, Finland welcomed the international forces’ arrival in East Timor with contentment. The matter was seen to signify that the international community is willing to find a peaceful and lasting solution to the question of East Timor based on the right of self-determination of the East Timorese people. The EU will support the UN’s aims of directing the negotiation process towards the independence of East Timor. The EU expects the Indonesian government to cooperate with the international forces. Furthermore, the EU demanded the withdrawal of the Indonesian troops from East Timor. The EU also expressed its concern regarding the human rights situation in the area.In its role as the President of the EU, Finland welcomed the international forces’ arrival in East Timor with contentment. The matter was seen to signify that the international community is willing to find a peaceful and lasting solution to the question of East Timor based on the right of self-determination of the East Timorese people. The EU will support the UN’s aims of directing the negotiation process towards the independence of East Timor. The EU expects the Indonesian government to cooperate with the international forces. Furthermore, the EU demanded the withdrawal of the Indonesian troops from East Timor. The EU also expressed its concern regarding the human rights situation in the area.
Foreign Minister Halonen spoke at the 54th General Assembly of the UN as the presiding EU country’s foreign minister. The conference reflected generally on the issue of using force in order to avoid mass murders and the often dichotomous principle of the need to respect the sovereignty of states. Regarding this, Halonen said that in order to avoid humanitarian catastrophes, new rules must be written, for most conflicts do not occur between states but inside their borders. Halonen also highlighted the importance of civil operations in crisis management, since "in the reconstruction of societies civil police forces and other administrational personnel are needed". Halonen said after her speech that intervening in states’ internal violence is a medicine that has been missed and that has strong side effects. She said that in those cases in which a proposed operation remains stalled as a result of indecision in the UN Security Council, the one that paralyses the work of the Council, must also be held responsible for the fact that actions will be taken elsewhere. Halonen met the US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright amongst others.
Minister Max Jakobson stated in his column entitled "The change of values is shaking the UN" in Helsingin Sanomat that there is no one single answer to President Koivisto’s question of "whether there is law and order". He considered that "the future violations of human rights will continue to provoke selective interventions: on occasion with the mandate of the UN Security Council, and if not, on account of the Western community. It is doubtful that any working order can be achieved." He considered the problem to be in that the world has changed significantly since the establishment of the UN, and despite that, the world organisation has not been able to change its structures.
President of the EU Commission Romano Prodi advised Prime Minister Paavo Lipponen in a letter to shorten the agenda of the Tampere Summit, so that the conference would not become suffocating. Prodi considers that bringing forward the security of citizens is important. Besides that, liberties and justice should also be drawn attention to. Prodi said: "citizens should get assurance in Tampere that their basic rights are being secured".
Vietnamese Prime Minister Phan Van Khai and a businessmen’s delegation visited Finland. In a press conference with Prime Minister Lipponen, Phan hoped that the two countries’ business relations would become enlivened. Lipponen also, as the representative of the presiding EU country, drew attention to the human rights issues of Vietnam. Prime Minister Phan and Minister of Development and Cooperation Satu Hassi endorsed the second stage of an agricultural and forestry project in which Finland will support Vietnam with 40 million marks.
The presidential candidate of the Green League, Heidi Hautala, said in Helsinki that crisis management of the next millennium should not be based on Nato and the United States. She argued against any development in which the EU, which is currently in the process of designing common defence structures, would become a European part of Nato and thus consequently draw Finland into membership of Nato as well. She reckoned that Prime Minister Lipponen "does not even consider it undesirable" that Finland’s Nato membership looms at the end of the EU and Nato path. Hautala demanded the State’s leadership to give clear answers for where the decisions of today and the future will lead Finland. She considered the transatlantic connection between the US and Europe, which Lipponen has emphasised, to be problematic. According to Hautala, it might be dangerous which is why it would be wise to keep away from the strengthening of common defence of the EU. Hautala believes that the EU is the organisation within which Finland can develop crisis management.
Finland took part in the G7 countries conference in Washington for the first time. Representatives of the Euro area were Finance Minister Sauli Niinistö and the head of the European Central Bank, Wim Duisenberg. They took part in the general part of the conference that concerned currency rates and the state of the world economy. The leading industrial countries decided not to interfere with the development of currency markets. Japan had appealed to the other G7 countries to take measures to stop the strengthening of the Yen. Niinistö spoke on behalf of the EU in the temporary committee of the IMF saying that the EU and its member states wished to increase the private sectors responsibility for preventing and solving economic crises. The G7 conference thought about the funding of the HIPC initiative (Heavily Indebted Poor Countries) that is aiming at relieving developing countries debts. According to Niinistö the HIPC is likely to be funded by dividing the costs between IMF countries with the burden being divided in relation to the share of the contribution each pays to the IMF. Niinistö estimated that Finland’s costs would be approximately 35 million marks of the total of 200 billion dollars of debt.
The EU Commission, led by Romano Prodi, visited Helsinki meeting President Ahtisaari and the Government. The visit was the traditional consultation between the Commission and the presiding EU country, which was delayed by three months due to the change of the Commission. The main topics of the discussions were the themes of the Helsinki and Tampere Summits. These are the EU’s enlargement and the interior and justice affairs of the Union. Some member states and the Commission wish to hurry the enlargement of the Union and want the EU to set target dates for the accession of new members in the future. Finland has been hesitant about setting such dates. The EU has taken six applicant countries into the number one group: Estonia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Slovenia and Cyprus. The group may be expanded with the inclusion of Latvia at the Helsinki Summit. Under scrutiny is the question of starting negotiations with the second group. It was confirmed at the consultation meeting that Finland would proceed with membership negotiations according to the decisions made at the Cologne Summit last summer. In other words, the agenda is small covering three themes: Is each country going to have a Commissioner? Are the types of decisions currently made by majority decision-making going to be increased? And how are the votes of member states going to be weighted in the Council of Ministers?
Italian President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, accompanied by his wife and the Italian Foreign Minister, made an official visit to Finland. The discussions between presidents Ciampi and Ahtisaari included EU enlargement, the EU’s administration and the development of the Mediterranean region and the EU’s northern dimension. During his visit Ciampi also met Prime Minister Lipponen, Speaker of Parliament Riitta Uosukainen, and Foreign Minister Halonen.
Foreign Minister Halonen confirmed having had an influence in the dispute over the United States’ unpaid fees to the UN. The issue was raised at a dinner for female foreign ministers of UN countries, hosted by US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright in New York. The dinner was attended by Foreign Minister Halonen and Swedish Foreign Minister Anna Lindh. The discussions also included the US’ demands for getting a representative into the Central Budget Committee of the UN. The Republicans of the US Congress wanted to have a representative in the Committee and promised to pay the US debt to the UN only after such a position was secured. The US will get its representative in the Committee in November when New Zealand resigns, whilst the Nordic countries will be flexible in their representation.
Swiss President Ruth Dreifuss visited Finland where she met President Ahtisaari. President Dreifuss has actively attempted to promote the EU membership of her country. According to her Switzerland is in many ways dependent on decisions made in Brussels without being able to influence them. She considered her country’s relations to the UN to be of primary importance.
Foreign Minister Halonen expressed her concern regarding Russia’s actions in northern Caucasus. Following the concern expressed by the German, French and Italian governments regarding Russian bombings in Chechnya the EU expressed its concern several hours later. According to the statement issued by the EU the expansion of a military crisis would result in large numbers of human victims. The EU acknowledged Russia’s territorial sovereignty but at the same time urged Russia to start negotiating with the moderate forces in Chechnya. The EU also condemned the terrorist actions that have created tensions in Russia. In addition the EU warned that the conflict could spread elsewhere in the northern Caucasus and encouraged Russia to rely on the OSCE representatives’ mediatory role in Grozny.
Prime Minister Paavo Lipponen visited other EU member states on the eve of the Tampere Summit of the Union. In France, he had talks with President Jacques Chirac and his French counterpart Lionel Jospin. The main topics on the agenda were money laundering and asylum questions. According to Mr. Lipponen, the fight against money laundering called for versatile cooperation, the involvement of Europol and harmonisation of legislation. In their meetings, Mr. Lipponen and his French hosts also discussed ways to distribute the burden of asylum seekers and immigration. Mr. Lipponen expressed his hope that the EU would set an objective of creating a joint Union asylum system. He would also welcome the founding of a joint fund as well as the harmonisation of respective procedures.
President Martti Ahtisaari toured the Middle East. The core of the trip was the first-ever state visit of a Finnish President to Israel. The presidential delegation also included Foreign Minister Tarja Halonen, as well as Miguel Moratinos, the Spanish special EU Middle-East representative. The first stop of the tour was Syria where President Ahtisaari and Foreign Minister Halonen met with President Hafez al-Assad and Foreign Minister Faruk al-Sharaa. From Syria, Mr. Ahtisaari crossed the border to Israel, meeting with President Ezer Weizman, Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister David Levy. The discussions focused on Israeli-Syrian relations, i.e., the possibility of re-opening the negotiations between the two countries after they ended in a stalemate three years ago. Mr. Ahtisaari gave a lecture at the Israel Foreign Policy Institute, presenting an extensive survey of the Kosovo crisis. He discussed the right of the international community to interfere with the internal affairs of an independent country. Mr. Ahtisaari also visited the Gaza strip and Bethlehem on the West Bank, meeting with Palestinians and President Yasser Arafat. On 6 October, President Ahtisaari paid a visit to Lebanon and met with President Emile Lahud. During his trip, Mr. Ahtisaari offered Helsinki as a venue for future Middle-East peace talks. According to Foreign Minister Halonen, it was important that the stalled peace process be restarted in the context of the positive atmosphere which followed the institution of the Labour Party leader Ehud Barak as the new Israeli Prime Minister. During his return to Finland, Mr. Ahtisaari said that he was going to present a written complaint to both Israel and Syria regarding the operation of the armed forces supported by each in South Lebanon. This announcement was preceded by an artillery strike by the so-called South Lebanese Army against the station of the Finnish UN detachment in Southern Lebanon.
The EU foreign policy troika, consisting of Foreign Minister Halonen of Finland, the country currently holding the EU presidency; Foreign Minister Jaime Gama of Portugal, the next president in turn; as well as Mr. Chris Patten, the member of the Commission responsible for external relations, visited Moscow and met with Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov. The negotiations focused on recent events in Chechnya. The EU representatives pressed Russia to rapidly restrain the military operations in Chechnya and to look for a solution through political negotiations. The EU also offered to provide humanitarian assistance to those suffering as a result of the conflict. On this occasion, the EU did not condemn the Russian operation in Chechnya but emphasised that the region is a part of Russia.
The daily Helsingin Sanomat published an opinion poll commissioned from Suomen Gallup regarding the public support for the various presidential candidates. The most popular among them was Elisabeth Rehn (Swedish People’s Party) with 29 % support. Riitta Uosukainen, Speaker of Parliament (National Coalition Party) had taken a big leap forward – now 26 % of the respondents had chosen Ms. Uosukainen. In the first election round, Esko Aho (Centre Party) and Tarja Halonen (Social Democratic Party) would rank third. Both Heidi Hautala (Green League) and Risto Kuisma (Reform Group) attracted only a little support, 4 and 1 percent, respectively. When asked about the second round candidates, the replies given by those participating in the poll indicated that Ms. Rehn and Ms. Uosukainen would leave the other candidates far behind, with Ms. Rehn winning by a tight 52 to 48 percent.
Helsingin Sanomat published another poll commissioned from Suomen Gallup, regarding President Martti Ahtisaari and Prime Minister Paavo Lipponen’s second cabinet. According to the poll, Mr. Ahtisaari was now a more popular president and a more appreciated foreign policy leader than ever before during his mandate. Eighty-three percent of the respondents gave Mr. Ahtisaari the general grade good or very good while the corresponding percentage had been 61 % in December 1998. Mr. Ahtisaari’s job as the leader of Finnish foreign policy was almost unanimously appreciated – 93 % of the respondents found that he had done very well or fairly well in his foreign policy. Prime Minister Lipponen’s second cabinet was also appreciated – 66 % of the respondents considered that it had succeeded well or rather well (as opposed to the 56 % of good grades given a year earlier).
The cooperation body of the European Affairs Committees of National Parliaments, the COSAC, met in Helsinki. The meeting addressed the issues on the agenda of the Tampere and Helsinki Summits, the enlargement of the EU, the respective timetable and the cost.
In a report published by the EU, it was suggested that membership talks be initiated with Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Romania and Malta as early as the beginning of the year 2000. The EU also proposed that Turkey be made an official EU candidate. However, that country could engage in actual negotiations only after certain fundamental changes had taken place. The Commission also proposed that all 12 candidates should be allowed to conduct separate negotiations at their individual speeds. Mr. Günter Verheugen, the member of the Commission responsible for enlargement issues, hoped that EU leaders would give credit to the proposals made by the Commission and accept all six new candidates at the Helsinki Summit. Mr. Romano Prodi, President of the Commission, said that he expected that the negotiations with the leading candidates could be finalised by the end of 2002. The Commission also recommended the EU deepen its relationship with the countries of former Yugoslavia and with Albania. In addition to the EU membership conditions, these countries must recognise each other’s borders, improve the treatment of minorities and increase their mutual economic cooperation.
In its position as the current president of the EU, Finland condemned the coup d’état in Pakistan, demanding that Pakistan return to civil administration. The EU was concerned about the impact the coup might have on the stability of the region of South Asia. The Union also decided to postpone the signing of the cooperation agreement negotiated with Pakistan, scheduled to take place on 20 October.
In his article "An Absurd Kosovo Comparison" in Helsingin Sanomat, columnist Olli Kivinen made critical comments about recent comparisons between Kosovo and Chechnya. Should the western countries act according to the model adopted for Kosovo, the outsiders should bombard Moscow to force Russia to retreat from the region. Mr. Kivinen pointed out that there was not one decision-maker within NATO who would even consider an armed conflict with Russia; on the contrary, contact with Russia was to be maintained at any cost. The EU had also said Chechnya was Russia’s internal matter. All the EU had done was to chide Russia for its treatment of civilians. Mr. Kivinen also noted that the Kosovo events were reflected in Russian decision-making. As the western countries were occupied with the consequences of the Bosnian and the Kosovo crises, Russia had a free hand to operate in the northern Caucasus. Another impact of Kosovo was that Russia had to live through the consequences of its decline during the Yugoslavian crisis and could not give the Serbs the kind of support that many had pledged. Mr. Kivinen believed that this would tie the hands of the West, the US in particular, as long as they wanted to remain in the same boat with Russia, a country that felt hurt and marginalised. Excessively articulate support of the Chechens, and protests attached to the conditions of economic aid, would be humiliations to be avoided as much as possible, in terms of realpolitik.
The meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Foreign and Security Policy expressed its full support for the work of the new EU foreign policy coordinator, Mr. Javier Solana, and of the development of EU crisis management capacity. The Finnish government found it feasible that, in addition to his main duties, Mr. Solana would also act as Secretary-General of the Western European Union, as far as the conflict prevention and crisis management tasks were concerned, during the transitional period of the WEU.
At the EU Summit, hosted by Finland in Tampere, the leaders of the EU Member States agreed on the intensification of the cooperation in juridical and internal affairs, as well as on a partial transfer of authority in these matters to the union level. The leaders decided to harmonise the refugee practice, to intensify the cooperation against international criminality and to start to develop a common judicial area. Thus European integration progressed to a new area – thus far, legal and internal affairs had been dealt with strictly at member state level. These issues should be re-addressed during the Belgian presidency in 2001. The meeting turned down the Finnish proposal according to which the EU should make a FIM 1.5 billion budgetary provision to support countries that would suddenly be forced to accept large numbers of people fleeing war or other crises. It became clear in Tampere that the EU would accept six new countries for membership negotiations. In fact, the EU leaders agreed with the Commission’s report published on 13 October. However, the possibility of Turkey starting its negotiations remained unclear.
The presidential candidate for the Green League, MEP Heidi Hautala, called for western economic aid to Russia to be frozen due to the war in Chechnya. According to Ms. Hautala, assistance should be limited to humanitarian and environmental projects until Russia started political negotiations to solve the problem. She thought the assistance was flowing into the Russian war budget, thus supporting the war in Chechnya. She also commented on the tame criticism expressed by the west against Russia, a country that bombs its own citizens and violates the CSCE document it had signed.
A the opening of her campaign office, Ms. Elisabeth Rehn, presidential candidate of the Helmi 2000 civic movement and the Swedish People’s Party, commented on possible Finnish membership in NATO, saying that it was just one alternative. According to Ms. Rehn, NATO was not something you simply join but apply for membership of, should a country such as Finland be faced with such a situation. She underlined that the crucial question was whether it was worth applying for membership. According to her, it might be possible that Finland could join in the future. She added that Finnish political leaders clearly have not given up this option. Ms. Rehn also commented on a Karelia-related statement made by another presidential candidate, Ms. Riitta Uosukainen of the National Coalition Party, that it was not fair to demand that Karelia be returned to Finland empty, i.e. without its present Russian population. According to her, a wrong once done on Finland does not give the country the right to wrong those who have been living in Karelia for the past 55 years. She added that she had not yet formed an opinion of whether Karelia should be returned to Finland or not.
When accepting the so-called UKK award, named after former President Kekkonen, Raimo Väyrynen, Professor of international policy at Helsinki University, said that Finland should not join NATO but intensify its operation as a spokesman in favour of the UN. According to Professor Väyrynen, NATO membership would restrict the country’s scope of action in foreign and security policy, without giving any concrete increase in security in return. The limitation of the scope of action would materialise within the EU where Finland would be forced to adapt to the stands taken by the most important EU members, who were also NATO member states. Professor Väyrynen was not convinced that the EU would have a crisis management capacity without the support of the US. He added that the objective of creating a common crisis management capacity would, in fact, signify that non-allied countries would be involved in increased cooperation with NATO, at least in the short term.
At a press conference held in Helsinki, Foreign Minister Halonen said that cutting foreign assistance to Russia because of the war in Chechnya would not be sensible at this moment. According to her, it was more important to look for ways to reach a political solution in Chechnya. Other measures could be considered at a later stage.
The so-called "wise men’s report" on the EU decision-making system was published by Belgium’s former Prime Minister Jean-Luc Dehaene, Germany’s former President Richard von Weizäcker and Britain’s former Trade Minister David Simon. They concluded that the enlargement of the Union called for urgent changes in the decision-making process. The group, chaired by Mr. Dehaene, suggested that the status of the president of the Commission be enhanced, that the number of majority decisions be further increased and that the weighing of the votes in the Ministerial Council be reconsidered. Moreover, the number of seats allotted to each country in the European Parliament should be revised. According to the group, defence policy should become a part of the intergovernmental conference and the EU should agree on a merger with the WEU by the end of year 2000. They also proposed that the integration of the EU should be developed in a flexible manner, meaning that a country unwilling to participate in cooperation would have the right to remain outside. They insisted that the agreements on EU reform should be made by the end of 2000.
Mr. Javier Solana, NATO’s former Secretary General, took up his duties as the EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy.
Suomi 2000 (Finland 2000), the civic movement backing the presidential campaign of Ms. Riitta Uosukainen, was formally established in Helsinki. In a meeting opening her campaign, the candidate defended her former Karelia-related statements, commented upon by Ms. Elisabeth Rehn, the Swedish People’s Party’s candidate, the day before. Ms. Uosukainen defended her "return of an empty Karelia" statement by saying that that phrase had been taken out of its context, which also included many other aspects. She, in turn, commented on Ms. Rehn’s NATO statements by saying that they seemed to be varying. As regarded Finland’s NATO membership, Ms. Uosukainen’s own stand was "not now nor in the near future".
President and Mrs. Ahtisaari were in Berlin, visiting Finland’s new Embassy building. Together with the other heads of state of the Nordic countries, they assisted in the inauguration of the joint Embassy area of the countries. Mr. Ahtisaari also met with German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder. During his visit to Berlin, Mr. Ahtisaari commented on the Finnish-German relationship by saying that it was in good shape and that Finnish EU membership had brought more clarity to that relationship. Some small frictions in the mutual relationship, which had surfaced towards the beginning of Finland’s presidency, were just minor cosmetic flaws in his opinion. After discussing these issues with Prime Minister Lipponen, Chancellor Schröder also belittled the impact of any disagreements. On 20 October, Mr. Ahtisaari continued on to Tanzania where he participated in the funeral ceremony of the country’s former president Julius Nyerere.
Headed by Prime Minister Lipponen, the EU-Russia Summit was organised in Helsinki. The EU was represented by the Commission’s President Romano Prodi, EU’s foreign policy coordinator Javier Solana and Mr. Chris Patten, member of the Commission responsible for external relations. Russia’s representative was Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. In the meeting, the EU leaders insisted that Russia start negotiations to end the war in Chechnya. Prime Minister Lipponen hoped that the Russian leaders would look for a solution with the legal Chechen leaders, suggesting that the services of the CSCE be used. Prime Minister Putin said that Russia appreciated the EU’s effort to enhance its own security policy. According to Russia, it was positive that there be a security policy counterbalance for the US in Europe. These ideas were included in Russia’s EU strategy, presented in this occasion. After the meeting, the Russian premier continued his stay in Finland on an official visit, meeting with both President Ahtisaari and Prime Minister Lipponen. In their discussions, the Finnish president and the Russian premier dealt with Kosovo, the future OSCE Summit in Istanbul as well as the Russian-Finnish cooperation in Finland’s neighbouring areas.
The Social Democratic Party’s presidential candidate, Foreign Minister Tarja Halonen, said in Loviisa, Finland, that the country’s comprehensive participation in peacekeeping operations should not be interpreted as an indication of Finland’s moving towards NATO. She said that membership of NATO was not a question of current interest for Finland.
On the occasion of the 50th anniversary celebrations of a local club of reserve officers in Kärkölä, Finland, presidential candidate Elisabeth Rehn said that it would take a long time before the EU could take care of its crisis management tasks without the help of the US. According to her, the Balkan events showed that Europe was not able to contain the crises on its own continent.
Representatives of 150 countries met in Bonn, Germany, for a two weeks’ meeting on the future procedures to fight the threat of climate change. In his opening speech, German Chancellor Schröder said climate change was the greatest environmental problem threatening humanity. He asked that the Kyoto 1997 Convention be actuated as soon as possible, no later than 2002. Negotiations in Bonn focused on the ways to decrease emissions in the period from 2008 to 2012. Ms. Satu Hassi, Finland’s Minister for the Environment, promised on 2 November that the EU would be prepared to ratify the Kyoto Convention in 2002.
The Centre Party’s presidential candidate Esko Aho opened his campaign office in Helsinki. During the opening ceremony he said that the return of Karelia to Finland was an important question but this was not the time to make any such demands since Russia was not willing to discuss the issue.
The Cabinet Committee on Foreign and Security Policy adopted the Finnish proposal for the development of a European Union common security policy and crisis management capacity. In its proposal, Finland suggested that the EU negotiate with NATO on the rules of crisis management and outline a model for dealing with crisis management issues within the EU. According to the Finnish draft, the role in crisis management of NATO members that were not Union members should also be clarified. Finland was going to present two reports at the Helsinki Summit, one on military and the other on civilian crisis management.
At a press conference held in Helsinki, Foreign Minister Halonen said that the reactions of the international community to the emergency of the refugees in Checnya, Daghestan and Ingushetia had been slow. She said that she had sent, in the name of the EU, a letter to UN’s Secretary-General Kofi Annan, hoping that Mr. Annan would accelerate the help to the refugees. According to Ms. Halonen, the sending of international organisations to the Caucasus region would be important for two separate reasons: firstly, it was urgent to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe, and secondly, the organisations would provide better, less disputable, information. Foreign Minister Halonen repeated the message, already heard at the EU-Russia Summit: efforts should be made to convince Russia through reason.
In an address to the European Parliament in Strasbourg, Prime Minister Lipponen said that the EU countries were more and more unanimous in accepting six new candidates for the membership negotiations. These countries would be Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia, Romania, Bulgaria and Malta. Mr. Lipponen also said that he was working in favour of Turkey’s inclusion among the candidate countries. However, he said that it was improbable that the Helsinki Summit in December would set any dates for Union enlargement. He also spoke of the institutional changes called for in view of the enlargement, included in the report to be presented to the Helsinki Summit, in accordance with recommendations of the European Council that had met in Cologne, Germany. Mr. Lipponen also reported on the results of the Tampere Summit. Moreover, he said that Finland had submitted a draft for the outline of the Union’s foreign and security policy to the other member states. According to Mr. Lipponen, the outlines would now be defined in a fairly finalised form but the actual decisions would be made in about a year during the French presidency. As concerned the merger of the EU and WEU, Mr. Lipponen said that it would in practise take place by way of Mr. Javier Solana, the EU foreign policy coordinator, becoming the WEU’s Secretary General.
Foreign Minister Halonen addressed the Foreign Affairs Committee of the French National Assembly. She said that Russia was the major individual challenge, present and future, facing the European Union. She said that Russia was a social and economic challenge and hoped that the country would proceed on the path of democracy, despite its present dire straits. She criticised Russia for the country’s operation in Chechnya. The Finnish foreign minister suggested that under the pretence of fighting terrorism, Russia had launched extensive military action against Chechnya, action that could, at its worst, shake the stability in the northern Caucasus region. Ms. Halonen underlined that Russia’s cooperation and interaction with the other countries must be maintained.
By a vote of 269 to 256, the European Parliament elected Jacob Söderman, a Finn, for a second term as the European ombudsman.
During the parliamentary question time, Prime Minister Lipponen said that it was possible that the Hornet fighters already acquired as well as the future transport helicopters could participate in future international crisis management operations. When asked about the issue, he said that it was appropriate to discuss Defence Minister Enestam’s request to buy combat helicopters, even if the Parliament had turned down a proposal to grant the authority for such an acquisition 18 months ago.
The proposal on the development of the EU’s foreign and security policy, adopted by the Finnish Cabinet Committee on Foreign and Security Policy, was discussed in Brussels during the meeting of COPO between the heads of political departments of the Foreign Ministries of the EU member states. The preparation at Ministry level should be finalised by 15 November for the meeting and the respective discussions of the foreign and defence ministers. Foreign Minister Halonen said that certain countries, such as France, were already willing to take bigger leaps ahead at this stage while others, such as Sweden, preferred a more prudent approach. Finland was forced to look for a compromise between the two basic approaches. In its proposal, Finland focused on how the EU decision-making system should be developed in order to be efficient in eventual crisis containment work.
A survey commissioned by the Finnish TV channel MTV from Research International Finland suggested that the National Coalition Party’s candidate Riitta Uosukainen was leading the polls. She had 28 % of the votes of the respondents. The Swedish People’s Party’s candidate Elisabeth Rehn ranked second with 26 %. In the second round, Ms. Uosukainen would defeat Ms. Rehn by 53 to 47 %.
The extraordinary convention of the National Coalition Party, held in the Finlandia Hall, Helsinki, nominated Ms. Riitta Uosukainen, Speaker of Parliament, as the Party’s presidential candidate. She said she stood behind the Finnish Government’s foreign policy. She was also in favour of an active EU membership, military non-alliance, independent defence and a good relationship with neighbouring countries. She insisted that Finland should be tending to its own interests also in the context of EU cooperation. The country must not pay too high a price for being in the core of the EU.
Headed by Foreign Minister Halonen, a delegation of EU officials made a one-day visit to Ingushetia. Ms. Halonen met with Ingushetian President Ruslan Aushev and visited two refugee camps in eastern Ingushetia. She called for Russia to let the refugees exit Chechnya and immediately open the road leading to Ingushetia. The purpose of the trip was to emphasise to Russia the concern of the EU for the situation in the northern Caucasus region, and to prepare the work of the UN expert group, expected to arrive in loco in about one week. The EU had promised to send FIM 7 million worth of humanitarian help through the UN refugee organisation UNHCR. Prior to her trip to Ingushetia, Ms. Halonen had two telephone conversations with her Russian counterpart Igor Ivanov, during which she repeated the EU stand, according to which Russia should negotiate and find a political solution to the crisis in Chechnya.
The signatory countries of the Geneva conventions as well as national Red Cross and Red Crescent organisations and their umbrella organisations met for the 27th Red Cross Conference in Geneva. Finland was represented by Foreign Minister Halonen and Mr. Kalevi Kivisto, president of the Finnish Red Cross. Besides the 50th anniversary celebration of the Geneva conventions, the agenda of the conference also included the adoption of the organisation’s plan of action for the years 2000 to 2003.
In his address at a meeting of the Maanpuolutuskurssiyhdistys, the association of defence course participants, Ambassador Jaakko Iloniemi, Managing Director of the Centre for Finnish Business and Policy Studies (EVA), proposed that Finland should conduct an open and analytical debate on NATO membership, looking at the issue from every essential point of view. According to Ambassador Iloniemi, this debate should focus on the probable impact of Finland’s eventual NATO membership on its neighbouring countries as well as an assessment of Finland’s real potential to meet the obligations and costs resulting from membership in NATO. Ambassador Iloniemi expected that the presidential candidates, when asked about Finland’s possible membership in NATO, would not be in favour of membership but would rather consider that the respective cons outweighed the pros in this issue.
As the representative of the country currently holding the EU presidency, President Ahtisaari visited Oslo, Norway, to attend a meeting commemorating late Israeli Premier Yitzak Rabin, and to deliver a speech on that occasion. While in Oslo, Mr. Ahtisaari met individually with Palestinian President Arafat, Israeli Prime Minister Barak, Russian Premier Valdimir Putin and Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, as well as with Norwegian Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik. The Norwegians hoped that the future integration of the EU and the WEU would allow them to retain the same status as was currently guaranteed to the country through their arrangement with the WEU. During the discussions, Mr. Ahtisaari did not promise any special support to Norway as concerned the development of the EU’s common defence and security policy. Representing the two countries that currently held the presidency of the OSCE and the EU, respectively, Mr. Bondevik and Mr. Ahtisaari also discussed the conflict in Chechnya. As concerned the Middle East situation, Mr. Ahtisaari said that the Oslo Summit had been useful. He also pointed out that the EU had made active efforts to promote peace.
President Ahtisaari visited France to take part in the 20th anniversary seminar of the French Institute of International Relations (IFRI). In his paper at the seminar on globalisation and society, Mr. Ahtisaari discussed the future of the information society from a European perspective.
The Norwegian media criticised Finland, saying that it had maintained a chilly attitude during its EU presidency. The background of this criticism was President Ahtisaari’s statement, given during his recent visit to Norway, according to which Finland could not guarantee any special arrangements to be reserved for Norway in the development of the EU defence and security policy. In an interview given to the Aftenposten, Norway’s major newspaper, Mr. Ahtisaari had pointed out that "either you are a member or you are not". The Stockholm correspondent of the Norwegian broadcasting company, the NRK, discussed this statement in a current affairs broadcast on the radio, saying that Finland, a small country that had recently joined the EU, preferred to be humble vis-à-vis the big EU members, rather than meet the awkward desires of a neighbouring country that had remained outside the Union. Norway had asked all EU and NATO member states for the right to be included in the decision-making process regarding the future of European defence and security policy. According to the Norwegian standpoint, a country that is a NATO member should be involved in this decision-making process, with almost the same status as an EU country.
Directed by Deputy Director General Antti Sierla of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, the working group which had elaborated on the Finnish peacekeeping act submitted its report to Defence Minister Enestam. The objective of the working group was to clarify the current peacekeeping act so that such difficult situations as had been experienced in Kosovo and Macedonia, could be avoided. In the opinion of the working group, a clear political decision on participation in a peacekeeping operation was first needed, and once the country was involved in the operation, it should proceed wholeheartedly. However, the group was not willing to change the basic premises of participation in peacekeeping operations; an UN or an OSCE mandate would also be required in the future. As in the past, Finland would not to take part in any future peace enforcement operation.
Interviewed by the French daily Le Monde, President Ahtisaari said that during the past few years, the international community had gained better possibilities to help crisis-stricken civilians. Formerly, during the cold war, nations concentrated on adjusting their machinery in view of rapid and efficient warfare while the present world had to focus on rapid peace efforts. Mr. Ahtisaari repeated the idea which he had presented in The Hague in January, according to which the UN’s Secretary General would ask for an advisory opinion from the International Court of Law, in case of a crisis with no anticipated solution. Mr. Ahtisaari said he shared the good, up-to-date idea presented by Under-Secretary General Brian Urquhart, according to which a permanent international rapid deployment force should be made available to the UN Security Council. In Mr. Ahtisaari’s opinion, the East Timor events showed that, in order to pacify the situation, rapid arrival was more important than the quantity of the first troops to arrive. Should this arrangement not seem realistic, the international community should think of other means through which the member states could place forces at the disposal of the Security Council and the Secretary-General.
In an interview given to Finland’s Swedish-language daily Hufvudstadsbladet, Mr. Aleksander Patsev, Russia’s new Ambassador in Helsinki, said that it was up to Finland to decide whether it wanted to join NATO. However, he suspected that the good relationship between Finland and Russia could deteriorate as a result of Finland’s eventual membership in NATO. Russia would in any case have to reassess its Finland policy. He also underlined that Russia did not wish to see any new divisions in Europe. He did not see EU foreign policy as a problem, even if it were to include common defence, or even the use of the NATO war arsenal in that context. According to Ambassador Patsev, it was not so much a question of the potential itself but rather of who gave the permission to use that potential. As far Russia was concerned, the NATO member states were free to decide upon the defence of the NATO members whereas Russia would not accept, according to Ambassador Patsev, NATO operations outside its member states. The UN would be the international body which was competent to decide upon eventual sanctions.
According to a survey commissioned by Verkkouutiset and conducted by the research institute Taloustutkimus between 15 October and 2 November, only 16 % of Finns were in favour of the country’s membership in NATO while 73 % were against it. 12 % of the respondents did not have a clear view on the issue. The study suggested that the low support shown for NATO membership could be due to the recently launched presidential campaign which had highlighted the NATO issue.
The presidential candidate of the Reform Group, MP Risto Kuisma, intervened with an article in the Helsingin Sanomat series "To Ally or Not to Ally", saying that Finland should try to apply for NATO membership as soon as possible. In Mr. Kuisma’s opinion, the current, uncontrolled and haphazard development in Russia was a great risk from the point of view of Finnish security.
The Nordic prime ministers met in Stockholm on the eve of the Nordic Council. In their discussions, the prime ministers focused on the ways in which military material could be made available for crisis management operations as well as on the question how the defence systems should eventually be harmonised. The discussions were made more difficult by the fact that the various Nordic countries had come up with different defence solutions. Norway was calling for information and the possibility of participation and influence in future EU crisis management cooperation. Prime Minister Bondevik, as a representative of a NATO country, was interested in knowing, to what extent NATO resources would be deployed in future cooperation. Prime Minister Lipponen said that Norway and other non-EU countries would play their particular role in the crisis management cooperation. In Mr. Lipponen’s view, the Norwegians would, indeed, have an opportunity to influence matters but they would not be able to take part in any formal decision-making. Mr. Lipponen also presented the Finnish proposal regarding the EU crisis management, to be submitted to the Helsinki Summit. The Nordic premiers also met with their Baltic counterparts. The prime ministers called for Russia to do its best to find a political solution, rather than a military one, for the crisis in Chechnya. Mr. Lipponen underlined that in its fight against terrorism, Russia had to consider the plight of the civilians.
In his address during the opening of the 153rd Defence Course, Chief of Defence, General Gustav Hägglund, hoped that it would dawn on those with an adverse attitude towards international crisis management that Finnish interests were also defended through operations in the Balkans. It was, indeed, in the interest of Finland to contain crises before they threatened the welfare of Finns. He also suggested that it was in the best interest of Finland to enhance the practice of disciplining those who violated international order, at least in Europe. Finland’s participation in discipline restoration operations would make it possible for the country to obtain assistance in an eventual crisis situation. General Hägglund also underlined the importance which the implementation of international crisis management operations and the respective experience had on Finnish defence capability.
To mark the 10th anniversary of the end of the Cold War, a celebration was arranged in Jyväskylä, Finland, with the participation of the presidents of Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia and Finland. Speaking at the event, President Ahtisaari said that the end of the Cold War had transferred Finland to the heart of Europe, launching a cooperation which was beneficial to the whole continent. He added that "Europe is still in a state of upheaval. The Cold War division of Europe is a thing in the past. The bills left by the Cold War – economic, political, environmental and human – will still have to be paid for a long time". Mr. Ahtisaari praised the recovery of the Baltic countries, pointing out that the development was also visible in Helsinki.
On the occasion of the festivities marking the 10th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin wall, President Bill Clinton ensured that the US still felt obliged to be committed to not only European but also global affairs.
An EU delegation, headed by Foreign Minister Halonen and including Mr. Patten, the member of the Commission responsible for External Relations, as well as EU foreign policy coordinator Solana, visited Washington and discussed with US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright about US participation in the Stability Pact for South-East Europe. In their meeting, the EU and the US representatives also discussed about the sanctions imposed on Yugoslavia. Commenting on the talks, Ms. Halonen said that it was important that the US could be convinced to participate in the extensive assistance package promoting stability in Southeast Europe and recovery from the destruction of the war in the former Yugoslavia area. The US accepted the idea of intensifying the energy assistance channelled to the Yugoslav area, which had been launched by the EU, if such assistance proved successful.
On the occasion of the 51st Session of the Nordic Council in Stockholm, the Nordic defence ministers stated that due to lack of financial resources, the countries had to give up their long-lasting plan of establishing a joint Nordic brigade in the Balkans. The defence ministers also discussed the new EU crisis management strategy, formulated under the leadership of Finland. Mr. Enestam said that the project would entail a new security policy committee, a military committee and a civilian committee, to be created within the EU. In his judgement, the various operations could also include non-EU member NATO countries. In practice, the non-EU NATO countries could be involved in the operations as soon as the respective political decisions were made. In practice, the EU has to inquire about NATO’s readiness to participate in operations. If NATO did not contribute resources, the operations could not be executed in full. If, in turn, NATO showed the green light, the EU could make the necessary political decisions, and after the political decisions, negotiations with NATO on the details of each operation would be launched. Foreign Minister Halonen also participated in the presentation of the report by the foreign ministers. In this session the Nordic Council adopted a statement on the northern dimension, focusing on nuclear safety and energy supply in Russia and the Baltic countries, among other issues. On 11 November, the Nordic Council closed its session by launching a resolution regarding a Nordic region with no borders.
The EU Commission published its proposal on the Union’s institutional reform in view of the eastward enlargement. The proposal was sent to each EU member state for further discussion.
Two Slovakian asylum seekers entered Finland – the temporary visa obligation had ended on 6 November. On 12 November, a dozen or so other Slovakian Roma asked for asylum, and others arrived from Yugoslavia and Poland during the same week. The Immigration Office had handled most of the applications made by the Roma that had entered during the summer, and had found them unjustified; the Immigration Office ruled that the applicants were arriving from a safe country.
Headed by Finland’s Tarja Halonen, a meeting of the EU foreign ministers was arranged in Helsinki to discuss the northern dimension of the Union. The Russian, Polish and Baltic foreign ministers participated while their EU counterparts were absent. As a result of the meeting, the EU Commission was to start to elaborate on the concrete content for the concept of the northern dimension, introduced to the EU by Finland. External Relations Commissioner Patten said that the work would be launched shortly, and the results would be anticipated no later than during the Swedish presidency, with a northern dimension follow-up meeting scheduled for the spring of 2001. The outcome of the Helsinki meeting was summarised in the form of the president’s conclusions, to be discussed at the Helsinki Summit in December.
The Cabinet Committee on Foreign and Security Policy decided that the Finnish Air Force could also participate in future NATO Partnership for Peace cooperation; the Army and the Navy have been involved since 1995. The Hornet interceptors would take part in a PfP exercise in the autumn of 2000 in Sweden.
In a speech delivered in Tampere at the opening of her campaign, the presidential candidate of the Swedish People’s Party and the Helmi 2000 civic movement, Ms. Elisabeth Rehn, said that Finland’s place was among those democratic market economies which made up NATO. She still insisted on an impartial study on NATO, as well as on a public debate, prior to NATO inviting new member candidates to negotiate in 2002. Ms. Rehn said that should she be elected president, she would see to it that Finland had a position on its NATO membership by that term. In her view, Finland did not need NATO from a military point of view but when European security was being discussed, NATO was the community of values to which the country should belong. Ms. Rehn hoped that the other presidential candidates would publish their security policy stands and that the Finnish people would more actively participate in the NATO debate.
The candidate for the Green League, MEP Heidi Hautala, launched her campaign in Turku. She said she would enhance the role of the UN in international crisis management. According to her view, the crisis in Kosovo showed that a crisis management system could not be based on the leadership of NATO. In Ms. Hautala’s opinion, Finland should not seek a military alliance, as there were no threats that would require such an alliance. She also said that the EU should be developed to become an actor in crisis management but it should not be turned into a military alliance. In the long term, the EU could even develop a non-conscript professional army. At the same time, however, the prestige of the UN and the OSCE should be strengthened as regards solutions involving crisis management or peace enforcement operations. Ms. Hautala proposed the introduction of economic sanctions against Russia due to the country’s military action in Chechnya.
The EU foreign and defence ministers held their first joint meeting in Brussels. Britain and France presented their fairly finalised plans about the Union’s joint crisis management forces. According to the French proposal, such forces would require some 50,000 to 60,000 soldiers, 15 naval vessels and 300 to 500 planes, half of them fighters. France would like to see the forces in a state of readiness by the year 2002. The proposed forces would consist of existing forces which would be mobilised under the authority of the EU. The large EU member states hoped to see a decision on the volume and capacity of the crisis management forces taken already at the Helsinki Summit. In this meeting, the EU made the formal decision to appoint Mr. Solana, the EU’s foreign policy coordinator, as Secretary General of the WEU. The merger of the WEU with the EU was expected to take place during the year 2000. However, the non-allied countries, including Finland, had certain reservations concerning the merger of the two unions, as they did not wish to commit themselves to the joint defence obligations of a military alliance. Foreign Minister Halonen suspected that the decision on the volume of the readiness forces could not be made in December. The foreign ministers of non-EU NATO countries Turkey, Iceland, Poland and the Czech Republic were invited for dinner to discuss on the ways in which they could participate in the decision-making process regarding EU defence policy.
In the plenary session of the European Parliament, the EU foreign policy representative, Mr. Javier Solana, called for the EU member states to increase their military resources and defence budgets. In Mr. Solana’s opinion, their defence forces and budgets should be adjusted to meet the new needs; in other words, the EU should be able to take responsibility for conflicts that took place outside the Union. He also demanded that foreign policies be harmonised in all possible ways. Crisis management should also include non-military instruments such as police cooperation and humanitarian assistance. Mr. Solana said he would also like to see the EU candidate states engaged in the planning of a common foreign policy. In his view, it was important, from the point of view of the common foreign policy that the EU spoke as one voice in international organisations. He would like to see the French and the British memberships in the UN Security Council turned into an EU membership.
President Ahtisaari, Prime Minister Lipponen and Foreign Minister Halonen participated in the OSCE Summit in Istanbul. Due to the Finnish EU presidency, the country’s delegation also included Union representatives such as External Relations Commissioner Patten and Foreign Policy Coordinator Solana. The war in Chechnya became the main discussion theme of the meeting. Speaking on behalf of both Finland and the EU, President Ahtisaari condemned the Russian offensive. After President Yeltsin had left the meeting prematurely, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov gave in to the pressure exercised on Russia and said that Foreign Minister Knut Vollebaek of Norway, the current OSCE president, could visit the crisis-stricken Russian province of Chechnya. The second day of the summit saw the signature of the new Charter by the leaders of the OSCE countries. It also included provisions for new OSCE rapid deployment expert forces which could be sent to crisis areas at short notice. According to the new Charter, outside countries would now have the right to regard a war inside another OSCE country as their affair in situations where such a war threatened to proliferate outside the individual country’s borders. At the same time, 31 OSCE countries also adopted the revised CFE agreement. The final document of the Summit took a stand against the Russian military action in Chechnya. The Stability Pact for South-East Europe, designed on the initiative of the EU, was also adopted in Istanbul.
After the OSCE meeting in Istanbul, President Ahtisaari visited Turkey and met with his counterpart Suleyman Demirel, Prime Minister Bülent Ecevit, and Foreign Minister Ismail Cem. Speaking in Ankara, Mr. Ahtisaari said that Finland would support the Turkish EU membership application at the December Summit in Helsinki, while at the same time pointing out, however, that Turkey still had a long way to go to meet the EU criteria. On 21 November Mr. Ahtisaari flew to Kosovo and visited the KFOR battalion of Finnish peacekeepers. He said he was confident that the peace plan could be implemented in accordance with the UN resolution so that Kosovo remained a part of Yugoslavia. In Kosovo, President Ahtisaari also met with the team of forensic experts, headed by forensic dentist Helena Ranta, who had recently completed their work in Racak, Kosovo. Dr. Ranta said that finding the truth about the Rack massacre was extremely important because this was the only war crime, allegedly committed by the Yugoslavian leaders, to have taken place prior to the NATO bombardments.
In an interview given to the daily Kaleva, Defence Minister Enestam said that a survey on Finland’s eventual NATO membership should be conducted as early as the year 2000. From Ankara, President Ahtisaari commented on Mr. Enestam’s statement by saying that it was up to the Council of State to decide whether it would change its stand in this respect. He personally saw no reason to change the Finnish policy vis-à-vis NATO. Mr. Ahtisaari also pointed out that the great majority of Finnish people were in favour of the current policy. Speaking in Kiljava, Finland, Foreign Minister Halonen rejected the idea of a survey. In her view, a survey would be a project with too narrow a perspective since the entire European security structure had to be studied in terms of a comprehensive project.
In an article in the daily Turun Sanomat, Defence Councellor Pauli Järvenpää of the Permanent Representation of Finland to NATO said that he hoped the Finnish Government would make a thorough survey on the pros and cons of alliance. In his view, the NATO debate launched during the presidential election campaign was mostly conducted on the basis of unstructured assumptions and partly on an emotional level. He was in favour of a survey, despite the fact that NATO Headquarters in Brussels was not pushing Finland for negotiations. He also underlined that NATO had not set any deadlines but new members were to be accepted after the following enlargement wave, scheduled for 2002.
The candidate for the Social Democratic Party in the presidential elections, Foreign Minister Halonen, gave a policy speech at a party council meeting in Helsinki, stating her own opinion on NATO membership in very clear terms. She said the previous Government had taken a historical step by submitting the outlining of the Finnish foreign and security policy to Parliament. The policy was presented to Parliament in the form of two separate reports which were adopted. The adopted outline did not contain any reference to a need to prepare Finland for a NATO membership application.
Speaking at a campaign meeting in Tampere, the Green League’s candidate, Heidi Hautala, said that the focus of the new security policy was not on crisis management. In her opinion, security was threatened by environmental threats, as well as by those resulting from wars, extensive population displacements caused by increasingly miserable living conditions, and from people leaving their homes as refugees. She said that the new kinds of threats should also be recognised in the context of the choice of security policy measures. Ms. Hautala added that she was in favour of Finland committing itself to crisis management but would accept the other EU countries taking further steps as a result of the merger of the WEU into the EU. Finland would retain its right to decide case by case which operation it would participate in. According to Ms. Hautala, Finland might accept the institution of an EU army.
The National Coalition Party’s candidate, Riitta Uosukainen, opened her campaign in Turku. In her speech, she listed the threats related to Finland’s neighbouring areas: unsafe nuclear plants, pollution problems in the Kola peninsula, misery and poverty in the Republic of Karelia, insufficient waste water treatment in St. Petersburg and the Russian and Estonian mafia groups that have gained a foothold in Tallinn. She also underlined the importance of fostering the special Finnish-Russian relationship in the context of Finnish foreign policy. Russia should not be isolated from international cooperation. Ms. Uosukainen also said that an end should be put to the war in Chechnya, but without the recourse to economic sanctions, however.
The Western European Armament Group, WEAG, decided in Luxembourg that the non-allied European countries and the new NATO member states would join the organisation during 1999 and 2000. The decision about the new members would be made in a year by the meeting of the WEAG and the WEU. An observer in the WEAG since 1997, the Finnish Government had taken a decision in principle to apply for membership.
Speaking in Vantaa, the Centre Party’s presidential candidate, Esko
Aho, underlined the role that the Finnish head of state continued to
play as the leader of the country’s foreign policy. In his view, the
most important source of presidential powers was not the Constitution
but rather the status and prestige enjoyed by the president. He also
said that the security threats had changed, suggesting that NATO would
not help to save the Baltic Sea nor eliminate gaps in the standard of
living. In his assessment, security policy should focus on more
In his speech at the meeting of the FAO, the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, in Rome, President Ahtisaari spoke in favour of sustainable forestry. While in Italy, President Ahtisaari also met with Prime Minister Carlo Ciampi and with Pope John Paul II. With his hosts, Mr. Ahtisaari discussed Kosovo and the Balkan situation in general.
Meeting in Luxembourg, the foreign and defence ministers of the WEU discussed the results of a survey which had focused on a more efficient way to utilise the European defence resources. The countries were willing to intensify the use of the resources while they did not agree on the depth and scope of the defence and crisis management cooperation. An observer at the WEU, Finland was represented by Foreign Minister Halonen and Defence Minister Enestam. Minister Halonen said in a press conference that the focus of the discussion was now on crisis management, not on regional defence. She added that Finland continued to be defended by the Finnish Army, which was a limit Finland would not exceed. She warned France, Italy and others pushing for the EU defence cooperation, regarding their excessive zeal. She also said that if no consensus were found in Helsinki, no further steps would be taken.
Prime Minister Lipponen prepared the EU Helsinki Summit by touring the EU capitals and discussing the Summit agenda. He started from Paris where he met with both his French counterpart Lionel Jospin and President Jacques Chirac. The discussions focused on EU crisis management, and especially on the size of the forces and the time needed for setting them up. Mr. Lipponen believed that Finland would be able to formulate a proposal reflecting the joint views of the EU member states for the Helsinki Summit. He was convinced that in Helsinki, the EU would accept six new candidates for the enlargement negotiations. The Turkish question and the participation of Turkey in the enlargement had also been on the agenda in Paris, where the negotiations had been conducted in a positive spirit. After France, Mr. Lipponen continued on to Denmark, and on 24 November, further on to Italy. Italy promised its full support for the idea of the EU Helsinki Summit inviting six new candidates to the negotiations. It was also important to Italy that Turkey be given an official candidate status in Helsinki, a measure that in Italy’s judgement would encourage Turkey to introduce reforms in human rights issues. On 25 November Mr. Lipponen met with German Chancellor Schöder, and on 26 November he was in Spain where Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar promised to support the Finnish proposal on EU crisis management, NATO relations and enlargement issues. Both countries wanted to put pressure on Turkey, encouraging it to reconsider, from a European perspective, the death sentence on Kurdish leader Abdullah Öcalan, which had been recently imposed by Turkey’s Supreme Court.
In a joint interview published in Helsingin Sanomat and Berlingske Tidene, Mr. Günther Verheugen, the member of the EU Commission responsible for enlargement issues said that if the Helsinki Summit did not accept Turkey as a member candidate, it would be a great disappointment for the country, and the EU-Turkey relationship would face a chilly period which could last for years – if not for decades. He also said that the limits of the EU enlargement had been set, and no new members could be accepted in the near future. According to Mr. Verheugen, the next group of member candidates would come from the Balkans.
Prime Minister Lipponen issued a communiqué to Parliament concerning the EU crisis management plan. He said that the development of resources would become a central issue in the Helsinki conclusions related to military crisis management. He believed that the EU countries were quite prepared to accept a joint level of objectives. The objective related to the number of men could be quantified in the following manner: the EU should be able to deploy, whenever necessary, as many as 50,000 soldiers for peacekeeping operations. The forces would be borrowed for a joint operation. Each country would decide whether or not to join the operation and how many men it would deploy. On the basis of its population, Finland would be required to provide about 750 soldiers. This would not be a problem since the current number of Finnish peacekeepers was 1300. In Mr. Lipponen’s opinion, it was clear that EU crisis management would continue to rely on NATO. The time that each EU country required to send its soldiers to crisis areas, as well as the length of the uninterrupted period which the country could maintain the forces deployed in crisis areas, were also questions which, according to Mr. Lipponen, had to be considered. He said the forces should be deployable in 60 days and should be able to stay on duty for two years. Mr. Lipponen said that Finland already met these requirements. He expected that the EU forces would be ready in two or three years.
In an article published in the daily Hufvudstadsbladet, NATO spokesman Jamie Shea said that according to the NATO stand, the non-EU NATO countries should be able to take part in the common European defence policy through certain special arrangements. He underlined that it was, of course, up to the European Union to decide upon its eventual enlargement. Enlargement was a long-term process while NATO was looking for an immediate solution. According to Mr. Shea, NATO hoped that the exchange of information that has existed between the WEU and NATO could remain similar after the merger of the WEU with the EU.
The requests for tender regarding the joint Nordic helicopter acquisition were sent to five helicopter manufactures in the US, France and Britain. The objective was to have the first new transport helicopters supplied to Finland in 2003.
Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou visited Finland. The discussions between Mr. Papandreou and his Finnish counterpart Ms. Halonen focused on the eventual Turkish membership in the EU. Greece insisted that progress be made in the Cyprus issue and that the territorial controversies between Greece and Turkey be settled by the International Court of Law in The Hague. Greece still insisted that Cyprus be admitted to the EU as one entity. Should Turkey be opposed to the membership of the entire island, Greece would demand that Cyprus be admitted, if not as an entity, then in parts.
Dr. Tomas Ries, special researcher at the National Defence College in Helsinki, published his study which analysed the Finnish relationship to NATO. The study by Dr. Ries suggested that the current Finnish NATO policy would function as long as the European situation remained calm and the relationship between the west and Russia was in order. Should that relationship deteriorate, Finland would be left alone. Politically, Finland was committed to the west, but had no military security guarantee. Dr. Ries underlined that membership in NATO was neither good nor bad, NATO was merely an instrument. Whether Finland was a member or not, each solution had its pros and cons. Balancing the options, Dr. Ries was himself in favour of Finland’s membership in NATO.
Helsingin Sanomat published an article by the National Coalition Party candidate Riitta Uosukainen, entitled "To Ally or Not to Ally". She said that Finland was not a NATO member and that the country was not renouncing its non-alliance. According to Ms. Uosukainen, there was no need to tie the NATO solution to any particular moment. Finland had a NATO option which was not being taken away. She added that the presidential elections did not have to have any impact on Finland’s security policy solutions. She said that the policy was based on consistency and continuity which could not be influenced by individual elections.
The association Eurooppalainen Suomi ry published a poll carried out by the research institute Taloustutkimus which showed that Finns had a positive attitude concerning EU crisis management: a total of 76 % of the respondents thought that the EU should have more efficient means to prevent international crises, whereas the attitudes were quite evenly divided as regarded the joint Union defence policy: 45 % of the respondents were in favour and 44 % against. The survey also showed that people would prefer to organise defence through the EU, rather than NATO.
The Ministers of Trade of the 135 member states of the World Trade Organisation met in Seattle. The objective was to agree on the launching of a new round of talks on world trade liberalisation. The meeting was a failure and the ninth round of global trade liberalisation talks, scheduled to take place at the beginning of the new millennium, will not be started.
The presidential candidate for the Centre Party, Esko Aho, contributed to the Helsingin Sanomat series "To Ally or Not to Ally", by pointing out that alliance meant preparing for warfare. The principle of joint defence associated with alliance would, however, not give any protection against the new security threats – it would not save the Baltic Sea nor make the nuclear power plants in Finland’s neighbouring areas safer. In Mr. Aho’s view, Finland should not enter into a military alliance but contribute to the creation of a common EU crisis management capability.
Prime Minister Lipponen was in Stockholm to prepare the EU Helsinki Summit, and met with his Swedish counterpart, Göran Persson. Their discussions focused on Turkey. Along with Greece, Sweden had also been a fervent opponent of the Turkish candidacy for membership. Mr. Lipponen pointed out that while the Turkish candidacy was desirable, the country was still faced with many controversies on the road to the EU membership. The Finnish premier also reported on the development of the EU crisis management plan, pointing out that the objective was to involve the non-EU NATO countries right at the beginning of the process.
An opinion poll made by the Centre for Finnish Business and Policy Studies (EVA) showed that Finns would prefer to rely on the country’s own independent defence and the EU defence policy, rather than on NATO. According to 52 % of respondents, Finland should be able to tend to its own security in all circumstances while 41 % were of the opinion that Finland should remain outside NATO, even in a case in which Sweden and the Baltic countries joined the alliance. As concerned the enlargement of the EU, the respondents did not agree with the political leaders of the country, who are in favour of enlargement: only 24 % thought that enlargement was an important or fairly important issue during the Finnish EU presidency. According to this survey, the most important issues were prevention of international crime, promotion of viable agriculture and the transparency of the EU.
In her contribution to the Helsingin Sanomat "To Ally or Not to Ally" series, the Social Democratic Party’s candidate Tarja Halonen wrote that the policy of non-alignment enjoyed solid parliamentary support. Moreover, Parliament had given its blessing to cooperation with NATO and to the EU measures. On the basis of opinion polls, the Finnish people had also given their approval to the current policy of non-alignment. Ms. Halonen suspected that Finland’s eventual membership in a military alliance would not be an issue limited to Finland only, but it would have its repercussions in the entire security policy situation in northern Europe, which is currently quite solid.
On the eve of the EU Summit, Prime Minister Lipponen visited Belgium and Greece, meeting with his counterparts Guy Vehofstadt and Kostas Simitis. Turkey’s eventual EU membership was the focal issue in the discussion both in Belgium and in Greece. Greece warned that should its conditions regarding the Turkish human rights situation and the Cyprus question not be met, it would not give its approval for Turkey to be included among the EU candidates. Mr. Lipponen suspected that the much debated tax package would become the most difficult point on the agenda of the Summit.
According to a presidential poll made by Taloustutkimus for Helsingin Sanomat, the Centre Party’s Esko Aho and the Social Democratic Party’s Tarja Halonen had gained support: 27 % of the respondents would now elect Aho, an increase of 4 percentage points from the previous poll. Ms. Halonen’s support was now 24 %, up 7 points. Both Riitta Uosukainen of the National Coalition Party and Elisabeth Rehn of the Swedish People’s Party had gone down, 4 and 5 percentage points from the previous poll, respectively. Ms. Uosukainen now had 26 % and Ms. Rehn 18 % while the support of the other candidates was well under 5 percent. As concerned the second round, Ms. Uosukainen would defeat Mr. Aho by 55 to 45 percent, and would also be much stronger than Ms. Halonen and Ms. Rehn.
Writing in the Helsingin Sanomat series "To Ally or Not to Ally", the Green League’s candidate Heidi Hautala was not in favour of Finland’s membership in NATO. She wrote that an eventual alliance would only enhance the Russian notion that the west consisted of the US and certain European countries obedient to it. According to Ms. Hautala, it was in the best interest of Finland that European security be developed primarily within the framework of the EU, where the small countries enjoyed a fairly big influence in proportion to their small size.
In Helsinki, the Baltic countries and Finland agreed on cooperation among police, the frontier guard and customs authorities, with the objective of fighting growing cross-border crime.
The Swedish peace organisation Svenska Freds- och Skiljedomsföreningen submitted a writ to the Finnish Ambassador in Stockholm, Heikki Talvitie, demanding that Finland sign the international convention to ban anti-personnel mines.
The defence ministers of the NATO PfP countries met in Brussels. Finnish Defence Minister Enestam said that Finland would like to deepen its cooperation with NATO in the context of the PfP programme. According to Mr. Enestam, future crisis management tasks would require that the participating forces have uniform equipment and training. Therefore, one of Finland’s most important objectives was to develop and enhance the country’s capability for cooperation with NATO. NATO’s Secretary General, George Roberston, reported on the NATO internal meeting that had taken place on 2 December. The communiqué from that meeting said that NATO was closely following the preparations of the EU’s Helsinki Summit and that it was convinced that a stronger Europe meant a stronger alliance.
A poll commissioned by Maanpuolustustiedotuksen suunnittelukunta (planning committee for defence communication) showed that a clear majority of all Finns were still in favour of military non-alignment: 68 % of the respondents (74 % in May 1999). One in five Finns (18 % in May 1999) were of the opinion that Finland should enter into an alliance, while four out of five thought that Finland should take part in crisis management operations, such as Kosovo. Should Finland look for a military alliance, membership in NATO was considered to be the best option (49 %). Citizens showed strong confidence in the way Finland’s foreign policy had been conducted: 85 % were of the opinion that foreign policy was well taken care of. Three out of four respondents thought that Finland should defend itself by force, despite being faced with the uncertain outcome of such defence. While one fourth of the earlier respondents were in favour of increased budget allocation to defence, the corresponding share was one third in this poll.
Presidential candidate for the Swedish People’s Party, Ms. Elisabeth Rehn contributed to the Helsingin Sanomat "To Ally or Not to Ally" series of articles, writing that the future of the relationship between North America and Europe played an important role for Finland because the common European crisis management system would be based on this relationship. According to Ms. Rehn, Finland should find its place in this respect and assume the role of an active participant in the making of security policy decisions. She said Ambassador Jaakko Iloniemi’s proposal regarding an independent NATO study was a good idea, while the study by Dr. Tomas Ries was a positive step forward in this process.
In Brussels, the General Affairs Council of the EU condemned Russia, which had threatened to empty the Chechen capital Groznyj by 11 December. In their meeting, the foreign ministers were trying to find ways to press Russia to end its attacks in Chechnya and to reconsider its policy. Chairing the meeting, Foreign Minister Halonen said that the EU Commission and the foreign policy coordinator would be charting the options to exercise influence through international financial institutions. The European Parliament had proposed that the new Tacis programmes be interrupted but Ms. Halonen was of the opinion that decreased financial assistance would not hold down Russian military action. She also said that the foreign ministers could not decide upon Chechnya-related operations, as such decisions were taken by the European Council. The EU countries also agreed upon a security report according to which the Union would set up a 50,000 to 60,000-man force by the year 2003. The structures needed for preparing and leading eventual operations would be established in Brussels during the coming months. The countries still disagreed on security policy; non-aligned Sweden and Ireland insisted on a phrase to be included in the policy paper, according to which the EU was not setting up its own army. According to the non-aligned countries, the EU conventions should not be changed to establish defence as a separate area, a fourth pillar of the EU. The foreign ministers accepted the six new candidate countries to launch membership negotiations, while the status of Turkey remained open. On 7 December, Foreign Minister Halonen and Commissioner Verheugen, responsible for the EU enlargement, met with the candidate countries’ foreign ministers in Brussels. Both Ms. Halonen and Mr. Verheugen were satisfied with the way the enlargement negotiations had progressed.
The nomination of candidates for the presidential elections, to be held in early 2000, ended at four p.m. The election board of the Helsinki constituency received seven candidature applications from the various parties. All candidates were official party nominees, although some of them were also backed by so-called civic movements. The nominees were: Riitta Uosukainen, Speaker of Parliament, the National Coalition Party; Foreign Minister Tarja Halonen, the Social Democratic Party; UN Under-Secretary-General Elisabeth Rehn, the Swedish People’s Party; MEP Heidi Hautala, the Green League; MP Risto Kuisma, the Reform Party; and Dr. Ilkka Hakalehto, nominee of a civic delegation constituted by some groups critical of the EU.
The EU foreign policy coordinator, Javier Solana, said in Brussels that the rapid progress made in EU defence and security policy cooperation had created problems for countries which were not members of any military alliances. According to Mr. Solana, it was extremely important to talk about crisis management, not about defence. The non-aligned countries had been very eagerly pushing for the Union to develop a civilian aspect of crisis management. This was an asset for the EU because NATO could not organise it. Mr. Solana said that it was important for the credibility of the whole defence project that the Helsinki Summit be able to define clear objectives. He also admitted that he had not believed that crisis management would progress so rapidly within the Union. He added that the non-aligned countries could be faced with problems, should a crisis management operation get out of hand, i.e., turn into warfare. Mr. Solana said that it was still unclear how the competence and powers of the crisis management forces would be formulated in the Helsinki final protocol, adding that in the future, it would be desirable – although not mandatory – to have a mandate from the UN Security Council before launching a crisis management operation. During the spring of 2000, Mr. Solana and NATO’s Secretary General, George Robertson, would elaborate on a plan for the arrangements of the NATO-EU relationship. Mr. Solana urged the EU countries to harmonise their defence budgets.
In an interview in Helsingin Sanomat, the Green League’s candidate, Heidi Hautala, said that she wanted to keep the EU separate from NATO. She added that it was up to the four non-aligned countries to see to that NATO and the EU’s developing military dimension remained formally separate. She also said she was in favour of a ban on landmines in Finland.
Helsingin Sanomat published a poll conducted by Suomen Gallup regarding the attitude of Finns to the enhancement of EU crisis management and to the enlargement of the EU. When asked whether the number of EU member states should be increased, 54 % of the respondents said yes. If the enlargement caused additional costs to the present member states, only 29 % of the respondents were in favour, while 60 % said no to an enlargement that would create additional costs. 49 % were of the opinion that enlargement should not take place before 2005. Moreover, 76 % were in favour of the EU decision to take part in crisis management while the respondents were more strongly against Finnish membership in NATO: 23 % said yes to NATO while 64 % said no, as opposed to 48 % last May.
The Helsinki Summit was attended by political leaders, mostly prime ministers, from the 15 Union member states, with France and Finland also represented by their respective presidents. Other Summit attendants included the foreign ministers of the countries, as well as Mr. Romano Prodi, President of the Commission and Mr. Javier Solana, the foreign policy representative of the Council of Ministers. The total number of people gathered in Helsinki for the Summit was 4,000. The Summit condemned the Russian action in Chechnya and took the Russian-EU economic and assistance relationship under renewed scrutiny. The EU threatened to discontinue its assistance programmes and to cut back on its cooperation with Russia, should the country not start to look for a political solution for the situation in Chechnya. The EU leaders offered Turkey the status of a candidate country under certain conditions, and the Summit sent Mr. Solana and Mr. Verheugen, member of the Commission, to Turkey to present the issue to the Turks. The Turkish Premier, Bülent Ecevit, arrived in Helsinki and Turkey was accepted as an official candidate. The Summit also adopted six other new countries for the membership negotiations: Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia, Romania, Bulgaria and Malta. The Helsinki Summit also adopted, without change, the Union report on crisis management: by early 2003, the EU would put together a crisis management force of 50,000 to 60,000 men. The intention was to have the forces deployable in two months. The text of the report also outlined the decision-making bodies needed for crisis management. The objective of the new EU security and defence policy would be that the EU would be independently in charge of crisis management, without the help of the US. What the Summit did not achieve was the harmonisation of EU taxation. The leaders decided to launch a new series of meetings in 2000, with an objective of a thorough institutional reform in the EU by the end of 2002. Prime Minister Lipponen said that the last European Council of the old millennium achieved nearly all of its goals. Enlargement was the most historical achievement among them.
Speaking in Helsinki, the Centre Party’s presidential candidate, Esko Aho, said that the EU should not isolate Russia and that Russia should not be allowed to isolate itself. In his view, it would be very shortsighted of Europe to end up in such a situation due to the Chechen war.
Under-Secretary of State Alec Aalto summoned the Russian Ambassador in Helsinki, Mr. Aleksandr Patsev, to the Ministry for Foreign Affairs and delivered him a letter, signed by Prime Minister Lipponen and EU High Representative Javier Solana, which was addressed to Russian Premier Vladimir Putin. The letter was accompanied by the Chechnya declaration adopted by the European Council on 10 December in Helsinki.
In a speech opening her campaign, the Social Democratic Party’s candidate Tarja Halonen spoke about social equality and growing income differences, warning against increased selfishness. She also urged the other candidates to set forth their fundamental values. According to Ms. Halonen, it was impossible to forecast the future and therefore it was important to know what the new president’s values were regarding the future.
In a debate organised by the Finnish Committee for European Security, STETE, the candidates Mr. Aho, Ms. Halonen, Ms. Rehn and Ms. Uosukainen expressed themselves on the future of Russia. All agreed that Russia should not be isolated, nor left to isolate itself. They also said that humanitarian aid work and cooperation in Finland’s neighbouring areas should be continued. Mr. Aho and Ms. Halonen were convinced that the EU and Finland could promote such development in Russia as would also benefit those providing the assistance. Ms. Uosukainen said that it was important to develop parliamentary democracy in Russia, while Ms. Rehn insisted on a legally governed state. Speaking on the occasion, Minister Max Jakobson referred to the EU declaration as an example of how EU membership had changed the status of Finland. He also underlined that the Chechnya declaration, put forward by Finland in its role of the EU president, had not given rise to any speculation about the Finnish-Russian relationship, not even in Russia. He also said that the current way that the EU was cooperating with Russia seemed to have come to the end of its course.
Russia presented an official protest to Finland for the fact that an official of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Director-General René Nyberg had met with a Chechen representative, Mr. Usman Ferzaul, in a hotel cafeteria during the EU Summit in Helsinki. The Finnish Ambassador in Moscow, Mr. Markus Lyra, received the Russian protest at the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In Russia’s judgement, the meeting between a Chechen representative and a Finnish Foreign Affairs official was an expression of support for the Chechen terrorists. According to the Russian Ministry, such measures by Finnish officials were in contrast with the good-neighbour relationship between Russia and Finland and could not promote the favourable development of bilateral relations. Ambassador Lyra explained that this had not been a diplomatic meeting but a meeting with a representative of an NGO. He had also underlined that Finland would not recognise the independence of Chechnya, nor question Russia’s territorial integrity. In turn, Foreign Minister Halonen said that Finland would not take any special action in regard to this issue; there was no need to do anything once an official-level reply had been given to Russia. According to Ms. Halonen, the protest was directed both to the EU and to Finland. She also said that the meeting with the Chechen guest was a part of a normal information-gathering procedure.
Under-Secretary of State Eero Salovaara represented Finland at the funeral of Croatia’s President, Franjo Tudjman.
President Ahtisaari was in New York, meeting with George Soros, Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott and UN’s Secretary-General Kofi Annan, among others. During his discussions with Mr. Annan, President Ahtisaari said that Finland would like to withdraw its men from the UNIFIL peacekeeping forces stationed in Lebanon. Mr. Annan replied by asking Finland to maintain its UNIFIL forces for some time until progress had been made in the Middle East peace process. From New York, Mr. Ahtisaari flew to Ottawa to attend the Canada-EU Summit, to be held on 16 December. In another Summit held on 17 December in Washington, President Ahtisaari, Prime Minister Lipponen and President Prodi of the Commission agreed that the US and the EU would try to hold new WTO talks in 2000. The meeting published a general statement on the WTO, considered to be an achievement after what had happened in Seattle. Besides the WTO, the Summit also discussed the war in Chechnya, as well as ways to convince the US that the EU common military forces would not undermine the strength of NATO.
Prime Minister Lipponen visited the European Parliament in Strasbourg, reporting on the Helsinki Summit and the achievements reached during the Finnish presidency. According to Mr. Lipponen, the EU and the international community should continue to press Russia to end the military action in Chechnya. He also pointed out that concrete changes in the cooperation with Russia and in the assistance channelled to the country would be implemented by various actors within the EU already that same week. He hoped that common sense would prevail in Russia and said that Russia’s eventual isolation would not be in the interest of EU, or others for that matter.
Candidate for the True Finns Party, Dr. Ilkka Hakalehto, said in an interview with Helsingin Sanomat that the parties should return to their original mission, defenders of citizens against monetary power, and that Finland should regain its independence by stepping out of the Union.
The foreign ministers of the NATO countries met in Brussels to discuss the EU security and defence dimension. The non-EU NATO countries had been concerned about not being included in the decision-making regarding the EU crisis management operations. The EU Helsinki Summit failed to agree on permanent contact channels with NATO countries. Moreover, NATO countries insisted that the structure of EU security policy orders should not overlap NATO structures. NATO was hoping to hear about an outline within six months. While congratulating the EU on the plans to establish crisis management forces, NATO’s Secretary General Robertson underlined that the NATO countries should also play a role in decision-making.
Russian tanks penetrated deep into the Chechen capital, Grozny. On 15 December, Prime Minister Lipponen warned his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin by saying that the EU was going to reconsider its cooperation with Russia unless the war in Chechnya was solved on a political basis. Mr. Lipponen had a phone conversation with Mr. Putin just before leaving for the US, together with President Prodi of the European Commission, to meet with President Bill Clinton. Mr. Lipponen hoped that Russia would take advantage of the possibilities provided by the OSCE to launch a dialogue for the solution of the problems.
Adopting a very strict tone, the European Parliament condemned the Russian attack on the civilian population in Chechnya. The Parliament also backed the proposal of the EU Ministers, according to which the funds allocated to the Tacis aid programme in favour of the former Soviet Union be re-channelled to humanitarian help in Chechnya. According to the Parliament, the Council of Ministers and the EU Commission should study the details regarding the reception of assistance in Chechnya’s neighbouring areas and in Georgia.
In a press conference held in Brussels, Foreign Minister Jaime Gama of Portugal, holder of the following EU presidency, expressed his views on the future EU agenda. According to Mr. Gama, Portugal would put much effort to developing the new EU security and defence policy. He spoke about common defence, rather than crisis management as the Finns had been doing. According to the Portuguese foreign minister, his country was going to enhance the EU’s operational capability and find ways to merge the WEU into the EU. Portugal wished to implement exercises to test how rapidly NATO resources would be deployed by the WEU. The country also intended to make a contribution to cooperation in the Mediterranean area, as well as to create a special Balkan strategy for the EU. An extraordinary Summit would focus on unemployment. Portugal was also going to start to lead the membership negotiations with Latvia, Lithuania, Bulgaria, Romania, Slovakia and Malta in February, the month which would also see the launching of the intergovernmental negotiations on the Union’s structural changes. The issues strongly promoted by Finland – transparency, the Northern Dimension and taxation – were not included on the Portuguese agenda.
The EU and Russia agreed in Helsinki on intensified cooperation in the fight against organised crime. The meeting underlined the role played in crime prevention by the liaison persons working both in Russia and in the EU countries, as well as that of the regular exchange of information between the parties. Besides the liaison officials, the recommendations focused on cooperation between Europol and Russia, to be developed in accordance with the Europol convention as well as with the recommendations of the Legal and Internal Affairs Council.
An association entitled "The Atlantic Council of Finland" was established in Helsinki, and Ambassador Jaakko Iloniemi, Managing Director of the Centre for Business and Policy Studies, EVA, was elected as the President of the first Board. The purpose of the society was to promote the Euro-Atlantic security and defence policy debate, research and training in Finland, especially in those areas related to NATO and the EU. Independent of party politics, corresponding societies have been operating in most European countries, as well as in the US and Canada.
The European Parliament and Council finally agreed on assistance to Kosovo, a problem that had been impeding the budgetary negotiations, and were able to set the EU’s budget to FIM 536 billion, 1.1 % of the combined GNP of the EU countries. The EU will assist in the reconstruction of Kosovo with FIM 2.1 billion in 2000, while the budgetary deal also included the provision of the EU granting FIM 840 million worth of assistance to Kosovo in 2001.
Newspapers in Moscow published an interpretation according to which the Finnish role vis-à-vis Russia in international contexts had changed. Izvestija wrote that in the EU Summit, Finland had insisted on harsh measures against Russia due to the Chechen crisis. There had been two alternatives as concerned the attitude to be taken towards Russia, and the more rigid attitude, backed by a minority formed by Finland and three other countries, had prevailed. On 16 December, the daily Novye Izvestija suggested that the Chechen crisis had become a turning point in Finnish-Russian relations. Earlier during its presidency of the EU, Finland had acted as a mediator between Europe and Russia. According to the newspaper, Chechnya had changed everything.
A bill signed by 153 MPs was submitted to Parliament, proposing a ban on soldier of fortune activities. According to the bill, Finland should ratify the corresponding UN convention.
The Representative of the EU, Foreign Minister Tarja Halonen, and US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright met in Berlin with leading representatives of the Serb opposition, discussing the best ways to promote the democratisation process in Yugoslavia. Ms. Halonen underlined the importance of continued humanitarian assistance. So far, efforts have been made to concentrate the assistance in areas with strong democratic forces. Ms. Halonen and Ms. Albright emphasised that the objective of both the EU and the US was a democratic Yugoslavia, lead by a president other than Slobodan Milosevic.
In an interview with Helsingin Sanomat, the National Coalition Party’s candidate, Riitta Uosukainen, said that the EU member states could not afford to establish a common army and at the same time to enlarge the Union to the East. Ms. Uosukainen’s attitude towards the Euro Army was fairly reserved, and she hoped that NATO could be kept outside the project if a European Army should be established. She did not think Russia was a military threat at this very moment.
In a joint interview with Turun Sanomat and Aamulehti, Chief of Defence, General Gustav Hägglund, said that it would take years until a common EU defence was established. He said that the situation could be totally different in a decade, should the US decide to become more isolated. He also said that an EU Army might have something to say on a global basis; it would be second only to Russia in nuclear weapons. Referring to Dr. Ries’ NATO report, General Hägglund added that conclusions on NATO issues were not to be drawn by researchers but by political leaders.
Interviewed by Helsingin Sanomat, the Social Democratic Party’s candidate Tarja Halonen said that Finland did not have to look at NATO timetables when formulating its own stand to the military alliance. She said that a survey and studies should be made when the country’s own attitude changed, or if it considered that its surroundings had changed. Ms. Halonen also pointed out that the Government was preparing a security policy report to be published in 2001.
Representing the European presidency, President Ahtisaari was in Macao to participate in the celebrations on 20 December, at midnight Chinese time, to mark the return of Macao to China after 442 years of Portuguese rule. On the day preceding the changeover ceremonies, Mr. Ahtisaari met with the highest Chinese authorities.
A China-EU Summit was held in Beijing. The EU presidency was represented by Prime Minister Lipponen, accompanied by the Commission’s President Prodi and External Relations Commissioner Patten. The meeting focused on the Chinese human rights situation, on the death penalty still in use in China, as well as on the country’s eventual membership in the WTO, still waiting for its implementation because the EU-China negotiations had not yet started. Mr. Lipponen said that from the Finnish point of view, the agreement already made by the US and China would be a fairly finalised solution for the issue. However, there had been problems in the EU-Chinese negotiations, especially concerning agriculture.
While in Beijing, Mr. Lipponen said that the outcome of the Russian elections would be a Duma that could provide the backing for a continued reform policy. He said that a more unified Duma could also have a favourable impact on a peaceful solution to the Chechen situation. He reported on the telephone conversation he had had with Prime Minister Putin the week before, saying that it had not been a case of telling the other party off but rather a matter-of-fact discussion with both parties listening to what the other had to say. According to Mr. Lipponen, the Finnish-Russian relationship had improved during the Finnish EU presidency, although Finland had been forced to present the collectively felt annoyance with the Russian operation in Chechnya.
Interviewed by Helsingin Sanomat, the Swedish People’s Party’s candidate Elisabeth Rehn said that freezing of Russian participation in the Council of Europe should be taken into consideration until the situation in Chechnya calmed down. However, Ms. Rehn did not wish that Russia be isolated. According to her, Russia was committing in Chechnya a genocide similar to that which Mr. Milosevic had committed in Kosovo.
The Finnish Government granted the company Patria Vehicles Oy the permission to export two Nasu tracked vehicles to Turkey. The decision was taken by 10 votes to 6. Foreign Minister Halonen was among those voting against the decision, justifying her position by saying that potential alternative uses of the Nasu vehicles posed a problem.
Commissioned by the Finnish Broadcasting Company’s TV newsroom, the Taloustutkimus poll showed that the Centre Party’s Esko Aho was the most popular presidential candidate with 31 percent (26 % in November). The Social Democratic Party’s Tarja Halonen ranked second with 28 % while the National Coalition Party’s Riitta Uosukainen had gone down from 31 % to 26 %. Ms. Elisabeth Rehn of the Swedish People’s Party had only 9 % (16 % in November). In the second round, Esko Aho would defeat Tarja Halonen by 53 to 47.
During the opening of her campaign tour in Turku, Finland, the Social Democratic Party candidate, Tarja Halonen, said that increased European stability was also in the national interest of Finland. The enlargement of the EU meant a growing internal market, providing more export potential and thus improving Finnish employment. In Ms. Halonen’s view, Finland’s status on the international political arena was now stronger than ever before. She added that Finland’s status was internationally recognised and stable. Moreover, through its own operations, Finland had promoted stability both in the Nordic area and in the whole of Europe.
Campaigning in Kangasniemi, Sysmä, Heinola and Lahti, Ms. Rehn of the Swedish People’s Party said that she was against the idea of developing an EU defence dimension because NATO already had the corresponding machinery. She emphasises that she had not yet finalised her own attitude towards Finland’s NATO membership. She suggested, however, that a non-aligned Finland would not be assisted by other countries in a crisis situation.
Prime Minister Lipponen commented on the Finnish EU presidency in an article published in Helsingin Sanomat, by saying that Finland was now "a mature member of the Union." According to Mr. Lipponen, Finland had showed that even a small country could exercise influence. Finland had received the EU presidency in a tight spot, with a long agenda of issues to tend to, with the new Commission taking office only in October and with the war in Chechnya breaking out. Listing the Finnish achievements, he mentioned the decision taken by the EU Tampere Summit to intensify the Union’s cooperation in internal and legal affairs. It was also to Finland’s merit that the new intergovernmental round of negotiations would soon be launched, that the EU enlargement process would be intensified and that the new defence policy outline could be created. Finland was able to maintain leadership when the decisions about Union security and defence policy were made, although the large EU countries also played a visible role in these issues. The big countries limited the options for crisis management outlines. Originally, Foreign Minister Halonen was unwilling to make any decision concerning the size and preparedness of the crisis management forces during the Finnish presidency. Mr. Lipponen said that the Cabinet had elaborated on this issue and decided that "it was preferable to take as finalised decisions as possible during our presidency". The Helsinki Summit was not about a common defence of the Union, although the Amsterdam treaty did, in Mr. Lipponen’s judgement, also allow for the materialisation of this option. However, Mr. Lipponen said that there was no risk of a "Euro Army" in the next few years. He also said that Finland’s six-month presidency had revealed some problems within the Union. In his view, the Union institutions – the Commission, the Council and the Parliament – were competing with each other in a manner that was not sound. He also said that the European Parliament should guarantee peaceful working conditions for the Commission. In Mr. Lipponen’s judgement, the division of labour between the various bodies became increasingly difficult when the Council nominated its foreign policy representative. In his view, the Secretary General’s, i.e. the foreign policy coordinator’s, premises should be that the country holding the presidency has operational responsibility. He also hoped that the EU would speed up its decision-making process.
Russian President Boris Yeltsin announced his resignation in a televised
speech at noon Moscow time. Foreign Minister Halonen commented by
saying that on behalf of the EU presidency, she hoped that the new
presidential elections could be conducted following the rules of
democracy. She did not believe that the resignation of President Yeltsin
would have any influence on Russian-Finnish relations, or on the
Finnish presidential elections.