Defence Minister Jan-Erik Enestam told that he had initiated an investigation in the Ministry of Defence on what kind of legislative changes would be required if a crisis control brigade would be founded .
The Cabinet Committee on Foreign and Security Affairs discussed the situation in Chechnya. The Committee expressed the deep concern of the Finnish Government on the continuation of the fighting and of the suffering of the civilian population.
Finland participated in a meeting of the West European Union (WEU) for the first time.
French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe paid a work visit to Finland. Juppe explained the points of emphasis in the EU during France's term as president country to the Finnish political leadership.
Finance Minister liro Viinanen participated in the meeting of the EU's Economical and Finance Ministers in Brussels. French Finance Minister Edmond Alphandery emphasized that France's main task during its term as president country would be to reduce unemployment.
Euro-parliamentarians from the new EU member states were welcomed to the European Parliament with celebrations.
Prime Minister Aho and his wife paid an official visit to Russia. A distinguished delegation of businessmen accompanied Aho. The discussions of the visit concentrated on bilateral relations, especially economic questions.
Defence Minister Jan-Erik Enestam visited Sweden, where he met the Swedish Defence Minister Thage G. Petterson.
Due to the sudden and serious illness of Foreign Minister Haavisto, Minister for Foreign Trade Salolainen took over the Foreign Minister’s duties.
Finance Minister liro Viinanen met the Japanese Finance Minister Masayoshi Takemura in Tokyo. Topics of discussion were prospects of the Finnish economy and the effects of EU membership.
Minister for Foreign Trade Salolainen participated in a Conference of the EU's Foreign Ministers, in which, among other issues, the constitution of the new Commission was blessed.
Acting Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Krylov visited Helsinki, where he met the acting Foreign Minister Salolainen. The discussions included current issues connected with the European Union, Chechnya, the Baltic states, and Finnish-Russian economic relations.
Commander of the Defence Forces, General Gustav Hägglund, visited Russia.
Minister of Foreign Trade Salolainen visited Israel. A delegation of Finnish businessmen accompanied Salolainen.
The Prime Ministers of the Nordic countries met in Copenhagen. The meeting identified the strengthening of Nordic identity, cooperation in the EU and in other international organizations, and local cooperation in the Baltic region as new points of emphasis.
The six-week 51st session of the UN Committee on Human Rights began in Geneva on 30 January. Finland was chosen for the first time as representative of the group of Western countries into the council of chairs of the meeting of over 140 countries.
Brigadier Juha Engström of Finland took command of the UN peacekeeping force UNPROFOR in Macedonia.
The acting Foreign Minister, Minister for Foreign Trade Salolainen, participated in the regular Nordic meeting of foreign ministers in Reykjavik. The central theme of the meeting was Nordic cooperation after the expansion of the EU.
President Ahtisaari relieved Foreign Minister Heikki Haavisto from his post and appointed in his place Paavo Rantanen, who is a former diplomat and belongs now to the board of directors of Nokia. The new foreign minister assured that he would continue along the lines of his predecessor.
In the Presidential audience of 3 February the Government accepted the invitation presented to Finland to become an observer in the West European Union (WEU).
Foreign Minister Rantanen and Minister of Foreign Trade Salolainen participated in the Conference of EU Foreign Ministers in Brussels. In the meeting, the EU could not agree on a common candidate for the head of the UN children's relief organization UNICEF.
The Nordic ministers of justice met in Oslo. The Finnish Minister of the Interior Mauri Pekkarinen participated in the meeting. The main topic of discussion was Denmark's negotiations to become an observer, within the framework of the EU, in the so-called Schengen cooperation, which threatened passport-free movement within the Nordic countries.
The Hungarian Foreign Minister László Kovacs paid an official visit to Finland. It became evident in the negotiations that relations between the countries are quite unproblematic.
Minister of Education Olli-Pekka Heinonen participated in the Conference of the Ministers of Education and Science of the Barents region in Rovaniemi, where the cooperation programs of the Euro-Arctic area council were assessed.
The Vice Premier of Turkey, Foreign Minister Murat Karayalcin, visited Finland. In the discussions Finland stated that it supports Turkey's aspirations to enter into a customs union with the EU.
The parliament discussed the government's account on the EU presented on 14 February. The parliamentary groups of the parties in the government supported the government's aims concerning EU, but wished for more detailed accounts on agricultural and security policy, whereas the Chairman of the opposition Social Democratic Party Paavo Lipponen expressed that the EU must be effective and that Finland must be active in the EU - not some filibuster.
Foreign Minister Rantanen visited Stockholm to meet with Sweden's Foreign Minister Lena Hjelm-Wallén. The Foreign Ministers characterised present Swedish and Finnish viewpoints on the 1996 EU intergovernmental meeting as completely identical.
President and Mrs. Ahtisaari paid an official visit to France, the present president country of the EU. The meetings concentrated especially on development of the EU, the aims of the French EU presidency term, Finland's EU policy and the 1996 conference.
The ECOFIN meeting in Brussels was attended from Finland by Finance Minister liro Viinanen who assessed in the meeting that Finland may be able to fulfil the EMU criteria in a few years’ time if Finland continues along the budgetary lines of the past years.
Foreign Minister Rantanen met Norway's Foreign Minister Björn Tore Godal in Oslo. In the meeting Minister Rantanen emphasized the importance of cooperation between the countries despite the different solutions in regards to the EU.
Commander of the Defence Forces General Gustav Hägglund, paid an official visit to Denmark.
The Nordic Council held its 46th session in Reykjavik. The new plan to lighten and to target Nordic cooperation was discussed in the meeting.
Foreign Minister Rantanen met with NATO Secretary-General Willy Claes in Brussels. In connection with the meeting, Minister Rantanen told that Finland would from the beginning of next year send troops to military exercises of the NATO Partership-for-Peace Programme and that Finland would also otherwise participate in the programme more than before.
Representatives of Finland, Sweden, Norway, and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development Signed an agreement concerning the technical assistance fund of the risk capital fund for north-western Russia.
Foreign Minister Rantanen visited Lithuania. During the visit Minister Rantanen promised that Finland supports Lithuania's aspirations to join the European Union. According to Rantanen, Lithuania and the other Baltic states must have an equal opportunity to be included with other Central European countries which want to become members in the EU.
In an interview in the newspaper Vasabladet, Russia's Ambassador to Finland Yuri Deryabin warned Finland against joining NATO. He said that Finland's membership in NATO could cause a major international problem, because it could lead into the isolation of Russia.
Foreign Minister Rantanen participated in the Conference of the EU's Foreign Ministers in Brussels. It was decided in the meeting that the agreement between Russia and the EU on commerce will not be signed before the crisis in Chechnya is solved in a satisfactory manner.
President and Mrs Ahtisaari paid a work visit to Austria. The negotiations included discussion on the countries' experiences of the EU, the countries' relations with Russia after the outburst of the crisis in Chechnya, and the countries' security solutions.
UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali and Danish Prime Minister Poul Nyrup Rasmussen opened the UN World Summit for Social Development in Copenhagen, which was attended by representatives from 185 countries. The Finnish delegation was led by Minister of Social Affairs and Health Jonna Huuhtanen. President Ahtisaari participated in the meeting on 11 and 12 March, as did 117 other heads of states.
President and Mrs. Ahtisaari paid a state visit to Hungary. Topics of discussion were, among others, the situation of minorities in Finland, the situation in Chechnya, and Hungary's aspirations for membership in the EU, which President Ahtisaari promised to support.
A delegation led by Environmental Minister Pietikainen participated in a meeting of the Council of the EU's Environmental Ministers in Brussels. In the meeting Finland emphasized environmental cooperation with Russia and Estonia.
Interior Minister Mauri Pekkarinen participated in a Conference of the EU's Ministers of Justice and the Interior, in which the ministers decided on the new authorities of the European Drugs Unit EDU, the predecessor of Europol.
Visiting researcher Dr Pekka Visuri of the Finnish Institute of International Affairs regarded the way in which possible membership in NATO has been discussed in Finland as extremely dangerous. Finland may provoke Russia into countermeasures by giving a hazy and undecided image of itself, while Finland will not receive backing from the West. Visuri thinks that a decision has to be made and kept to. One has either to remain neutral in a credible way or to become aligned to the West so tightly that support will be received in tense situations.
Commander of the Defence Forces, General Gustav Hägglund, paid an official visit to Belgium. Hägglund also visited the Chief of Staff Headquarters of both NATO and the WEU. In connection with the visit, General Hägglund told the media about the plans of the Finnish Defence Forces to establish a special crisis control force. General Hägglund also stated that Finland will participate in the NATO Partership-for-Peace Programme more actively. In 1995 and 1996 Finland will participate as an observer. In 1997 the aim is to organize exercises together with other Nordic countries.
A meeting of the Commission for Baltic Sea Protection was held in Helsinki.
On 15 March an account ordered by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs on the future of developmental cooperation of Finland was published. Finnish developmental cooperation is undergoing changes because of the EU and because of the crisis in state economy. According to the report of the executor of the account, developmental cooperation has no special position among public spending in Finland.
The Ministry for Foreign Affairs reported that Finland will begin to chair, together with Russia, the OSCE conference in Minsk which aims at the solving of the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh, starting from 21 April. Finland succeeds Sweden in the mission.
Foreign Minister Rantanen participated in the unofficial, so-called Gymnich meeting of the EU foreign ministers in Carcassone in Southern France. A central topic of the meeting was Russia and its relations to the EU, NATO, WTO, OECD, and the successor of COCOM. The aim was to create a cohesive EU strategy towards Russia. The EU continued to refuse to sign the commercial agreement with Russia because of the crisis in Chechnya.
In the parliamentary elections of 19 March the Social Democrats received 63 seats (48 seats in 1991) of the 200-seat Parliament. The Centre Party received 44 (55) seats, the National Coalition Party 39 (40) seats, the Left Alliance 22 (19) seats, the Swedish People´s Party 12 (12) seats, the Green Union 9 (10) seats, the Christian League 7 (8) seats, the Young Finns 2 seats, the Ecological Greens 1 seat, and the Rural Party 1 seat. The Liberal Party lost its only seat in the Parliament. The voting percentage (votes given within Finland) was 70.1.
The Schengen agreement went into effect in many EU countries. Finland can join the agreement only in 1997, as can the other Nordic countries.
The EU Ministers of Agriculture met in Brussels. Finland was represented in the meeting by Minister of Agriculture Mikko Pesälä. One of the hottest issues on the agenda was the discussion on animal transport.
According to Under-Secretary of State Jaakko Blomberg, Finland's foreign and security policy experiences from the first part of the year as a Member State of the EU indicate that Finland's aspirations are compatible with aims of other Member States. As an example, he mentioned the Union's policy towards Russia in the crisis in Chechnya. As another example, he mentioned the Baltic States: Finnish and Swedish objectives in connection to them have been compatible with the Union's aims.
Lieutenant General Kent Harrskog, Commander of the Swedish Air Force, paid an official visit to Finland.
The Parliament elected representatives and vice-representatives to its Committees. Pertti Paasio was chosen Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee and Eva Biaudet became its Vice-Chairman. Kalevi Lamminen was elected Chairman of the Defence Committee and Tarja Halonen was chosen Chairman of the Grand Committee.
The birth of a five-party Government led by Speaker of Parliament Paavo Lipponen was ensured when the party negotiators were able to agree on the programme and the ministerial posts of the new Government. In the foreign and security policy part of the governmental platform of former of government Paavo Lipponen it was stated that Finland works as a member of the European Union, towards increasing unity in our continent. A main objective of the government is to "enlarge cooperation and to maintain stability in Northern Europe and in the Baltic Region".
This development is ensured best by keeping out of military alliances and by maintaining an independent defence. The Government promised to improve Finland's readiness to take part in international peacekeeping missions, to support the actions of the UN and of OSCE organizations to ensure peace, to act for the enforcing of human rights, to provide relief for the refugee problem, and to support humanitarian work.
The Government committed itself to raise the portion of the GNP designated for developmental cooperation when the financial situation so permits. The Government held as especially important bilateral relations with Russia, the Baltic States, and the Nordic Countries. As a member state of the European Union, the "Government acts to develop the Union as a conglomeration of independent states". The Government "supports the development of the Union's common foreign and defence policy so that it can effectively work towards its objectives and respond to crises that threaten stability and security."
UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali chose the US candidate Carol Bellamy as head of the UN children's aid organization UNICEF. Finland had actively strived to get its own candidate, Euro-parliamentarian Elisabeth Rehn to be nominated.
Australian Foreign Minister, Senator Gareth Evans, visited Finland. Topics of discussion included renewals in the UN and peacekeeping, regional security arrangements, as well as Finland's membership in the EU and its effect on bilateral relations.
President of the Republic Martti Ahtisaari relieved the four-year Government of Esko Aho from its duties and nominated Prime Minister Paavo Lipponen's majority Government. The Lipponen Government is the 66th cabinet in the history of independent Finland. The five-party Government has members from the Social Democratic Party, the National Coalition Party, the Green Union, the Left Alliance, and the Swedish People’s Party. The new Government has 18 ministers. As the Government organized itself, Chairman of the Coalition Party, Minister of Justice Sauli Niinistö became Vice-Premier.
The tasks of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs were divided into three: Minister of Foreign Affairs Tarja Halonen is in charge of the Ministry; Minister for Europe Ole Norrback takes care of affairs related to the commercial section of the Ministry, to the EU Secretariat, and to the Secretariat of the Minister of Nordic Cooperation. He also coordinates near zone policy. Tasks related to FINNIDA, the section for developmental cooperation in the Foreign Ministry, are taken care of by Minister for Environment Pekka Haavisto.
Richard Holbrooke, US Deputy Secretary of State in charge of European affairs, stated that the door is open for discussion on Finland's membership in NATO, when visiting Helsinki. Holbrooke also said that NATO is ready to present itself to the Finnish Government in the autumn of the present year.
Prime Minister Lipponen paid his first official visit to Sweden. Economy, security policy and questions of energy were discussed.
Having participated in a meeting of the leading military commanders of the peace fellowship countries in NATO headquarters in Brussels, the Commander of the Finnish Defence Forces, General Gustav Hägglund stated that Finland had actively participated in the planning work of the PfP. He figured that Finland could not go further than planning. To send conscripts into peace fellowship exercises would require a decision in the Parliament.
Minister for European Affairs Ole Norrback was assigned as Minister for Nordic Cooperation.
Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Philip visited Finland as the international Chairman of the World Wildlife Fund.
President and Mrs. Ahtisaari visited Namibia, where the President met with President Sam Nujoma. In the discussions defects in trade relations between the countries were brought up, as well as the desirability of tourism to Namibia.
Estonian Foreign Minister Riivo Sinijärv paid a work visit to Helsinki. Topics of discussion included visa-free travel between the countries, bilateral relations, and the EU.
French EU Commissar Edith Cresson, in charge of education, research and scientific issues, visited Finland. Cresson was interested in research and education cooperation in the Barents Area, and she promised EU funding for projects in the Area.
The Cabinet Committee for Foreign and Security Affairs decided that Finland would start negotiations with the Schengen countries by becoming an observer. The idea is to negotiate jointly with Sweden. The objective is to secure Nordic passport-free travel.
The Committee for Institutional Affairs of the EU Parliament approved the final proposal for the Parliament's position in next year's intergovernmental conference. Finland was represented in the meeting by Olli Rehn.
The Cabinet Committee for EU Ministerial Affairs ratified the election of Chief Executive Ingvar Melin as Finnish representative in the preparation group, or the so-called reflection group consisting of representatives of all countries, of the EU conference of 1996.
Commissar Anita Gradin, responsible for home and justice affairs in the EU, met Finnish officials in Finland. The discussions included the use of EU finances, police cooperation through Europol, asylum issues, immigration issues, border control at EU frontiers, and the fight against drugs.
According to Prime Minister Lipponen, the EU should continuously be developed as a conglomeration of independent states. The strengthening of Finland's international status requires, according to Lipponen, a strong and progressive Union that is capable of functioning and that takes into consideration the needs of all Member States. Lipponen did not think it necessary to create a common defence as a result of the intergovernmental conference.
MEP Elisabeth Rehn and Kalevi Sorsa, a member of the executive board of the Bank of Finland, were elected as Finland's representatives into the OSCE Court that held its founding meeting in Geneva on 29 May 1995. The Court is expected to handle different conflict situations. The idea is to include both politicians and professional lawyers in the Court.
General Gustav Hagglund, Commander of the Defence Forces, visited Estonia.
The Finnish delegation to the European Council elected MP Mikko Elo as its new chairman. Elo succeeded Tarja Halonen, who became Foreign Minister.
Minister Halonen participated in a meeting of the Ministerial Committee of the European Council in Strasbourg. Minister Halonen emphasized the role of the Council as a promoter of democratic security.
Minister for European Affairs Norrback took charge of the Finnish-Russian intergovernmental economical committee.
President Lennart Meri of Estonia paid an official visit to Finland. One of the issues of the visit was visa-free travel between the countries.
Prime Minister Lipponen visited Brussels. The main topic of the discussions was the upcoming intergovernmental conference. On the basis of the discussions, Prime Minister Lipponen assessed that the major issues of the conference will be the functional strengthening of the Union and the ensuring of the realization of the European Monetary Union. He believed that the role of foreign and security policy would be smaller than expected. In the international press conference, Lipponen stated that the status of the WEU is problematic for Finland.
Prime Minister Lipponen said that Finland could possibly become a full member in the WEU. A prerequisite is that the WEU concentrates on crisis management and does not aspire to become a military alliance, like NATO. According to Lipponen, Finland's possibilities to have an influence in the WEU are non-existent at the moment.
Colonel-General V.M. Semjonov, Commander of the Russian Army, visited Finland with his wife. According to Semjonov, Russia will not increase the number of its troops close to the Finnish border, but adheres to the CFE treaty at its northern front.
President Ahtisaari met with Lord Owen and Thorvald Stoltenberg unexpectedly in Helsinki, negotiators in the Bosnian war. The meeting held at the Presidential residence of Mäntyniemi was also attended by officials from the Ministries for Foreign Affairs and of Defence, led by the Ministers. The peace negotiators also met with Prime Minister Lipponen. The peace negotiators brought up their concern for the border control of former Yugoslavia and its financing.
Defence Minister Anneli Taina participated in a joint seminar of Baltic and Nordic defence ministers on the Danish island of Bornholm. Baltic-Nordic defence cooperation was discussed, and so was Nordic support for a joint Baltic peacekeeping battalion.
Foreign Minister Alfred Nzo of South Africa concluded his tour of the Nordic countries by visiting Finland.
The Nordic defence ministers met at Rovaniemi in Northern Finland. Themes of the meeting included cooperation in order to establish a peacekeeping battalion in the Baltic States, and military environmental problems in Russia.
The Chairman of the Russian side of the Finnish-Russian intergovernmental economical committee, Vice -Premier Oleg Davydov discussed in Helsinki with the Chairman of the Finnish side, Minister for European Affairs Ole Norrback. An agreement to turn about a billion Finnish marks of Russian debt into arms was signed during the meeting.
Prime Minister Lipponen made public a statement prepared jointly with President Ahtisaari. The statement ended the year-long dispute on who should represent Finland in EU summits. Lipponen stated that the President acts as chairman of the Finnish delegation when the Council discusses common foreign or security policy or other issues that rail in the jurisdiction of the President. If the President does not participate in a meeting where foreign and security policy is discussed, the Prime Minister represents Finland.
Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands visited Finland.
Prime Minister Vo Van Kiet of Vietnam visited Finland. He was accompanied by a significant number of businessmen who became acquainted with Finnish companies. Topics of discussion included the good relations between the countries, economy, and environmental technology.
The Government submitted its extensive memorandum on security policy to the Parliament. The Government thinks that Finland has to create and improve its readiness to participate in peacekeeping and crisis management missions that are increasingly demanding and many-sided militarily. The MPs issued quite positive statements about establishing Finnish troops for crisis management.
In a meeting of the Ministers for the Common Market in Luxembourg, Italian Commissar Mario Monti made public the Commission's memorandum on how the Member States of the EU have integrated their legislation to ordinances connected with the functioning of the Common Market. According to the memorandum, Finland has the worst record of executing EU legislation - only 180 of the 219 ordinances on which the functioning of the Common Market is based on are in effect in Finland.
Prime Minister Adolfas Slezevicius of Lithuania visited Helsinki. Discussions included bilateral relations between Finland and Lithuania, the European Union, and near zone cooperation. The purpose of Prime Minister Slezevicius' visit was also to promote Lithuania to Finnish investors.
Finland participated in naval exercises organized by NATO in the framework of the Partership-for-Peace Programme (PfP). Finland sent the mine carrier Uusimaa to the Baltic Operations (Baltops) exercises in the southern Baltic and the straits of Denmark.
The new Prime Minister of Estonia, Tiit Vähi, paid a work visit to Finland. Topics of discussion included visa-free travel between the countries and the EU.
Speaker of the Upper Chamber of the Russian Parliament, Vladimir Shumeiko, visited Finland. Major issues discussed included the state of the Russian election laws, the situation in Chechnya, relations between Russia and the CIS countries, and the economic situation in Russia.
President Ahtisaari participated in the 43rd session of the Bilderberg Group in Switzerland and in the working and get-to-know dinner of the EU heads of states at the Elysee Palace, where he was invited by French President Jacques Chirac. In addition to getting to know each other, the heads of states discussed the agenda of the EU Summit to be held in Cannes in the end of June, and the nomination of former Swedish Prime Minister Carl Bildt as the EU peace mediator in Bosnia to replace Lord Owen, who is leaving the position.
Prime Minister Lipponen visited Norway, where he met with Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland. In addition to questions of energy, the Prime Ministers discussed cooperation within the sphere of Schengen, Nordic cooperation, and security questions.
Defence Minister Malcolm Rifkind of Britain paid an official visit to Finland.
Vice-Premier Li Lanqing of China, in charge of foreign trade, visited Finland accompanied by an official delegation and with Chinese company executives.
Admiral William A. Owens, Vice-Chairman of the US council of the defense branch commanders, visited Finland.
Prime Minister Lipponen explained to the Grand Committee of the Parliament the new Governmental statement on the economic and monetary union of the EU. According to the statement, Finland's aim is to enter the third phase of the monetary union among the first countries, as the union is expected to bring along stability in the financial markets and thereby supporting national financial policy.
According to opinion polls, the majority of Finns in the voting age are satisfied in Finland's half-year membership in the EU. According to the study, 55% of Finns are at least quite satisfied in the membership. 40% of the citizens were quite or very dissatisfied in the membership.
Professor Jorma Routti, who had previously acted as senior executive for a Finnish Technology Foundation Sitra, was elected as Head of Commission's DG XII in Brussels which is responsible for research issues.
The Commander of the Belgian military, Lieutenant General Joseph Charlier paid an official visit to Finland.
Prime Minister Lipponen was of the opinion that moving into the third phase of the European Monetary Union EMU must be postponed because it would be difficult for Finland to enter without Sweden. Finland would like the third phase to include as many criteria-fulfilling countries as possible.
A delegation led by Speaker of Parliament Riitta Uosukainen paid a ten-day counter visit to Australia. The purpose of the visit was to get acquainted with the Australian Parliament and Australian economy, and to promote trade between the two countries.
Finland participated for the first time as a full member in the meeting of the European Council in Cannes. Finland was represented by President Ahtisaari, Prime Minister Lipponen, Finance Minister Viinanen, Foreign Minister Halonen, and Minister for Europe Norrback. It was decided in the meeting that the EU will sign a temporary trade agreement with Russia, unless the situation in Chechnya weakens from its present state.
Minister of Development Pekka Haavisto took part in the ministerial meeting of the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) in Geneva. In his speech, Mr Haavisto told the International Community not to despair of development in Africa, even if the aid given to many African countries did not seem to be yielding results. He remarked that Finland has supported democratisation and reforms in Africa, and that development in the southern part of the continent gave reason to hope. Mr Haavisto also assured that Africa would remain an important focus of Finnish development policy.
In an interview with the Centre Party newspaper Lalli, party Chairman Esko Aho said Prime Minister Paavo Lipponen must find a solution to the question of who represents Finland at EU summits. The recent summit in Cannes had not resolved the issue. Mr Aho questioned whether an oral agreement was binding, and said that determining Finland’s representation at summits must be based on the constitution and on an agreed interpretation of it.
Minister of the Environment Pekka Haavisto addressed the UN International Meeting on Mine Clearance. He emphasised the central role of the UN in channelling funds for deminining and in coordinating international aid. In 1995 Finland will contribute about 4 million mk to mine clearance.
Minister of Trade and Industry Antti Kalliomäki attended an informal meeting of EU industry ministers in Bilbao, Spain. The meeting was held in preparation for an official meeting of ministers of industry to take place in Brussels in November. The aim was to find ways of improving Europe’s competitiveness at the global scale. Competitiveness was considered vital for creating new jobs in Europe. The Finnish Ministry of Trade and Industry sees the establishing of the information society as the most significant competitiveness factor in Europe. In particular the progress made in the field of telecommunication is seen as crucial by the Ministry. At the meeting, Mr Kalliomäki suggested the founding of a working party for research and coordination in the field of telecommunication.
Foreign Minister Tarja Halonen described the raid by France of a Greenpeace ship on 9.7. at the French nuclear test site in the Pacific as "excessive”. Mrs Halonen did not condemn the seizing of the vessel, but said that Finland disagrees with it. Halonen believed the issue would be discussed in the EU. On 10.7.Greenpeace Finland held a protest in front of the French embassy in Helsinki.
The Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs announced that Finland will send four observers to join the European Community Monitor Mission (ECMM) in the former Yugoslavia region. On 12.7. the observers arrived at the organization’s headquarters in Zagreb, Croatia. This was the first time Finland joined the work of the ECMM, that began in the autumn of 1991. The purpose of the Mission is to assist the EU and the International Conference on Former Yugoslavia (ICFY) in finding a durable solution to the conflicts in the region.
In Strasbourg, Jacob Söderman, the Parliamentary Ombudsman of Finland, was elected as the first European Ombudsman by a vote of 241 to 221.
Monika Wulf-Mathies, the European Commissioner responsible for Regional Policy, signed the documents of the Finnish Objective 2 and 6 programmes at the House of the Estates in Helsinki. The programmes define how Finland together with the European Commission will promote regional development in Finland in 1995 and 1996. Mrs Wulf-Mathies also spoke on the EU Equal Opportunities Policy at a seminar held by the Trade Union for the Municipal Sector (KTV).
The President of Finland decided that Finland would establish diplomatic relations with the Principality of Andorra and the Republic of San Marino. Consular relations between Finland and San Marino existed previously, but in Finland it was deemed appropriate to raise them to ambassadorial level. The initiative to establish diplomatic relations with both states came from the governments of the countries.
At the Presidential session of the Government, the President of Finland issued a decree stating that the new limits of the territorial waters of Finland would come into force on 30.7.1995.
According to a survey published by the EU, performed monthly in the member states to track public opinion, the faith of the Finnish people in the benefits of EU membership has declined. In June, only a little over a third of the population believed Finland has gained from the membership. About half of the interviewed people thought the membership brought no benefits. In February-March, 60 % believed that being a member was good for Finland. Overall, Finnish support for EU membership has remained stable: in June 48 % of Finns were still in favor of it. In Sweden, the popularity of EU membership has faded: only a fifth of Swedes thought it was a good thing and believed in its benefits. A European currency was supported by just a third of Finns, while 47 % of all EU citizens were in favor of it.
Helsingin Sanomat told about a report published by the Directorate of Immigration which showed there were 62 000 foreign nationals living permanently in Finland. In 1994 the residence permit applications of nearly 34 000 foreigners were processed. More than 32 000 applicants were granted a residence permit. A majority of them were returnees of Finnish origin. A work permit was granted to nearly 12 000 applicants, hailing mostly from Estonia and the CIS region. There were around 840 asylum seekers. Most of them came from former Yugoslavia, from the former Soviet Union region, and from Somalia. In 1994, the Directorate of Immigration processed 1100 asylum applications. Asylum was granted to 15 people, seven of them minors. Family reunification was sought for nearly 1500 family members living abroad. This was approved in the case of 323 family members. There was a refugee quota of 500 people. The majority were Iranians, Iraqis and Kurds. In the past year, almost 2600 foreigners were refused entry into Finland. 2160 of them were removed from the country by the Finnish Border Guard, the police and Customs, and 430 by the Directorate of Immigration.
Prime Minister Lipponen paid a visit to Russia, accompanied by Minister for European Affairs Ole Norrback among others. In Moscow, the prime minister met his Russian counterpart Viktor Chernomyrdin, Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Davydov and the chairmen of both chambers of the Federal Assembly of Russia, Ivan Rybkin and Vladimir Shumeyko. The main topics discussed by the prime ministers were the obstacles to the road transport of goods and to trade in general, investments such as the construction of an oil pipeline to Porvoo, and product certification. Prime Minister Chernomyrdin confirmed Russia’s readiness for an agreement that will allow Russia to pay part of its debt to Finland with almost one billion mk worth of arms deliveries. Prime Minister Lipponen conveyed to Mr Chernomyrdin a message from President Ahtisaari regarding the conflict in Bosnia. He expressed Finland’s wish that powerful countries would use their influence on the warring parties.
In Helsinki, the EU Commissioner responsible for Employment, Padraig Flynn, and Minister of Labour Liisa Jaakonsaari signed documents relating to European Social Fund programmes that guarantee 2 billion mk of funding from the ESF between 1995 and 1999 to promote employment in Finland. The programmes are financed by Finland together with the EU. Of a total of 7,5 billion mk, the EU will provide roughly 2 billion mk and Finland 4,7 billion mk. The remaining 790 million mk is expected to come from Finnish companies.
It was announced that the Palestinian General Delegation would start its work in Helsinki on 15 August 1995. The Delegation does not have a diplomatic status. The Foreign Ministry has granted 400 000 mk from development appropriations to help the Delegation to start functioning. Dr Zuheir Alwazir, who has earlier occupied a similar position in Finland, will be acting as head of the Delegation.
Franz Fischler, the European Commissioner for Agriculture, paid a visit to Finland, where he and Minister of Agriculture and Forestry Hemilä discussed the implementation of the accession treaty. Fischler believed that Finland’s EU membership will create significant opportunities of growth and development for Finnish agriculture, by giving it access to a market of 370 million people.
The President of Finland approved on Finland’s behalf the Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context. The Convention was signed at a session of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (ECE) in Espoo in 1991. The parties have an obligation to assess the environmental impact of major projects. This must be taken into account in decision-making whenever a project is likely to have a significant adverse transboundary environmental effect.
A seminar marking the 20th anniversary of the signing of the Final Act of the CSCE was held at Finlandia Hall in Helsinki. In his opening speech, Prime Minister Lipponen gave his assurance that Finland will participate more actively in peacekeeping operations. Among the speakers were former Foreign Minister of the Federal Republic of Germany Hans-Dietrich Genscher, former US President Gerald Ford and Prime Minister of Hungary Gyula Horn. The panelists included the Hungarian foreign minister László Kovács, the United States Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott, the first deputy foreign minister of Russia, Igor Ivanov, and three journalists. The journalists were sharply critical of the CSCE. In his lunch speech, President Ahtisaari proposed that a high-level research institute be established in Helsinki, that would focus on questions of security in Europe. Before the seminar Prime Minister Lipponen met with US Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott, whose role in formulating American policy towards Russia and Eastern Europe has a bearing on the US position on NATO enlargement.
In an interview with the Finnish news agency STT, Foreign Minister Halonen criticised Spain, which holds EU presidency, for refusing to condemn the nuclear tests conducted by France at Mururoa. Halonen said Spain’s stance is in contrast to the dominant view in the EU, which is opposed to the nuclear testing. She expressed her disappointment in France’s decision to conduct the tests, and said she would try her best as foreign minister to influence opinions across the globe, so that the opposition to nuclear testing would grow. The foreign minister was also pleased about the widespread boycotts and social movements targeting France. According to her, the boycotts showed that ordinary people had understood the situation correctly.
Finn Church Aid, the Finnish Refugee Council, the Finnish Red Cross and the Finnish Refugee Advice Centre presented a petition to the Finnish Government. Its message: Finland should say yes to a request by the UN Refugee Agency UNHCR to accept more refugees from former Yugoslavia. A week earlier, the UN Refugee Agency appealed to more than 30 governments for immediate protection for 5000 new victims from the region, and asked them to prepare to take 50 000 refugees if need arises. The Finnish organisations hoped that Finland would accept 500 new refugees and their families from the former Yugoslavia region, whose refugee status had already been recognised by the UNHCR. Furthermore, the organisations urged the Government to provide emergency aid to the UNHCR and other humanitarian agencies.
An opinion poll commissioned by Helsingin Sanomat from the polling firm Suomen Gallup indicated that more than half of Finns think the International Community should be more open to the alternative of military intervention in the case of the Bosnian war. Nearly a third thought the UN should use such force as necessary to make sure the warring parties end the violence. 12 % thought the UN can continue with its peacekeeping mission as before. 17 % of Finns were in favor of withdrawing all international troops from Bosnia. The survey was made between 1 and 4 August by asking 1007 Finns of voting age their views on the war in Bosnia.
Interviewed by the newspaper Etelä-Suomen Sanomat, Prime Minister Lipponen said the Government is not in negotiations with Russia over the return of Karelia. Lipponen called addressing the issue a waste of time. He also rejected the idea of buying islands in the Gulf of Finland to deal with Russia’s debt, saying that national borders cannot be bought and sold at will. The prime minister also told about Government plans to restrict the right of return of Ingrian Finns. According to the prime minister, the repatriation process had not been grounded on sufficient studies and clear policy-making. The president of the Finnish Karelian League Markku Laukkanen was surprised by the prime minister’s comments. He assured that the League would continue to pursue the return of Karelia, arguing that the region is part of Finland.
The Government decided to accept 500 refugees from the former Yugoslavia region, both this and next year. The decision came in response to an appeal launched by the UN Refugee Agency UNHCR to 34 states asking them to immediately accept some 5000 refugees. Receiving the refugees will not create extra costs, because less asylum seekers have come to Finland than expected.
In an interview with the newspaper Etelä-Saimaa, President Ahtisaari commented on the Croatian attack, saying he hoped the situation would "remain under control and that the Serbs would be encouraged to begin real peace negotiations”. The president saw the Croat attack as "a reminder to the Serbs of their own mortality”. At best, he said Croatia’s actions could "advance the peace negotiations”.
The prime ministers of the Nordic countries held their first meeting in Ilulissat, Greenland. Finland was represented by Ole Norrback, the Minister for European Affairs. The ministers decided that Nordic countries would not unilaterally retrieve their peacekeeping troops from former Yugoslavia, despite the intensification of the military action. The authority in the matter belongs to the UN, the ministers agreed. They also decided that an Arctic Council would be founded next March. In addition to the Arctic regions of Nordic countries, it will have representatives from Canada, the United States and Russia. The purpose of the Council is to work for the preservation of the environment and the management of natural resources in the Arctic regions. The ministers also decided that the Nordic countries will present a new program of reforms for the UN as the organization celebrates its 50th anniversary in the autumn. Other issues on the agenda were new forms of co-operation now that Finland and Sweden have joined the EU.
Foreign Minister Halonen issued a statement condemning a nuclear test made by China. She said that with the second nuclear test in a short time period, China shows contempt for the will of the international community, and for public opinion which is clearly against nuclear testing. She considered China’s tests deplorable, because at the Review and Extension Conference of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty that ended in May, all the nuclear-weapon states committed to goal of a comprehensive nuclear-test-ban treaty by the end of 1996, and until then agreed to exercise utmost restraint with regard to nuclear testing. The new test is all the more disappointing, as in the negotiations under way in Geneva, hopes of a nuclear test ban are rising.
The foreign minister of Ukraine Gennadi Udovenko made an official visit to Finland, where he met President Ahtisaari, Prime Minister Lipponen, Foreign Minister Halonen, Minister of the Environment Haavisto, Minister for European Affairs Norrback, Deputy Speaker of the Parliament Sirkka-Liisa Anttila and representatives of Finnish business. The main theme of the visit was economic cooperation. According to Udovenko, lack of communication and of a comprehensive contractual foundation are impediments to trade, as are the irregularity and imbalance of the barter system. He also called for cooperation in environmental issues, saying that Ukraine could act as an intermediary between the Black Sea region and the Baltic Sea region.
Minister of the Environment Haavisto attended an informal meeting of the environment ministers of the Federal Republic of Germany and the Nordic countries, in Kiel. The aim of the discussions was finding ways of strengthening cooperation to protect the Baltic Sea and of implementing the Baltic Sea action plan in a more efficient way. Another purpose for the meeting was accentuating the role of the Baltic Sea region within EU environmental cooperation. The ministers agreed to the creation of a network of protected areas in the Baltic Sea to conserve its nature. The network will be part of the EU’s Natura 2000 programme.
Speaking in Helsinki to an audience including members of the Council of Europe parliamentary delegation, Foreign Minister Halonen stated that the Council has a unique opportunity to consolidate the security of the continent by supporting democracy, human rights and the rule of law, including in the so called new democracies. Halonen emphasised the importance of an effective cooperation between the Council of Europe and other organisations. She cited the OSCE and the CoE as an example of a good division of labour. The CoE is in charge of preventive action and the OSCE focuses on crisis management.
Finland will give more humanitarian aid to children suffering from the consequences of the Rwandan crisis. The Ministry for Foreign Affairs decided to give one million mk to help those Rwandan children whose situation is most difficult. Since April 1994, Finland has given more than 26 million mk of humanitarian aid to victims of the crises in Rwanda and Burundi.
President Ahtisaari made a state visit to Latvia, where he met President Guntis Ulmanis, Prime Minister Maris Gailis and Speaker of the Parliament Anatoly Gorbunov. They discussed Finland’s experiences of EU membership, Latvia’s Europe agreement, the visa exemption between the countries, peacekeeping and the border guard. Minister of Agriculture and Forestry Kalevi Hemilä who was among the President’s delegation, urged Latvians to adapt their agriculture to meet EU requirements. On 28.8., the Embassy of Latvia in Helsinki became officially the property of Latvia, by signature of the foreign ministers Tarja Halonen and Valdis Birkavs.
The Finnish Defence Forces organised its first Partnership for Peace (PfP) seminar "Co-Operative Advert 95” in Tuusula, in collaboration with the headquarters of NATO forces in Europe (SHAPE). The topic of the seminar was the development of communication in PfP exercises and peacekeeping operations. 28 communications officers from 17 countries attended the seminar.
At its evening session, the Government decided to appoint a broad-based committee to prepare an immigration policy programme. The group will have representatives from different ministries, from the government and opposition parties, NGOs such as the Finnish Refugee Advice Centre, the Red Cross and Finn Church Aid. They will have until the end of next year to finish their work, but an interim report is expected in the spring. The committee is meant to reflect on refugee policy, migration and immigration, and the prevention of refugee crises. It will also give suggestions for improving the legislation.
Helsingin Sanomat told about Finland’s support for the multi-party elections in Tanzania. The elections for the union of Tanzania and Zanzibar will take place on 29.10. and the elections for Zanzibar on 22.10. Finland will send Kari Karanko, counsellor for development co-operation, to coordinate the elections. 10 to 15 Finnish election observers will also be sent to Tanzania. Finland supports the elections with an amount of 4 million mk.
The Foreign Ministry’s Department for International Development Cooperation commissioned an independent analysis entitled "Evaluation of Finnish Personnel as Volunteers in Development Cooperation” about the relevance and results of the Finnish Volunteer Service, coordinated by KEPA, that has operated for 10 years. The authors of the evaluation considered the Volunteer Service to be of limited usefulness, and proposed three models of improvement. One of the alternatives was an improvement on the existing program, another idea was to give more power to KEPA. The third alternative was a south / north center.
Interviewed by the newspaper Pohjalainen, Minister for European Affairs Norrback called for a change in legislation that would clarify Finland’s relationship to peace enforcement and participation in the resolving of military crises in foreign countries. He told he was ready for an amendment of the law in the near future, permitting something like peace enforcement. This would allow Finland to participate in the UN peacekeeping missions in the future. The need for these measures became clear the previous week in Kolding, as the foreign ministers of the Nordic countries thought NATO bombings were necessary while condemning peace enforcement.
A Finnish-Russian cooperation commission for environmental protection gathered in Helsinki to plan and coordinate environmental cooperation between the governments of Finland and Russia. The Finnish delegation at the meeting was lead by Minister of the Environment Haavisto, and the Russian delegation by Environment Minister Viktor Danilov-Danilyan. The Russian delegation also included the leaders of the environmental administration of regions that are close to Finland. As a result of the negotiations, it was decided that the countries would finalise a new bilateral agreement on air protection by the end of 1995. Its first protocol concerns the reduction of emissions that cause acidification. In addition to the Finno-Russian cooperation, the members of the commission discussed regional cooperation in environmental protection, particularly the work of the Barents Council and the Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission (HELCOM). Another topic was the impact of the EU, especially of EU funds, on the cooperation between Finland and Russia.
The fourth UN World Conference on Women was held in Beijing. Roughly 10 000 people from nearly 180 countries attended the event. The Finnish delegation was headed by Foreign Minister Halonen, who presented Finland’s statement on 6.9. In her statement, she emphasised the fact that women’s rights are part of human rights. She said that special attention must be paid to women who belong to ethnic, linguistic or religious minorities. On the final day, the Conference adopted a Platform for Action that included a mention about the right of women to decide on matters related to their sexuality. Although the Platform is not legally binding, it is intended as a guideline for the governments of the countries. The Finns present at the meeting were pleased with the fact that human rights became a prominent theme.
The budget proposal for the year 1996 was announced. In the fields pertaining to the work of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, there was an emphasis on Western European integration and how Nordic cooperation could be adapted to the process, the political and economic development in East-Central Europe and the CIS countries and relations to these countries, security policy issues including cooperation in the framework of the OSCE, Finnish UN policies, human rights and international environmental issues, and since Finland is an EU member, a comprehensive approach to relations with developing countries. According to OECD criteria, Finland’s development cooperation expenditure will be much less than 2 billion mk next year, and will constitute just over 0,29 % of the GDP. Finland will have less of its own development money in the coming years when the time comes to pay its contribution to the European Development Fund. The budget significantly increases the amount appropriated for the participation of civilian personnel in crisis management operations. The appropriation has more than doubled, next year it is 24 million mk. It will be used for Finland’s participation in the operations of the EU, the WEU, the OSCE, and the UN.
A delegation of the Greens convening in Helsinki demanded that the Finnish Government start putting pressure on France about its nuclear testing. The Greens think Finland should also firmly reject France’s offer to make its nuclear weapons available to the EU. The delegation also said that the Finnish Government should take action to bring France to the European Court of Justice for failing to fulfill the requirements of the Euratom Treaty.
The Finnish Foreign Ministry announced that the EU’s Russia programmes have been approved. The TACIS (Technical Assistance to the Commonwealth of Independent States) programme is meant to facilitate the transition of Russia and the CIS countries to market economy, and to promote democratisation in the countries. Russia’s share of the TACIS budget in 1995 is about 163 million mk, with an emphasis on Northwest Russia and the Baikal region. In Northwest Russia, the programme focuses on the Republic of Karelia and the regions of Murmansk and Arkhangelsk.
Ingvar S. Melin, who represents Finland in the Reflection Group preparing for the EU Intergovernmental Conference, told in Brussels about Finland’s expectations for the Conference. Finland hopes that the principle of gender equality will be included in the Treaty of the EU. Finland also wants economic competitiveness to be added to the goals of the Union. It was Finland’s intention to suggest the issue of employment be added to the agenda of the IGC, but it was Sweden, backed by Finland, that put forward the idea of a title on employment in the Treaty. However, the Reflection Group concluded that employment should be promoted by national means. Problems such as sliding towards a Europe "à la carte” can best be avoided by allowing a transitional period for new members, Melin said.
The Parliament discussed last year’s annual report of the Finnish delegation to the Council of Europe. Chairman of the delegation Mikko Elo expressed his hope that Russia would be quickly accepted as member of the Council. According to Elo, the CoE is not a pan-European organisation without Russia. Russia’s application procedure was interrupted, but it will be resumed since the parties of the conflict in Chechnya have decided to find a political solution.
In its evening session, on a proposal by Minister of the Environment Haavisto, the Government appointed former Foreign Minister, MP Pertti Paasio as a rapporteur ad int. to examine the question of Finland’s development cooperation. The decision is based on the Government Programme, which promised to "immediately produce an enquiry on the points of emphasis in development cooperation and the effectiveness of multilateral development cooperation and of different types of aid”.
Finland is applying for 128,6 million mk of EU funding for the development of a trans-European transport network. The Cabinet Finance Committee was in favor of the application. Finland filed a preliminary TEN aid application as early as February. The application contained a preliminary proposal concerning aid for the period 1995–1999. TEN aid is sought primarily for the Nordic Triangle network. It is one of 14 projects given priority by the EU, and it will get 75 % of the funding.
The Ministry of Defence announced Finland’s participation in three NATO peacekeeping exercises this autumn as a member of the Partnership for Peace programme. Finland will take part in an exercise in the Czech Republic 26.9.-6.10., in Denmark’s Cooperative Jaguar exercise 2.-13.10., and in Hungary’s Cooperative Light exercise 16.-24.10. These are mainly so called Command Post exercises, where a fictitious peacekeeping setting is created by means of maps and communications. No troops, only commanders and staff, are involved in the exercises. The officers who are ordered to participate begin a five-day training programme in a UN training center in Niinisalo on 25 September. Finland also trains officers for peacekeeping missions as part of the PfP programme.
A Finnish group of the Parliamentarians for Global Action organisation was formed in the Finnish Parliament. The group of 62 MPs is lead by Kimmo Kiljunen. The international organisation was founded in 1979, and has over 1000 parliamentarians from some 80 countries as members. Its headquarters are in New York.
The UN General Assembly began its 50th anniversary celebration in New York. The new President of the General Assembly, Portuguese Diego Freitas do Amaral demanded that the member states pay their membership fees and that they reevaluate peacekeeping activities. The organisation wished to be able to celebrate its 50th year by expanding the Security Council that currently has 15 members, and by resolving issues related to its finances. Foreign Minister Halonen presented a statement on behalf of Finland on 26.9. She also urged the member nations to pay their fees on time. Halonen said Finland supports the expanding of the Security Council from five to eight permanent members. On the subject of reforming the UN, the Minister said it was time to move from discussions to actual negotiations between the member states. The day before, 25.9., the foreign ministers of Nordic countries gave a statement in New York, expressing their concern about the financial situation of the UN, and appealing on behalf of their goverments to all the UN member states for the fulfillment of their financial obligations to the organisation.
Aapo Saari, the leader of the Centre Party parliamentary group, told that the group is opposed to the forming of the Finnish rapid deployment force. Saari criticised the Government for failing to really explain what is the intended use of the forces. He said the Centre Party wants to stress the importance of traditional peacekeeping, a model which is suited for neutral countries in particular. There is no consensus about the issue among all the government groups. Chairman of the Defence Committee Kalevi Lamminen opposed the forming of the rapid deployment force because of a lack of funds. Minister of Defence Taina said on 21.9. that there is no need to worry about a decrease in national defence funding. She said that creating a rapid deployment force the size of a battalion will cost 250 to 300 million mk, and the costs are distributed over several years.
The Government appointed a large delegation to prepare for the EU Intergovernmental Conference in 1996. The delegation is formed by 60 representatives of socially significant institutions, business, trade unions, political parties, and NGOs. The group includes people who are opposed to the EU. By appointing the delegation, the Government wanted to show that Finland’s preparations are based on an open citizen discussion. Prime Minister Lipponen acts as chairman of the delegation, and Foreign Minister Halonen as vice-chair.
The Foreign Ministry’s Department for International Development Cooperation announced that Finland will increase its support for international mine clearance programmes. Finland is planning to assist the UN in mine clearance, for example by providing experts and supplies. Starting in October, two demining experts assigned by the Foreign Ministry will examine the putting into practice of Finnish support. In UN’s mine clearance conference in Geneva in July, Finland promised to contribute 2 million mk to UN demining programmes, in addition to about 2 million mk it has already given.
An informal EU summit took place on the Spanish holiday island of Majorca, presided over by Prime Minister of Spain Felipe Gonzáles. The main theme of the meeting was the EU’s Economic and Monetary Union EMU. The uncertainty associated with the EMU had destabilised the foreign exchange market and the securities market at the same time. Prime Minister Lipponen was Finland’s representative at the meeting. He expressed the opinion that the EU should explore ways of using its structural funds to promote employment. The Prime Minister said his proposal applies specifically to the third stage of the EMU. Another matter discussed was the enlargement of the EU towards the east and the south. Lipponen wished the EU could manage it better than NATO, so that unwanted countries are not pointed out. In his statement on security policy, Lipponen said that security policy decisions are determined by Finland’s best interests. After the meeting he made a strong appeal for the creation of a Finnish rapid deployment force. The Prime Minister reckoned that by amending the WEU Treaty, Finland could have more authority without joining the WEU as a full member.
Minister of Defence Taina spoke at the opening of the National Defence Course. She talked about the changes in the characteristics of international crises, and how they affect crisis management. In her opinion, attaining peace may require the use of military force, in other words peace enforcement. However, Finland should use other means of finding its place in international crisis management. According to Minister Taina there is no room for free riders in European security policy. The establishing of the new force must not weaken national defence, and the force should be an integral part of Finland’s defence. The Ministry of Defence insists that the decision to take part in operations must be made on a case-by-case basis, that Finnish troops are not involved in actual peace enforcement, and that the participation of soldiers in crisis management missions is totally optional.
EU’s interior ministers approved in Brussels a list of countries whose citizens are required to have a visa to access EU territory. Several new countries are thereby added to Finland’s visa list. In the future, the citizens of Tanzania, Zambia, Mauritius, Peru, the Dominican Republic, Suriname, and Thailand will need a visa. The regulation will enter into force in about six months. In the coming weeks, Finland will inform the EU about its visa requirements concerning other countries in addition to the EU list. These include the Baltic states.
Fourty-nine countries took part in a conference in Vienna on restricting the use of landmines. The Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, adopted in 1980, was treated at the conference sponsored by the UN, but the meeting revolved mainly around landmines. The objective was to ban or restrict the use of particularly cruel types of mines. The Finnish delegation was headed by Pasi Patokallio, an official from the Foreign Ministry. He spoke on 26.9., saying that Finland is not seeking a complete ban of anti-personnel mines, because they are essential for Finland’s defence, and they are only for defensive use. In the Finnish view, the main weakness of the Convention is that only 49 countries adhere to it: African and Asian countries that suffer the most from mines are outside the agreement. Finland is involved in the mine clearance effort in many countries, offering financial assistance. Finland is planning to provide technical support and experts as well.
The Parliament Defence Committee issued a statement rejecting the creation of a new rapid deployment force for international crisis management. In their opinion, this "wider peacekeeping” force would be costly and would undermine the credibility of traditional peacekeeping. These activities could also take Finland further in the direction of military alliances, the Committee argued. The Parliament will weigh in on the matter in early November, when it will receive a report of the Foreign Affairs Committee on the Government Report on security policy. The Government has proposed the establishing of a rapid deployment force of approximately 1000 men, most of them volunteering reservists. The group could be assigned by the UN or the OSCE to demanding humanitarian or peacekeeping missions. On a visit to Iceland, President Ahtisaari expressed his endorsement of the rapid deployment force. According to him, we must be prepared to take part in new forms of peacekeeping in order to maintain credibility.
Addressing the Assembly of the Council of Europe, the chairman of the Finnish delegation, MP Mikko Elo said Russia meets the criteria for membership of the Council. He said Russia should be accepted as member as soon as possible. He thinks Russia and Europe as a whole would benefit from Russia’s membership. Visiting Russia the week before, the Finnish delegation to the CoE had been convinced of Russia’s will to stabilise the political development of the country and to promote human rights.
President of the United States Bill Clinton announced that the warring parties in former Yugoslavia have reached an understanding on the constitutional principles of how to end the fighting in Bosnia. Visiting Iceland, President Ahtisaari said on 27.9. that Finland is willing to consider sending peacekeepers to Bosnia, if a credible peace treaty is made. Another condition for the operation is that it must be so called traditional peacekeeping. It is estimated that 50 000 are needed in Bosnia. Half of them would come from outside the NATO countries.
MEP Elisabeth Rehn was named UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in former Yugoslavia. The appointment was made by Chairman of the UN Commission on Human Rights, Malaysian Musa bin Hitam. The appointment was advocated especially by the Foreign Office of Germany, and endorsed by the Finnish Government. Mrs Rehn will report to the UN General Assembly and the Commission on Human Rights. She will be assisted by the UN Centre for Human Rights in Geneva, and by human rights observers working in the crisis area of former Yugoslavia. The position was held until July by the Pole Tadeusz Mazowiecki, who resigned as a protest for the Bosnia policy of the West.
The first European Ombudsman, Jacob Söderman of Finland, took his oath of office at the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg.
Finland has participated in the formation and training of the Baltic Peacekeeping Battalion, together with the other Nordic countries and Britain. Finland supported the project by donating the office equipment and supplies needed by the instructors, ammunition for assault rifles used in training, as well as equipment, medicine and vaccines for a Finnish doctor. On 28.9. in Adaz, Latvia, officers and non-commissioned officers of Baltic companies finished a training period that began early in the year. In November, the officers will start training soldiers in their native countries.
The Nordic Council held an extra session in Copenhagen, where it approved an organisational reform of the Council. The need for reform stemmed from Finland and Sweden joining the EU. Party groups are to have more power at the expense of delegations from different countries and regions. The number of committees is reduced from seven to three, and the largest, Norden Committee, will get nearly half of the funds allocated to the committees. The two other committees will focus on relations between Nordic countries and the rest of Europe, and adjacent areas. A decision was also made to return to having only one annual session instead of two. Theme sessions can also be organised. An equality clause was also included in the agreement. In the second article of the agreement an amendment was made ensuring equal treatment to all Nordic citizens in all of the Nordic countries. The reform requires amendments to the Helsinki Treaty that regulates cooperation between the countries. It must also be ratified by the Parliaments of the member states. The reform will enter into force on 1 January 1996. Copenhagen will become the centre of cooperation, as the Council’s secretariat moves from Stockholm to the headquarters of the Nordic Council of Ministers in Copenhagen. Norway especially considers the Nordic Council an important forum for itself. The country is worried that EU members Finland and Sweden may lose interest in Nordic cooperation.
According to an article in Helsingin Sanomat, the Parliament may have to decide on the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), offered by NATO to Finland and other Partnership for Peace countries. It is a document detailing the rights and obligations of foreign military forces in a country. The magazine Suomen Kuvalehti told that the Legal Department of the Foreign Ministry thinks the agreement needs to be discussed by the Parliament, because it might partly contradict the current legislation of Finland.
EU finance ministers and central bank governors gathered in Valencia, Spain. The informal meeting took place in an atmosphere of crisis after German Finance Minister Theo Waigel questioned Italy’s chances of being among the first to join Stage Three of the EMU in 1999. Minister of Finance Iiro Viinanen said Finland is still aspiring to join the EMU among the first group of countries, because Finland needs stability in the money market. He did not think that now was the time to stop floating the markka and to fix the Finnish currency to the European Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM). Before entering the ERM, Viinanen wants to see the direction Finland’s economy is taking, and what will become of Italy and Sweden who wish to join the ERM.
Minister for Foreign Affairs Tarja Halonen and Minister for European Affairs Ole Norrback attended a meeting of EU ministers of foreign affairs in Luxembourg. EU foreign ministers deplored the nuclear detonation carried out by France in the Pacific. In her statement, Minister Halonen said that abolishing nuclear tests would support a positive development in the field of armament, improving international security. The foreign ministers approved a new document on the transparency of the Council, making its decisions and declarations public, unless the Council decides by simple plurality vote that they are confidential. The meeting also dealt with Russia. Finland wants the EU to adopt a strategy that will maintain Russia’s stable relationship with the EU, despite the country’s internal changes.
Minister for Development Pekka Haavisto called for long-term development policies and for political commitment to Finnish development cooperation. Speaking in Vaasa, Haavisto said that Finland’s development assistance is in a crisis: not only financially, but also in terms of credibility. By his reckoning, the current trend would lead to the foreign aid appropriations being reduced to 0.3 per cent of Finland’s GDP under the Lipponen Government.
On a visit to the region of Kainuu, President Ahtisaari expressed his wish that Sweden would also meet the criteria for entering the Economic and Monetary Union EMU. Ahtisaari considered it important for Finland that the two countries be able to join the EMU at the same time.
Minister of Defence Anneli Taina suggested co-operation between the UN training centre in Niinisalo and the unit responsible for training the future rapid deployment force. Taina denied that the founding of the Finnish rapid deployment force would in any way threaten the functioning of the UN training centre. She regretted the position of the Parliament Defence Committee on the issue of the rapid deployment force.
Finland hosted the third foreign ministers’ meeting of the Barents Euro-Arctic Council in Rovaniemi. An extensive report was published on economic co-operation in the Barents region, and the threats posed to the environment by submarine wrecks in Murmansk were discussed. Minister for Foreign Affairs Halonen passed on the chairmanship of the Council to Russian Foreign Minister Andrey Kozyrev.
A round of negotiations took place in Mariehamn as part of the OSCE Minsk Process aiming to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. The participants in the talks, led by Finland and Russia, were the parties to the conflict: Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Nagorno-Karabakh.
President of Estonia Lennart Meri inaugurated an Estonian cultural institute in Helsinki. The director of the institute is Kulle Raig. The purpose of the Estonian Institute is to promote cultural relations between Finland and Estonia and to make Estonian culture and cultural policy known in Finland.
Foreign Minister of Russia Andrey Kozyrev paid a visit to Helsinki after a foreign ministers’ meeting in Rovaniemi. Kozyrev met with President Ahtisaari, Prime Minister Lipponen, Foreign Minister Halonen and Minister for European Affairs Norrback. He said that he was satisfied with the discussions he had in Finland on the relations with NATO. In the discussions, it was stressed that Finland wants to remain neutral and in charge of its own defence.
A public consultation was held at the Finnish Parliament concerning the preparations for the 1996 Intergovernmental Conference. Stage Three of the EMU was on the agenda, but there was less focus on foreign and security policy. Secretary of State Veli Sundbäck spoke at the event. He said the Conference improves the functioning of the EU and seeks to strengthen citizens’ trust in the Union. Among Finland’s objectives at the IGC are promoting transparency, fundamental rights, subsidiarity and equality. The Finns preparing for the IGC believe that it is in the interests of small countries that the European Commission remains strong. Finland wants the Conference to define the relationship between the EU and the WEU. Furthermore, Finland stresses the importance of environmental and employment policies.
The Ministry for Foreign Affairs announced that a question has been submitted to the Government regarding the possible deployment of Finnish troops to Bosnia. The purpose of the operation that would be led by NATO is to implement the peace agreement ending the Bosnian War. President Ahtisaari and the Cabinet Committee on Foreign and Security Policy convened on 13 October. However, the Government was unable to answer the question, because the specifics of the operation and Finland’s role in it had not yet been defined. The Government and the President noted that the current peacekeeping legislation imposes certain limits on Finland’s participation: Finland can only be involved in operations led by the UN or the OSCE. This is partly why the President and the Government support a prompt reform of the Finnish peacekeeping act, and the founding of a rapid deployment force. According to the Foreign Ministry, "clear international expectations” are placed on Finland concerning the implementation of the peace agreement.
President Ahtisaari and his spouse made a state visit to Great Britain at an invitation from Queen Elizabeth II. They were accompanied by Minister for Foreign Affairs Halonen. In London, in addition to the Queen and Prince Philip the Duke of Edinburgh, President Ahtisaari met Prime Minister John Major, Home Secretary Michael Howard, Opposition Leader and Leader of the Labour Party Tony Blair, and Liberal Democrat Paddy Ashdown. President Ahtisaari and Prime Minister Major discussed the importance of not ignoring or isolating Russia, when building EU-US relations. Both countries affirmed their compliance with the conditions of Stage Three of the EMU. President Ahtisaari also delivered a speech at the Royal Institute of International Affairs in London. He stressed Finland’s willingness to collaborate with NATO as it builds continent-wide partnerships in an effort to secure peace and manage conflicts.
The Ministry of the Interior established a broad-based committee to prepare the Government’s immigration and refugee policy programme. Ilkka-Christian Björklund was appointed as chairman of the committee. The programme is expected to be finished by the end of 1996.
The Parliament Foreign Affairs Committee finished its report on the Government’s security policy report. The Committee took the position that Finland should participate in so called wider peacekeeping. One possibility would be the founding of a rapid deployment force. The report denies that wider peacekeeping amounts to peace enforcement. Finland should also be able to decide for itself, which peacekeeping missions it takes part in. The Committee did not see the founding of the rapid deployment force as undermining the possibility for Finland to engage in traditional peacekeeping.
President Ahtisaari and President of Russia Boris Yeltsin appealed to Armenia and Azerbaijan in a joint letter, so that a settlement might be reached in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. The Presidents hoped for a solution to the crisis before the OSCE foreign ministers’ meeting in Hungary on 7 and 8 December.
President Ahtisaari and his spouse arrived in New York for the 50th anniversary meeting of the UN that was held 22–24 October with participants from 185 countries. The financial crisis of the UN was especially discussed. In his speech at the UN, President Ahtisaari stressed the importance of rapid deployment forces in UN peacekeeping. He told that Finland is preparing to establish its own rapid deployment force for this purpose. President Ahtisaari also suggested that the UN Secretary-General appoint an influential person to produce an analysis of the several proposals that have been made concerning the future of peacekeeping. In New York, the President had a one-on-one meeting with Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali. He discussed the Nagorno-Karabakh crisis with Azerbaijani President Heydar Aliyev, Armenian President Levon Ter-Petrosyan, and Turkish President Süleyman Demirel. He also met President of South Africa Nelson Mandela and President of Namibia Sam Nujoma.
The Centre Party members of the Foreign Affairs Committee submitted a protest that is attached to the Committee’s report concerning the Security Policy Report. The Centre Party parliamentary group thinks the Government should not make a legislative proposal to Parliament about a change of the Peacekeeping Act, whereby Finnish troops would have the right to use force even when not acting in self-defence. According to the Centre Party, Finland cannot engage in both traditional and wider peacekeeping, while maintaining credibility. The protest was along the same lines as the view of the Defence Committee.
In an interview with Radio Suomi, Prime Minister Lipponen said that Estonia’s internal security and border control must function properly before there can be a visa free regime between Finland and Estonia.
Minister of Finance Iiro Viinanen presented the so-called convergence programme of Finland’s economic policy, at a meeting of the Ecofin Council of EU finance ministers. The programme points the way of the economy towards the EU’s Economic and Monetary Union EMU. Finland’s programme is among the strictest in the EU. It was approved and gained praise, although high unemployment raised some questions.
The Reflection Group preparing the Intergovernmental Conference of the EU convened in Brussels. Ingvar S. Melin, who represented Finland in the group, made a proposal for an amendment to the EU Treaty, stressing public access to documents. The new article should also determine on which grounds documents may still be classified. Mr Melin also submitted to the group an official proposal on a prohibition of gender discrimination in the Treaty. In addition, Finland proposed that a clause about promoting equality be included in the Treaty.
A Foreign Ministry memorandum was discussed at the Government’s evening session. In the memo, it was suggested that Finland should not reduce funding of the Nordic Council and other forms of Nordic co-operation. The policy was meant to communicate to the rest of the Nordic countries, and to others, that Finland still values Nordic co-operation.
A group of 65 refugees from former Yugoslavia arrived in Finland. They were part of an extra quota of 500 refugees received from former Yugoslavia this year. Thus far Finland has accepted about 3000 refugees from former Yugoslavia.
At a conference on xenophobia organised by the Union of Journalists in Finland, Foreign Minister Halonen analysed some of the challenges of Finland’s refugee policy. Minister Halonen considered it important to develop and harmonise the EU’s immigration and refugee policies. Furthermore, Nordic co-operation should be made use of when shaping a strategy between EU and non-EU countries. The development of Western refugee policies should be encouraged especially in the Baltic States and in the St. Petersburg region.
Finland announced to NATO that it is looking into the possibility of participating in a potential peacekeeping operation in Bosnia. According to the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, the announcement was only tentative, but it allowed Finland to take part in the discussion on the planning of the operation.
Parliament had a feedback session on the Government’s Security Policy Report. It emerged from the discussions that Parliament is willing to change the current peacekeeping act in a way that would enable Finland to engage more widely in peacekeeping. Government groups of the Parliament assured that wider peacekeeping does not mean peace enforcement, and that it would not entail giving up non-alignment. Prime Minister Lipponen defended the establishing of a rapid deployment force, arguing that it would improve Finland’s own security. The rapid deployment troops would offer Finland a better ability to co-operate with Western Europe. Opposition leader Esko Aho construed Lipponen’s speech as meaning that the Government attempts to bind Finland to military alliances through peacekeeping. He saw no need for this. In response, Lipponen stated that it was not a matter of alliance, but that as a member of the UN, Finland is entitled to assistance in its national defence. The discussion on security policy continued on 1 November. Prime Minister Lipponen revealed that the Finnish Defence Council had obtained from the military an evaluation of Finland’s possible NATO membership. He said the analysis is very critical, lending little support for Finland applying for membership. Before long however, the Maastricht Treaty can lead to some kind of Euro-army of the EU.
The Grand Committee expressed agreement with the European Parliament’s position that Mediterranean countries should not be granted the 200 million ECUs of additional subsidies that were promised at the summit in Cannes. According to the Committee, the extra financial assistance could distort the priorities of EU subsidies and put Nordic countries at a disadvantage.
Parliament approved the Foreign Affairs Committee’s report concerning the Security Policy Report. Minister for Foreign Affairs Halonen expected the Government in the coming weeks to present a proposal to Parliament about amending the Peacekeeping Act. The change would enable Finland to participate in a NATO-led peacekeeping operation in former Yugoslavia. The new law would also give to Finnish troops the possibility to use arms not only in self-defence but in order to secure the mission as well.
Chief of Defence, General Gustav Hägglund spoke at the opening of the 137th National Defence Course. He stated that a central objective for the Finnish Defence Forces in the coming years is compatibility, the ability to work together with the armed forces of other countries. This consists for example in ensuring the uniformity of communications, procedures and tactics, positioning systems and abbreviations. The NATO approach to military co-operation is more and more prevalent all over Europe. According to General Hägglund, the results directly benefit the crisis management readiness of the UN. As an EU member, Finland is expected to participate in the strengthening of security, and joining in in European crisis management co-operation also improves Finland’s security. In General Hägglund’s view, NATO membership would not increase security.
Minister of Defence Taina visited Sweden, where he had a discussion with Minister for Defence Thage G. Peterson. Minister Taina acquainted herself with Swedish defence thinking, e.g. in the form of a new report on defence policy. Of primary concern during the visit was the peacekeeping operation in Bosnia. Minister Taina stated that Finland does not want to participate in peace enforcement. However, she said Finland is willing to be part of the Nordic Brigade in former Yugoslavia, provided "the mandate of the operation and the tasks assigned to the troops are suitable for us”.
The four first Hornet air defence fighter jets of the Finnish Air Force arrived at the Tampere-Pirkkala airport. As she was welcoming the aircrafts, Minister of Defence Taina said the purchase of the Hornets was "concrete evidence of Finland’s ability and will to ensure the credibility of its defence”. According to the Minister, the aircrafts are not meant to be used abroad, even if Finland were to create a rapid deployment force.
The Government agreed on the amendments to the Finnish Peacekeeping Act in its evening session. The proposed reform would allow Finland to participate in peace operations led by other entities besides the UN and the OSCE, as long as the mandate comes from the UN or the OSCE. The change in legislation would also allow Finland to participate in the securing of humanitarian aid and in the protection of civilians, even when the parties to the conflict oppose it. Military enforcement will remain outside of the scope of Finland’s activities. The change does not mean that a Finnish rapid deployment force will be formed, but the government groups admit that there is only a small difference between a rapid deployment force and the troops that are trained for wider peacekeeping.
The Finnish and Swedish Commissioners Erkki Liikanen and Anita Gradin presented some of their plans for increasing the efficiency of the EU’s use of funds and of its monitoring. This was the second part of their plan, and its focus areas are budget planning, evaluation of the Union’s measures, rationalisation of control, and fraud prevention.
The Finnish Government decided on the allocation of the commitments included in the development co-operation budget of 1995. The commitments amounted to 1.872 million mk, but some of them were left unallocated for the time being. The primary target countries of Finland’s bilateral programmes and projects remain the same: Ethiopia, Kenya, Mozambique, Namibia, Zambia and Tanzania in Africa, Egypt in the Mediterranean region, Nepal and Vietnam in Asia, and Nicaragua in Latin America.
The Government presented to Parliament the proposal on the changes to the Peacekeeping Act. The proposal had previously been treated at an extra meeting of the Government and at the presidential session. The peacekeeping mission in Bosnia will be funded by the countries participating. This was confirmed by the United States Secretary of Defense William Perry on 9 November. The Bosnian mission can therefore cost Finland hundreds of millions of markka, if Finland takes part in the NATO-led operation. In Finland’s case, the funds are not taken out of the national defence budget. The Ministry of Defence estimates that the Finnish soldiers will stay in Bosnia for about a year.
The President of Finland decided to cease the visa exemption agreements with the Dominican Republic, Fiji, Mauritius, Peru, Zambia, Suriname, Tanzania, and Thailand. Visas will be required from the citizens of these countries as of 1.1.1996. The decision was based on a list approved by the EU Council of Ministers on 25.9.1995. It is a list of countries whose citizens are required to have visas in order to enter EU territory.
In an interview with Euronews, Prime Minister Lipponen stated that the Finnish markka can enter the European Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM) "sometime next year”. Finland, he said, is in no hurry to join the ERM. The Ministry of Finance has requested a statement from the European Monetary Institute EMI regarding a draft of the new monetary law. The matter is then left to the decision of Parliament. One of the EMU criteria is that a currency must participate in the ERM for two years before a decision on the monetary union can be made. If the decision on the countries joining the monetary union is made at the latest in spring of 1998, the markka should join the ERM next spring.
Foreign and security policy was the primary topic discussed at the 47th session of the Nordic Council in Kuopio. Foreign Minister Halonen explained to the other Nordic countries what kind of prospects there are for Finland’s participation in wider peacekeeping. Nordic countries expressed their willingness to send a peacekeeping brigade to Bosnia, if the peace negotiations are successful. Foreign Minister of Denmark Niels Helveg Petersen pointed out that the negotiations on the enlargement of the EU should be launched simultaneously with all of the applicant countries. According to the Danish Prime Minister Poul Nyrup Rasmussen, talks continue with Belgium, which represents the Schengen countries. Preserving the Nordic passport-free zone (Nordic Passport Union) remains an objective. Prime Minister of Sweden Ingvar Carlsson told about his country’s positive stance on natural gas. Finland voiced its concern over the position of the Finnish language in Swedish schools, and declared that the main aim of Nordic co-operation is to communicate social and environmental policy issues to the EU and to the adjacent areas of Nordic countries. Nordic finance ministers, together with finance ministers of Baltic States, signed a declaration on continuing and growing the Baltic investment programme. The Council also approved a recommendation on founding an Arctic Council. The presidency of the committee focusing on adjacent areas was allocated to Finland.
Foreign Minister Halonen and Defence Minister Taina represented Finland at the foreign and defence ministers’ meeting of the WEU in Madrid. The WEU was meant to produce an outline document for the 1996 Intergovernmental Conference of the EU. The Finnish ministers emphasised the importance of the WEU in crisis management, which Finland wants to be a part of. Changing the Finnish peacekeeping legislation would allow Finland to participate in WEU peace operations, if they are based on a UN or OSCE mandate.
The Finnish Defence Council discussed an analysis of Finland’s relationship to the North Atlantic military alliance NATO. The analysis did not support Finnish NATO membership: First of all, Finland’s membership could have a destabilising effect on Northern Europe. Secondly, NATO’s future is still open. Moreover, Finland’s geopolitical position has not changed. And finally, Finland should not provoke Russia.
The French Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced that a meeting that was planned to take place between Prime Minister Paavo Lipponen and French PM Alain Juppé during Lipponen’s visit in Paris on 21 November had been cancelled. The reason was that Finland, along with nine other EU countries, voted on 16 November in favour of a resolution opposing nuclear tests by China and France. France cancelled President Jacques Chirac’s meetings with the prime ministers of Italy and Belgium for the same reason.
Chief of Defence Gustav Hägglund commented on the plan of the Finnish Defence Forces to acquire submarines. He said underwater monitoring should be developed, one of the reasons being the extending of the territorial sea. One option would be the use of a submarine as a mobile monitoring unit. General Hägglund stated that the Finnish Defence Forces do not have the resources for creating a submarine fleet. For financial reasons, two Swedish Sjöormen-class submarines that are being decommissioned could be considered. According to General Hägglund, no decisions have been made, but the matter is being looked into.
A regular meeting of the defence ministers of Finland, Sweden, Norway, and Denmark was held in Skagen, Denmark. The ministers discussed the situation in the former Yugoslavia region, the use of Nordic resources in UN operations, Nordic UN co-operation, peace partnerships and Nordic materiel co-operation, environmental questions in national defence, and the European security structure. The ministers were particularly satisfied with the agreement concerning Eastern Slavonia. They estimated that gaining support for the NATO-led Implementation Force (IFOR), functioning under a UN mandate, may be crucial for ensuring that the results of negotiations become reality. The ministers also emphasised the importance of the CFE Treaty for the security of all the Nordic countries.
The Grand Committee of the Finnish Parliament finished its statement informing the Government about the Committee’s expectations from the Intergovernmental Conference next year. The most concrete EMU-related suggestions in the draft were removed. The statement urged Finland to hold on to its influence and its seats in EU institutions. The Committee also called for more transparency in EU decision-making.
The Cabinet Finance Committee approved a decision prepared by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, cancelling a debt of over 113 million mk owed by Peru to Finland. The condition was that Peru spends one fourth of the sum on environmental and social projects at home. Finland will set up a committee to monitor the use of the money.
President Ahtisaari gave a presentation to the Paasikivi Society, in which he linked together the EU’s monetary union and the Union’s enlargement to the east. The President said Finland supports eastern enlargement because it is necessary for the stability and security of the continent. He considered enlargement decisive for European security. President Ahtisaari also suggested increasing Baltic Sea co-operation. He argued that in order to gradually guarantee common security, Europe needs a system in which use of force is limited by jointly accepted principles and international law. This is not about power politics, the President stressed. He believed that the rapid deployment force intended for crisis management missions and the reform of the peacekeeping law would together improve the credibility of Finnish security policy. In addition, Finland would become better equipped to participate in developing the EU’s Common Foreign and Security Policy.
Minister for Foreign Affairs Halonen deplored the third nuclear test made by France in the Pacific Ocean. According to Minister Halonen, a comprehensive nuclear-test-ban treaty can be adopted by next summer. She saw the progress of the Geneva negotiations and France joining the Pacific nuclear free zone as positive signs.
Former Prime Minister, member of the board of directors of the Bank of Finland Harri Holkeri, was appointed as a member of the international body overseeing the Northern Ireland peace process. British Prime Minister John Major and Irish Prime Minister John Bruton made the decision to found the three-member commission on 28 November, when they agreed on a plan to re-launch the peace process. The goal of the peace plan is to start negotiations between the governments and the parties to the terror-filled conflict, and to disarm the Catholic Irish Republican Army (IRA) and the Protestant extremist groups.
The Ministry of Defence announced that as a result of the negotiations it undertook with the Russian Government in Helsinki this week, Finland will purchase roughly one billion mk worth of defence materiel from Russia. The transaction involves Russia paying off about 850 million mk of its debt to Finland. Among the acquisitions are three Buk-M1 surface-to-air missile systems. The new missiles are meant to reinforce the defence of the Helsinki metropolitan area. The missile systems are supposed to be delivered starting early next year.
In an interview with the newspaper Länsi-Suomi, President Ahtisaari stated: "Collaboration and perhaps also joint exercises are – when considered without prejudice – ways of improving security. So co-operation is central, but we are not seeking NATO membership.” President Ahtisaari believed NATO is still conceived of in Cold War terms, when the organisation should be seen "through slightly different eyes than before”. The President considered policies aiming for peace and stability a priority. By promoting stability, peace is preserved, if economic and social security and democracy spread wider. This is why President Ahtisaari regarded EU enlargement as a foreign policy priority.
Finland received an official request from NATO to take part in NATO’s peacekeeping mission in Bosnia.
After an animated discussion, Parliament passed the legislative proposal on the amendment to the Finnish Peacekeeping Act by a vote of 99 to 39. The new law allows Finnish peacekeeping troops to participate in a NATO-led mission. Finnish peacekeepers are allowed to use force in order to protect civilians or to secure humanitarian aid. The Centre Party wanted participation in wider peacekeeping to be decided by special laws that would have been enacted case by case. The view that prevailed was that of the government parties and of the Foreign Affairs Committee: an account given to Parliament of future missions is sufficient. On the same day, the Government decided to send a construction unit of 450 soldiers to Bosnia as part of the Bosnian peacekeeping operation.
Prime Minister Lipponen told the Parliament Grand Committee his views on the issues that would be treated at the Madrid summit, and on Finland’s positions at the meeting. According to Lipponen, Finland will accept the name euro for the currency of the EMU, unless a better name is found. The name could be used as a prefix to the name of the national currency, in Finland’s case euromarkka. If the EU’s plans come true, the countries joining the EMU will adopt the single currency in 2002.
The Foreign Ministry announced that on invitation by Russia, Finland will participate in election monitoring in the Russian State Duma election, along with several other EU and OSCE countries. There are around 10 Finnish Members of Parliament participating, either as delegates of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly or of the OSCE PA. The Foreign Ministry is also sending some of its officials as observers.
As expected, the Finnish Parliament rejected a government proposal regarding the President’s powers. The rejection of the constitutional reform had already been agreed on in the government negotiations.
Minister for Nordic Cooperation, Minister for European Affairs Ole Norrback presented what Finland sees as the emphases of Nordic cooperation. Finland is to hold the presidency of the Nordic Council of Ministers starting 1 January 1996. Finland wants the Nordic Council to make an inquiry into Nordic energy policy. During its presidency, Finland will also keep EU-related matters on the agenda at every Nordic meeting. Minister Norrback estimated that EU-cooperation between Finland, Sweden, and Denmark should be improved.
President Ahtisaari, Prime Minister Lipponen, Foreign Minister Halonen, and Minister of Finance Viinanen attended the European Council in Madrid. Four crucial decisions were taken regarding the EMU. The new currency is called the Euro. The list of countries to participate in the EMU will be determined in April 1998. The transition to the common currency will be carried out in the manner proposed by the European Commission. Right from the start, public debt in EMU countries will be issued in euros instead of the national currencies. The summit also decided to initiate a procedure which ensures equal treatment of all European countries that wish to apply for EU membership. Actual negotiations with the qualifying countries can probably begin in early 1998. More information on the economic implications of the enlargement was requested, and on a suggestion from the Netherlands, the Commission was charged with the task of preparing an analysis of the Union’s financing. An Intergovernmental Conference for reforming the structure of the EU was scheduled to take place in Italy in late March. EU leaders agreed to continue the Union’s TACIS assistance programme to Russia and the other CIS countries. At the initiative of the Nordic countries, the EU will start making more solid policies with regards to the Baltic Sea Region. The European Council urged the Commission to prepare, in the coming months, reports on the Baltic Sea cooperation initiatives.
The Government presented a report to Parliament on Finland’s participation in the Bosnian peace operation. According to the Government, Finnish participation would be "a logical addition to our efforts to develop both an active European security structure and Nordic co-operation”. The Government also considers achieving peace in the Balkans to be in accordance with Finnish national security interests.
Commander of the Finnish Defence Forces Gustav Hägglund spoke to political journalists about the operation in Bosnia. The Finnish construction unit that will be monitoring adherence to the peace agreement will follow NATO rules on the use of force. The NATO commander in Sarajevo will have the highest authority in the use of firepower. According to General Hägglund, the operation is based on the peace treaty, but also on a deterrent, because the peacekeepers will respond with force to any attacks on them. The use of a deterrent is new in peacekeeping. Its purpose is to restrain groups that are not parties to the peace agreement. It was hoped that Finland would provide combat troops, but the Finnish Defence Forces had the capability of deploying only the construction unit of 450 men. General Hägglund remarked that Finnish troops lack the compatibility with NATO in terms of the routines of command and operation.
Between 8 November and 2 December, the polling firm Suomen Gallup conducted an opinion poll commissioned by the Advisory Board for Defence Information (ABDI). According to the survey, Finns are divided into two even-sized groups as to their views on security policy. Forty-one per cent are in favour of joining Western military alliances, whereas 39 per cent prefer an emphasis on independent national defence. Nearly half of responders were for the establishing and maintaining of a rapid deployment force to be used in wider peacekeeping, and 23 per cent were against it. Half of Finns would vote in favour of EU membership, if the referendum were held today.
Parliament approved Finland’s participation in the NATO-led peace operation in Bosnia, by a vote of 147 to seven. The Centre Party criticised the Government’s report for not dealing with the limits of the use of force. In a report of the Foreign Affairs Committee on the Government’s report, it was noted that these boundaries are defined by NATO. According to the Committee, the rules of the use of force are in accord with the definition of wider peacekeeping. The Committee held to its view that Finland must not engage in peace enforcement. NATO officially took over the Bosnian mission from the UN. The NATO-led IFOR force of 60,000 men monitors the implementation of the peace agreement.
The Schengen co-operation aiming to eliminate border controls moved forward in Oostende, Belgium. All five Nordic countries were accepted as observers in Schengen beginning 1 May 1996. Even non-EU members Norway and Iceland were accepted as associate countries. The Nordic countries can obtain full membership once they meet the technical criteria for accession.
President Ahtisaari decided that Finland will dispatch a construction unit to the NATO-led peace operation in Bosnia. The President appointed Lt. Col. Juha Kilpiä as Commander of the unit. The strength of the Finnish unit is 450 men, of which 402 make up the actual construction unit, and the rest will serve at the Nordic Brigade headquarters and in a national maintenance group. The Finns are part of the Nordic Brigade that is made up of 4,500 people. Danish Brigadier-General Finn Saermark-Thomsen acts as Commander of the Brigade. The Finns will have tasks such as building working spaces and quarters for the Nordic Brigade, and improving the roads. The training of the construction unit will begin on 2 January 1996, using the traditional peacekeeping training model. Because of the new type of operating environment, the training is complemented for instance with instruction on NATO’s co-operation and on staff routines. The programme also includes two weeks of combat training.
In an interview with Helsingin Sanomat, President Ahtisaari denied the claim that Finland is being led towards membership of the Western military alliance NATO. According to him, Finland has at present "no need, nor any aspiration to join NATO”. The President remarked that for Finland, the operation in Bosnia does not differ very much from traditional peacekeeping. President Ahtisaari saw the election in Russia on 17 December as purely positive. He estimated that Finland’s first year as an EU member had gone well. In his opinion, EU membership has allowed Finland to influence EU enlargement, to raise awareness of the Baltic Sea together with Sweden, and to develop the assistance programmes for adjacent areas. President Ahtisaari also took a position in support of Stage Three of the EMU.
The newspaper Helsingin Sanomat had a survey done by the company Suomen Gallup, which showed that Finns have not changed their minds about EU membership. The majority considered membership a good thing. In the Capital Region and in Uusimaa, people were more satisfied with EU membership than elsewhere in Finland. Less than a quarter of the responders were in favour of NATO. Support for the single euro currency and Finland’s participation in the EU’s Economic and Monetary Union rose from 31 to 38 per cent. However, half of Finns are still opposed to adopting the common currency.