In his new year’s speech, President Martti Ahtisaari presented a thorough evaluation of Finland’s international standing as an EU member. The president was satisfied with the outcome of the membership. He believed that Finland’s international position had been strengthened and that the country had gained recognition for its constructive approach. President Ahtisaari credited Finland for the growing interest of the EU for the North. Finland will continue to aim at making sure that focus is maintained on Russia and the Baltic Sea region in the EU’s external relations. The President expressed his support for Finland’s accession to the Economic and Monetary Union, and for EU enlargement. He was pleased with the fact that Parliament had almost unanimously passed the new Peacekeeping Act. He believed that the road to peace in the Balkans would be long and would require sacrifice. The President said the Russian parliamentary election had reinforced the development of democracy in the country. He also urged the Finnish people to stand up to racism and xenophobia.
Prime Minister Paavo Lipponen was interviewed by the weekly magazine Suomen Kuvalehti. He stated that a continual strengthening of the EU is also in Finland’s interests. According to him, a more close cooperation will allow even the small member states to make their voices heard. Prime Minister Lipponen placed special importance on making the common foreign and security policy more efficient. For him, the current phase with the Monetary Union and the enlargement are just a foretaste of reforms to come. In the long run, a common government or an equivalent institution could possibly be expected. If the EU fails at fighting large-scale unemployment, the citizens’ trust in the Union will falter, the prime minister predicted. He said the double representation of Finland by the president and the prime minister had gone well. He considered that the arrangement was provisional, as in January the Finnish government will appoint a new committee to reform the constitution. It will come into force after the next presidential election.
The Ministry of Defence announced that Defence Minister Taina had decided on measures for developing voluntary national defence activities. The Ministry of Defence and the Defence Command, in collaboration with national defence organisations, have been preparing a system of voluntary defence activity to support Finland’s national defence. The work is primarily based on the report of General Valtanen’s working group from 1995.
In a meeting in the Russian town of Pskov, Finland, Russia and Estonia agreed on a work programme for the year 1996 concerning the Gulf of Finland. The programme includes a ministerial meeting, seminars, and a research programme consisting of about 70 projects. The focus will be on the funding and organising of environmental projects for the protection of the entire drainage basin of the Gulf of Finland. The programme also involves establishing a common conservation area in the archipelago of the Gulf’s eastern part. Some of the projects are related to transportation as well as agriculture and forestry.
Helsingin Sanomat summarised an interview with President Ahtisaari that appeared originally in the newspaper The European. In the interview, the president expressed Finland’s desire to be among the first countries to join the EU’s Economic and Monetary Union (EMU). According to the president, the fundamental reason for Finland’s adherence to the EU was improving the country’s competitiveness. He believed that the EMU would further improve Finland’s competitiveness and make Finland even more attractive to foreign investors. President Ahtisaari admitted that public opinion in Finland is less enthusiastic about the EMU than about Finland’s EU membership. The president reckoned that the single currency is an emotional issue and demands much discussion. Ahtisaari is in favour of EU enlargement, because especially eastern enlargement is crucial for increasing European stability. He described Finland’s relations with Russia as more natural than those with the Soviet Union. The President was not worried about Russia’s nationalists or communists, but instead about nuclear security in Russia.
The President of Finland appointed a delegation for negotiations to remove visa requirements between Finland and Estonia. The delegation is led by Under-Secretary of State Heikki Talvitie. As the talks progress, Finland will be observing how two recent agreements made with Estonia are being implemented. One of the agreements concerns the returning of citizens residing in the other country without proper grounds; the other is about the cooperation of authorities in fighting crime.
The Finnish Defence Council is commissioning an extensive report from a group of officials. The report will outline Finland’s defence policy and the development of the Finnish Defence Forces until approximately the year 2010. Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Defence Pertti Nykänen is Chairman of the Defence Council. The work is expected to be completed by the end of 1996. Last autumn the Government submitted its report on security policy. The parliamentary committee that was suggested among others by the previous government’s defence minister Elisabeth Rehn, Speaker of the Parliament Riitta Uosukainen, and current defence minister Anneli Taina, will not be established. Based on this report, the Government will submit its own report to Parliament.
Prime Minister Lipponen stated in an interview with Estonian newspaper Sõnumileht that leaving the Baltic States on their own as NATO enlarges is not a good idea. According to Lipponen, the Nordic countries are not capable of ensuring the security of these countries. The prime minister thus rejected the German initiative of a Nordic-Baltic defence alliance. Regarding the proposal by the Russian ambassador to Finland Yuri Deryabin on the neutrality of the Baltic States, Prime Minister Lipponen remarked that Finland has not been invited to advocate Estonia’s neutrality. The Prime Minister hoped that Estonia’s EU membership would soon be realised, because he considers it important for Finland’s security. Lipponen estimated that visa exemption between Finland and Estonia will materialise once the risks involved have been minimised.
At the opening of the National Defence Course in Helsinki, Minister of Defence Anneli Taina believed Parliament would handle the founding of a Finnish rapid deployment force as early as this spring. According to Taina, the founding of a rapid deployment force does not require a legal reform. Taina said he would present a report on this issue to the Parliament. According to the Ministry of Defence, the training of the rapid deployment force could begin in spring 1997 for a group of volunteers chosen from the July 1996 contingent of conscripts. While handling the Peacekeeping Act, Parliament approved a resolution that the potential establishment of a rapid deployment force must be brought separately to the Parliament for consideration. In its report, the Foreign Affairs Committee concurred. Chair of the Parliament Defence Committee Kalevi Lamminen said that Parliament had been purposely misled in the matter of the rapid deployment force. Party secretary of the Centre Party Pekka Perttula agreed. However, Speaker of the Parliament Uosukainen stated in an interview with newspaper Ilkka on 17.1. that "the creation of a rapid deployment force will be introduced to the Parliament in one form or another, and it is for Parliament to decide on it”.
President Ahtisaari visited Lithuania, where he met President Algirdas Brazauskas, Prime Minister Adolfas Slezevicius and Speaker of the Parliament Ceslovas Jursenas. During the visit, Ahtisaari stressed the EU’s significance for Europe’s stability and security. According to Ahtisaari, the goal is to make the Baltic Sea region as important in the EU as the Mediterranean region. President Ahtisaari also stated that Finland supports Lithuania’s pursuit of membership. Besides the EU, topics of discussion included security policy, the recent Lithuanian banking crisis, the refugee problem, the improvement of Lithuanian border control, and trade between the countries. During his visit, Ahtisaari gave a presentation at an economic seminar of the Finnish-Lithuanian Chamber of Commerce, and inaugurated the new residence of the Finnish ambassador in Vilna.
Prime Minister Lipponen paid an official visit to Estonia, where he met Prime Minister Tiit Vähi and Minister of Foreign Affairs Siim Kallas. Among other things, the prime ministers discussed visa questions. Prime Minister Lipponen promised that visa freedom between Estonia and Finland would become a reality from the beginning of 1997 on. Finland has made it a precondition of the visa freedom that Estonia improves its passports and adds a barcode in them.
The Advisory Board for Defence Information (ABDI) published the results of an opinion poll concerning national defence. The poll was commissioned from Suomen Gallup in November-December 1995. The survey found that the Finnish people’s trust in Finland’s defence capability has grown. 55 percent of the population considered that Finland has good chances of defending itself in the event of a war fought with conventional weapons (the corresponding figures were 21 percent in 1978 and 40 percent in the 1980s). 37 percent thought the chances were bad. The majority of respondents based their trust on effective defence forces. Moreover, four out of five Finns were in favour of using military force for defence in all situations, even if the outcome is uncertain. The poll also indicated that 86 percent of Finns are ready to personally take part in defending their country if it comes under attack.
Prime Minister Lipponen participated in a seminar held by the Bertelsmann Foundation in Bonn, where a number of current and former statesmen discussed the future of Europe behind closed doors. In discussions between Prime Minister Lipponen and Chancellor Helmut Kohl in Bonn, it was affirmed that the relations between the two countries are close and warm. At the meeting, Lipponen brought up the wish of the Baltic States to start their EU accession negotiations as soon as possible, that is to say in the coming autumn at the same time with Malta and Cyprus. As for the Chancellor, he hoped Finland would be active with regard to the Baltic States and promote cooperation between them. Prime Minister Lipponen said he supports Russia’s membership in the Council of Europe, in spite of the events in Chechnya. Both Kohl and Lipponen gave their full support to the objectives of the third stage of the EMU. According to Lipponen, Kohl sees the monetary union project also from a political point of view: "It is part of Europe’s historical development, which is about the consolidation of peace”.
The foreign ministers of Nordic countries held a meeting in Helsinki, hosted by Minister for Foreign Affairs Halonen. Some of the topics on the agenda were the situation in Bosnia, neighbouring area cooperation, EU issues, and Russia’s possible membership in the Council of Europe. Minister Halonen believed that all of the Nordic governments were in favour of Russia’s membership. Human rights issues in Burma, Burundi, Nigeria and China were also discussed. The question of human rights in China gained publicity as a television documentary on the conditions in Chinese children’s institutions was broadcast in the Nordic countries. The Ministers demanded that China allow access to international organisations and UN rapporteurs to examine the situation. The Nordic foreign ministers expressed their full support for Sweden’s candidacy for a seat in the UN Security Council next autumn when the new members are elected.
An advance team of 47 men assigned to prepare for the Finnish mission in Bosnia flew from Pori to Croatia. From Zagreb, the journey continued to Doboj, the site of the Finnish base. The vehicles and other materiel of the advance team, and a group of 29 men had already earlier left for Doboj. The main contingent is set to leave for Bosnia on 14 February.
In Geneva, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child conducted an oral hearing of Finnish government representatives. The hearing concerned Finland’s first report on the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, submitted in December 1994. The Committee commended Finnish child policy, especially the comprehensive health care and social services as well as education. Finland was criticised for not investigating the effects of budget cuts on the lives of children. The Committee recommended the authorities to establish a special monitoring system to ensure that all children benefit from the same basic social services regardless of municipality.
President Ahtisaari addressed the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe as a guest. In his speech, he called for the admission of Russia as the 39th member country of the CoE. He said this would advance both democracy in Russia and stability in Europe. According to him, excluding Russia from the Council does not serve these purposes. Regarding the crisis in Chechnya, he stated that "the democratic process needs time to take root”. Russian conditions, including the judicial system, are not up to European standards, and Ahtisaari was concerned about the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg – which already has a heavy workload – being overwhelmed by Russia’s membership. As a solution, the president suggested the appointment of a Council ombudsman who would work in close cooperation with the ombudsmen especially in the new member countries. President Ahtisaari also called for better protection of minorities.
In Strasbourg, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe accepted Russia as the 39th member of the organisation by a vote of 164 to 35. The final decision will be made in February by the Committee of Ministers comprising the representatives of the governments of CoE countries. Those opposed to Russian membership feared it would devaluate the accession criteria of an organisation focusing on human rights. Those in favour of Russia’s accession thought that rejecting the application might fuel nationalism in the country. Because of human rights issues related for instance to the crisis in Chechnya, the Council made a long list of requirements that Russia must meet in order to remain a member. The entire Finnish delegation supported Russia’s membership. Estonian media accused Finland of trying to pressure Estonia into also endorsing the membership.
The United States and Russia inquired of Finland the possibility to arrange the first meeting of Secretary of State Warren Christopher and Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov in Helsinki on 10.-11.2.1996. Helsinki was chosen because of Secretary of State Christopher’s complex travel schedule. Finland accepted the request, and on 2.2. the Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs announced that the meeting would take place one day earlier, on 9.-10.2.
At their meeting in Helsinki, the development ministers of Nordic countries discussed the focus areas of Nordic development cooperation in the Middle East and in Africa. The meeting also dealt with support to Palestine, and with a joint Nordic initiative for the development of democracy and good governance in Tanzania.
In an interview published by newspaper Keskisuomalainen among others, Prime Minister Lipponen claimed that the core EU countries are pressuring Finland to join the European Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM) as a condition for participation in the EMU. According to the prime minister, Finland will be forced to take a position sooner than it wanted on the linking of the Finnish markka to the ERM. Lipponen’s statement was based on discussions between him and German Chancellor Kohl. On 28.1. in the MTV3 news, Lipponen sought to relieve the uncertainty caused by the linking of the markka to the ERM. He said: "Finland’s view is that the stability of the Finnish markka is enough. The markka has been quite stable, and we are in no hurry to join the ERM as it is”. He also stated: "We should wait for the major EU countries that are in the ERM to do something to stabilise the situation”.
At the 75thanniversary celebration of the Finnish Cadet and Officer Corps Association in Helsinki, Prime Minister Lipponen denied that Finland’s non-alliance is undermined by its willingness to adapt to the cooperation with NATO in the Bosnian operation or in the Partnership for Peace programme. He noted that the idea that "Finnish officers would discuss the compatibility of procedures and materiel” has seemed foreign in Finland. The Prime Minister stated that the Government has no intention of changing "a tried and tested foreign policy line”. According to him, the cooperation in Bosnia is used to build a new European system of security, where Finland has the same interests and goals as in the OSCE.
In Brussels, the EU foreign ministers’ meeting approved the new regulation for the TACIS programme which provides grant finance for cooperation with the CIS countries and Mongolia. The new rules permit the gathering of funding from several sources, and the duration of the programme is extended to four years from the current two. In addition, there is a new emphasis on cross-border cooperation between Finland and Russia. The reformed programme will appropriate an estimated one billion markka of EU money to the Finnish-Russian cooperation. The three main targets for the funding are the environment, the improvement of nuclear power plants, and education. Minister for Foreign Affairs Halonen and Minister for European Affairs Norrback were very satisfied with the adoption of the programme.
Opposition leader, Chairman of the Centre Party Esko Aho visited Brussels, where he met the President of the European Commission Jacques Santer and five members of the Commission. The theme of the visit was the EMU, which the President of the Commission and its members strongly believed would materialise. The discussions did not convince Aho. He said he could not "believe that all the preconditions for the EMU, namely the convergence criteria, the timeframe and the joining of certain key countries like France, could occur at the same time”.
The President of Finland appointed the new National Coalition Party ministers. Minister of Justice Sauli Niinistö became Minister of Finance, and MP Kari Häkämies was appointed Minister of Justice. Finance Minister Iiro Viinanen’s resignation from the Government was accepted on 2.2., and he became President of the insurance group Pohjola. At their press conference, ministers Niinistö and Häkämies assured that they would continue their predecessors’ line. Niinistö did not think the timeframe of the EU’s Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) would be delayed.
According to a preliminary estimate, Finland’s participation in the Implementation Force (IFOR) enforcing the Bosnia-Herzegovina Peace Agreement will cost 262,3 million markka. The Ministry for Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Defence have been allowed to exceed their budgets because of the Bosnian operation. At this stage, 120 million markka will be allocated to the Ministry of Defence, and 50 million to the Ministry for Foreign Affairs. The amount of appropriation needed for the operation will be determined when the Government presents this year’s supplementary budget.
Speaking at the 1996 opening of the parliamentary session, President Ahtisaari looked back at the economic and foreign policy events of the past year. In foreign policy, he regarded the enlargement process of the EU as the continuation of European integration. In his view, Finland has played a part in the way the Union has adopted Nordic issues and enlargement as its key goals. Ahtisaari also stressed the significance of the TACIS programme, which involves the EU, the CIS countries and Mongolia, for Finland, as well as Finland’s efforts in the adoption of the programme. Ahtisaari also emphasised the importance of the Baltic Sea as an EU inland sea. According to the president, the Nordic countries support the integration pursuits of the Baltic States. He underscored the EU’s role in stabilising Europe. Furthermore, he remarked that Russia’s actions e.g. in the Caucasus highlight the need for a stronger bond between Russia and the rest of Europe. The admission of Russia to the Council of Europe shows, he argued, that there is a will to support the democratisation of Russia as an essential part of a stable Europe.
Chair of the Parliament Foreign Affairs Committee Pertti Paasio submitted his report on Finnish development cooperation to Prime Minister Lipponen. Paasio argued that Finland’s development assistance should be substantially increased, because the sudden reduction of aid has harmed Finland’s credibility. Paasio proposed four options for reaching again the UN target, 0.7 percent of gross national product, in the next few years. Although the Lipponen Government is in principle committed to this goal, it has frozen the markka amount of development assistance for the entire term of government. Paasio called for the reversal of the freezing decision. In his view, poverty reduction is the main objective of development cooperation. He considered the extensive use of interest subsidies in development cooperation to be an export incentive that distorts competition.
President of Ukraine Leonid Kuchma and his wife made an official visit to Finland. During his visit, President Kuchma met President Ahtisaari, Prime Minister Lipponen, and representatives of industry, and visited the Finnish Parliament. The discussions dealt with Ukraine’s relations with the European Union, the EU’s trade policy that benefits both countries, and the situation in Russia. Kuchma also spoke at the Paasikivi Society, where he told about Ukraine’s eagerness for economic cooperation with Finland in order to improve the safety of Russian-built nuclear reactors. In addition, Kuchma inaugurated the Ukrainian embassy in Helsinki. During the visit, an agreement was also signed between Finland and Ukraine on early notification of nuclear accidents.
United States Secretary of State Warren Christopher, coming to Finland to meet the new Russian Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov, arrived a day early so that he could also meet Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma who was visiting Finland, on 8 February. Secretary Christopher met also with President Ahtisaari, and they discussed the situation in former Yugoslavia and Finland’s experience of EU membership. Foreign Minister Primakov also met President Ahtisaari, Prime Minister Lipponen and Foreign Minister Halonen during his visit. Foreign Minister Halonen stated that Finnish-Russian relations are still on firm ground even after the change of foreign minister. The topics under discussion were bilateral relations, the EU, the Council of Europe, the situation in former Yugoslavia, and Baltic-Russian relations. In his talks with the U.S. Secretary of State on 9-10 February, Foreign Minister Primakov restated the Russian position: NATO expansion into Soviet-era ally countries. However, he said Russia is ready for negotiations to find a solution that satisfies all parties. Secretary Christopher stressed that the U.S. remains committed to a "gradual and transparent” enlargement of the Western military alliance. The Helsinki talks were conducted in a constructive spirit.
The Parliament Grand Committee gave a statement in support of Finland’s accession to the Schengen Area, where passport controls are abolished between EU member states. However, the Committee insisted that the Nordic Passport Union be maintained. Finland is currently negotiating observer status, and full membership is expected in 1999.
In an interview with the newspaper Ilkka, Centre Party Chairman Esko Aho hoped that the third stage of the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) would not be implemented. He thought it would be best if the EU member states concluded in the spring of 1998 that the implementation of the EMU is not feasible. In Aho’s view, the best time for deciding the Centre Party’s EMU position would be the summer 1998 party congress. In a decision by the party council last autumn, EMU membership was not ruled out. In an interview with Radio Suomi, Prime Minister Lipponen urged the Centre Party to announce its position on whether Finland should seek to join the EMU. A negative answer would mean that the Centre Party is further distancing itself from Europe’s development.
Minister of Foreign Affairs of Armenia Vahan Papazyan made an official visit to Finland. He met among others President Ahtisaari and Minister for Foreign Affairs Halonen. The visit was related to Finland’s participation in the so-called Minsk Group, chaired by Finland and Russia, which leads the Nagorno-Karabakh peace negotiations. Mr Papazyan found that Finland has acted in a very positive balancing way in the negotiations. If the cooperation between Russia and the OSCE in Nagorno-Karabakh is successful, the model could perhaps be applied in other post-Soviet crisis areas. The Armenian foreign minister said his country wishes to deepen its relationship with the EU, and hoped Finland would support Armenia as it seeks full membership in the Council of Europe.
The ministers for Nordic cooperation assembled in Helsinki, where they decided in principle to abolish 13 Nordic institutions and cooperative bodies in their present form. In most cases the institutions or cooperative bodies to be abolished will continue their activities in the form of various projects. In Finland’s case, the decision affects four institutions. The ministers envisaged the creation of three new institutions focused on research and culture. The list of reforms is next on the agenda of the parliamentarians of Nordic countries. The reforms will come into effect with the adoption of the 1997 budget for Nordic cooperation. The ministers also discussed the combining of the secretariats of the Nordic Council and the Nordic Council of Ministers.
Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden are planning the first joint Nordic peacekeeping exercise in northern Norway in the Tromsø region in spring 1997 (on 20-30 May). The exercise is called "Nordic Peace 97”. Norway is hosting the exercise in the spirit of the Partnership for Peace programme. Norway also participates with the largest number of troops. The other Nordic countries plan to participate with roughly company-strength units each. The exercise will be carried out under joint Nordic command. The exercise takes place in a conflict situation between imaginary states, in which the UN has requested the Nordic countries to join a peacekeeping mission to prevent the spread of the crisis. In the exercise, the Nordic peace forces will be assigned traditional peacekeeping and humanitarian aid tasks.
With regard to an upcoming report on defence policy, the Parliament Defence Committee demanded that Minister of Defence Anneli Taina explain how the contribution of Parliament to the report would be guaranteed. In January, the Finnish Defence Council appointed a group of officials headed by Pertti Nykänen, Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Defence, to draw up an analysis outlining Finnish defence policy and the development of the Finnish Defence Forces until the year 2010. According to the Defence Committee, the entire Parliament and the Committee itself have repeatedly called for the establishment of a parliamentary body to plan future defence policy.
A troop of 290 men making up most of the Finnish construction unit were deployed to Doboj, Bosnia, to join the Nordic-Polish brigade of 3700 troops already stationed there. Previously, 160 men belonging to the construction unit had reached Bosnia. The Finns’ tasks include the construction of working and living quarters of the Nordic Brigade’s bases and headquarters.
The Parliament Grand Committee dealing with EU matters criticised a government report on the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU). The Committee found that the study, prepared at the Economics Department of the Ministry of Finance, was one-sided, vague, and avoided the problems of the EMU. The government-approved report answers questions posed by the Grand Committee on the EMU Stage Three. The Government opposed the creation of a countercyclical fund to support the EMU, pointing out for instance that administration costs would be increased. Some MPs held that a more detailed analysis of the question of the funds and of unemployment should have been carried out. In addition to the funds, the report dealt with issues such as the EMU criteria, the economic policy coordination between member states, and the liability regime concerning the European Central Bank.
The Parliament Foreign Affairs Committee elected MP Markus Aaltonen as its chair. His predecessor Pertti Paasio was earlier elected as the chair of the Social Democratic Party’s parliamentary group. Mr Paasio will however continue as a member of the Committee.
At an event held in Kajaani by the UKK-perinneyhdistys (an association dedicated to the legacy of President Kekkonen), Minister for Foreign Affairs Tarja Halonen stated that the relations between Finland and Russia are more straightforward and reliable than before. According to her, Finland adapted quickly to the new situation in its eastern neighbour. Russia has condemned the Soviet Union’s attempts to interfere in the internal affairs of Finland. Minister Halonen also argued that Finland’s EU membership has not diminished the importance of Finnish-Russian bilateral relations, quite the opposite. As an EU member, Finland seeks to promote trade liberalisation between the EU and Russia. Finland’s role as a gateway to the East has also grown.
Speaking at a seminar of the Finnish Committee of 100 dealing with security policy, Foreign Minister Tarja Halonen said that one of the objectives of the EU Intergovernmental Conference, due to begin in Turin in March, should be the strengthening of the Union’s foreign and security policy. Finland wants this sector of policy to be kept within intergovernmental cooperation. Minister Halonen said that the use of qualified majority decisions could be considered in EU foreign and security policy. However, protecting the vital interests of each member state is essential. The Finnish government’s position is that the Common Foreign and Security Policy should be made more well-known. According to Minister Halonen, the appointment of a special representative for foreign and security policy, a kind of EU foreign minister, would involve major problems related to the division of powers and responsibilities.
The European Movement in Finland, an association defending Finnish EU membership, elected its board of directors. Minister of Education Olli-Pekka Heinonen was elected Chair of the association. The vice-chairs are Eva Biaudet, Chair of the Swedish People’s Party parliamentary group, MEP Olli Rehn, and Raimo Luoma, EU Adviser to the Prime Minister. Matti Viialainen, former party secretary for the Left Alliance, was appointed as secretary of the association. The objective of the association is to increase voter turnout in the European Parliament elections.
Helsinki hosted a new round of talks as part of the OSCE Minsk Process aiming to solve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. The negotiations were co-chaired by Finland and Russia, and taking part were the parties to the conflict: Armenia, Azerbaijan and Nagorno-Karabakh. At the end of the talks, the so-called Minsk Group also held a meeting to plan a visit of OSCE representatives to the Nagorno-Karabakh region from 29 February to 1 March.
Finland and Estonia began official negotiations regarding visa freedom between the countries. The Estonian delegation visited e.g. Helsinki’s passenger ports and the Bank of Finland, where Finnish passports are printed. Estonia must improve its border controls and its passports as a prerequisite to the visa exemption.
A Green League delegation held a meeting in Helsinki to adopt a position on Finland’s accession to the EU’s Economic and Monetary Union (EMU). Finland’s accession requires setting up European and Finnish funds to promote employment, the Greens said. Prime Minister Lipponen, taking part in the meeting, doubted the willingness of core EU countries to spend money in the establishment of the counter-cyclical stabilisation funds. He was also sceptical about national-level funds. According to the Green League party leadership, no position was taken at the meeting in favour or against the EMU.
Parliament discussed the objectives of the EU Intergovernmental Conference, based on a government report. In its report, the Government emphasised the influence of small states in a more efficient and more flexible EU. The government groups agreed with the main points of the report. They especially supported the EU’s eastern enlargement, whereas the EMU was criticised across group barriers. The Left Alliance and the Greens want to postpone the monetary union, due to be introduced in 1999. The Left Alliance cited Finnish unemployment as the reason for postponement, and the Greens feared that the EMU would turn the EU into a federation. The government parties hoped that at the EU’s Intergovernmental Conference, Finland would promote an EU that is closer to its citizens, makes decisions in a more transparent way, and does not escape the member states’ control. The opposition party Keskusta (Centre Party) thought the Government’s EMU policy was shifting and unrealistic. The party commented that "the Government is advancing the project uncritically without the support and commitment of the government groups”. The Centre Party suggested that the Government prepare a report on the pros and cons of the single currency, in order to open a wide discussion on the issue before final decisions are made.
Finland will establish embassies in the Philippines and in Singapore. The diplomatic mission in Manila, the capital of the Philippines, will return to being an embassy headed by an ambassador in the beginning of August. The growing market of Southeast Asia and equal treatment of the region’s countries are the reasons given for the upgrading of diplomatic missions to embassy status.
In Saint Petersburg, an agreement was signed regarding the planning of the Krasny Bor hazardous waste facility. It was agreed that the planning will be done in Finnish-Russian cooperation. The treatment of toxic waste from St Petersburg is one of the issues requiring urgent action according to the Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission. It is also one of the most important environmental cooperation projects in Finland’s adjacent areas. The Krasny Bor hazardous waste landfill is filling up, posing a threat to groundwaters and to the Gulf of Finland.
The Russian Foreign Ministry criticised the NATO military exercise "Battle Griffin” going on in Norway, stating: "Moscow has taken note of NATO’s constant military activity in Russia’s neighbour countries. The same goes for the exercise of the Finnish Defence Forces on 19-22 February in the Kymi Province near the Russian border”. Moscow-based expert Sergey Oznobishchev believed Russia was searching for its place in the international arena. According to him Russia is feeling insecure in its lack of allies, and its loneliness makes it quick to react to world events. Jaakko Blomberg, Under-Secretary of State at the Finnish Foreign Ministry, said Finland’s military exercise conformed to OSCE standards. Furthermore, a group of Russian officers were present and followed the exercise. Minister of Defence Anneli Taina did not wish to comment on the Russian statement.
Prime Minister Lipponen and Foreign Minister Halonen attended the first Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM), held in Bangkok, Thailand on the initiative of Singapore. Besides EU countries, the meeting gathered the members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) – Brunei, the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam – as well as China, Japan and South Korea. The summit showed that Asia has now been recognised as a centre of power alongside North America and Europe. For the EU, the meeting was a way to counterbalance the APEC, and the EU wants to catch up with Japan and the US in Asia. In addition to the themes of economy and trade, the funding of the rebuilding in Bosnia and the UN’s financial situation were discussed. Prime Minister Lipponen talked about railway connections between Asia and Europe and the opening of competition in the field of telecommunications. He also mentioned the expertise in environmental technology that Finland has to offer. Finland wished Russia to join the Asia-Europe cooperation. NGOs held a parallel conference in Bangkok. They expressed support for closer economic ties between Europe and Asia, provided the conditions of trade are fair.
The new Secretary of State at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs Jukka Valtasaari told the newspaper Helsingin Sanomat that closer cooperation in the EU’s foreign and security policy will not mean the end of national foreign policy. In his opinion, the Union does not need its own foreign minister, because the common policy stems from shared interests rather than one person. In his previous position as the Finnish ambassador to Washington, he came to see that Finland is no longer considered a grey area since its EU accession. A change in Finland’s international position occurred already after the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the concept of Finlandisation quickly ceased to be used.
An opinion poll by MTV indicated that Finns are still staunchly opposed to Finland’s membership in the Western military alliance NATO. Fifty-six percent of respondents were against it, 19 percent were in favour, and 25 percent were unable to take a position. WEU membership was supported by 23 percent of respondents, while 43 percent opposed it. Thirty-four percent had no opinion on the issue.
At the opening of the 139th National Defence Course in Helsinki, Chief of Defence, General Gustav Hägglund strongly defended universal conscription as the foundation of national defence. He argued that compulsory military service is by far the best way to defend our own country, whereas a professional force is superior in military actions elsewhere. General Hägglund added that according to opinion polls, the Defence Forces are the country’s most trusted institution. Furthermore, the will of the citizens to defend their country is among the highest in the world.
The Nordic Council held its first Theme Session which focused on Europe. Nordic prime ministers, ministers for Nordic cooperation, and members of national parliaments as well as the European Parliament gathered to discuss Nordic cooperation ahead of the EU Intergovernmental Conference. Former President of the European Commission Jacques Delors also attended the meeting. The session’s themes were EU enlargement, European employment policy, the fight against crime, transparency and democracy, as well as environmental and consumer policies. The Finnish, Danish, and Swedish prime ministers promised to keep Norway and Iceland up to date regarding the forthcoming IGC. Gro Harlem Brundtland, Prime Minister of Norway which is a non-EU country, advocated close Nordic cooperation with coordinated policies, whereas Finnish EU Commissioner Erkki Liikanen considered it very harmful to operate in this way.
Statistics Finland (the national statistics authority) reported to the European Commission that Finland’s government debt was 59,4 percent of GDP at the end of 1995. The ratio was smaller than the EU average and barely below the limit of 60 percent defined in the EMU convergence criteria. In addition to public debt, government deficit is used as a measure of fiscal soundness and sustainability in EU countries. Finland’s deficit-to-GDP ratio was 5,6 percent last year, which exceeds the three-percent threshold of the EMU criteria. The deficit amounted to 54 billion markka.
Yves-Thibault de Silguy, the European Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs, presented the Commission’s annual report on the economy in Brussels. The year 1995 was a disappointment, as economic growth slowed down, and in some countries came to a halt, at the end of the year. The Commission estimates that serious structural problems will hamper Finland’s efforts to reduce unemployment to the target rate of 8-9 percent by 1999.
The Government voted on a licence for Sisu Defence to deliver its "Pasi” armoured personnel carriers to Indonesia. The company obtained a licence to export 60 vehicles. The permit is valid until the end of 1998. Left Alliance ministers Claes Andersson and Terttu Huttu-Juntunen voted against the decision. They opposed it because Indonesia occupies the former Portuguese colony East Timor against UN resolutions. On 11 March, the Swedish peace organisation Svenska Freds criticised the Finnish government’s decision, which it considered to be the Government’s direct support to Indonesia’s oppressive regime.
The Cabinet Committee on Foreign and Security Policy considered the plans for a Finnish rapid deployment force to be used in international crisis management. According to the plan presented by Defence Minister Anneli Taina, the rapid deployment force would be a brigade of 5000 soldiers. The core of the brigade would consist of three jaeger battalions of about 1000 troops each. The training of the force would happen as part of the normal training of conscripts. According to the plans, the force will be one of the brigades responsible for national defence. NATO compatibility is a specific goal of the training: the force must master NATO communication systems, codes and calls. Training is due to begin next winter. The funding needed to establish the force will be taken from the normal defence budget.
Finland’s EU Ambassador Antti Satuli was appointed to lead the Finnish negotiation delegation to the EU Intergovernmental Conference.
EU foreign ministers held an informal meeting in Palermo, Italy, to discuss their stance vis-à-vis three Middle Eastern countries that have supported terrorism: Iran, Syria and Libya. It was decided that a three-member, under-secretary of state level delegation would be sent to the three countries to demand that they change their approach and that they clearly condemn bomb attacks and every form of terrorism. The delegation’s trip is part of the EU’s strategy to support the fragile peace process in the Middle East. The strategy was outlined in a paper drafted by France and presented at an anti-terrorism summit in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt on 13 March. In their meeting, the foreign ministers also discussed the role of the European Parliament in the coming IGC based on two compromise proposals, but did not reach a consensus. Finland among others is not in favour of giving more power to the EU Parliament, preferring to develop the EU as a union of independent states. The ministers also urged the countries that had pledged assistance to Bosnia to pay the promised sums.
President Ahtisaari and his wife visited Persian Gulf countries to promote economic cooperation between Finland and the Gulf region and exports by Finnish companies to the region. The President was accompanied by Minister for European Affairs and Foreign Trade Ole Norrback, and a 17-member high-level delegation of industry and business representatives. On 9-11 March the President paid a state visit to Kuwait and met the Emir of Kuwait, Sheikh Jaber Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah. Minister Norrback signed an agreement on investment protection and taxation between Finland and Kuwait. The next visit was to the United Arab Emirates. In Abu Dhabi, President Ahtisaari held talks with UAE President, Emir of Abu Dhabi Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan. In Dubai, Ahtisaari met the Emirati Vice President and Prime Minister, Emir of Dubai Sheikh Maktoum bin Rashid Al Maktoum. On his way home, President Ahtisaari made a stopover in Aswan, Egypt, where he met President of Egypt Hosni Mubarak. They discussed among other things the anti-terrorism summit held in Egypt on 13 March.
Minister of Finance Sauli Niinistö attended the Ecofin Council in Brussels. The EU Commissioner for Monetary Affairs Yves-Thibault de Silguy reminded Niinistö that for entering the monetary union, a stable currency is one of the criteria with a fixed timetable. Commission President Jacques Santer proposed that funds left over from other projects could be reallocated to promote employment. The initiative was opposed by six Member States, including Germany, France and Britain. The Economic Policy Committee enjoined the EU Member States to follow more closely the goals of their economic programmes, and called for better monitoring of Member States by the Commission regarding this issue.
At a meeting of the Social Democratic Party’s (SDP) party council, Prime Minister Lipponen announced the creation of a Cabinet Committee on Neighbouring Areas. The Government wants to emphasise the importance of Finland’s neighbouring areas alongside the EU. The goal is to make Finland a hub of business activity in the region, not merely a "gateway” to Russia and the Baltic States.
The Finland-Indonesia joint committee on economic, industrial and technological cooperation held a meeting in Helsinki. The head of the Indonesian delegation Soemadi D.M. Brotodiningrat, Director General for Foreign Economic Relations at the Foreign Ministry of Indonesia, met Minister of Agriculture and Forestry Kalevi Hemilä and Minister of Trade and Industry Antti Kalliomäki. The two countries signed an investment protection agreement.
Prime Minister Lipponen attended a meeting of the Defence Committee at the Finnish Parliament. He did not exclude the possibility that in the future, Finnish defence policy would be prepared by a committee with representatives of both opposition and government parties. For years, the permanent Defence Committee (puolustusvaliokunta, standing committee) has called for the setting up of this type of body, the so-called parliamentary defence committee (parlamentaarinen puolustuskomitea). The standing committee opposed the fact that the Defence Council chaired by the Prime Minister appointed a group of officials to consider defence policy issues.
The newspaper Helsingin Sanomat reported that Finland is planning a joint peacekeeping exercise with NATO partner countries in 1998. It would be a military staff exercise without the participation of troops. NATO is expected to examine the matter in late May.
The Government submitted to Parliament a proposal to amend the Currency Act. Once Parliament passes the amendment, the linking of the Finnish markka to the European Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM) becomes possible. The new law will also allow the floating of the markka, just like previously. According to the Government, the inclusion in the ERM involves problems, so there is no haste to join the mechanism.
The Ministry of Finance announced the preliminary results of its EU calculations. They indicate that in 1995, Finland was a net recipient from the European Union regardless of calculation method. The estimates of the financial benefit gained by Finland vary from about two hundred million markka to three billion, depending on the method of calculation. Finland’s budget received a total of 683 million markka more from the EU than it contributed. The contribution was smaller than expected, especially due to 500 million worth of contributions, paid in excess in 1994, that were reimbursed to Finland. The payment of subsidies was delayed because Finland failed to promptly launch the development programmes required by EU funds.
A ministerial meeting of OECD countries hosted by German Minister for Housing Klaus Töpfer was held in Berlin. The purpose of the meeting was to prepare the Second UN Conference on Human Settlements (Habitat II) that would be held in Istanbul in June. The preparation work is led by Finland. At the meeting, Environment Minister Pekka Haavisto signed a Finnish-German agreement on building and housing cooperation. The aim is to develop the collaboration between Finland and Germany in construction exports to Central and Eastern European countries.
UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights Elisabeth Rehn made a plea to the Finnish government and to Parliament for the rebuilding of Bosnia. She especially stressed the urgent need for humanitarian aid for the renovation of dwellings. The Bosnian government has specifically asked for grassroots-level assistance which includes, besides housing, the rebuilding of destroyed schools, hospitals and day care centres. Ms Rehn said that concrete actions are essential in this situation instead of mere appeals.
The director of the TACIS group in Russia I.A. Markov visited Helsinki. He said Finland now has a good chance to show it is a gateway to Russia, as up to one billion markka have been allocated to projects being planned close to the border. By now, 168 consulting agreements have been made with Russia on the basis of the TACIS programme. Finnish companies are in on 89 of them. Of the agreements, 33 are in energy consulting and include mainly suggestions related to the improvement of nuclear safety in CIS countries. The second largest target for assistance is education, which aims to promote the development of market economy. The budget of the TACIS programme for five years is 13 billion markka. Russia’s share of the sum is nearly six billion markka.
MEP Olli Rehn called for the system of preparing EU affairs in Finland to be reformed. In his view, to concentrate the handling of these matters into the Finnish Foreign Ministry was a mistake. He felt that the leadership of the Foreign Ministry lacks an overall vision of the implementation of Finnish EU policy, and that no one seems to be taking charge of the country’s EU strategy. Mr Rehn argued that the preparation should be concentrated in the Prime Minister’s Office, so that the handling of EU affairs would be more closely linked to the planning of national economic and public policies. The Minister for European Affairs would assist the Prime Minister in defining Finnish EU policies and in adjusting the burden of negotiation.
Minister for European Affairs and Foreign Trade Ole Norrback and a broad delegation of officials and business people visited Chile, Argentina and Brazil. In each country, Minister Norrback met ministers responsible for the economy, trade, mining, transport and telecommunications. The purpose of the trip was to investigate new opportunities opening up to Finland thanks to EU membership, and to bring up these opportunities during the talks. The visits included meetings with representatives of the Chilean federation of industries and of the central employers’ organisation. In Brazil, a treaty between Finland and Brazil was signed for the avoidance of double taxation and the prevention of tax evasion with respect to income taxes.
The Parliament Finance Committee issued a statement to the Grand Committee in which it expressed the hope that the Government’s decision on the EMU would be based on economic factors, not on questions of political clout or authority. The Finance Committee looked favourably upon the Monetary Union itself, but reminded of the risks and problems associated with it. The Committee also called for a strict interpretation of the EMU criteria, and warned about trying to meet the requirements by means which would have negative social repercussions.
At the Geneva disarmament conference, Minister for Foreign Affairs Halonen strongly endorsed a nuclear-test-ban treaty. She hoped that an agreement would be reached by summer. She said that Finland considers the decision by French President Jacques Chirac to halt nuclear testing a positive move, and appealed to China to stop its nuclear tests. The Foreign Minister urged nuclear-weapon states to ratify the treaty forthwith.
The Ministry for Foreign Affairs informed that Finland had sent five experts to assist in organising elections and perform other tasks related to civilian rebuilding in Bosnia. Three of the envoys are doing field work, one has a post at the OSCE headquarters in Vienna, and one is working at the Sarajevo Head Office. The role of OSCE in the Bosnian election is based on the Dayton peace agreement.
The Constitutional Law Committee of the Finnish Parliament submitted a statement to the Foreign Affairs Committee suggesting that the role of the EU Parliament should not be strengthened in the EU legislative process. The Committee’s position was that a stronger EU Parliament would imply an emphasis on the transnational features of the Union, it would support the largest European political coalitions, and it would likely increase the influence of large member states. In its statement, the Constitutional Law Committee also commented on the government report regarding the EU Intergovernmental Conference, agreeing that the Union should be developed as a conglomerate of sovereign states. According to the Committee, the clearest manifestation of this characteristic of the Union is the fact that the highest legislative body is the EU Council which represents the governments of member states. The Committee is opposed to the conferral of legal personality to the EU because it believes the Union might start making international agreements in foreign and security policy on behalf of the member states.
The Intergovernmental Conference (IGC) aiming to reform the basic structures of the European Union began in Turin, Italy, opened by an extra EU summit. From Finland, the meeting was attended by President Ahtisaari, Prime Minister Lipponen and Foreign Minister Halonen. The meeting adopted an agenda in which a prominent issue was employment, a theme underscored for instance by Finland and Sweden. The main themes were the citizen and the Union, the strengthening of EU foreign policy, as well as the changes in EU institutions and in the division of power between them required for EU enlargement. The final document stated that the relationship between the WEU and the EU should be clarified. Ways of improving the functioning of the WEU should be investigated. Capabilities are needed for tasks in peacekeeping and crisis management. Prime Minister Lipponen saw potential problems for small member states in the development of the EU. Finland stresses the importance of strengthening the EU Commission and the Council of Ministers, because they guarantee the equal participation of small member states.
Finnish officers will be sent in a few weeks to the headquarters of the Estonian armed forces, the newspaper Helsingin Sanomat reported. Finnish defence thinking is entering a new era, it is argued. Finland’s own security is improved by sending soldiers on active service to another country. The Government approved the terms of the collaboration, holding the view that the emergence of a system of defence in the Baltic States increases overall security. Minister of Defence Anneli Taina told that Estonia has requested assistance from Finland in developing the Estonian Defence Forces and planning Estonian defence. In the framework of the Partnership for Peace (PfP), Finland has offered its expertise, Taina said. In principle, nothing now prevents Estonia from becoming a customer to the Finnish military industry. Among new military equipment, Estonia could purchase for instance assault rifles and armoured vehicles.
Pekka Haavisto, the minister in charge of development cooperation, told that the World Bank expects from Finland about 100 million markka for the rebuilding of Bosnia in 1996-1999. The Cabinet Committee on Economic Policy decided on 9 April to allocate 60 million markka to help rebuild Bosnia. In mid-April, a pledging conference will be held in Brussels by the World Bank and the EU Commission. Finland has so far supported Bosnia with 10 million markka.
Minister of Defence Anneli Taina was on a visit in the United States. Secretary of Defense William Perry introduced her to the US Armed Forces. She also visited the UN Headquarters and met Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali and Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Kofi Annan.
In an interview with news agency STT, President Ahtisaari said he holds firmly to the powers vested in the president by the Finnish constitution when it comes to foreign and security policy. According to the President, Finland has started preparing for the 1999 EU presidency. For him it was evident that the prime minister chairs the meetings during the Finnish presidency in the latter half of 1999. Ahtisaari believed that the IGC will advance the EU’s eastern enlargement. He thought every member state should have a representative in the Commission, and hoped that the large member states would reduce the number of their commissioners. Regarding the merging of the WEU and the EU, Ahtisaari stated that "for example England is reluctant about the idea”. The President did not consider it necessary to discuss Finland’s NATO membership. Ahead of a visit to China, he said there was no reason China’s human rights situation could not be brought up. However, he would not make an "awful fuss” about it. Among the critics of the President’s trip to China was MEP Elisabeth Rehn.
Prime Minister Paavo Lipponen visited Brussels and Luxembourg. In Brussels, he met the President of the European Commission Jacques Santer and EMU Commissioner Yves-Thibault de Silguy. At the Commission, Lipponen said that Finland will not, in the foreseeable future, stop the floating of the markka or join the European Exchange Rate Mechanism, ERM. The needed legislation will be adopted by the Finnish Parliament and the situation will be followed, while examining the impact ERM participation would have on the stability of the markka. Lipponen also affirmed Finland’s commitment to the process taking us to the EMU. He also said Finland is in favour of keeping the Commission’s role strong. According to The Prime Minister, Finland supports Santer’s proposal which seeks to promote trust within the European economy and stresses the role of social partners. In Luxembourg, Lipponen met his host, Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker, and the chairman of the country’s Chamber of Deputies, Jean Spautz.
In its statement submitted to the Foreign Affairs Committee regarding the Intergovernmental Conference, the Parliament’s Grand Committee called the postponement of the EMU Stage Three a realistic option, and even a desirable solution. The delay would offer a better chance of improving the plans for the EMU, both on the national and European levels. The Committee suggested that the Government prepare for the possibility that the EMU will be on the agenda of the IGC, contrary to preliminary plans. According to the chair of the Grand Committee Erkki Tuomioja, there is no contradiction between the government report and the Committee’s statement, although issues such as environmental taxes have raised discussion. The Committee wished Finland, Sweden and Denmark would make joint initiatives in the IGC.
The European Commission approved the EU’s proposal for the so-called Baltic Sea Initiative in Brussels. The initiative includes both a political and an economic aspect, and it brings together all the projects related to the Baltic Sea region which the EU participates in. The initiative is the EU’s contribution to a meeting that will be held in Visby, Sweden in May. The growing need for an EU Baltic Sea policy partly stems from the fact that new member states Finland and Sweden are countries bordering on the Baltic Sea. These countries have insisted that the EU should counterbalance its significant focus on the Mediterranean policy by directing sufficient attention towards the Baltic Sea region. The region is inhabited by 60 million people, half of which are citizens of four EU countries.
A report was published on Finnish development cooperation projects in 1988-1995, titled "Effects or Impacts?”. It was commissioned from the Institute of Development Studies at the University of Helsinki by the Finnish Foreign Ministry’s Department for Development Cooperation. According to the study, Finnish development projects have produced quite good results at least in the short term – perhaps excluding industrial projects. As appropriations diminished because of the economic depression, the projects gained in economic efficiency. They also became more ecologically sustainable. In general, the high cost of Finnish development cooperation has mainly been due to the use of Finnish staff and Finnish supplies. A large part of Finland’s development assistance has been used on measures to promote Finnish exports. The report indicated that this has been an expensive form of export promotion. Moreover, the focus of Finnish foreign aid has clearly shifted from Africa to Asia, and from the poorest countries to those with economic potential, like China, Malaysia and Thailand.
During question time at the Parliament, Foreign Minister Halonen announced that the Government will give more prominence to human rights in its foreign policy. The Government will focus especially on the situation of women and children. Ahead of President Ahtisaari’s trip to China on 14 April, the Parliament’s Human Rights Group (chaired by Ulla Anttila from the Greens) expressed the wish that during his visit, the President would try to engage in "serious negotiations to improve China’s human rights situation”. Ahtisaari assured that human rights issues would be raised during the trip, but dealing with the problem requires dialogue, not defiance.
Macedonian Foreign Minister Ljubomir Frčkoski visited Finland and met Foreign Minister Halonen and President Ahtisaari. It emerged in the discussions that Macedonia will need UN troops for at least one more year. The need for troops probably persists until the volatile situation in Kosovo, which is part of Serbia, is stabilised. Finland has at the moment 3590 peacekeepers in the region, after 50 men were transferred to Zagreb, the capital of Croatia. The mandate expires in May, but UN is expected to renew it. Another purpose for the foreign minister’s visit was to promote trade between the countries.
The Ministry for Foreign Affairs issued a press release saying that Finland wishes to engage in dialogue with NATO and its member countries. Finland wants to discuss the implications of the enlargement of the military alliance in the country’s neighbourhood – Northern Europe and the Baltic Sea region. The Foreign Ministry assured that the discussions would not imply a change in Finland’s military non-alliance. Under-Secretary of State Jaakko Blomberg described the initiative as "guarding [our] own interests”. Finland hopes to begin the discussions before the NATO foreign ministers’ meeting in Berlin in June. NATO invited all the Partnership for Peace countries to initiate accession talks. Finland also received NATO’s offer, but has not responded so far. The accession negotiations are expected to start at the end of the year, after the presidential elections in Russia and the US. The heads of state supporting Boris Yeltsin do not want the negotiations to play into the hands of Yeltsin’s opponents.
Appearing before the Grand Committee of the Finnish Parliament, Prime Minister Lipponen told that Finland has been offered, by Germany and Luxembourg among others, a role in helping the Baltic States to join the EU. In his view, the best way for Finland to support the Baltics in this issue is to be as close as possible to the group of core countries that is taking shape in the EU. Lipponen said that Finland would also be happy to tackle this task together with Sweden and Denmark.
Minister of Finance Sauli Niinistö and Governor of the Bank of Finland Sirkka Hämäläinen took part in an EU finance ministers’ meeting (ECOFIN) in Verona, Italy. The agenda included the preparation of the EMU Stage Three, the economic situation of EU countries, initiatives for reducing unemployment, and taxation issues. Finland supported the idea that EU countries opting out of the EMU’s third stage must join a new exchange rate mechanism that is essentially similar to the current ERM. Finland agreed with EMU Commissioner Yves-Thibault de Silguy that an inflation target alone is insufficient. The economic and finance ministers decided that one hundredth of a euro will be called a eurocent. Niinistö and Hämäläinen did not address the floating of the markka. The German and Italian ministers said in their press conferences that they consider a two-year participation in the ERM to be mandatory for countries aspiring to join the EMU.
Representatives of over 50 countries gathered in Brussels to discuss the funding of Bosnia’s rebuilding. The two-day conference was hosted by the European Commission and the World Bank. In addition to the previous commitment of 600 million dollars, another 1,28 billion dollars were pledged for the rebuilding effort. The EU and its member states have pledged one third of the sum. The aid is granted to all the regions and ethnic groups of Bosnia, as long as they adhere to the stipulations of the Dayton Peace Agreement. The most urgent tasks are providing the opportunity for refugees to return to their homeland, and mine clearance. Finland now assists the rebuilding with 60 million markka in addition to the 10 million already granted. Finnish funds will be mainly used for the construction of energy and water systems such as district heating. Finland will also participate in the identification of war victims and the investigation of their cause of death.
Nordic and Baltic cooperation ministers met in Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania. At the meeting, the ministers noted that Nordic-Baltic cooperation now requires broad and precise coordination in order to use resources efficiently. In their communiqué, the ministers recognised the importance of a successful IGC for the EU’s eastern enlargement. On 15-16 April, it was the turn of the countries’ parliamentarians, i.e. the Nordic Council and the Baltic Assembly to hold their first joint meeting. The meeting was also attended by the prime ministers of the Baltic States and the Nordic cooperation ministers, and it was opened by Lithuanian President Algirdas Brazauskas. The Nordic Council stressed that the meeting was informal because it did not want to commit, as the Council, to the joint statement on the meeting. Instead, the statement was approved by the presidium. The Nordic cooperation ministers reminded the Baltic parliamentarians and ministers that the EU membership for the Baltic countries is impossible unless the countries themselves actively seek to perform the necessary groundwork. The Nordic countries support the EU accession of the Baltics and are prepared to help in matters related to the application process. The simultaneous launching of the accession negotiations was regarded important by the Nordic ministers. The Baltic States were in favour of NATO membership. With regard to NATO’s enlargement, Finnish Minister for Nordic Cooperation Ole Norrback said that the issue is connected to Russia, and that Finland wants to be well informed.
President Ahtisaari and his wife made a state visit to China, invited by President Jiang Zemin. President Ahtisaari was accompanied by Foreign Minister Halonen, Minister for European Affairs Norrback, and a large delegation of businesspeople. Besides President Jiang Zemin, Ahtisaari met the chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, Li Ruihuan, and Prime Minister Li Peng. China’s internal development and economic issues were the main topics of discussion. President Ahtisaari opened a Chinese-Finnish scientific and technological symposium and an economic forum organised by industry in Beijing. At the opening of the economic forum, Ahtisaari assured China of Finland’s support for its membership in the WTO. The event culminated in the signing of the 6th trade agreement. As he inaugurated the Finnish consulate in Shanghai, Ahtisaari stated that human rights questions are important in the relations between the two countries. The dialogue about human rights is a natural part of our interaction.
The Parliament Grand Committee, led by its chair Erkki Tuomioja, visited Strasbourg. The Committee’s members met MEPs from their own parties. The aim is to build a regular collaboration with Finnish MEPs and to benefit from their expertise. It is hoped that from now on perhaps two meetings per year can be arranged.
The Ministry of Defence obtained authorisation from the Finnish Government to sign an agreement with Russia on defence materiel for the years 1996–1998. The general agreement mainly follows the agreement concerning the years 1991-1995 between Finland and the Soviet Union. It allows for purchases to be made both through offsets and the exchange of currencies. Annual deliveries and payments will be agreed upon separately. In 1996, a sum of 44 million markka has been allocated for these purchases. It will be used to buy spare parts for previously acquired special equipment.
In a joint article by Helsingin Sanomat and Dagens Nyheter, Finnish and Swedish foreign ministers Tarja Halonen and Lena Hjelm-Wallén called for the clarification of the relationship between the EU and the WEU in military crisis management. This would require a revision of the Maastricht Treaty. The core notion of the model proposed by Finland and Sweden is that military crisis management would be made part of the framework of the EU’s common foreign and security policy. The foreign ministers suggested that the operations would be conducted by the WEU. Moreover, they hoped that the connection between the EU and the WEU would be strengthened. They argued for an equal chance of participation for all EU member states in EU-mandated and WEU-led operations. The foreign ministers also proposed that the WEU defence tasks and its security guarantees will be separated from the cooperation on crisis management. The two countries submitted a joint memorandum on the issue on 25 and 26 April to the other EU member states. This was the first joint foreign policy initiative of note by Finland and Sweden in the EU.
The President decided that Finland shall recognise the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia as one of the successor states of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. The decision was informed by the developments since the signing of the Dayton Agreement for peace in Bosnia on 14 December 1995, as well as the mutual recognition between Yugoslavia and Macedonia. Finland restores full diplomatic relations with the FRY. Having recognised the country, Finland will have recognised all five of the successor states of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. The future course of the relations between Finland and the FRY will depend on the Federal Republic’s attitude to the peace process, and on its domestic development.
The UN asked for Finland’s assistance in the identification of Bosnia’s casualties. The request came in response to the initiative of Elisabeth Rehn who acts as the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Bosnia. The Finnish Foreign Ministry has made a preliminary decision to grant the requested assistance. Before the experts can leave for Bosnia, the Ministry will examine questions of security related for example to the demining of the region. Funds for the project will be provided by Finland.
According to the newspaper Helsingin Sanomat, Finland has accepted the request sent by the UN to all countries to allow people convicted of war crimes in the former Yugoslavia region to serve their prison terms in Finnish prisons. Finland is willing to receive five war criminals, but like Norway and Denmark, wants to negotiate which inmates will serve their sentences here. Finland will refuse to house convicted political leaders in its prisons, as these lack the required level of security. No one has been convicted yet, but the first trial against suspected war criminals is to begin in The Hague in early May. The maximum sentence is life imprisonment.
Prime Minister of Sweden Göran Persson made a working visit to Finland and met with Prime Minister Lipponen. The ministers decided to begin a close cooperation in matters pertaining to the Baltic Sea region and neighbouring areas. They plan to present their main suggestions regarding these areas at the EU summit in Florence in June. Prime Minister Persson said Sweden respects the aim of the Baltic States to join NATO. The ministers excluded the possibility of security guarantees from Nordic countries to the Baltic States. They also discussed the EMU, and were confident that its schedule will be kept. They stated that at this stage, neither country is planning to join the European Exchange Rate Mechanism ERM.
The Finnish Government submitted to Parliament a report on the development of Finland’s capabilities in peacekeeping and humanitarian efforts. Defence Minister Taina, who presented the report, stressed Finland’s responsibility as the member of various communities to participate in crisis management. She also believed that by improving our readiness to engage in peacekeeping and humanitarian missions, "Finland will be able to contribute to the development of the EU’s common crisis management capability in a way that benefits also our national defence”. The costs that will be incurred due to the establishment of the Finnish rapid deployment force were estimated to total about 220 million markka between 1998 and 2000. The estimate for the initial costs of the training of the rapid deployment force in 1996-1997 was around 12 million markka. The expenses will be included in the normal budget of the Defence Forces.
The Parliament Foreign Affairs Committee finished a committee report in response to the government report on Finland’s starting points and objectives at the IGC. The Committee affirmed the Government’s views on all central points, including the idea that each EU member state would get at least one seat in the Commission. The Committee had reservations about the suggestion that qualified majority decision-making would be increasingly used in the common foreign and security policy. The Committee expects Finland to advocate solutions that are not in conflict with Finland’s military non-alliance and independent defence. The Committee also wants the common foreign and security policy to remain in the form of intergovernmental cooperation. Therefore, it saw no need for a special representative for the Union’s foreign and security policy. In making the EU’s functioning more efficient, the interests of all the member states should be considered, the Committee affirmed. Centre Party members of the Foreign Affairs Committee criticised the Committee for taking vague positions. The Centre Party’s view was that Finland ought to clearly oppose the extension of the use of qualified majority voting in the field of foreign and security policy.
Foreign Minister Tarja Halonen and Bank of Finland Board Member Kalevi Sorsa took part in a security policy forum of Russia and Baltic and Nordic countries held in St Petersburg. Besides the theme of security policy, the forum dealt with economic prospects in the region. It was argued that the concept of Baltic Sea security should also encompass security in the economic and social spheres. The seminar envisaged the founding of an independent international commission in the Baltic Sea region that would focus on both monitoring and developing security in the region. Member of the Board of the Bank of Finland Kalevi Sorsa, who is soon to retire, has been asked to head the commission. A major topic in St Petersburg was NATO, about which the Russians and the Baltics openly and sharply disagreed. Nordic ministers maintained that an expanded NATO is not a threat to anyone, but has proven to be a defensive alliance. Foreign Minister Halonen thought that the Baltic Sea may once be as important to the EU as the Mediterranean region.
President of the European Parliament Klaus Hänsch visited Finland by invitation of the Speaker of the Finnish Parliament Riitta Uosukainen. In addition to Ms Uosukainen, he met President Ahtisaari, Prime Minister Lipponen, and the leaders of the parliamentary groups. In his discussions with President Ahtisaari, Mr Hänsch said the European Parliament should be developed without calling into question the status of national parliaments in any way. The EU Council’s majority decisions should be adopted in concert with the EU Parliament. With regard to the EU’s foreign and security policy, Ahtisaari stressed the importance of a flexible approach as the functioning of the so-called troika is being developed. He hoped the troika would take advantage of the expertise that the Union can provide in all international matters. At a Paasikivi Society event, Hänsch said that the adoption in 1999 of the EU’s single currency, the euro, should not be delayed. A failure to launch the euro on schedule would be perceived as the EU not meeting its commitments, thus undermining the Union’s credibility. Were the currency project to fail, other endeavours such as enlargement would suffer as well.
The Finnish Government appeared in Geneva before the Committee against Torture which considered the implementation by Finland of the UN Convention against Torture. Finland submitted its second periodic report in August 1995. The Finnish delegation in Geneva was led by the Director General of the Finnish Prison Service K.J. Lång. Alexander N. Yakovlev acted as country rapporteur for Finland at the examination. In his opening statement, he affirmed that Finland as a democratic state has taken seriously the provisions of the Convention and has taken adequate measures to tackle any observed problems. He considered very positive that with the constitutional reform in 1995, Finland included the prohibition of torture in its constitution. The Committee had found no evidence of torture in Finland. However, Finland received certain recommendations.
Prime Minister of Russia Viktor Chernomyrdin made a working visit to Finland. In his meeting with Prime Minister Lipponen, he expressed his contentment with Finland’s moderate stance regarding the Russian-Baltic NATO disagreement. Lipponen promised that Finland is prepared to give humanitarian aid to Chechnya. A number of agreements were signed during Chernomyrdin’s visit. These included a memorandum concerning the development of investment and project cooperation between the countries, [a tax treaty,] and a protocol amending the investment protection agreement of 1989. A long-prepared agreement concerning this year’s (1996) procurements for the Defence Forces was also concluded, as well as a procurement agreement on air defence materiel. With the defence materiel, Russia reduces the debt incurred by the former Soviet Union by about 850 million markka. An anti-aircraft missile system will also be brought to Finland to defend the Capital Region.
At the annual meeting of the National Defence Course Association in Helsinki, Minister Max Jakobson said that as NATO enlarges, Finland and Sweden will have to weigh the options to decide what is best: NATO membership or staying alone. He believed that the "dynamic of Europe’s change will lead to the history of the enlargement of the European community to be repeated”. In Jakobson’s view, we can expect that Austria, a country surrounded by NATO members, will seek membership. After this Sweden and Finland will follow suit, with certain reservations: no nuclear weapons and no foreign troops during peacetime. According to Jakobson, the countries will apply for membership not because they see Russia as a military threat, "but because staying outside of NATO would mean staying out of both the decision-making of European security policy and the NATO-Russia security policy cooperation”. Jakobson disputed speculations that Sweden and Finland, which are stable democracies, would be denied access to NATO. In response to Jakobson’s NATO comments, Jaakko Blomberg, Under-Secretary of State at the Foreign Ministry, said that Finland is not applying for NATO membership, but acknowledges the right of every state to apply. Finland also emphasises that NATO’s potential expansion will increase, not diminish, security.
WEU foreign and defence ministers assembled in Birmingham in Britain where the organisation’s ten member countries decided about the union’s new rules. These allow observer countries to participate in WEU operations, if the majority of member countries approve it. The participants in an operation will also have an equal right to take part in its preparation and planning. The ministers of the member countries also adopted a concluding document aiming at a cautious increase in the WEU’s operational capability. The goal of these measures is to improve the crisis management competence of the organisation. Cooperation with NATO will however continue to play a key role in crisis management. Finnish Foreign Minister Halonen and Defence Minister Taina attended the Birmingham meeting. Foreign Minister Halonen found the improved status of observer members a positive thing. She believed that the reform of WEU rules is clearly tied to the joint initiative by Finland and Sweden.
A cooperative body of the EU’s maritime regions, the CPMR, held a seminar in Kotka attracting representatives from Poland and the Baltic States. It was decided that a Baltic Sea Commission would be established.
On a visit to Finland by invitation from Derek Shearer, the United States Ambassador to Finland, the US Ambassador to NATO Robert Hunter expressed his country’s concern about the WEU’s security guarantees to its full members. The WEU’s commitment to its members is much stronger than NATO’s. If a WEU member country were attacked, this would probably have an impact on NATO – and the United States. This is why the US considers that a WEU member must also be a member of NATO. In Hunter’s view, a country like Finland would have every right to join the WEU on the basis of the Maastricht Treaty. However, he hoped that a country seeking membership would first contact the United States. During his visit, Hunter also met President Ahtisaari and Prime Minister Lipponen.
Parliament held a follow-up debate on the government report dealing with the EU Intergovernmental Conference. The leader of the National Coalition Party parliamentary group Pertti Salolainen said he agreed with Minister Max Jakobson that Finland must prepare for "the possibility that a wide security solution is achieved in Europe, including an understanding between NATO and Russia on the future of European security policy and NATO’s enlargement”. He said that the solution can appear quite soon, and in that case "Finland too must reconsider its basic security policy solution and even membership in NATO and the WEU”. Salolainen called for an open analysis and discussion, without preconceptions, on security policy. But now is not yet the time for great updates of policy. Erkki Tuomioja who gave the Social Democratic Party’s group speech, was among the critics of the Centre Party for attaching a protest to the Foreign Affairs Committee report on the Government’s IGC report while demanding a foreign policy consensus.
Minister for Foreign Affairs Halonen made an official visit to Estonia, meeting with President Lennart Meri and the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Estonian Parliament. An economic cooperation programme for this year (1996) was signed during the visit. The programme includes Finland’s support for various projects in Estonia with a sum of around 50 million markka. Concerning visa matters, Minister Halonen mentioned that Russians in Estonia will still need a visa to Finland, when the visa exemption agreement between Estonia and Finland comes into force at the start of next year. The agreement concerns only the citizens of the two countries. Alcohol import restrictions and questions of European security, especially NATO, were some of the topics that were also raised. The Estonians were interested in Minister Max Jakobson’s views on NATO. Halonen dealt with the questions by saying that at the moment, people in Finland are "downright relishing” in the unlimited freedom of discussion. She hoped NATO’s enlargement would increase and not diminish security.
President Ahtisaari said in the German daily Der Tagesspiegel that the significance of the IFOR peacekeeping force for the relations between NATO and Russia has not been fully grasped. The Russians have successfully cooperated with both NATO and non-NATO countries. Ahtisaari took IFOR as an example of how NATO can, in spite of its expansion aspirations, build a special relationship with Russia.
The Ministry for Foreign Affairs announced that preventing the spread of nuclear weapons is a basic objective of Finnish disarmament policy. Finland is committed to the global non-proliferation regime, and to its cornerstone the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which was extended indefinitely in 1995. Finland actively supports a stronger monitoring of nuclear material, as required by the Treaty. This includes a special support programme to nuclear safeguards. The programme is funded by the Foreign Ministry, and the Finnish Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority (STUK) is in charge of the actual implementation. The operation of the support programme is coordinated with the IAEA and with other supporter countries. The programme comprises the following sub-programmes: the Baltic States’ nuclear material safeguards programme, Ukraine’s nuclear material safeguards programme, and the programme for developing the IAEA’s safeguards. During the current year (1996), Finland will also launch a support programme to Russia’s nuclear material safeguards efforts.
At a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Foreign and Security Policy, President Ahtisaari assured that Finland will continue as before in foreign and security policy. He said that the Finnish Government follows "a foreign and security policy which centers on independent defence, military non-alliance and the promotion of security solutions that are based on cooperation”. The statement came in response to the NATO debate stirred by Minister Jakobson’s comments. In other words, Finland is going to stay out of NATO. Foreign Minister Halonen also stressed that Finland’s policy has not changed. On May 10th, in interviews published by the newspapers Etelä-Suomen Sanomat and Satakunnan Kansa, Minister for European Affairs Ole Norrback commented on Jakobson’s remarks. He believed Finland would probably eventually decide to join NATO, as long as the membership increases stability in Finland’s neighbourhood. Military non-alliance has in his opinion changed due to the PfP programme and to Finnish peacekeeping legislation.
Finland has, along with 12 other countries, expressed interest in having talks with NATO, Helsingin Sanomat reported. Finland is mainly interested in the implications of the organisation’s enlargement for Northern Europe and the Baltic Sea region, as well as in the development of partnership for peace. The discussion paper for the talks has not yet been sent to NATO. Finland hopes to hold the negotiations before the NATO foreign ministers’ meeting to take place in Berlin in the beginning of May.
In its editorial, the Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter called for Sweden to start the same kind of dialogue as Finland has started on NATO’s eastern enlargement. The newspaper referred to Max Jakobson’s idea that a country left out of NATO cannot take parti in European security policy decision-making or the cooperation between NATO and Russia. The paper considered that the Finnish debate is certainly not limited to the Finnish domestic arena, and that it concerns Sweden as well.
Opposition leader Esko Aho said that the recent discussion on NATO raises questions about the credibility of the Government’s foreign and security policy. He thought the national policy line is not sufficiently anchored. For example the fact that the upcoming defence report from a group of officials is not being made on a parliamentary basis shows in Aho’s opinion that the Government is not willing to discuss matters, be it within the Government or with the opposition. He found Max Jakobson’s comments to be based on old perceived threats. New threats include environmental disasters, crime, and economic difficulties that will not be aided by joining a military alliance.
Finland and Sweden introduced their joint WEU initiative for the EU’s Intergovernmental Conference in Brussels. According to the initiative, the EU’s military crisis management capabilities should be enhanced by assigning these tasks to the WEU. The WEU would operate under the EU’s control, and the connection would be set down in the EU treaty.
President Ahtisaari and his wife made a four-day state visit to Ireland. This was the first visit by a Finnish head of state to the Republic of Ireland. The President was accompanied among others by Foreign Minister Halonen, Secretary of State Jukka Valtasaari, and Eikka Kosonen, the Director General of the Secretariat for EU Affairs at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs. Ahtisaari met President Mary Robinson and Prime Minister John Bruton. They discussed Ireland’s preparation for the EU presidency in the latter half of 1996, and the central themes during the presidency. At a research institute in Dublin, Ahtisaari explained Finnish security policy and said Finland is looking to the EU. The President said there is no more need for the neutrality of the Cold War era. Finland is not seeking to join NATO – its security policy is still based on an independent defence, military non-alignment and the active promotion of cooperative security arrangements.
Prime Minister Lipponen sought to curb the debate on Finland’s potential NATO membership. He warned against giving the impression that Finland has a particular security problem. Lipponen considered both Finland’s and Sweden’s policies to be eminently clear. Finland and Sweden want to develop crisis management and peacekeeping activities, and the WEU can also be used for these tasks. Finland is looking to participate fully in these affairs, including in decision-making and not just operations. Finland is not aspiring to join military alliances. For Finland, the most important thing is stability in Northern Europe. According to the Prime Minister, Finland also has a special responsibility towards the Baltic States and to strengthen their position in Europe.
Centre Party Chairman Esko Aho suggested in Turun Sanomat the creation of a parliamentary body to examine the benefits and disadvantages of Finland’s NATO membership. According to Prime Minister Lipponen and Foreign Minister Halonen, there is no need for this; various reports have just been made and are being made on the subject of security.
Finland was the first country to ratify an international agreement banning the use of blinding laser weapons. A draft of the agreement was produced last autumn in Vienna. The issue was later discussed in connection to the prohibition of landmines in Geneva in late spring. Finland does not have actual laser weapons, but measures are being put in place against them even in Finland.
The Eurobarometer survey conducted in March by the European Commission found that support for EU membership has slightly improved in Finland early this year, although it is still below the EU average. Forty-five percent of Finns were in favour of the membership, while 58 % of EU citizens found the membership of their country a good thing. To the question "has your country benefited from EU membership”, 36 % of Finns answered yes (EU citizens: 47 %). Finns are better informed than other EU citizens about the ongoing Intergovernmental Conference (IGC). Forty-seven percent of Finns knew what it is, compared to a mere 20 % EU average. The Eurobarometer indicated that the citizens of EU member states regard development cooperation with poor countries very important. It was supported by as many as 83 % of EU citizens. The views of the Finnish people on development differed in that Finns stressed more than others the respect of human rights as a condition for aid, and humanitarian aid at the expense of long-term development cooperation.
The French news agency AFP claimed that at the meeting of parliamentarians of NATO and its partner countries in Athens, NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana had said that all EU member states should join NATO, and that membership applications should be submitted by the end of the year. NATO denied that Solana had said this. The Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs quickly released a statement saying that the information on Solana’s comments was false. The Foreign Ministry reminded that Solana did not refer to Finland or to other non-aligned EU countries. On 21 May, Foreign Minister Halonen joined the debate. She remarked that Solana’s speech deals only with NATO’s schedule for accepting new members. She repeated that Finland is not seeking NATO membership.
The Defence Committee approved by a vote of 10 to 5 the founding of the rapid deployment force that was proposed in the government report on the development of Finland’s peacekeeping and humanitarian capabilities. The Committee gave a statement about the issue to the Foreign Affairs Committee which is preparing a committee report (a document containing a proposed decision). The Defence Committee was dissatisfied with the information it has received concerning the expenses of founding the rapid deployment force. In its report, the Government has referred to the costs of a peacekeeping force that is at most battalion-sized. The Defence Committee would have wanted to know how much it would cost to later expand the RDF into a brigade. The Committee also considered it important that the new tasks do not take resources from national defence or otherwise hinder the main functions of the Finnish military.
Chief of Defence Gustav Hägglund said in an interview with Meddelanden från Åbo Akademi that the NATO debate has overlooked the fact that the United States will not accept new members in NATO with the same provisos as with Norway and Denmark. In practice this means that if Finland were in NATO, nuclear weapons could be placed here even in times of peace. Hägglund did not think that Finland can be compared to Austria with regard to the membership; it is much more provocative to store nuclear weapons in Kouvola than in Vienna. Hägglund found it difficult to conceive how Finland and Sweden could have different approaches to alliance.
At a session of the Cabinet Committee on Foreign and Security Policy, President Ahtisaari and the Government adopted guidelines for the NATO negotiations scheduled for 29 May. Finland has a special concern for the Baltic States. Government members have found it regrettable that the EU and NATO have raised hopes in the Baltic countries of joining the organisations. These expectations have later been dampened, which has caused a sense of insecurity in the Baltics.
According to a survey by the market research company Taloustutkimus, opposition to NATO has grown among the Finnish population. The idea of NATO membership is rejected by 59 % of Finns, compared to 47 % four years ago. Twenty-two percent were in favour of joining the alliance (29 % in 1992). Of the respondents, 19 % were undecided. The poll was commissioned by Suomen Kuvalehti. It was conducted by interviewing 500 Finns on 14 May.
The press secretary of the Chinese Embassy warned Finland on the Yleisradio’s TV news against officially welcoming the exiled Tibetan Buddhist spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama. He said the visit would have inevitable repercussions on Finnish-Chinese relations, if the Dalai Lama engages in "activities that are damaging to China” while in Finland. In his view, an official meeting or discussion with the Dalai Lama would be interpreted as interfering in China’s internal affairs. By invitation from the Finnish, Swedish and Norwegian Sami Parliaments, the Dalai Lama visited Enontekiö on 26 May and met with Environment Minister Pekka Haavisto. According to Haavisto, human rights are more important than trade in Finland’s China policy. The Sami Parliaments denounced in a joint declaration China’s human rights violations and the occupation of Tibet, and demanded that Chinese authorities negotiate with the Dalai Lama’s government-in-exile for the restoring of the autonomy of Tibet. On 27 May the Chinese Embassy released a statement in objection to this.
Minister Max Jakobson assessed in Helsingin Sanomat that NATO does not expect its new members to host nuclear weapons and foreign troops on their territory. Neither can it be a precondition for taking new members. Jakobson bases his view on the NATO enlargement report approved in September 1995.
Nordic foreign ministers gathered in Mariehamn in the Åland Islands to discuss the EU Intergovernmental Conference, the Common Foreign and Security Policy, and EU enlargement. The ministers concluded that the EU’s enlargement creates a historic opportunity to influence the security and stability of Europe. They took a supportive position regarding enlargement in the Baltic States. At the meeting, it was emphasised that negotiations should be started simultaneously with all the prospective member countries. Furthermore, the ministers said they would intensify their campaign for securing Sweden’s seat in the UN Security Council in 1997-1998. They considered Nordic representation in the principal organ of the UN very important.
The president of Macedonia, Kiro Gligorov, visited Finland where he met President Ahtisaari. The presidents talked about bilateral relations, as well as the situation in the former Yugoslavia region and questions surrounding the European Union. President Gligorov praised the work of the Finnish peacekeepers in Macedonia. The mandate of the UN peace force ends officially on May 31st, but the UN Security Council will probably extend it. Finland has a special interest in the decision, as out of the little over 1000 peacekeepers in Macedonia, 470 are Finnish. Gligorov criticised the actions of the EU in its cooperation negotiations with Macedonia. The country is seeking membership in both the EU and NATO.
The Foreign Affairs Committee of the Finnish Parliament completed its report on the rapid deployment force. The FAC wanted the Government to further explain how the capabilities of the rapid deployment force in civilian and humanitarian affairs would be developed. The Committee found it problematic that military and humanitarian tasks would be combined in the same operation. The Committee also noted that conflict prevention has received little attention in the government report. The majority of the Committee was in favour of training the RDF for military crisis management. According to the committee report, the training of the force could be done as part of the training system of the Finnish Defence Forces. The Centre Party and the Finnish Christian League opposed the founding of the rapid deployment force, and their representatives in the Foreign Affairs Committee attached a protest to the committee report. In their view, the Finnish constitution binds Finnish citizens only to participate in defending their country.
The Government approved unanimously a licence for the Nokia Telecommunications company to export field artillery computing equipment to Indonesia. The devices are considered defence equipment, which need government approval. On 30 May the Social Democratic party organ Demari wrote that the SDP ministers would propose the deferral of the matter. The minister group was surprised by the claim and stated that there is no reason to block the granting of the licence. The justification for the group’s decision was that Finland follows the same policy as the rest of EU countries.
In Vienna, a new final document was adopted in amendment of the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE), allowing Russia to keep nearly the current amount of military equipment in the so-called flank zone. On June 6th, the Finnish Ministry of Defence told the newspaper Helsingin Sanomat that Russia’s armaments behind Finland’s eastern border are not likely to be reduced in the next few years. NATO gave in to US demands that Russia must be allowed to keep as much weapons as it wants in the areas neighbouring Finland and in the Caucasus.
The Ministry for Foreign Affairs and the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Finnish Parliament organised a CTBT seminar in Helsinki. Negotiations for a Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) have been pursued at the Geneva Convention on Disarmament since 1994. The talks are in their final stretch, and they are generally expected to be concluded in the summer of 1996. The CTBT is one of the main goals of Finnish disarmament policy. Finland has taken an active role in the negotiations, bringing the Finnish diplomatic and technical expertise to the table.
President Ahtisaari took part in the Bilderberg conference near Toronto, Canada. The President was accompanied by the former ambassador to Washington, Jaakko Iloniemi. The themes of discussion included the strengthening of NATO, the removal of trade barriers, the EU’s eastern enlargement, Bosnia, China and Russia.
Prime Minister of Singapore Goh Chok Tong arrived on an official visit to Finland, and met his host Prime Minister Lipponen, President Ahtisaari, Speaker of the Parliament Uosukainen, Foreign Minister Halonen, and Minister for European Affairs Norrback. In their discussions, the prime ministers dealt with European and Asian affairs as well as cooperation between Finland and Singapore. Among other things the negotiations aimed at increased air transport between Helsinki and Singapore. The prime ministers also agreed on student, internship and research exchanges and cultural cooperation. According to Prime Minister Goh, a loose security network is being shaped in Asia. There is an attempt to involve China in the continent’s development, similarly to the EU’s efforts regarding Russia.
Finance ministers Sauli Niinistö and Arja Alho attended the Ecofin Council in Luxembourg. The meeting focused on preparations for the European Council in Florence on 20-21 June. Some of the points on the agenda were: broad economic policy guidelines, a progress report on the preparation for Stage 3 of EMU, and an interim report on employment.
Istanbul hosted the United Nations Habitat II Conference which focused on urbanisation. The conference and related NGO events attracted some 15000 to 20000 participants. The Finnish 29-member delegation was headed by Minister of the Environment Pekka Haavisto and also included Minister of Social Affairs and Health Sinikka Mönkäre. The Conference dealt with the problems and opportunities created by urbanisation. Other central themes were "adequate shelter for all” and "sustainable human settlements development”. UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali awarded 12 of the 600 competing cities and organisations for the improvement of their urban environments. In addition to general discussions, the conference focused on devising an action plan.
A foreign ministers’ meeting of the North Atlantic Cooperation Council (NACC) was held in Berlin. NATO members as well as NACC and PfP partner countries took part in the meeting which focused on cooperation within the NACC and PfP framworks, and the role of Partnership for Peace in regional security. Under-Secretary of State Jaakko Blomberg represented Finland at the meeting. A NATO foreign ministers’ meeting in Berlin the previous day saw the creation of the "separable but not separate” Combined Joint Task Force (CJTF). These forces can be deployed outside of the NATO territory e.g. in crisis management and peace missions. If needed, they can be used by the EU’s defence community WEU. The approval of the CJTF concept was made possible by France’s change of course in NATO. Finland confirmed its willingness to participate in the new CJTF command system, and in a programme of military assistance to Estonia. A common interpretation in Berlin was that Russia is still against NATO’s enlargement, but opposes it in a more moderate way, focusing on the military and not the political implications of the enlargement.
The Government gave a preliminary EU Commission budget proposal to the Parliament. The increase in EU expenditure has been set at three percent, which is equal to the increase in member states’ public spending in general. The Finnish Ministry of Finance supports discipline in the EU budget and considers that the final sum next year should not exceed this year’s expenditure. Finland stresses that the improvement of employment should be visible throughout the EU budget. The expenditure in the preliminary EU budget is about 524 billion markka in commitments and about 490 billion markka in payments. Finland expects that the recruitment promises given in connection with EU accession are going to be considered in negotiations between EU institutions during 1996, as agreed. The recruitment promises must also be fulfilled in next year’s budget. Finland would increase the funding of biotechnology, information and communications technology, and environmental technology projects in EU research programmes. Finland also intends to request a report of the progress of the Baltic Sea cooperation. Finland considers that a revision of the EU’s employment and salary benefits is needed. Furthermore, Finland hopes that options will be surveyed for the funding of pension payments.
Centre Party Chairman Esko Aho said that if need be, the party will hold an additional party congress in order to determine the party’s position regarding Finland’s membership in the Economic and Monetary Union. Aho considered the matter so important that the Centre Party needs a party congress position. He believed that the Centre Party would not decide its stance until it is known which countries are going to join and how the relationship between EMU and non-EMU countries will be arranged. Finland is among the first countries seeking to join the EMU probably in early 1998. The next annual Centre party congress is in summer 1998. Aho said he hopes that the Government refrains from joining the ERM too soon. In the Centre party organ Suomenmaa on 6 June, Aho proposed an advisory referendum on Finland’s potential participation in EMU Stage Three, in case the project materialises and the Government proposes to join. In Aho’s opinion, a referendum would be justified since this is an important national decision.
Minister for Foreign Affairs Tarja Halonen defended at the Parliament the previous week’s decision by the Government to grant Nokia permission to export field artillery computing equipment to Indonesia. Halonen told that the Government had concluded there were no obstacles to granting the licence. She said that the EU’s and its member states’ position on arms exports to Indonesia was taken into account in reaching the decision. Halonen stated that the arms deal was a follow-up to a first delivery that was approved in 1994. Minister of Defence Anneli Taina concurred with the Foreign Minister. The issue was raised by a group of MPs who wondered how Finnish arms exports policy fits together with the respect of human rights. On 12 June, the two ministers submitted a report on arms trade to the Parliament Foreign Affairs Committee. According to the chairman of the Committee Markus Aaltonen, the Committee will produce a report on the issue in the autumn from the point of view of human rights.
At their party congress in Helsinki, the Social Democratic Party espoused the view that Finland’s way in security policy is to stay "out of military alliances and rely on national defence, and work for security solutions based on cooperation”. The party also assessed NATO: from the perspective of security NATO still has a central role, and it can make a great difference in maintaining stability even in Northern Europe. Finland should evaluate the NATO enlargement process chiefly through the question of Northern European security and stability. SDP’s view is that Finland would do well to fulfill the EMU Stage Three criteria, if only to ensure the stability of Finnish economic policy and freedom of operation.
At the press conference of the Social Democrats’ party congress, Prime Minister Lipponen who was elected chairman of the party assured that the Finnish markka would not be connected to the European Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM) ths summer. The President approved a new Monetary Act that entered into force on June 10th. It makes it possible to end the floating of the markka and joining the ERM. Lipponen estimated that postponing the ERM connection would not hinder Finland from joining the EMU.
China carried out an underground nuclear test at the Lop Nor testing site in Xinjiang , northwestern China. China started nuclear testing in 1964, and this was the 44thtest in the area. China announced its intention to interrupt testing by September, but it would first carry out one test detonation "to ensure the safety of its nuclear weapons”. The test caused an international uproar. Foreign Minister Halonen said she was very disappointed. Finland intends along with the other Nordic countries to express its negative view to the Chinese foreign ministry in Beijing.
A research institute focusing on security issues that was envisioned by President Ahtisaari will not be established in Helsinki. A working group led by Minister Jaakko Iloniemi that considered the idea presented its conclusions to Prime Minister Lipponen. The report stemmed from a suggestion made by President Ahtisaari one year ago at the 20th anniversary celebration of the CSCE. The President proposed the creation of an independent research institution meeting high standards of quality. The working group concluded however that a new research programme to be launched at the Finnish Institute of International Affairs is the most suitable environment for research on security.
President Ahtisaari spoke at a meeting of the KTV (trade union for the municipal sector) in Helsinki on Finnish security policy and a changing Europe. The President hoped that the democratisation of Russia continues. Economic and political isolation of Russia would be a setback for peace in Europe. In his view, a continued democratisation would make Russia a closer neighbour. Ahtisaari restated his position that Finland has no reason to join NATO. According to him, joining the alliance would not improve Finland’s security and stability in Northern Europe and the Baltic Sea region. The President emphasised good cooperation with NATO. He considered the NATO-led IFOR operation more than a peacekeeping mission. It could ideally mean a breakthrough in unravelling the post-Cold War military confrontation. President Ahtisaari rejected the idea that EU member states are in an indefinite position when it comes to security policy. He said that the new countries seeking EU membership have realised this.
At the party congress of the Finnish Centre Party in Kouvola, the party took a critical position on the EMU Stage Three, while leaving all options open. Although the party is not in favour of it, if the EMU becomes reality and Finnish membership becomes topical, the Centre Party will decide its position in an extra party congress if necessary. The EMU decision should, according to the the party, be made primarily on economic grounds. The party congress also demanded an advisory referendum before a final decision. The congress adhered to the foreign and security policy line defined by party Chairman Esko Aho: the best option for Finland is "military non-alliance based on traditional neutrality, and a credible, independent defence”. The Centre Party did not support the creation of a common EU defence. In addition, the party congress joined Aho in condemning the Government’s plans to "incorporate the Rapid Deployment Force as part of the Finnish Defence Forces”. According to Aho, there is a risk that conscripts would be sent outside the country. In his view, also in the future only troops composed of volunteering reservists should be used in international crisis management. Aho stressed that the Finnish Defence Forces should not be given other tasks than defending the country. On 13 June, President Ahtisaari had defined the role of Finland’s defence as encompassing both homeland defence and international missions.
On a working visit to Estonia, President Ahtisaari met with Estonian President Lennart Meri in Tallinn. In their discussions, security policy took centre stage. President Ahtisaari shared the dismay of the Baltic States over the fact that an amendment of the treaty restricting conventional arms would bring more armaments to northwestern Russia. The treaty allows Russia to bring 600 tanks close to the border, instead of the former 160.
Finland, along with 22 other countries, was accepted as member of the UN Disarmament Conference. The new members were accepted after they promised to refrain from using their veto for two years. After the acceptance of the new members, the conference has 61 members.
Parliament approved the founding of the Rapid Deployment Force for international crisis management by a vote of 128 to 51. The minority view was that of the Centre Party, the Christian League and the Left Alliance, that peacekeeping capabilities should be improved by developing the current peacekeeping training. The proposal by True Finns’ Raimo Vistbacka that a separate legislative proposal must be submitted to Parliament regarding the creation of the RDF was voted down by a vote of 129 to 49.
Finland ratified the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and an agreement relating to the implementation of Part XI of the Convention, which deals with the exploitation of seabed resources. For Finland, the Convention will enter into force on 21 July 1996.
An EU summit was held in Florence. Finland was represented by Minister of Finance Niinistö (in place of the prime minister), President Ahtisaari and Minister for Foreign Affairs Halonen. The greatest achievement of the summit was a solution in the BSE crisis. The main points of the so-called Pact of Confidence for Employment proposed by Commission President Jacques Santer were approved. It was noted that the IGC had not progressed very far since it began, and the European Council would try to speed up the proceedings at its extra meeting in Dublin in October. Santer’s Trans-European Networks (TEN) projects costing 7,2 billion markka did not receive additional funding from the European Council. The Finns were satisfied with the outcomes of the meeting: for example, promoting cooperation in the Baltic Sea region was mentioned as one of the Union’s goals. The TACIS programme for advancing the cooperation between the EU and Russia was also stepped up. As regards the EU’s enlargement, Finland, Sweden and Austria hoped that all the countries seeking membership would be treated equally, meaning that the applications of Baltic and Central European countries would be considered at the same time as the applications of Malta and Cyprus. The European Council also supported the re-election of Russia’s President Boris Yeltsin.
The UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights Elisabeth Rehn made a visit to former Yugoslavia. She visited Serbia, Eastern Slavonia and Bosnia to gather information about the implementation of human rights. Rehn commented for example that she hoped the EU would base an office in the Kosovo region, and that the International Criminal Court in The Hague is complicating the work of the Finnish group trying to identify bodies.
According to an opinion poll commissioned by the Finnish newspaper Helsingin Sanomat from the company Suomen Gallup, only one fifth of Finns is in favour of NATO membership. In the newspaper’s survey made a year earlier the membership gained more support. Seventy percent of Finns do not think Finland should join NATO. A significant pro-NATO stance is found among National Coalition Party and Swedish People’s Party adherents. As for the EU, 55 % of the people are satisfied with Finland’s membership in the Union. The EU’s single currency however has not found popularity. It is opposed by 60 % of Finns. Supporters of the Centre Party and the Left Alliance are most opposed to the common currency. The survey was conducted on 15-18 June.
The Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs announced that Finland would assist Russia in the processing of nuclear waste in Murmansk. IVO International has made a contract with RTP Atomflot, a dockyard for repair and maintenance operating under the Ministry of Transport of the Russian Federation. Based on the contract, the parties will collaborate to clean radioactive wastewater from civilian nuclear vessels, mainly icebreakers.
Finland and Latvia are increasing cooperation in the fight against crime. The ministers of the interior of the two countries, Jan-Erik Enestam and Dainis Turlais, signed an agreement regarding this issue in Helsinki. The agreement will come into force once it has been ratified in both countries. Finland already has a similar agreement with Russia and Estonia.
Finland’s Interim Chargé d’Affaires Marjatta Viitanen attended the memorial service of Danish Honorary Consul James Leander Nichols in Yangon, Myanmar (Burma), where she offered the condolences of Foreign Minister Halonen. Finland has asked clarification on the death of Honorary Consul Nichols, as have other countries that had cooperated with Nichols.
The President decided that Finland would cancel visa exemption with Kenya starting from July. The decision aims to prevent illegal immigration from Kenya.
Stricter conditions will be introduced for the right of return of Ingrian Finns. Finland considers as returnees people who have at least one parent or two grandparents who are ethnic Finns. A mention of the person’s ethnicity must also be found in documents. The Finnish Aliens Act will be amended with a section on Ingrian Finns. The President confirmed the amendment of the Aliens Act. The change will come into effect from August 1.
The first Hornet fighter plane assembled in Finland was presented to the Finnish Air Force in Kuorevesi. President Ahtisaari and United States Ambassador to Finland Derek Shearer were present.
In an interview with Yleisradio, Prime Minister Lipponen openly endorsed the re-election of incumbent President Boris Yeltsin in the Russian presidential election on 3 July. In his view, what is crucial about the election for Finland as well as for other western countries is that Russia’s democratic and economic reforms continue and that power continues to reside with the civilians. It is also significant that democracy functions at all and the country manages to hold elections, he said. The Prime Minister also supported the appointment, by Yeltsin, of Alexander Lebed to key government posts related to national security.
Foreign Minister Tarja Halonen travelled from Kalmar, Sweden to Luxembourg, where she engaged in talks with Foreign Minister Jacques F. Poos and Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker among others. The main topics were EU affairs and European security matters. Foreign Minister Halonen also officially inaugurated the Finnish embassy that started to operate in August 1995.
On his own behalf and that of the Finnish people, President Martti Ahtisaari congratulated Russian President Boris Yeltsin on his re-election. For President Ahtisaari, the re-election consolidates democracy in Russia and creates good conditions for strengthening cooperative security in all of Europe. Foreign Minister Halonen joined President Ahtisaari in congratulating President Yeltsin.
The Finnish Defence Forces estimated that they will need additional funding to carry out their tasks prescribed by law. Otherwise, the military must lay off at least 300-500 of its personnel during the years 1998-1999. According to an operating and financial plan for the rest of the decade, e.g. the number of interceptor aircraft flying lessons will have to be reduced. The Ministry of Defence is proposing that the previously adopted financial framework for next year would be increased by about half a billion and for 1999 by over 800 million markka. In the development plan of the Ministry of Defence, three procurement authorities totalling nearly 10 billion markka are proposed, mostly for the needs of the Army and the Navy. The procurement authorities would begin at the turn of the millennium, i.e. after the Hornet acquisitions. The Defence Ministry’s spending limit next year is a little over 9,5 billion markka, without the increase proposed by the ministry.
Due to pressure from the Serbs, a Finnish team of experts has stopped searching for dead bodies in the Bosnian village of Kravica, near Srebrenica. The effort was funded by the foreign ministries of Finland and the Netherlands.
Foreign Minister stated in an interview with the newspapers Turun Sanomat and Savon Sanomat that she was willing to increase government expenditure so that Finland could stop using anti-personnel landmines. According to preliminary estimates, replacing them with alternatives would cost hundreds of millions of markka. The use of anti-personnel mines was restricted in Geneva in the spring. Finland has opposed a total ban on anti-personnel mines, because they constitute an essential part of Finland’s national defence.
A new multilateral export control regime on transfers of conventional arms and technologies with military applications was formed in Vienna. The so-called Wassenaar Arrangement supersedes the CoCom organisation that was dissolved over a year ago. Initially, there are 33 participating countries, including Finland. The export controls are aimed at countries like Iran, Iraq, and North Korea. The goal is to ensure through international cooperation that governments that are considered dangerous will not secretly accumulate dual-use goods and technologies. These include IT equipment and sophisticated materials and components that have a civilian application but can be used for weapons systems or their manufacturing. A secretariat will be established in Vienna to take care of practical aspects of the agreement.
President Ahtisaari argued in an interview with the German newspaper Die Welt that instead of serving Finland’s security interests or European security, Finnish NATO membership would render cooperation with neighbours more difficult. According to Ahtisaari, for Finns, Finland’s security comes first. He believed that the fact that Finland has a reliable defence, and that Finland operates outside military alliances, is for the best for Europe. Ahtisaari proposed that the EU would invite the leaders of the United States and of Russia to a summit where non-military aspects of security would be considered. The topic could be the security of nuclear facilities and economic cooperation. Ahtisaari hopes that the EU will raise its profile on the issue of common foreign policy.
Defence Minister of Indonesia Edi Sudradjat visited Finland, where he acquainted himself with Finnish security policy and defence industry. Sudradjat met President Ahtisaari and Defence Minister Taina during his visit. Arms exports and human rights came up in their discussions. Twice this year, the Finnish Government has granted permits to export defence materiel to Indonesia. Both Finnish NGOs and the European Parliament have called for all Union member states to stop trading in arms with Indonesia.
In negotiations between the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, it was agreed that Finland’s development cooperation funds will remain next year at the current level, i.e. 0.34 percent of GNI. The Foreign Ministry hoped that Finland would increase its aid at first to 0.4 percent which is the EU average, and later to the target level of 0.7 percent of GNI. A ministerial working group is considering the level of official development assistance, and it will later announce its conclusions regarding the timeframe for increasing the appropriations. The work stems from a proposal early this year by MP Pertti Paasio who prepared a report on the issue.
The chair of the Parliament’s Grand Committee, Erkki Tuomioja, suggested in an interview with the economic newspaper Kauppalehti that the Third Stage of the EMU would be postponed by 10 years. The fundamental problem with the EMU, according to Mr Tuomioja, is that monetary policy is transferred to the supranational level, but fiscal policy will be managed nationally. The monetary union can be the right solution when the political, economic and fiscal integration and decision-making has reached a certain level.
In the Finnish Foreign Ministry’s new operating and financial plan for the years 1997-2000, the EU membership is seen as including a significant security dimension. The goal is to deepen security policy cooperation in the EU. The Foreign Ministry estimates that the Union will be steered towards military crisis management, in which the WEU has a central role. The WEU and the EU will be more closely tied together, improving the capabilities of the EU. The Foreign Ministry considers that although the Nordic countries have differed in their solutions regarding Europe, they have never before participated as closely and as uniformly in European cooperation as they do now. In the Ministry’s view the 1999 EU presidency means that Finland’s role as a link between the Union and Nordic cooperation is highlighted. Finland supports the reform efforts in Central and Eastern European countries. Relations with the Baltic States, especially Estonia, are important as well. The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) remains a central forum for cooperation. Furthermore, Finland wishes to improve the UN’s capabilities and to develop the representativeness of the Security Council.
Prime Minister Lipponen visited Washington, meeting with representatives of the United States government. The Prime Minister also attended a seminar organised by the prestigious think tank CSIS which focuses on security issues, and presented a wide-ranging overview of the security situation in Northern Europe. Lipponen argued that it is vital for Finland that the CFE Treaty remains in force and is implemented, because arms proliferation in Finland’s neighbouring areas is not desirable. He emphasised that the EU is the predominant stabilising force in Europe, politically and economically. Lipponen considered that the EU and the US ought to develop security cooperation in Europe. A strong EU is an important partner for the US in the world economy and international politics. He repeated that Finland is not applying for NATO membership. Finland is interested in the implications of NATO’s enlargement in the Baltic Sea region, especially for Russia and the Baltic States. After the discussions in Washington, Lipponen remarked that if Russia and the NATO countries were to agree on a set of rules for the expansion of the military alliance, this should not tie Finland down when comes the time for decisions on Finland’s security solutions.
On behalf of Finland, EU Ambassador Antti Satuli signed a Protocol regarding the establishment of the European Police Office (Europol). The Protocol and related Declarations are meant to give the European Court of Justice jurisdiction to give preliminary rulings on the interpretation of the Europol Convention.
The EU Budget Council decided that the 1997 budget would be smaller than the previous year. It was decided that the total amount of expenditure would be 0.3 percent (or 1.4 billion markka) smaller than in this year’s budget. Secretary of State Raimo Sailas estimated that the decision will save Finland 200 million markka. Mr Sailas who attended the Budget Council meeting in Brussels pointed out that the salaries and pensions of EU officials are growing too fast.
The European Commission granted Finland 365 million markka for neighbouring area cooperation. The purpose of the funds is to develop trade relations with our neighbours and to improve the conditions in the areas close to Finland’s borders. Most of the funds are allocated for tackling unemployment in the North Calotte region. Other regions that benefit from the funds are Carelia and the Barents region, the Kvarken region of the Gulf of Bothnia, the Åland archipelago and southeastern Finland.
In an interview with the Finnish Broadcasting Company (YLE) TV news, Prime Minister Lipponen emphasised more clearly than before the link between Finnish security and European development. According to the Prime Minister, Finland follows closely the current debate about NATO’s enlargement and makes its own decision based on it. Lipponen stressed that there are no existing decisions on joining NATO. "If the European security system changes so that a system is formed in which Russia participates, we will of course draw our own conclusions from that”, Lipponen stated.
Swedish Minister for Defence Thage G. Peterson suggested that Sweden would completely abandon the use of anti-personnel landmines and would also destroy its stockpiles of mines. He also proposed the founding of a demining centre in Sweden, and possible collaboration with other Nordic countries. Finnish Defence Minister Anneli Taina affirmed in an interview with STT that Finland is not reconsidering its landmine policy. She noted that landmines are an essential component of our defence.
President Ahtisaari gave an interview to Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet, where he said he considers the EU to be the best security solution for the Baltic States. He explained that Finnish-Baltic cooperation covers environmental issues, the safety of nuclear power plants and the fight against crime, all of which improves security in the Baltics. When asked whether the Finnish and Swedish soft model of security is sufficient for the Baltic countries, the President replied: "We must think first of ourselves and only then of the Baltic States and the rest of Europe”. He reckoned the EU would be the best guarantor of security, although the process is slower than the Baltic States would like.
A Nordic-Baltic foreign ministers’ meeting was held in Riga. Afterwards the Nordic ministers headed to Porvoo, where Foreign Minister Halonen hosted a Nordic foreign ministers’ meeting on 20-21 August. The agenda featured topical issues such as EU affairs, the Baltic countries, Russia, former Yugoslavia, the Middle East and the approaching 51st session of the UN General Assembly. The ministers appealed to warring parties in Chechnya for a political and peaceful solution to the conflict. The situation of the Baltic countries also came up in the discussions and in particular the possibility of visa exemption between Nordic countries and Estonia. Halonen did not wish to determine a precise date for the end of the visa requirement, but she said that efforts will be made to achieve it as soon as possible.
At a meeting of the Finnish Social Democrats’ party executive in Kuopio, Prime Minister Lipponen said that the government should soon make a decision on the entry of the Finnish markka into the European Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM). The Prime Minister considered that the strengthening of markka is no longer desirable. Lipponen reaffirmed the willingness of Finland to be among the first countries joining the EMU third stage.
The Ministry for Foreign Affairs announced that Finland supports the adoption of a treaty banning anti-personnel mines. Together with the other EU countries, Finland engages in the international strive to get rid of the mine problem. In addition to the political efforts to ban mines, the international community must support demining and help the victims of landmines. Finland will increase its support for mine clearance as part of its development policy, in cooperation with the UN. Finland also endorses allocating EU funding for demining.
The Cabinet Committee on Foreign and Security Policy considered a resolution on the coming years of Finland’s development cooperation. The resolution is based on a report on development cooperation by MP Pertti Paasio. The ODA-to-GNI ratio fell during the recession, and both Paasio and Minister of Development Pekka Haavisto have the same grounds for demanding that it be increased: a too modest amount of assistance endangers Finland’s credibility in international relations.
The Government will create a new fixed-term, high-level public office for managing the Finnish EU presidency. The new secretary of state will work under the Prime Minister at the PM’s Office during his or her three-year term. In addition, posts for an under-secretary of state and for a small number of auxiliary officials will be created. The new officials will coordinate activities during the presidency. They will prepare a proposal, to be used in decision-making, on the emphases of Finland’s presidency, and they will monitor the implementation of the emphases that have been decided.
The prime ministers of the Nordic countries gathered in Helsinki to discuss mainly security policy. Finnish Premier Lipponen who hosted the meeting, said afterwards that he believed Sweden had come to agree with Finland on the Baltic Sea and EU policies. The Prime Minister repeated what he had stated before: the Nordic countries are not able to give security guarantees to the Baltic States. The Nordic countries respect the right of the Baltics to find their own security policy solutions. However, these solutions were considered to have an effect on everyone’s security. In Lipponen’s assessment, a failure of the negotiations between NATO and Russia would mean difficulties for the whole Nordic region. Besides the Baltic States, the topics of the meeting included environmental policy, traditional Nordic cooperation, the situation in Russia, energy cooperation, and EU affairs. With regard to the EU, Prime Minister Lipponen remarked that the decision about Finland’s participation in the third stage of the EMU will be made in the Finnish Parliament in late 1997. While in Helsinki, the prime ministers also met President Ahtisaari.
Chief of Defence Gustav Hägglund visited Russia and met the Russian defence minister Colonel General Igor Rodionov, Secretary of the Security Council Alexander Lebed, Chief of the General Staff Col. Gen. M.P. Kolesnikov, and the chairman of the Duma Defence Committee, Lev Rokhlin. General Hägglund was introduced to the activities of the Russian Armed Forces in Moscow, Murmansk and Pechenga. He also visited the Plesetsk Cosmodrome. Having been acquainted with the latest Russian helicopter types, Hägglund said Finland must consider in the few next years the acquisition of modern helicopters. He envisaged for example the replacement of the controversial landmines in Finland’s defence with helicopters. Minister of Defence Anneli Taina stated on 28 August that Finland is not considering the purchase of attack helicopters for the Defence Forces. However, she did not totally rule out the possibility of obtaining helicopters.
The first of the political groups of the European Parliament to hold a meeting in Finland was the conservative European People’s Party (EPP). The meeting in Espoo was attended by European Commissioners Franz Fischler and Hans van den Broek. The opening remarks were given by the chairman of the National Coalition Party, Minister of Finance Sauli Niinistö. He presented a new interpretation of Finland’s position during the Cold War. He argued that the Finno-Soviet Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation, and Mutual Assistance "should more fittingly be compared to Eastern European military alliances” rather than to Sweden’s or Switzerland’s neutrality. According to Minister Niinistö, the National Coalition Party wants to develop the European Union as a conglomerate of sovereign states. For the future of the EU, Niinistö considered achieving the EMU Stage Three more important than the ongoing IGC. European Commissioner for External Relations Hans van den Broek believed that the next enlargement of the EU will happen no earlier than 2002. He did not think it possible that all the applicants could accede to the Union at the same time. It was further revealed at the meeting that the European conservatives hope that the EU and the WEU would be brought closer to each other or merged together.
Minister for European Affairs Ole Norrback tried to calm down the debate on the rivalry between Finland and Sweden in Baltic Sea cooperation. He called for a clarification of the division of responsibilities between the various bodies involved. Due to the competition between the countries, the Baltic Sea commission envisioned by NGOs will probably not materialise. Kalevi Sorsa who had been asked to head the commission announced on 29 August that he is withdrawing from the task. Mr Sorsa opined that the position adopted by Swedish Prime Minister Göran Persson has caused the project to fail. On 4 September, while the new adviser to the Council of Baltic States, US diplomat Richard Holbrooke, was visiting Sweden, Foreign Minister Lena Hjelm-Wallén and PM Persson denied claims that Sweden would like to be the sole leader of the cooperation at the Baltic Sea Council.
The European Movement in Finland published the results of a survey which it commissioned from the market research firm Taloustutkimus in late July and early August. The survey found that a vast majority of Finnish candidates in the European Parliament elections think Finland should be among the first countries to participate in the third stage of the EMU. The EMU proponents do not want a referendum on the issue. Support for the EMU is much wider among the candidates than in polls of citizens. The majority of candidates are happy with Finland’s current security policy, and are not willing to change it in the foreseeable future. The stances on the EMU and on NATO differed between the Social Democrats (SDP) and most right-wing candidates. The majority of candidates on the right would like Finland to also join NATO in the event that Sweden and Austria join.
Former prime minister of Sweden, current opposition leader Carl Bildt gave a speech to the Paasikivi Society. He believed that a peace partnership between the Baltic States and four Nordic countries would open the way for a stable security policy in the Baltic Sea region. The partnership would also entail new cooperation with NATO, which is undergoing reforms. However, it would not affect Finland’s and Sweden’s non-alignment policy. Denmark and Norway would also be able to keep their present relationship with NATO unchanged. Bildt found that the partnership would prevent the Baltic Sea region from turning into a vacuum, now that the entire European security policy is shifting. He considered NATO’s reform a kind of turning point with implications for all European countries and for Baltic Sea countries in particular. Closer cooperation between NATO and Russia would especially increase insecurity in the Baltic States, and both Sweden and Finland would have more distant relations to NATO than Russia has. Bildt also argued that the partnership would also provide a natural basis for interaction with Russia. He stressed Russia’s significance for the peaceful development of Europe, and the importance of good and stable relations in both economy and security policy.
In the 1997 budget proposal, it was proposed that the administrative branch of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs would receive a total of 3,08 billion markka in appropriations. This means an increase of 140 million mk, i.e. 4.8 percent. About 90 million mk of the increase is transferred from other main titles of expenditure. Development cooperation appropriations are going to increase again.
The official-level chief negotiators from 15 EU countries convened after a summer break to launch the Intergovernmental Conference aiming to reform the basic structures of the European Union. The Finnish chief negotiator at the meeting was EU Ambassador Antti Satuli. It was revealed that the majority of EU countries support the principle of transparency advocated by Finland among the group of officials. From now on there will be public access to documents unless they have been specifically labeled confidential, and justification must be given for the confidentiality.
Regarding the United States missile strike in Iraq, Minister for Foreign Affairs Halonen remarked that based on a resolution of the UN Security Council, the US, France and Britain are responsible for the protection of the Kurdish "safe haven” in northern Iraq. Foreign Minister Halonen commented that Iraq’s military actions against the Kurds in the no-fly zone in recent days had given cause to fear that force would be used as a countermeasure.
Nordic environment ministers discussed in Helsinki the environmental problems of the Nordic countries’ neighbouring areas. The ministers examined questions of funding of environmental projects, particularly the environmental loan system to be launched in 1997 under the Nordic Investment Bank (NIB).
During question time at the Finnish Parliament, Prime Minister Lipponen stated, contrary to Foreign Minister Halonen’s earlier statement, that Finland simply cannot give up the use of anti-personnel mines. On the question of arms exports, Lipponen said Finland has to maintain some level of arms exports in order to keep its domestic production of defence equipment running. Sweden exports about 20 times more weapons than Finland, he remarked.
Foreign Minister Halonen participated in an informal EU foreign ministers’ meeting in Tralee, Ireland. Former prime minister of Sweden Carl Bildt, who monitors the implementation of the civilian provisions of the Dayton Peace Accords, presented an overview of the situation in Bosnia. Bildt estimated that peace will be so fragile after the 14 September elections that some kind of military presence will still be needed once NATO’s IFOR troops are gone. The EU ministers gave their support to the Bosnia strategy suggested by Bildt. The foreign ministers also adopted a positive stance towards the joint initiative of the foreign ministers of Finland and Sweden concerning the EU’s "soft” defence alliance the WEU. The foreign ministers unanimously criticised the United States legislation which allows the US to punish companies trading with Cuba, Libya and Iran.
Finnish soldiers took part in a NATO Partnership for Peace exercise in Münster, Germany. A total of 750 soldiers from 17 countries participated in the drill, including 26 soldiers from Finland.
The television show A-studio reported about statements by the Principal Secretary of the Defence Council Juhani Kaskeala at a meeting of Finnish ambassadors and consuls-general on 22 August. He assessed that pressure is mounting on Finland to align itself militarily. Should the EU and Russia end up in a confrontation involving threats of military action, this would automatically turn into a conflict between Russia and NATO, Kaskeala argued. In this scenario, there would be a rapprochement between the EU and NATO, which would involve Finland more closely in the crisis, as EU membership precludes neutrality. In Kaskeala’s view, in a conflict between Russia and Western powers, Russia would consider Finland as an antagonist. He predicted that the United States may reduce its role in European defence in the long run. He saw military alignment in that situation in terms of ensuring Finland’s security and influence in an evolving European Union. Because of Russia’s superior force, Finland must prepare to receive assistance. Kaskeala said he was envisioning the worst case scenario. He also asserted that Finland’s security situation is now better than ever before.
President Ahtisaari and his wife visited the Czech Republic. He was accompanied by Foreign Minister Halonen and Minister of Culture Claes Andersson. President Ahtisaari met his Czech counterpart Vaclav Havel and Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus, and visited the parliament. The main topics discussed during the visit were the EU and European security. In his presentation at the Bohemia Foundation, President Ahtisaari stressed the EU’s role as a security builder. He also hoped for collaboration in the field of security between an enlarging EU, Russia, and the United States. The President highlighted NATO’s role in achieving stability in Europe. It is essential that NATO and Russia are able to develop a cooperative relationship that follows OSCE principles. The President remarked that new spheres of influence should not be created in Europe.
Prime Minister Lipponen attended the Congress of the Socialist International at the UN Headquarters in New York. The themes of the twentieth SI Congress included "markets serving people”, the globalisation of world economy, peacemaking and peacekeeping, and a human rights agenda for the twenty-first century. Bank of Finland board member and former Finnish premier Kalevi Sorsa, who has presided over the SI Disarmament Committee SIPSAD since its inception (as a disarmament study group) in 1978, gave up his chairmanship during the SI Congress. Having also served as one of the vice-presidents of the Socialist International, he was replaced in the SI Presidium by Prime Minister Lipponen. Mr Sorsa was elected as one of the honorary presidents of the SI.
The OECD evaluated the effectiveness of Finland’s environmental policy. The assessment was conducted in Finland by an international team of 12 experts who met with Finnish authorities, researchers, interest groups and NGOs. The environmental performance review will culminate in June 1997 in an examination meeting in Paris, where the Finnish delegation will answer questions from the reviewing group made up of delegates of other OECD countries.
The socialist group of the European Parliament held a meeting in Espoo, with the participation of EP President Klaus Hänsch, Vice-President of the European Commission Manuel Marín, and Irish Foreign Minister Dick Spring, among others. At the meeting, Prime Minister Lipponen commented on the debate over Finland’s recent history that was stirred by National Coalition Party Chairman, Finance Minister Sauli Niinistö. Lipponen reminded that "no military cooperation of any kind was ever realised between Finland and the Soviet Union” on the basis of the FCMA Treaty. According to him, the Treaty worked in the best way possible: it had a preventive effect. For Lipponen, this constituted one part of the policy of neutrality. The other component was striving "to obtain as much room for manoeuvre as possible towards Western cooperation”. The Prime Minister recounted that from his discussions as Director of the Finnish Institute of International Affairs in 1990 with the Soviet Deputy Foreign Minister Yuri Deryabin, he had gleaned that Finland’s EU membership would have been possible even without the dissolution of the USSR. The European Budget Commissioner Erkki Liikanen reasoned that the EU could not enlarge if the Intergovernmental Conference fails to reform the decision-making process.
At the meeting of the Group of the European Liberal Democrat and Reform Party ELDR in Helsinki, Centre Party Chairman Esko Aho called for uniform green taxes in all EU countries. He viewed taxation as an appropriate method for pursuing objectives such as reducing unemployment. No country can proceed alone because this would distort competition. Mr Aho also joined the discussion on history launched by Sauli Niinistö, commenting that Finnish security policy after the war has been a success story. When Finland joined the EU it was not looking for a new basic security solution. Rather, it wanted to maintain the core of its neutrality policy: military non-alignment and independent defence. Aho considered the EU indispensable in "building security, broadly understood”.
The Finnish Government approved a government resolution on development cooperation which means a commitment to increase aid appropriations. The goal is that by 2000, 0.4 percent of the GNI will be allocated to development cooperation. According to Development Minister Pekka Haavisto, development cooperation will in the future become a more central part of foreign policy. We should gradually abandon interest subsidies, and define stricter conditions for assistance, he said. The new Finnish policy is in line with the OECD strategy on development adopted in May 1996.
Prime Minister Lipponen commented in Lappeenranta, that neighbouring area cooperation has suffered from the fragmented way in which many regions aim for their individual goals in relation to the new Russia. The Government and the EU wish to make the cooperation more effective. The prime minister considered that St Petersburg should be the primary focus of neighbouring area cooperation, but the development of Carelia is also important to Finland. However, safety issues in the nuclear plants of the Leningrad Oblast, and alternatives to nuclear power will call for international solutions and financing.
Prime Minister Lipponen asserted in an article in Financial Times that the creation of a security zone covering all three Baltic States and led from Helsinki and Stockholm is not an option.
Delegates from the Arctic states (Nordic countries, Russia, Canada and the US) and from the region’s indigenous peoples met in Ottawa, Canada and decided on the establishment of the Arctic Council. The task of the Council is to advance and coordinate environmental cooperation in the Arctic. The Council combines the objectives of the Rovaniemi process launched by Finland and of the Barents cooperation in one organisation. The division of labour is clear however: the Arctic Council will focus on cooperation in the entire delicate Arctic region, whereas the Barents Council concentrates on regions in Northern Europe. Minister of Environment Pekka Haavisto thinks the first task for the Arctic Council is to draw up an Agenda 21 sustainable development plan for the Arctic regions.
The Cabinet Committee on Foreign and Security Policy decided that Finland would supply the Western European Union (WEU) with information on troops which can be used in planning the participation of observer countries in WEU humanitarian and rescue operations, as well as peacekeeping and crisis management tasks. The WEU has requested the information from all of the organisation’s observer members and partners. The Finnish units are listed alongside the so-called FAWEU forces (Forces Answerable to WEU). The listing of the forces for the WEU does not bind the countries to provide personnel for any particular operation. Finland’s list included one mechanised battalion, one pioneer battalion, three vessels and the so-called Finn Rescue Force.
Minister of Defence Anneli Taina told at the opening of the 140th National Defence Course that Finland had received support from all the Nordic countries, among others, for its proposal to act as coordinator for the international assistance aimed at developing Estonian national defence. Finland offered its help because the assistance coming from multiple sources is often fragmented and yet overlapping. Since 1991, Finland has supported Estonia in building a national defence. The Finnish Government authorised even broader support this year after Estonia had decided to use Finland as a model for its own defence. In June, a project team was appointed to look into the need for experts. Minister Taina stressed that the support given to Estonia in no way makes Finland a guarantor of Estonian security.
Military representatives of 19 countries visited the Armoured Brigade at Parolannummi. These visits are part of the confidence and security building measures agreed upon in the Vienna Document and which each OSCE participating state is required to arrange every five years.
Bosnian refugees living in Finland have been granted a permanent right to stay in the country. Finland has also decided not to actively support voluntary return to Bosnia. The UNHCR has stressed that people should not yet return to Bosnia. Local elections have not yet been held, winter is approaching, and the IFOR mandate has not yet been extended. There are 2500 citizens of former Yugoslavia in Finland, of which 1250 are Bosnians.
Finland was among the countries that signed the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty at the session of the UN General Assembly in New York. The signatories included the major nuclear-weapon states: the United States, France, China, Russia and Britain. The CTBT was adopted by the General Assembly two weeks earlier by a vote of 158 in favour to 3 against. Only India, Libya and Bhutan opposed it. The Treaty prohibits nuclear testing everywhere, both in the atmosphere and underground. Foreign Minister Halonen who signed the CTBT on Finland’s behalf called the Treaty a historic achievement and hoped that it would soon enter into force. This will happen after 44 countries have ratified it. In addition to the five nuclear-weapon states, the participation of three "threshold states” is crucial: India, Pakistan and Israel. Finland also participates in a global verification regime which will be built to monitor compliance with the Treaty.
In connection with the 51st UN General Assembly session in New York, Minister for Foreign Affairs Tarja Halonen and Haitian Foreign Minister Fritz Longchamp established diplomatic relations between Finland and Haiti, effective that same day. The restoration of democracy in Haiti has increased the country’s number of diplomatic ties.
Prime Minister Lipponen told Helsingin Sanomat that Finland has a positive outlook on the possible broader Partnership for Peace suggested by NATO. The content of NATO’s proposal is not yet known, but it is expected to bring about closer political and military cooperation. In the interview, the Prime Minister assessed that NATO is a partner for Finland, above all else in upholding the stability of Northern Europe. He also pledged the continued participation of Finnish troops in the NATO-led IFOR operation next year, if the operation is extended. In an interview with Ilta-Sanomat , President Ahtisaari shared, in principle, Prime Minister Lipponen’s favourable view of this broader Partnership for Peace. He was also satisfied with the current PfP programme.
Foreign Minister Halonen delivered a speech at the 51st session of the UN General Assembly in New York. She said sustainable peace will not be achieved in societies where human rights or the citizens’ demands for democracy are not respected. For Minister Halonen, there are at least three areas in which the General Assembly can and ought to be active. Sufficient funding should be targeted by the UN at promoting and monitoring the respect of human rights. The UN should also establish a permanent international criminal court. Thirdly, at the national level the UN should allocate resources for the implementation of the resolutions that have been adopted. Halonen said Finland supports the founding of the UN’s rapidly deployable mission headquarters as soon as possible. She also reminded that Finland is prepared to put effort into making sure that the anti-personnel mine ban convention will be on the agenda of the next Geneva Disarmament Conference in January 1997.
The think tank Elinkeinoelämän valtuuskunta (Finnish Business and Policy Forum EVA) published the results of an attitude survey showing that Finnish citizens have more reservations than decision-makers about Finland’s participation in the EMU. According to the study, 23 % of people were in favour of quickly joining EMU, whereas 45 % were against it. On the other hand, 43 % of the people interviewed thought it would be fatal for Finland to remain outside of the EMU if most of the other EU countries join it. The citizens would also like to have their say about the matter in a referendum. The survey indicates that Finns are more indifferent and critical towards EU affairs than before, even if they accept EU membership. Thirty-four percent of Finns held that Finland should stay out of NATO even if Sweden and the Baltic States were to join. Nevertheless, 43 % believed that as an EU member Finland will eventually join NATO or the WEU. In the poll, 34 % of respondents supported EU enlargement. The two options of deeper EU integration or of maintaining the Union in its present form were both supported by one fifth of the population.
At the Finnish Parliament’s festive session commemorating the 90 years of universal suffrage in Finland, the Government presented the first part of its "report on the future” to the Parliament. The Government considers it possible that the cancellation of the EMU would lead to a crisis that the Union in its current form could not resolve. As a result, the EU could dissolve or regress into a mere free-trade area. The Government also supported the idea that EU countries should be able to integrate at different speeds. These arrangements should not however become permanent. In addition, the Government reviewed options for the future of the EU, as well as the democratisation of Russia.
Prime Minister Lipponen visited France and met with President Jacques Chirac and Prime Minister Alain Juppé. They discussed EU affairs, especially the IGC, the EMU and security policy. After the talks, Lipponen stated that introducing the EMU on schedule is the most important undertaking for the EU at the moment. He also surmised that it seems more and more certain that this goal will be accomplished. The entry of the Finnish markka in the ERM was not discussed. In Paris, Finland highlighted the position of small countries, and did not support a Commission with 8 to 10 members. Lipponen also stressed that in its security policy, Finland steers clear of any agreements about the division of Europe. He requested support from France to the EU accession bids of the Baltic States, and encouraged the country to take part in building cooperation in the Baltic Sea region. He also discussed with Prime Minister Juppé the Finnish goal of joining the Western European Armaments Group (WEAG).
Before leaving for the EU summit in Dublin the next day, Prime Minister Lipponen was heard by the Grand Committee of the Finnish Parliament. He voiced his concern over the timetable of the Intergovernmental Conference (IGC). Lipponen underscored the significance of EU enlargement for the stability of Europe. "If the IGC does not go forward, neither does the enlargement” he said. Lipponen reminded about Finland’s stance: as much of the European integration as possible should be achieved with the participation of all the members. The Grand Committee expressed its discontent about the way the Committee is kept up to date on the progress of the IGC.
The Cabinet Committee on Foreign and Security Policy approved the proposal that Finland and Sweden have planned for the IGC, regarding the amending of the Treaty on European Union in order to create crisis management capabilities for the Union. The proposal is based on a suggestion made by the Finnish and Swedish foreign ministers in May 1996. The public servants negotiating on behalf of Finland and Sweden presented the proposal to the other EU countries at the IGC negotiations which resumed on 7-8 October. The initiative was modified to no longer include a direct reference to peace enforcement.
Esko Aho, the chairman of the Centre Party which is the largest opposition party, criticised the Government’s EU policy in an interview with news agency STT. He found that the Government is losing the great opportunity provided by the EU membership. According to Aho, Finland’s regions have been totally forgotten in our EU policy. Aho also accused the Government of forgetting the Northern Dimension. He argued that Finland now has a window of opportunity to effect changes in the EU’s policies to ensure that the distinct viewpoints and objectives of a northern country are taken into account. On 9 October, Prime Minister Lipponen challenged Aho’s claims in his column in the newspaper Turun Sanomat. According to Lipponen, during the current government Finland has contributed to more important decisions concerning Northern Europe than ever before.
At a Europe-themed seminar organised by Helsingin Sanomat, Prime Minister Lipponen assured that the third EMU stage would be achieved on schedule in the beginning of 1999. In his view, Finland should already adjust its thinking and its economy to the EMU. Lipponen suspected that a delay could at worst cause a deep crisis. He urged Finland to give up the attitude of a bystander and to actively step into the inner circle of EMU countries, which is taking integration forward and is cooperating more closely in other areas as well.
Nordic defence ministers gathered in Kalmar, Sweden to discuss the idea of a joint peacekeeping force of about 1000 soldiers, which could quickly be at the UN’s disposal. The defence ministers also considered the possibility of extending the Nordic and Polish participation in the peacekeeping in Bosnia. This would require that the decision is based on a UN resolution and that NATO leads the military operations. The United States, Britain and France were also expected to keep peacekeepers in the country.
President of Greece Konstantinos Stephanopoulos made a state visit to Finland. He was accompanied by foreign minister Theodoros Pangalos. While in Finland, President Stephanopoulos met President Ahtisaari and Prime Minister Lipponen. The presidents talked about the disputes between Turkey and Greece, as well as the enlargement of the EU and of NATO. Both heads of state hoped that the EU’s common foreign policy would be developed. The presidents agreed that the EU’s Northern and Mediterranean dimensions should not compete with each other.
The Parliamentary Supervisory Council of the Bank of Finland gave the Government a proposal to include the Finnish markka in the European Exchange-Rate Mechanism, ERM. The Government on the same day decided unanimously to propose Finland’s participation in the ERM to the EU Monetary Committee, which convened on 12 October in Brussels. The Finnish markka entered the ERM on 14 October. The ERM entry had been long prepared, but the timeframe was known beforehand only to Prime Minister Paavo Lipponen and Minister of Finance Sauli Niinistö.
Opposition leader, Centre Party Chairman Esko Aho said the Government’s ERM decision proves that the Government has staked everything on achieving the EMU and participating in it. Aho thought it was too early to introduce the markka to the ERM, and the matter should have been reconsidered at the start of 1997. Aho would have liked to interrupt the pre-election break of the Parliament that started on 11 October, in order to let the MPs discuss the markka’s entry into ERM. On 17 October, the Centre Party called again for letting the Parliament discuss ERM.
The Advisory Board on International Human Rights Affairs submitted a position paper to Foreign Minister Halonen on Finnish arms exports. The Advisory Board voiced its concern over the discrepancy between human rights policy and the way licences are issued for exporting defence materiel. In recent years, exports to countries such as Turkey, Indonesia and China have been authorised. The Advisory Board’s position was that in light of the Finnish law and guidelines on the export of defence materiel, the human rights situation in these countries gives grounds for not granting an export licence.
President Ahtisaari commented on the Finnish ERM membership, while in Vaasa as part of a regional tour. In his view it was well prepared and carried out. He did not see a need for a referendum on joining the EMU.
At a minister-level meeting of the Schengen Executive Committee in Luxembourg, it was decided that sometime around the turn of the year 1998-1999, all the Nordic countries would join the Schengen regime allowing free movement of persons between 13 EU countries and non-EU members Norway and Iceland. The Nordic Passport Union will also stay in effect. Minister of the Interior Jan-Erik Enestam was happy that a result was achieved ensuring free movement for all of the Nordic countries. Finland submitted to the Committee a declaration concerning the Åland Islands, which is meant to be annexed to Finland’s association agreement.
The President of Finland appointed the Finnish Ambassador to Belgium Leif Blomqvist as the permanent representative of Finland to the WEU, starting from November.
A briefing session was held at NATO headquarters in Brussels about extending the mandate of the Implementation Force (IFOR) in charge of the peacekeeping mission in Bosnia. Finland and over 30 other non-NATO countries contributing to IFOR participated in the event. All of the countries were willing to continue the operation, including Finland, although an official request is still needed before an official decision can be made. One Finnish military officer takes part in the military planning of the extended operation.
The Cabinet Committee on Foreign and Security Policy, led by President Ahtisaari, decided that the government report on security and defence policy will be submitted to Parliament for handling in March 1997. The report examines developments in European security, the main goals and lines of Finnish security and defence policy, and the long-term development of Finland’s defence. The government report will be prepared based on the results of a defence analysis being made by the Defence Council. A working party appointed by the council will produce the report.
Foreign Minister Halonen told in an interview with the news agency STT that NATO has asked about Finland’s views on how to develop the organisation and its cooperation. Halonen warned about creating a special status for countries queuing to join NATO, a sort of waiting room. New forms of cooperation in NATO could hinder the Partnership for Peace and NATO’s evolution into a new kind of cooperative organisation. Russia has also had reservations about these waiting rooms. Halonen considered it vitally important for Finland and the entire Baltic Sea region that NATO opens up and offers cooperation also to non-allied countries, and to Russia and other former Warsaw Pact countries. The Foreign Minister refrained from commenting on the prospects envisioned by the RAND Corporation, according to which a broader Partnership for Peace would involve Finland in closer cooperation in monitoring the stability of the Baltic Sea region and Northeastern Europe. Halonen denied that Finland is being slowly edged towards NATO membership.
Referring to Foreign Minister Halonen’s statements on problems in the Baltic Sea region, Lithuania and Latvia claimed Finland has made a sharp turn in its thinking. Previously, the Nordic countries have considered that the Baltic countries have the right to choose their own security policy line. President Ahtisaari underscored in a statement released by the President’s Office that the Baltics do have this right.
Speaking at a seminar on financing in Helsinki, Minister of Finance Sauli Niinistö told how the Finnish Government will take care of the Finnish accession in the European monetary union EMU. Parliament will probably decide on the EMU participation in about one year using a simple majority vote. The five-sixths majority required for constitutional enactment is not needed because the matter was already handled in this manner in 1994, when Parliament decided that Finland would join the European Union. As Finland acceded to the EU, it also signed the Maastricht Treaty and thereby approved membership in the EMU if the Union’s institutions decide to establish it. However, the procedure for constitutional enactment will be needed in order to change the name of the Finnish currency in 2002.
The Cabinet Committee on Neighbouring Areas approved the neighbouring area cooperation programme, which involves giving 364 million markka in assistance to Central and Eastern European countries. Out of this amount, 144 million mk will go through the EU. According to Ole Norrback, the Finnish minister for European affairs, the goal of the projects of technical and economic assistance is to support the political, economic and social stability of the target countries. The programme also aims at reducing environmental risks and improving economic cooperation.
The 1995 Report on Finnish Development Cooperation showed that Finland spent 1.7 billion markka on development cooperation last year. This represents 0.32 % of the GNI. The same year, Denmark, Norway and Sweden allocated 0.85 % of their GNI to development cooperation.
Foreign Minister Halonen travelled to the Caucasus for talks with the parties to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, with a view toward finding a solution to the crisis. Halonen met with leadership of Nagorno-Karabakh, Armenia and Azerbaijan. This was Finland’s final attempt to resolve the conflict before the Finnish chairmanship of the OSCE Minsk Group comes to an end in December.
Prime Minister Lipponen commented on an EMU report made in Sweden which recommended that Sweden would not join the monetary union among the first entrants at the beginning of 1999. The Prime Minister reminded that the committee that produced the report does not voice the official Swedish position. He said he believed that in spite of all, Sweden will seek to be among the first wave to join the EMU.
Prime Minister Lipponen held a speech at a seminar of the Finnish Business and Policy Forum EVA on the topic of Germany in Europe’s economy. The Prime Minister emphasised the importance of the monetary union, saying that the EU and especially the EMU provide the other countries an opportunity to influence Germany’s policy in a way that would not be otherwise even remotely possible. For Germany the EMU means abandoning the Deutschmark and no longer going its own way. Lipponen reckoned that Finland and Sweden were now closer to each other than ever before. According to him, Finland need not be disturbed by the fact that Sweden has taken a leadership role in Baltic Sea cooperation.
The de facto foreign minister of East Timor and this year’s Nobel Peace Prize Laureate José Ramos-Horta visited Finland by invitation from the Finnish Committee of 100 and the Green League. During his visit he met Foreign Minister Tarja Halonen and Minister of Development Pekka Haavisto. Ramos-Horta hoped the Finnish Government would stop selling arms to Indonesia. According to him, Indonesia has no external enemies; instead, the military uses the arms against civilians, even those supplied by Finland.
Mr Erkki Tuomioja, the chairman of the Social Democratic parliamentary group, said in an interview (which appeared e.g. in the newspaper Satakunnan Kansa) that he hopes the EMU falls through. He believed that the project was premature and that in ten years, the EMU might be a good goal for the European Union. He characterised it as precisely a monetary union – not an economic union – and considered that the creation of a monetary union without sufficiently deepening other forms of economic cooperation is a grave risk for all of Europe. Mr Tuomioja also reminded that the EMU does not have the support of the people.
assumed chairmanship of the Council of Europe for the next six months. In
Strasbourg, Foreign Minister Halonen explained Finland’s priorities for the
chairmanship, which includes the goal of strengthening the role of the
organisation as a promoter of democratic security. She also stressed the
importance of human rights, equality and the protection of minorities. Foreign
Minister Halonen repeated the initiative on the establishment of the office of
Commissioner for Human Rights at the Council of Europe. The topic of the
session of the Committee of Ministers in Strasbourg was the role of the CoE,
which has become pan-European in its scope, as a provider of democratic
security in Europe. Another ministerial meeting was due in the second half of
20 November, the Council’s Political Affairs Committee held a meeting in
Helsinki, where it was decided that a delegation would be sent to Belarus.
An opinion poll by the Advisory Board for Defence Information revealed that nearly one third of Finns considered NATO’s enlargement to be detrimental to Finnish security. A quarter of the people interviewed believed the eastward expansion of NATO would lead to increased security for Finland, whereas one third found it insignificant. Two thirds of the respondents did not want Finland to join NATO and considered that Finland should retain its military non-alignment in the future. Only one in five people were in favour of an alliance. The survey found that support for the EU has remained stable. Finns considered the situation in Russia as the biggest security risk. They were especially concerned about Russian nuclear power. The poll also showed that the Finnish people approve of the controversial rapid deployment force. The will to defend the country remains strong. Four out of five people thought Finland should use military force to defend itself in all circumstances.
The Defence Command commissioned a survey from the company Otantatutkimus Oy in May 1996. It indicated that a clear majority of Finns are against an all-volunteer military. Most citizens feel that Finnish conscripts receive a good military training and that we have a credible defence capability. Finns also believe that the majority of young men would perform military service even if it was voluntary. The majority of polled people support voluntary national defence activities and think that these should receive more training resources.
At the opening of the National Defence Course, Chief of Defence, General Gustav Hägglund warned that more cuts to the budget of the Defence Forces would lead e.g. to the abolishment of refresher courses and would limit the use of aircrafts in such a way that it would not be reasonable to start using the new Hornet fighter planes. In addition, the spending cuts could shorten the duration of military service down to six months. General Hägglund’s concerns stemmed from the 1998-1999 spending limits approved by the Finnish Government. The spending limits require cutting the defence forces’ expenditure by another 200 million markka between 1997 and 1999.
At the session of the Nordic Council in Copenhagen, Prime Minister Lipponen hoped that the Nordic countries would find "in the long run a common position regarding the EMU’s third stage”. In his view, a strong and well-functioning EU is in the interests of the Nordics. The prime ministers’ meeting gave its full political support to Sweden’s role as the coordinator of cooperation in the Baltic Sea region. Norway’s newly appointed Prime Minister Thorbjørn Jagland pondered the possibility of a permanent Nordic arrangement for peacekeeping missions. Olof Salmén from the Åland Islands was elected as the new President of the Council.
President Ahtisaari and his wife visited Tallinn, where he discussed European affairs with President Lennart Meri, in particular the question how to allow Estonia to join the EU as soon as possible. With regard to the potential border treaty between Estonia and Russia, President Ahtisaari said that Finland would encourage both countries in this matter. According to him, the agreement would be good for the security of the whole Baltic Sea region. In connection with the visit, the presidential couple attended the inauguration of the Finnish embassy in Tallinn.
The Government approved a licence to export 13 "Nasu” tracked transport vehicles to Turkey. The decision was reached by a narrow vote of 8 to 6. The ministers of the Left Alliance, the Swedish People’s Party and the Greens opposed the move, as did Foreign Minister Halonen. Human rights organisations such as Amnesty International’s Finnish section have criticised the exports of the vehicles, citing Turkey’s poor human rights record and treatment of Kurds.
The Finnish Foreign Ministry reported that Finland is able to assist in the multinational humanitarian operation being planned in eastern Zaire to ensure that humanitarian aid reaches its target. Finland supports the operation financially, in order to allow African troops to participate. However, no Finnish troops will be deployed in the area. On 7 November, Finland pledged 15 million markka of humanitarian aid to the region, on top of the 16.5 million mk granted earlier this year. Besides humanitarian assistance, Finland is prepared, if necessary, to send civilian observers later on, especially for human rights-related tasks. Furthermore, Finland can immediately appoint a five-member rapid response team to work under the UN in the event of rescue operations.
The results of the latest Eurobarometer were published in Vienna at a meeting of the European Commission. According to the survey, one third of Finns considers that Finland has benefited from EU membership. Finns are more satisfied with the membership than the other new members Austria and Sweden, but among EU member states, the three new members are the least convinced of the Union’s advantages.
Prime Minister Lipponen told the Social Democrats’ party council that Finland needs in the EMU ”the opportunity to make national solutions, if the economic development is weakened temporarily or for exceptional reasons”. According to him, this should be decided when the EU defines the rules of the EMU. Prime Minister Lipponen argued that a common monetary policy is not enough, but we also need a common economic policy with the goals of sustainable growth and high employment. A week earlier he promised to appoint a working party to work on EMU-related reports.
The OSCE Minsk Group and the parties to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict (Armenia, Azerbaijan and Nagorno-Karabakh) did not reach an understanding about the solution to the crisis in their meeting in Helsinki. The parties were offered a framework agreement based on OSCE principles: the inviolability of Nagorno-Karabakh combined with a broad autonomy. In addition, the security of the region would have been guaranteed.
Defence Minister Taina and Foreign Minister Halonen represented Finland as observers at a WEU ministerial meeting in Ostend, Belgium. At the meeting it emerged that the military-economic union of NATO countries, the WEAG, does not want Finland and Sweden as full members, at least not in the near future, because neither country is a NATO member. Finland is nevertheless interested in the offer made by NATO to the Partnership for Peace countries to participate in the work of four important technical working groups of the military alliance. The ministers of the WEAG countries decided among other things to establish a new organisation, the Western European Armaments Organization (WEAO). It has the goal of creating in Europe a kind of single market for arms.
Czech Minister of Defence Miloslav Vyborny made an official visit to Finland, meeting with both President Martti Ahtisaari and Minister of Defence Anneli Taina. The defence ministers signed a so-called protocol of intent on Czech-Finnish collaboration in the field of defence industry.
John Bruton, the premier of EU president country Ireland, visited Finland. His programme included meetings with President Ahtisaari, Prime Minister Lipponen and Foreign Minister Halonen. Bruton’s visit was part of his European tour aimed at finding out what the EU member states hope from the upcoming EU summit in Dublin. Another topic discussed during the visit was the EMU. The two prime ministers concluded that the Finnish-Swedish joint initiative regarding the WEU has a good chance of being included in the revised EU Treaty. According to Bruton, the initiative has reduced the risk of the IGC would start arguing about common defence. Bruton hoped Finland would be of assistance in a rapprochement of the EU and the Council of Europe.
Prime Minister of Poland Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz visited Finland with a delegation of Polish businessmen. Prime ministers Cimoszewicz and Lipponen discussed mainly bilateral questions, European security, EU affairs, and Baltic Sea cooperation. With regard to NATO’s expansion, the prime ministers differed: Finland emphasises non-alignment and independent defence, whereas Poland is seeking to join NATO. The Polish Premier hoped Finland would support Poland’s efforts to join the EU. The countries signed an investment protection treaty.
Prime Minister Lipponen made a working visit to the Netherlands, where he met Prime Minister Wim Kok, among others. On 27 November Lipponen continued to Belgium and met Prime Minister Jean-Luc Dehaene and the secretaries-general of the WEU and NATO. The prime ministers discussed the upcoming European Council in Dublin, the EMU and the IGC. Lipponen hoped the EU would support the Arctic Council. In his discussions with NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana, he said NATO’s prospective broader PfP interests Finland as a kind of basic solution of European security policy. Lipponen considered the broader PfP adequate for all the countries in Europe. He said Finland is looking forward to hearing concrete ideas about the project. Solana told that the development of the broader partnership has two dimensions. The political aspect of the project includes deeper political dialogue and consultation. The military aspect means more joint planning and joint exercises. It also includes the possibility of using the Combined Joint Task Forces together with NATO. Lipponen promised that Finland would deploy 300 peacekeepers to Bosnia’s SFOR mission. Lipponen discussed the situation in Zaire with WEU Secretary-General Jose Cutileiro. He said that 5 or six military observers could be sent to the conflict area if needed. In addition, Finland is willing to train the African peacekeepers that will be sent to the African Great Lakes region.
Prime Minister Lipponen visited Latvia. His Latvian counterpart Andris Skele brought up the Latvian concern over the revision of the CFE Treaty. The prime ministers also discussed the EU’s and NATO’s enlargement. Lipponen explained Finland’s goals: EU membership negotiations should start with all the applicant countries at the same time, and the countries must be evaluated according to objective criteria. He said that there are some who are trying to lead the Baltic countries astray by claiming that NATO’s expansion is an easy process. During the visit, an agreement was signed between the two countries’ governments on the repatriation of persons who have arrived or are staying in either country illegally.
President Ahtisaari led the Finnish delegation at the OSCE summit in Lisbon. The delegation also included Foreign Minister Halonen. The main topics of the meeting were Belarus, Chechnya, Nagorno-Karabakh, Russia and NATO’s enlargement, the CFE Treaty, former Yugoslavia, and a declaration on common security. Finland gave up the role of mediator in the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute. The prime minister of Russia Chernomyrdin demanded, with the support of Belarus, that NATO cancel its plans to expand eastward. On the other hand, President Ahtisaari emphasised the right of every country to choose their own security solutions. In Lisbon, Ahtisaari had one-on-one meetings e.g. with Chernomyrdin and Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma. He appealed to Chernomyrdin in order to find a solution to the problems related to trucking across the Finnish-Russian border.
The Grand Committee of the Finnish Parliament unanimously approved a statement concerning the government report on the future. The Committee found that the Finnish ministers and public servants had been too yielding in Brussels. Finland has not stood its ground in questions of environmental protection and transparency. The public servants have eroded the Government’s and Parliament’s ability to operate in EU affairs, the Committee stated. The government report was not positively received. The Committee argued that the Government has confused short-term and long-term issues, and has failed to analyse its claims sufficiently.
Foreign Minister Halonen attended in London a follow-up meeting on the Dayton Peace Accords, in which it was agreed how to implement the peace agreement during the next two years. Foreign Minister Halonen hoped to receive support from the participant countries for a programme devised by the Council of Europe for Bosnia, costing 12 million markka. She announced that Finland would support the programme with a sum of two million mk. At the London meeting, it was decided to link the Bosnian assistance to compliance with the peace agreement. Other topics discussed included the repatriation of refugees and bringing war criminals to the tribunal in The Hague.
President Ahtisaari was interviewed by Suomen Kuvalehti. He believed that the EMU third stage would materialise. He also said that the negative attitude of citizens towards the EMU would have time to change before the elections. For him, public opinion still reflects problems we would have even without the EU and the EMU. The President considered it strange that the Finnish markka was hailed as a symbol of independence, and thought that the Finnish flag was a more important symbol than the currency. The President also stressed the role of the EU in consolidating our independence. The EU membership applications of Baltic countries should not be considered all at once, because it could delay a country’s accession, Ahtisaari said. The President encouraged the Finnish people to have an open mind about NATO.
The Irish EU Presidency presented the outline of a draft revision of the EU’s Treaties which was drawn up during the IGC. Finland’s goals were well taken into account in the draft. Unemployment will be a visible theme in the Treaty. A mention of sustainable development was added to the chapter on environment. The Finnish view on transparency was adopted in the draft. In foreign and security policy, the idea of the EU’s special foreign policy representative was abandoned; instead, the Secretary-General of the Council of Ministers would be a key figure. In addition, the group representing the Union in external relations would include delegates from the current and following president countries, and from the Commission. The draft also includes the Finnish-Swedish joint initiative to give the EU decision-making powers in crisis management. At the EU Council’s meeting in Brussels on December 6th, the Union’s foreign ministers, with the exception of France, gave positive feedback about the IGC’s work so far. Minister for European Affairs Ole Norrback who attended the meeting considered the outline draft treaty a good example of what Finland can achieve with its low-key approach. He referred to the statement of the Finnish Parliament’s Grand Committee regarding the government report on the future, which alleged that Finland lacked resolve in the EU.
At the meeting of the EU’s environment ministers in Brussels, the Council of Ministers adopted principles for revising the fifth environmental action programme. Minister of the Environment Pekka Haavisto who headed the Finnish delegation found it positive that the EU has taken into account its changing geographical borders in the international section of the revision. The topic of Baltic Sea cooperation is prominent in the programme, which is important especially for the Central and Eastern European countries preparing for membership. Mr Haavisto thinks that the EU should also be more closely engaged in Arctic and Barents cooperation. The Council approved the proposal of Finland, Sweden and Austria for revising the Union’s environmental legislation related to fields where the new member states have stricter regulations than the EU.
Minister for European Affairs and Foreign Trade Ole Norrback led a Finnish delegation in the first WTO Ministerial Conference in Singapore. On the conference agenda, there were topics such as the organisation’s first two years of activity, and agreeing on future activities. It was also discussed whether the WTO should examine questions of investment and competition, or the relationship of labour standards and international trade. Mr Norrback told in his statement that Finland was disappointed in the report of the WTO Committee on Trade and Environment. He underscored Finland’s hope that the Information Technology Agreement (ITA) providing for the elimination of duties on IT products would be reached during the Conference. The EU and the United States did agree on removing the duties, and the ITA was to be signed in March 1997. Finland was expected to save one billion markka thanks to the agreement.
In its foreign ministers’ meeting in Brussels, NATO decided to hold a summit in Madrid in June 1997, to discuss topics such as NATO’s enlargement, the development of its internal structure and its relations with non-NATO countries, especially Russia. In the final communiqé of the meeting, it was stated that NATO countries would not place nuclear weapons in the territory of new member states. NATO will offer non-members including Finland a new form of cooperation, the Atlantic Partnership Council (APC). On 11 December, Under-Secretary of State Jaakko Blomberg represented Finland in the final ministerial meeting of the North Atlantic Cooperation Council (NACC). He said Finland was interested to participate in the activities of the APC. In his statement, he estimated that the new council will also reinforce the Partnership for Peace by enabling the dialogue on various security issues to continue. Moreover, Finland would develop the partnership by involving the partners earlier in NATO-led planning and by increasing regional cooperation.
Parliament discussed the Government’s report dealing with Finland’s participation in the extended military operation for implementing the Bosnia-Herzegovina peace agreement. Parliament was favourable to the idea. Finland will contribute a jaeger battalion instead of the previous construction battalion. The Government reasoned that Finland should be part of the extended operation because achieving peace and stability in the former Yugoslavia region is in Finland’s best security interests as well. On December 20th President Ahtisaari made the final decision on Finnish participation in the Bosnian mission.
Finland signed an agreement on the status of the forces of Partnership for Peace countries on the territory of other partner countries. The agreement will be needed e.g. for purposes of organising exercises. Finland, like Sweden, included a proviso that it will not allow the country sending the troops to exercise jurisdiction of courts on its territory. Finland will also not allow the use of the death penalty.
Minister of Development Pekka Haavisto told in Helsinki that in Finnish development cooperation, the number of projects supporting human rights, equality and democracy would grow. From the 1996 development cooperation appropriations, 19 million markka was already targeted at new projects promoting democracy. Most of the projects will be implemented through international organisations as multilateral aid.
President Ahtisaari gave a speech where he said Finland’s EU membership has improved the country’s security and room for manoeuvre. He encouraged more activity in Nordic and Baltic cooperation. Ahtisaari outlined his vision of Finland’s security goals (credible defence, participation in international crisis management, and developing European security with the support of key European organisations). He saw no need for NATO or WEU membership at this point.
Finland joined the Schengen Agreement aiming to guarantee free movement without border controls between the signatory European states. Foreign Minister Halonen signed the agreement on behalf of Finland in Luxembourg. Finland will not start implementing the agreement until winter 1999. A transitional period is necessary for setting up databases and equipping airports.
Helsingin Sanomat reported that the working party led by Lieutenant General Pertti Nykänen has submitted its report on security and defence policy to the Government. The classified report examines thoroughly the different options for security and defence policy. It evaluates e.g. European security developments, the military policy situation of Finland and the resources of the Defence Forces, the regional context, Russia’s situation, and the impact of NATO’s enlargement. The working group concluded that Finland would have to soon voice its position on a possible NATO membership. The working party has regularly reported about its progress to the Defence Council, which is headed by the prime minister, and to the President. The group’s report will be the basis of the report on security and defence policy that is to be submitted to Parliament.