President Ahtisaari said in his New Year’s speech that the New Millennium begins in a favourable atmosphere for Finland. He considered the past year as having strengthened Finland’s active international role. Mr. Ahtisaari believed that Finland’s successful EU Presidency would reflect positively on the country’s position in the future. He also underlined the importance of a collective sense of responsibility both inside and outside Finland’s borders. According to the President, the Kosovo crisis has made Finns reconsider the boundaries of action of individual states that if transcended would force the international community to interfere. In Kosovo this boundary was crossed, and therefore, according to Ahtisaari, Nato’s air campaign was justified. The President assumed that Russia will have to seriously re-examine its commitment and adopt the mentality of reform that will be needed in the building of a healthy society. In this quest, according to the President, the outside world can only play a supportive role.
Portugal assumed the EU Presidency from Finland.
President Ahtisaari visited Berlin where he gave the last foreign speech of his presidency. He stated that Russia is a part of Europe, but it ought to abide international rules in order not to isolate itself. He stressed also that we should not forget Russia when we are outlining Europe’s future, for Russia will hopefully become more integrated as a part of Europe. Mr. Ahtisaari spoke positively about the developments of democracy in Russia. He said that the role of President Yeltsin as a promoter of the democratisation process has been significant. As for Europe’s external borders, he noted that the EU must not be an inward-looking club. He pointed out, "The circle of stability and welfare must not now nor in the future end at the EU’s external borders". A dialogue between cultures was recommended by the President to be a good way of preventing collisions.
Alpo Rusi, the former foreign policy adviser to President Ahtisaari, who was substituting for Bodo Hombach as the chief co-ordinator of the Balkan’s stability treaty, expressed his concern about anti-Nato sentiments in Finland. According to Rusi, this was not based on facts, but on a false understanding of the events in Europe, especially in the Balkans in recent years. He said that he understands the dread of military alliances of the Cold War years, but wonders why such fears are applied to the new circumstances. He presumed that developments in the 1990s had proved that Nato is beneficial to the security of small European nations. He underlined also that Finland’s official relations with Nato are good and working. He supposed that Finns merely look at Nato’s use of force against Yugoslavia and forget the rest of Nato’s activities in the 1990s. He reminded that the oppression of the Kosovan Albanians by Yugoslavian leaders and the consequent flight of the Albanian population had threatened to bring Europe into political and economic uncertainty. The consequences could have been unexpected, not only for the Balkans, but for the whole of Europe.
Prime Minister Paavo Lipponen took part in the meeting of the Baltic EU countries’ Prime Ministers in Kiel. He said in a telephone interview that the EU supported project of a sewage treatment plant in St Petersburg is doing well. The EU Commission will conduct an investigation on the project after which the funding of the plant will be decided. According to Lipponen, the plant is the biggest and the most concrete project within the EU’s Northern Dimension policy thus far. With the plant, the waste of 1,5 million people of St Petersburg will be purified. The meeting also discussed a letter from Russia’s acting president Vladimir Putin to Mr. Lipponen, in which Putin assured that the final solution for Chechnya can only be political. Lipponen considered this statement significant. He did not see it as contradictory that the EU condemns Russia’s actions in Chechnya on the one hand, and on the other, supports projects like the sewage treatment plant.
The Ministry of the Interior put forward a motion to the Ministry for Foreign Affairs for making visas obligatory for Slovakian citizens. The previous visa obligation was valid from last July to November. The Ministry required a fixed period of six months, until the change in the Alien Law is completed. The new law is intended have a so-called fast track procedure for evidently unsubstantiated applications. Since the end of the visa obligation at the beginning of November, 250 Roma have arrived in Finland. Government reached a decision for the obligation on 13.1.
Finland did inspections in the Murmansk area in Russia according to the CSBMs and participated in a multinational assessment visit to an airbase in Baranovich in Belorussia. In Murmansk, the Finns’ aim was to see whether there is any military activity in the area that under the obligations of the agreement should be declared. In Belorussia, the aim was to make sure of the validity of the information that has been given to the OSCE. Finland received two inspections and two assessment-visits last year.
In a TV interview held by Yleisradio the majority of presidential candidates considered that Finland should still maintain some sort of special relationship with Russia although Finland’s primary relations now are with the EU and Scandinavia. The Centre Party’s candidate Esko Aho said that Finland’s weight in the EU would be greater if Finland looks after good relations with Russia. Likewise, he regarded that with a strong position in the EU Finland will be a more interesting partner for Russia. The Swedish National Party’s candidate, Elisabeth Rehn, commented that Finland should not have any special relation with Russia. She stated that we are members of the EU and that with Russia we can only have normal neighbouring relations. The Social Democratic Party’s candidate, Tarja Halonen, said that she would pay more attention to Russia than for instance to the southern countries of the EU. She underlined, however, that Russia should never dictate our actions. The Green Party’s candidate Heidi Hautala said that one should be able to criticise Russia.
In the first round of the presidential elections, the SDP’s candidate Foreign Minister Tarja Halonen got 40% of all the votes. The Centre Party’s candidate MP Esko Aho received 34,4%, the Coalition Party’s Riitta Uosukainen 12,8% and the rest of the candidates collectively gained the 10% of remaining votes. Therefore, Halonen and Aho were carried forward for the second round of voting. The voter turnout was 76,9%.
The Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Committee, including Jaakko Laakso from Finland, visited Russia. The purpose of the visit was to convey the General Assembly’s position on the conflict in Chechnya in light of the binding membership, as well as to discuss possible political solutions with Russian authorities. The Committee met President Vladimir Putin in Moscow. After the meeting, the Committee decided to support further dialogue. The Committee also met the neighbouring country’s President Ruslan Aushev of Ingushia and several representatives of civilian organisations. The Committee also acquainted themselves with areas in Chechnya that are controlled by Russia. 27.1. The Council of Europe gave Russia three months to settle the conflict peacefully. Unless progress has been made by the deadline the Council issued a warning that it may suspend Russian membership.
Presidential candidates Aho and Halonen discussed foreign and security policy in an event organised by the European Security Forum. Aho assumed that maintaining a credible defence would be more expensive in the future than today. He supposed that it would require at least a temporary increase in the defence budget. Halonen stressed the need to adapt defence expenses to the whole of the budget. She noted that the Ministry of Defence has not been granted extra money. Halonen also reminded that Finland would have to invest 3-4 billion marks for the renewal of land mines so that Finland can sign the treaty banning anti-personnel land mines. According to Aho, the defence forces could be developed along the lines that were agreed in 1997. Halonen supposed that instead of updating the report on defence policy, a new report on security policy should be prepared, as the security environment has changed. The candidates were unanimous about Russia, the future prospects for the EU and the role of the UN. The candidates believed that crisis management capability could not be created within the EU without the help of Nato and the US’ contribution within Nato. Halonen considered that Nato would have the deciding role as it possesses the resources for crisis management. Neither of the candidates thought that developing a defence dimension for the EU would increase Finland’s pressure to join Nato.
The EU’s foreign ministers decided on measures in Brussels to indicate to Russia that the EU does not accept its actions in Chechnya. The EU will stick to the terms of the trade treaties between Russia and the EU tightly and will direct some of the TACIS aid money to new destinations. Minister of Foreign Trade Kimmo Sasi, who was representing Finland in Brussels, said that the decisions of the Helsinki Summit would be realised with the help of these decisions.
Radiation Safety Centre and Nato arranged a three-day seminar in Helsinki as part of the PfP programme. The seminar contemplated Nato’s possible responses to serious nuclear accidents. 80 specialists from about twenty countries – primarily in the Baltic area - took part in the seminar. International organisations like WHO, OCHA, IAEA, NEA, the International Red Cross, and the EU Commission’s representative on preparedness for accidents were represented. Nato’s supreme commander in Europe Wesley Clark also took part in the seminar. It was expressed at the meeting that as result of Nato’s rapid deployment capability, Nato could come to help in the rescue work in the case of a severe nuclear disaster. However, Nato stated that it would only come to the assistance of those affected by such disasters, if their help were requested. Deputy Director General Antti Sierla from the Ministry for Foreign Affairs asserted however, that Finland would not need to look for outside assistance in case of a nuclear disaster in Russia.
The Presidential candidates Tarja Halonen (SDP) and Esko Aho (Centre) disagreed on the issues of EU enlargement and Roma asylum seekers from Slovakia in Finland. Aho thought that Finland and the other EU member states ought to consider the effects of the potential membership of the EU of Central European countries on the member states economies. Halonen highlighted the peace and stability creating effects of enlargement. Aho thought that a visa obligation is not the right way of dealing with the Slovakian Roma refugees. He stated that Finland should have a capability for the fast processing of asylum applications similar to that of Sweden. Halonen did not consider the Swedish approach desirable for Finland.
The US deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott and Russian deputy Foreign Minister Georgi Mamedov held arms negotiations in Helsinki. Among the topics discussed were anti-missile defence. After the discussions Mr. Talbott met President Ahtisaari to talk about the war in Chechnya, the EU and Nato enlargements and the Balkan issue.
Nato’s supreme commander in Europe, General Wesley Clark visited Finland on the invitation of General Gustav Hägglund, the chief of defence. Mr. Clark also met Defence Minister Enestam and President Ahtisaari. General Clark, who led Nato’s air campaign against Yugoslavia, and Mr Ahtisaari discussed Kosovo, Croatia and other Balkan area situations.
President Ahtisaari held a press conference, in which he presented information concerning the new jobs he will assume after his presidency ends. He will take the position of the Chair of Board of the East-West Institute. Ahtisaari will share the job with an American businessman, George Russel. Ahtisaari will be in charge of the European side of the Institute’s work, and Russel of the American side. Ahtisaari will also probably become the chair of an international crisis research group, for the current chair American senator George Mitchell is resigning. Ahtisaari promised to become a member of an advisory board to the Open Society Institute founded by the international financier George Soros. In addition to his international work, Mr. Ahtisaari is going to write his memoirs.
This year Finland will spend FIM 231 million on neighbourhood cooperation with the South West areas of Russia and the Baltic countries. Government endorsed the plan and indicated FIM 167 million to be used in programmes and projects. The funds will be used for environmental protection, encouraging government by the rule of law, and promoting the Baltic countries’ EU integration. In Russia, the aim is to allocate funds for nuclear safety and the control of nuclear waste as well as improving transport infrastructure and facilitating border crossing. Finland will prepare a new neighbouring area strategy, in which the emphasis will be on the EU’s Northern Dimension, the EU’s strategy towards Russia and the renewed TACIS programme.
Minister of the Interior Kari Häkämies, and Minister of Health and Social Services, Eva Biaudet, agreed in Vyborg on cooperation between Russia and Finland in order to abolish the problem of child homelessness and child prostitution. According to Häkämies, the prostitution problem will be on the agenda of the Baltic States’ conference of police chiefs in Stockholm on 17.4. Biaudet stated that Finnish officials are going to suggest abandoning the express visa, Vyborg card, in order to solve the problem.
A Nato representative said that Nato’s Council of Ambassadors agreed in Brussels to submit the multinational forces in Kosovo to the command of Eurocorps of five European countries from the beginning of April. The US officers would also, under the European command, participate in the Kfor forces leadership alongside the British. The decision was reckoned to advance the EU’s security and defence policy.
In the year 1999 Finnish citizenship was given to 4300 foreigners. Nearly 1600 of them were former Soviet citizens, 1200 were Somalis, 300 Vietnamese, 200 Iranians, 180 Turks and 150 Iraqis.
The EU intervened in the domestic politics of member state Austria as it threatened to suspend relations with Vienna if Jörg Haider’s extreme right party (FPÖ) enters the government. In the official statement presented by Portugal, the EU President, the EU countries will suspend bilateral political relations with Austria and restrict the role of Austrian ambassadors. The EU will not support Austrian candidates for the leadership of international organisations. Prime Minister Lipponen encouraged the parties of the Austrian government to settle the dispute. 1.2. Presidential candidates Halonen and Aho expressed their views on the Austrian question. Halonen’s position was strongly in unison with the EU line, whereas Aho declared his critical viewpoint of the EU foreign ministers’ decision. He presumed that the stance the EU has taken might easily have the opposite effect: "It amplifies the phenomenon that we would hope to control". According to Aho, there are aspects of the events in Austria that must not be ignored. The leader of the Coalition Party Sauli Niinistö spoke as the chair of the European Democratic Union (EDU). He was suspicious of the Union’s interference in Austria’s domestic politics. He did not want the EU to act as the police of politics. He wondered about the direction of politics if the EU acts as a supranational judge above states deciding whether the national opinion is right or wrong. Is it "over democracy", democracy over democracy, he asked.
Prime Minister Lipponen clearly accepted the critical position of the 14 EU member states in the case against Austria. Mr. Lipponen said that this is a commonly agreed view and that much more radical demands were presented. Mr. Lipponen denied Danish sources claiming that correcting Austria had been agreed upon already at the Nazi crime conference in Stockholm or that the Austrian social democrats had requested the Finnish SDP to pressure Austria. According to Mr. Lipponen it is not a question of party politics, but of common European values. Minister of Trade and Industry Erkki Tuomioja was critical of the Union’s decision. According to Mr. Tuomioja it is right that the political leaders of the Union express their views on unfavourable phenomena. However, it is not right for the Union organs to interfere with the ministerial formation of a member state that was done in a democratic manner". According to Tuomioja, the Union should only intervene in cases in which the Austrian government does not respect common agreements.
The government published a report for the Parliament on the changes in EU decision-making that Finland is proposing before the next enlargement. The Government considered that the changes should focus on necessary institutional reforms that would make decision-making more effective. The reforms ought to be subject to the approval of the citizens. The Government’s standpoint on the size of the Commission and qualified majority decision-making were the same. Finland’s opinion is that each member state should have one Commissioner. The government expressed the view that the weighting of the votes in the Council of Ministers should have a clear and simple solution that will be applicable at various stages of enlargement. The solution should be in connection with the changes in the composition of the Commission. The government contended that the number of MEPs ought not to exceed 700. With the current system the number would be 879 with the arrival of 12 new member states. Finland also hopes that qualified majority decision-making would be extended.
In an election debate on Yleisradio TV1, the presidential candidates Aho and Halonen stated their different opinions on the Austrian situation, where the extreme right politician Jörg Haider is about to assume a ministerial post. Ms. Halonen underlined her opinion that Austria should remember that human rights are also a concern for the EU’s member states. She believed that Austria, as a developed state, would act appropriately after having received a serious political message from the EU. Mr. Aho however deemed it best not to do anything that might increase Haider’s support. In his view, the EU should not interfere with the domestic politics of an independent country, unless it has very serious reasons. He thought it better that Austria be allowed to form its government, the actions of which could then be closely observed.
Finland was among the first EU countries to suspend ministerial relations and exchange visits with Austria, as Chancellor Wolfgang Schüssel assumed the leadership of the cabinet formed by conservatives and the extreme right. Finland protested at Jörg Haider’s extreme right Freedom Party’s entry into the Austrian government. Prime Minister Lipponen gave the instructions for the sanctions. The breaking of relations concerns only bilateral relations. According to Mr. Lipponen, dealing with Austrian ministers in the EU Commission, Parliament and the Council of Ministers will continue normally. Mr. Lipponen underlined that it is not possible to sit around the same table with people with the attitudes of Haider’s party. By this he referred to Haider’s hostile statements towards foreigners and his underplaying of the Nazi past. Mr. Lipponen said that he arrived at his decision of sanctioning Austria after having discussed it with President Ahtisaari. The question was not up for discussion in the cabinet, which is why there were conflicting views among the ministers. Finance Minister Sauli Niinistö considered the EU countries’ decision to have been rushed. He stressed that he would not have accepted the sanctions against Austria if the matter had been up for the government’s consideration.
The presidential candidates Mr. Aho and Ms. Halonen discussed the EU’s sanctions against Austria in an MTV3 election debate. The Centre Party’s Mr. Aho condemned the sanctions as he thought that they weaken the EU’s authority, feed EU opponents’ fears, increase the support of the extreme right in Austria, and bring to mind Finland’s Cold War years under Moscow’s command. According to Mr. Aho, the EU should have waited to see how the Austrian government starts to act and only use sanctions if the country subsequently violates fundamental principles of the EU. The SDP’s Ms. Halonen gave her full support to the Union and Finland. According to her, the sanctions had already caused the desired effect: the Austrian government immediately signed a commitment for respecting democracy and human rights. Mr Aho stressed that the Finnish government was not unanimous in its response to Austria. Ms Halonen pointed out that the government had given Prime Minister Lipponen the mandate to act in this case on behalf of Finland. In discussion on the defence budget, Mr. Aho considered it evident that defence will require more money if land mines are to be replaced by alternative hardware and fighter helicopters are to be bought. Halonen preferred to postpone discussion on defence issues until a later occasion.
The SDP’s presidential candidate Foreign Minister Tarja Halonen was elected the 11th President of the Republic of Finland. The election was confirmed after the second round of voting with Halonen gaining 51,6% of the vote. Halonen will assume the president’s office on 1.3. Esko Aho, the Centre Party’s candidate received 48,4% of the vote. The voting percentage on the second round was 80,2. In her first press conference, Ms Halonen said that she wanted to be a president for all Finns. She thought that the elections proved that the people’s interest in politics is returning. Halonen said that during her presidency, the Prime Minister will take part in the meetings of the EU as will the President when it concerns her special area.
In Helsinki the Estonian Foreign Minister Toomas Ilves congratulated Tarja Halonen on her victory in the presidential elections. Amongst the many well-wishers, Norwegian Foreign Minister Knut Vollebaek said that Halonen is a capable politician who knows both domestic and foreign politics very well. He also said that Norway will be less influential in Nordic context as a result of Halonen’s presidency. Newspaper Verdens gang expressed the concern that Halonen more than Aho considers EU policies to be more important than Nordic ones. The Swedish media commented that Finland is now more clearly divided into an urban Social Democratic – Conservative area and Centre Party-dominated countryside. In continental Europe, it was mentioned that Finland now has a female president.
Ville Itälä, the chair of the Parliament’s Committee for Constitutional Law, expressed his wish that the Minister of Defence be obliged to attend the President’s and military high commanders’ meetings concerning military orders. Otherwise parliament’s contribution to the process will be absent. The Defence Committee accentuated the role of the Minister of Defence in a statement for the Committee for Constitutional Law on 8.2. Mr. Itälä also regarded that the Prime Minister, if he so requires, ought to have the right participate in meetings instead of the Minister of Defence. The Constitution requires a participation of a minister, who is responsible to the Parliament in issues of military orders. Therefore, to abide by the Constitution it is suggested that the Minister of Defence should have the right be present and to state his opinions on issues of military orders.
Parliament discussed the Government’s report on the European Union’s intergovernmental conference of the year 2000. Prime Minister Lipponen considered the size and composition of the Commission to be of importance; he argued that there should be only one representative from each member state. He surmised that would be the best way of guaranteeing the legitimacy of the Commission. It is believed in Finland that flexibility would not be dealt with in the intergovernmental conference. According to Mr. Lipponen, including the issue might endanger the timetable of the conference. Additionally, the Parliament discussed actively the EU’s opinion on Austria’s formation of government. Amongst others, the National Coalition Party's Tuija Nurmi found the rise of the extreme right in European countries both a repulsive and dangerous phenomenon. According to Ms. Nurmi, one must have the courage to defend the EU’s ideals, however, she questioned the 14 EU countries’ sanctions against Austria. The Social Democrat’s Kimmo Kiljunen believed that Austria’s governmental decisions have put the values of the European Union to a real test. He emphasised that anti-Semitic, racist or xenophobic phenomena must not be given any room in Europe.
The President of the EU Commission, Romano Prodi, introduced his five-year plan in Brussels. The plan highlighted the Union's enlargement, common foreign and security policy, information society, and food safety. The aim of the Commission is also to improve the Union's administration so that cooperation between Brussels and the member states could be more efficient.
The Social Democrats proposed Minister of Trade and Industry, Erkki Tuomioja, for the position of the Minister for Foreign Affairs.
President Ahtisaari appointed Minister of Foreign Trade Kimmo Sasi to the position of chair in EU delegations representing Finland in the intergovernmental conference for the reform of the EU’s structures as well as enlargement negotiations. The appointment was temporary as the President formulated his decision saying that: " in appointing the delegation, the premise is that the new Foreign Minister, who is to be appointed later, will chair the delegation from then on."
Prime Minister Lipponen gave a statement to the Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee on Finland’s position regarding the Austrian government. He noted that relations with Austria will remain chilly for a lengthy period of time. In his view there is no need to tighten the line the EU has adopted in the matter. He also pointed out that there is not any clear design for the mitigation of sanctions against Austria. According to the Prime Minister, the duration of sanctions is related to Jörg Haider’s extreme right Freedom Party’s involvement in the Austrian government. Lipponen also clarified his own actions in the suspension of the bilateral relations with Austria. He said that he could have kept Parliament better informed. President Ahtisaari, he said, only got to know the details afterwards. Mr. Lipponen justified his unitary actions arguing that Finland was going through the presidential election process whilst Parliament was just organising for new legislative term.
Minister of Defence Enestam said on TV news for Swedish speakers that the EU is unable to operate without Nato in demanding crisis management operations as it relies heavily on Nato’s resources. The issue arose earlier in the newspaper Turkulainen in which the Minister of Defence Enestam was interviewed. Mr. Enestam reckoned that countries belonging to EMU will form the EU’s economic policy and decide how well the EU does globally. Countries participating in EMU and Nato will form the hard core of the EU that will decide on common security policy. According to Mr. Enestam European crisis management is dependent on Nato because 11 of the 15 member states of the EU are also members of Nato. The Minister of Defence considered that potential Nato membership would not be overly expensive option. On the contrary it would be cheaper because in Nato defences are not developed independently. He also considered it economical for the EU to have access to Nato’s resources rather than to develop its own readiness capabilities, especially in logistics and intelligence. He did not however suggest that Finland should join Nato.
Prime Minister Lipponen suggested, in an interview with Turun Sanomat and Aamulehti, that Finland’s EU and foreign policy leadership could divide some of their responsibilities. Mr. Lipponen’s statement referred to a dispute between different bodies of government as to who should lead the EU’s enlargement and intergovernmental conference. He regarded it possible that the leadership of the negotiations could be divided between the future Foreign Minister Tuomioja and the Minister of Foreign Trade Sasi. Mr. Lipponen stressed that the dispute is not party-political, in other words, between the Coalition Party and SDP, but rather between the institutions. Facing each other are, on the one hand, the Cabinet, and on the other the Ministery for Foreign Affairs and the President of the Republic.
Prime Minister Lipponen reckoned at the lunch of the Foreign Correspondents’ Society that the 14 EU countries sanctions against Austria would continue as long as Jörg Haider’s extreme right Freedom Party is in the cabinet. Mr. Lipponen did not consider it necessary, however, to tighten the sanctions although pressure is there. The Prime Minister stressed "there is a party in the Austrian government that has pursued power by exploiting hostility towards foreigners". The prompt decision that was made in the Prime Ministers’ discussion is, according to Mr. Lipponen, a good method by which the EU’s formal decision-making procedures can be avoided. The Prime Minister noted that the message is intended not only for Austria, but also for the current member states as well as applicant countries.
Minister of Foreign Trade Sasi represented Finland in the Foreign Ministers’ meeting in Brussels. Finland's future President, Foreign Minister Tarja Halonen went to Brussels to say goodbye to colleagues. Ms. Halonen did not take up Prime Minister Lipponen’s view that the leadership of the EU negotiations on enlargement and structural reforms should be divided between Foreign Minister Tuomioja and Minister of Foreign Trade Sasi. She considered the tasks rather belonged to the Foreign Minister. In the meeting, the Austrian Foreign Minister Benita Ferrero-Waldner hoped that the international community would not take any notice of the comments of the extreme right politician Jörg Haider. She held it contrary to the EU treaties that Austria was not informed about the 14 EU countries decisions beforehand. In Brussels the ministers commenced the so-called intergovernmental conference in which the structural reforms of the Union will be decided before the enlargement process.
Nato and WEU held a joint staff officers’ training CMX CRISEX 2000 at the Brussels headquarters of Nato. Finland participated as an observer in the WEU’s training. The aim was to test, with the means of an imagined crisis, how Nato could deal with its own crisis and at the same time help the WEU in a completely different situation. The training was the first chance to test the EU’s new foreign and security policy in practice. The EU foreign policy representative Javier Solana considered the most difficult part to be how to transfer Nato’s resources to the WEU in a real situation.
In an interview with Suomen Kuvalehti Prime Minister Lipponen expressed his views on the choice of the foreign minister and the EU’s position regarding the extreme right in Austria. He said that he had enquired of Sauli Niinistö whether the Coalition Party was interested in the ministerial post for foreign affairs. Lipponen’s aim was to "to create a division of posts that would better reflect the multi-party nature of the government". Lipponen denied that he had not responded to the accusations of the Centre Party that the SDP holds a straight flush of power. Mr. Niinistö, however, gave the impression that the Coalition Party is satisfied with the present allocation of appointments. Mr. Lipponen was satisfied to hear that in an opinion poll in the very same issue of Suomen Kuvalehti only about a quarter (28%) of respondents thought that Finland acted incorrectly in judging the arrival of the extreme right into the Austrian government with other EU countries.
President Ahtisaari made his last official farewell visit to Estonia. He said that the visit reflects the special relations between Finland and Estonia. Ahtisaari noted that the most important achievements during his office have been Finland’s membership of the European Union and the country’s participation in EMU as well as reducing unemployment. The Estonian President Lennart Meri thanked Mr. Ahtisaari for the support Estonia has received in EU matters.
President Ahtisaari will become the chairman of the board of the international crisis prevention group International Crisis Group ICG as his office as the President of Finland ends. Mr. Ahtisaari is also going to participate in the following organisations: the East West institute, the Open Society institute, the International Foundation for Education and Self Help, and the International Youth Foundation.
The EU Commissioner of Justice and Interior Affairs, Antonio Vittori, visited Finland meeting Prime Minister Lipponen, Minister of Justice Johannes Koskinen and Home Secretary Kari Häkämies. Mr. Vittori said that the EU Commission will present the member states with a list of countries from whose citizens’ visas cannot be required. Such countries would at least include all the EU applicant countries. Consequently, Finland would be unable to restrict the arrival of Slovakian Roma to the country by requiring them to possess a visa in the future. The discussions also entailed the so-called "scoreboard" idea, in other words, a comparative presentation on how well each country implements the agreed EU policies in their legislation.
The Government considered the effects of the new Constitution. The Minister of Justice Koskinen noted that it remains to be solved who will chair the ministerial committee on foreign and security policy. Chancellor of Justice Paavo Nikula noted the Council of State’s rule that has been in force for a couple of years, that the Cabinet Committee is lead by the Prime Minister. Mr. Nikula pointed out "as foreign policy must be in unison, the conclusions must be made in cooperation as well".
The President appointed Mr. Tuomioja to the post of Foreign Minister. Mr. Ahtisaari also appointed Mr. Tuomioja and Foreign Trade Minister Sasi to lead Finland’s EU delegations. Mr. Tuomioja will lead the delegation to the Intergovernmental Conference that will look at the EU’s structural reform. Mr Sasi will be his vice-chairman. Mr. Sasi will lead the delegation for the EU’s enlargement negotiations, with Mr. Tuomioja in turn its vice-chairman.
The new Foreign Minister Tuomioja stated in a press conference that eradicating corruption will become an increasingly important requirement for applicant countries during EU membership negotiations. He considered the problem of corruption to be a new area of importance both in the EU Commission and in the Finnish Cabinet Committee on European Union Affairs. By corruption, Mr. Tuomioja referred to corruption in its most extensive sense, also relating to the functioning of the political system. Mr. Tuomioja was pessimistic regarding the schedule for EU enlargement. He said he had already notified the applicant countries to expect a longer process than that usually estimated. Mr. Tuomioja also commented on the meeting of Defence Ministers saying that Mr. Solana’s proposal that Nato representatives could participate in EU meetings concerning security issues is in accordance with the decisions of the Helsinki summit. He repeated Finland's view that the formation of crisis management forces does not signify the establishment of a European army. He expected that the new Constitution will provide an unambiguous description of the Foreign Minister’s tasks. He said that the Foreign Minister used to be a member of the cabinet as well as a special trustee of the President. He considered that the New Constitution will highlight the Prime Minister’s role in directing the government’s work. Mr. Tuomioja believed that the effects of the new Constitution on the cabinet Committee on Foreign and Security Policy will be examined before the new President takes office. With regard to the extreme right’s involvement in the Austrian government he said, "Such negative phenomena must not be given any space".
The EU’s Ministers of Defence gathered unofficially in Sintra, in Portugal, to consider how the EU’s military forces are going to be assembled. Defence Minister Enestam and Rear Admiral Juhani Kaskeala represented Finland in the meeting. The ministers also discussed a report submitted by Britain at Portugal’s request. The report considered the situations in which crisis management forces could act, how often they could strike, and where potential crises may occur. The meeting was also attended by the EU’s foreign policy representative and the Secretary General of the WEU Javier Solana, who has suggested that Nato would also be involved in the planning of the EU’s new foreign and security policy. The Defence Ministers decided to support the report prepared by Britain according to which the Union should aim to have combat effective forces by the first half of the year 2003. Rear Admiral Kaskeala reckoned that the number of soldiers required will not remain at the planned 50 000- 60 000. According to him, this number only relates to land forces. Sea and air forces will come on top of that. The EU will assemble 200 000 soldiers for the land forces, because forces in the crisis area will have to be recycled. At the most Finland will prepare three battalions each including 750 men.
Jörg Haider the leader of the Austrian extreme right party, the FPÖ, resigned. The Nordic foreign ministers made a statement in Copenhagen that Mr. Haider’s decision does not change the situation with Austria: relations will remain suspended. Prime Minister Lipponen maintained that Mr. Haider’s resignation does not at least immediately give any cause for reconsideration of the sanctions. Mr. Lipponen also elucidated Finland's stance in reply to a written enquiry by Member of Parliament Petri Neittaanmäki concerning Lipponen’s unilateral actions in respect of the sanctions raised against Austria. According to the Prime Minister, he conferred with the Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Guterres. Mr. Lipponen assessed Mr. Guterres’ proposal to be too strong and he suggested changes. The statement was ready on the 31.1 at noon when, according to Mr. Lipponen, it could only be accepted or rejected. The EU’s announcement did not have the desired effect and the new Austrian government came to power. Mr. Lipponen then gave the order to the administration after an unofficial discussion in the cabinet.
Minister of Foreign Trade Sasi thought that the EU countries should end the boycott of the Austrian government, following Jörg Haider’s resignation as leader of the FPÖ party. The14 EU countries have achieved what could have been expected. According to Mr. Sasi the EU’s actions have only further strengthened the Austrian government. He stressed that if the EU countries do not end the sanctions now, he cannot see anything on the horizon that would give reason for withdrawing the sanctions later.
Mr. Martti Ahtisaari handed over the office of the President of the Republic to Ms. Tarja Halonen in the Parliament at 12: 20 o’clock. Ms. Halonen became the eleventh and also the first female President of Finland. Her term lasts to the year 2006. In her speech President Halonen expressed her wish to be the President for all the people. She paid attention to the division of the country into two and promised to work for the aim that in six years time Finns would feel they were living in a more equal country. She also asserted that the generally accepted line of Finnish security policy does not contain "a need to prepare for membership of Nato".
President Halonen continued from the Parliament to the President's palace to greet the government, high civil servants and diplomats. Ms. Halonen told the government that in order to secure coherence and consistency in foreign and security policy, it is essential that the President and the government work in close and persistent cooperation. On his behalf Prime Minister Lipponen noted that the government relies on the Cabinet committee on Foreign and Security Policy for such cooperation.
The government changed regulations to be in accordance with the new Constitution. In the future, the government will appoint Finland's candidates for the EU Commission, EC court and the board of the European Central Bank. Previously the President used to make these appointments. According to the new regulations, the Prime Minister will lead Cabinet Committees and also the Cabinet Committee on Foreign and Security Policy. President Ahtisaari chaired the committee's meetings when he was present. The President and Prime Minister will reach a decision in the near future on how the committee's work is to be organised.
President Halonen and Prime Minister Lipponen came to an agreement on how the President will conduct foreign policy in collaboration with the Government as the new Constitution comes into force. The press release given on 3.3 pronounces that "the Government relies on the Cabinet Committee on Foreign and Security Policy when collaboration with the President is arranged for pursuant to the legislation. The Prime Minister is the chairman of the Committee. The Committee and the President meet whenever the current business so requires. In matters where the President of the Republic issues guidelines for action concerning Finnish foreign policy, proceedings are chaired by the President. Matters related to the European Union’s Common Foreign and Security Policy which fall within the Government’s purview are also dealt with at such meetings." At such times the President can express his or her own views, but the meetings are chaired by the Prime Minister, who also draws the conclusions and decides on further matters.
Prime Minister Antonio Guterres of Portugal, the presiding country of the EU, said in his Helsinki visit that sanctions against Austria would continue so long as the extreme right sits in the Austrian government. Prime Minister Lipponen also reckoned that relations with Austria would remain icy at least until next summer. Mr. Guterres himself missed out Vienna as he visited the other EU countries’ capitals just before the Union's additional summit meeting. The Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schüssel is however invited to negotiations in Brussels. The EU’s foreign policy representative Javier Solana, who followed Mr. Guterres to Helsinki, did not take a stance on the Austrian question. In Helsinki, Mr. Guterres invited President Halonen to an additional meeting of the EU.
The new Foreign Minister Tuomioja made his first official visit to Estonia where he met Foreign Minister Toomas Hendrik Ilves. Mr. Tuomioja said that he was delighted to see that Estonia has advanced so well in its EU membership negotiations. He reckoned that the Union would be able to accept new members within a couple of years. Discussions also involved problems associated with drugs and the returning of estates in Estonia to Finnish people.
General Gustav Hägglund, Chief of Defence, said at the opening of the National Defence Course in Helsinki that the new Constitution continues to provide an appropriate framework for managing national defence. According to him, it is beneficial that communications between the political leadership and the command of the defence forces would continue in the same manner in the future, despite the disbanding of the Defence Council. General Hägglund noted that making the commander of the defence forces a permanent adviser to the Cabinet Committee on Foreign and Security Policy, as has been proposed, would guarantee, on the one hand, that the committee would have access to military expertise, and on the other, that officers would stay in touch at the level of political decision-making. With the reform, the committee's domain will also expand to cover defence policy.
The EU’s temporary Military Committee assembled in Brussels for the first time. The Committee is part of the EU’s crisis management executive leadership in which there is a representative from each EU country. It is a body of experts that also gives statements to the EU's Political and Security Committee. Colonel Lauri Ovaska of the Nato delegation is Finland's permanent representative in the committee.
Parliament discussed Finland's decision regarding sanctions against Austria. The main opposition, the Centre Party, along with other opposition parties criticised severely the Prime Minister's actions in the matter. The Centre was indignant because the Prime Minister acted unitarily on Finland's behalf without conferring with the President. Likewise, government parties’ representatives deemed that the decision on the boycott should have been the President’s domain. Prime Minister Lipponen explained his decision to act alone arguing that President Ahtisaari was aboard an aeroplane and thus beyond reach. He noted that the President approved the decision later on the same day. He recommended that in the future in similar situations the flow of information should be looked after more efficiently with the informal drafting of proposals already being considered at an early stage. Furthermore, many government party’s MPs suggested that the boycott on Austria should be removed whilst the country would remain under observation.
The UN’s group of western countries, the WEOG, unanimously elected Finland to preside over the UN’s general assembly next autumn, for Finland has not yet had the privilege. The government has chosen the Counsellor of State Harri Holkeri for the leadership role. The UN has also suggested that President Tarja Halonen and Namibia’s President Sam Nujoma should jointly chair the three-day Millennium summit.
President Halonen noted at her first press conference in the Presidential Palace that she considered the procedure for working out the division of labour between the President and the Government in matters of foreign policy to be good. However, she believed that the details of policies must be returned to. The President underlined that she is disposed to cooperate in foreign policy with the Prime Minister and the Cabinet. Ms. Halonen also hoped that it is appreciated that President Ahtisaari later approved Lipponen’s decision in the Austrian case. Halonen considered it important that foreign policy leaders have so called substantial trust in each other so issues can be discussed already beforehand. Ms. Halonen also stressed that the initiative is now on Austria and that the country knew precisely before joining the EU what is expected from member states. Halonen noted that she is still reluctant to have changes in the Peacekeeping Law. The legislative proposal is going to the Parliament on 10. 3. The new law would permit peacekeepers to use of force in self-protection and in forcing parties into observance of agreements. The President continues to maintain, the Finnish tradition of peace-keeping does not involve hard measures.
In Chile President Halonen attended the inaugural ceremonies of President Ricardo Lagos. This was Ms. Halonen’s first trip abroad as President. Ms. Halonen justified her journey by arguing she considers supporting Chile’s new President and democracy particularly important. She met President Lagos as well as the leaders of Italy, New Zealand, Argentina and Brazil. Their discussions outlined common objectives for "like-minded countries" for international negotiations on trade, development and the UN.
Helsingin Sanomat wrote that the President of the EU Commission Romano Prodi has sent the EU Parliament a letter in which he attacked fiercely the EU’s Parliamentary Ombudsman Jacob Söderman. Mr. Prodi urged Söderman to consider whether he is capable enough to cope with his tasks. He alleged that Mr. Söderman has gone too far in criticising publicly the Commission’s plans for reforms in openness and transparency. Mr. Prodi also noted that issues of openness are not the responsibility of the parliamentary ombudsman, but rather examination of administrative misuse. Mr. Söderman had expressed his suspicions in the Wall Street Journal Europe newspaper that the EU’s policy of openness could be setback if the reform takes place in the form the Commission has proposed. Finland's Minister of Justice Koskinen regards that the parliamentary ombudsman should have a very independent and strong position in the fashion of Nordic parliamentary ombudsmen, where it is also required that they be free to criticise civil servants and commission deeds.
Etelä Suomen Sanomat and Satakunnan Kansa published interviews in which Minister of Defence Enestam considered that Finland should withdraw Finnish UN peacekeepers from South Lebanon. According to him, in the area there has been such situations in which only good luck and training have saved peacekeepers lives. Enestam put forward the idea that Finland would make a conditional decision on a timetable for withdrawing its forces. If the situation in the area becomes critical withdrawal ought to be faster.
Minister Max Jakobson was presented with the Väinö Tanner Foundation award. Mr. Jakobson said in his speech concerning racism that Finland’s ageing population requires a more active immigration policy. According to him, Finland needs useful immigrants. He considered that Finland’s passive immigration policy, the idea of which is to receive as few immigrants as possible, is no longer realistic. Jakobson believes Finland should compete for those ‘useful’ immigrants that have traditionally been lured to the U.S., Australia and Canada. They should be offered employment and possibilities to integrate into Finnish society. The Minister for Labour Tarja Filatov said on 26.3 in an interview with Etelä Suomen Sanomat and Satakunnan Kansa that she does not support the way of thinking that Finland would in 5-10 years time start to actively tempt highly qualified and therefore ‘useful’ immigrants to repair the labour shortage. She considered it an unethical immigration policy, of which the idea is "brain import" from developing countries.
The Centre Party MP, Petri Neittaanmäki, left a memo to the parliamentary administration concerning ministerial liability in the case of Prime Minister Lipponen’s decisions regarding sanctions against Austria. Ten Members of the Parliament signed the memo, but later three of them were withdrawn and the whole thing came to nothing.
After 30 years as an MP Foreign Minister Tuomioja reflected on the changes of the Parliament’s status over this period. He reckoned that the Parliament’s participation in the EU has strengthened its position. The next challenge he considered to be globalisation. He compared the openness of EU decision-making to the WTO and OECD and noted that decision-making is more public and supervised than in these global organisations. Therefore he found that the Parliament’s participation in EU decision-making is not enough. According to him, managing globalisation requires that global organisations be subject to the process of parliamentary checks and negotiations of all countries, including Finland.
President Halonen’s participation in the EU’s additional summit meeting in Lisbon received publicity after the President had affirmed her participation. Minister Niinistö pointed out that according to the Constitution the President alone could not affirm her participation, because the government decides on such issues. Mr. Niinistö required that the statement be amended to emphasise that the government noted that the President expressed her intent to participate in the meeting. In this way President Halonen’s first summit meeting created a principle for practice for the next six years.
Foreign Minister Tuomioja said before the EU’s additional summit meeting that it seems that the 14 member states of the EU are not going to cancel the sanctions against Austria. The issue will be discussed in the summit, but new decisions are not in sight. According to Mr. Tuomioja, it would be desirable from the EU’s perspective if the boycott against Austria could be ended during the Portuguese presidency. He considered Portugal to have the main responsibility in cancelling the sanctions, although the creative thinking of all 14 EU countries is needed. He also surmised that the longer the situation goes on the more difficult it may be to find a solution without it harming the EU’s work.
Foreign Minister Tuomioja participated in Brussels in an EU foreign ministers meeting. He said that he was worried that the preparations of the EU’s common defence policy seems to be going the way the big member states wanted. He particularly criticised Portugal, the presiding country of the EU, for distributing papers concerning common forces too late, in other words, the night before the meeting. Tuomioja also considered that the pace of dealing with papers concerning EU troops’ future objectives is proceeding too fast. According to the plan, the EU troops could operate in Europe and in its surrounding area. The troops could also be sent to crises elsewhere in the world but on a smaller scale. In the meeting the foreign ministers also deliberated the situations in Chechnya and the Balkans. The EU decided to wait for the results of the Russian presidential elections before considering any potential means of sanction. Sweden demanded that military operations would be taken to the UN court of human rights in Geneva. Sweden got extensive support for the motion.
Retired President Mauno Koivisto, in an interview with Ilta Sanomat, severely criticised the 14 EU countries’ decision to boycott Austria because of the extreme right party, the FPÖ, becoming a member of the cabinet. Koivisto said: "It all suggests that the decision-making was a complete hybrid". Mr. Koivisto characterised the EU countries’ approach to Austria as a greeting restrain order and compulsory discourtesy. Apart from the boycott itself, Mr. Koivisto also criticised its origin. According to him, it would be nice to know how the decision really came about and why it is now decided that the formation of a government is no longer a domestic matter of EU countries. According to him, it is still unclear who had which opinion and in which order. Mr. Koivisto suspected that the Union countries’ tight control affects only small member states. "Only countries smaller than the average size are being put in better order." As Finland negotiated its membership during Koivisto’s Presidency, it was never mentioned according to Koivisto that the formation of a government would be a concern for the community. The recent developments in the EU have caused doubt in Mr. Koivisto’s mind. He noted that although empires are breaking up, a new one is being built here. He also had misgivings about the Union's enlargement process. He wondered, "Whether it is an imperialist process in which behind every new border there are unresolved matters that require increasing the Union’s power. Where will it end?" In Radio Finland's interview hour on 26.3, Prime Minister Lipponen notified that the boycott is not a greeting restrain order or a compulsory discourtesy, but a message to the Austrian extreme right in the government that "they are not welcome at European tables". He also questioned the talk of the boycott being a particular project of the Social Democrats.
Minister Max Jakobson wrote in his column in Helsingin Sanomat that according to the current Peacekeeping Law Finland is allowed to participate only in peacekeeping operations that are based on the decisions of the UN or the OSCE. He pointed out that the current law is outdated in that Finland is not allowed to participate in peacekeeping operations based on the EU’s decisions. However, in the final act of the EU summit in Helsinki, Finland's government noted that the European Council wants to emphasise "its determination to develop an autonomous capacity to take decisions and, where Nato as a whole is not engaged, to launch and conduct EU-led military operations in response to international crises". As the EU undertakes actions, it is required that Nato has not already begun actions. Additionally, the EU must preferably operate under a UN Security Council mandate, but if the Council disagrees the EU can decide to work independently in order to control a crisis. According to Minister Jakobson, it cannot be in our interest that a decision made during our presidency that allows the EU to operate independently without a UN mandate, is fine for all other member states except ourselves. Adjusting Finland’s Peacekeeping Law to the obligations of an EU Member State does not mean, according to Mr. Jakobson, that Finland would automatically participate in all EU operations. He assumed that nobody would want to change the paragraph of the law according to which a decision regarding Finland's participation in peacekeeping operations or the ending of such participation, in each case would be made separately by the president, government and parliament. He considered that it would be good for Finland to abandon the idea that a decision on participation should be bound to the UN Security Council or the OSCE because it limits unnecessarily Finland’s independent authority to make decisions.
East Timor’s resistance movement leader, Xanana Gusmao, met President Halonen and Foreign Minister Tuomioja and a number of civil activists in Helsinki. Mr. Gusmao hoped that the EU would tell the Indonesian government to stop supporting paramilitary troops in East Timor. Such forces disrupt peace and the East Timorese have enough to sort out without violence. Finland has decided to support East Timor with 45 million marks.
The Centre Party’s parliamentary group made a statement saying sanctions against Austria must be called off. According to the group, the situation is in danger of reaching a deadlock unless the summit meeting in Lisbon is able to achieve a change for normalising relations. Finland should play an active role in the matter according to the group. The group found that the central aim of the boycott was the need to defend European values. The Austrian government has not broken common values but is committed to them strongly. The group considered it a serious breach of values that certain EU countries tried to overthrow the Austrian government. They considered that this kind of policy might only give the rise of the extreme right added support. According to the Centre Party the way the decision to act against Austria was made also gives cause for anxiety for small member states.
President Halonen, deputy Prime Minister Niinistö and Foreign Minister Tuomioja attended the EU’s additional summit meeting in Lisbon. The Union's heads of states and governments accepted an extensive economy target programme, whereby they intend to create the world’s most dynamic economy. The leaders committed to adjusting together economic policy, labour market reform and new technologies, but could not reach a consensus on quantitative details. The Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schüssel expressed the hope of getting Finnish support for ending the Austrian boycott. He suggested that the EU countries should prepare a programme in which hostility towards foreigners and extremist elements spreading in Europe would be observed. According to Foreign Minister Tuomioja, Finland would not act unilaterally on the matter but a decision will be made among the 14 EU countries. Ms. Halonen and Mr. Niinistö would like to begin discussion within the EU on ending the sanctions against Austria. Ms. Halonen hoped that a solution could be found during Portugal’s Presidency, before the end of June. She also reckoned that the ending of the sanctions should not be conditional on dissolution of the Austrian government.
In regard to Prime Minister Lipponen’s unilateral decision on Austria, Halonen commented that bilateral foreign political relations are related to the President’s domain. President Halonen also agreed with Mr. Tuomioja that military cooperation in the EU is becoming closer too fast so that there is no time to handle such issues in parliament. Finland has criticised the fact that civil crisis management has not received as strong a position as military co-operation.
Prime Minister Lipponen commented on the Russian elections on Radio Finland's interview hour. He said that he believes that "a functioning leadership has now been elected in Russia, with which it will be possible to cooperate on a long term. The question is now of the stabilisation of conditions". He considered Mr. Vladimir Putin to be attentive and committed.
President Halonen congratulated Russian presidential election winner Vladimir Putin and hoped that the political situation will become clearer and consequently promote the finding of a peaceful solution in Chechnya. Prime Minister Lipponen noted on his behalf that "stability is vital because it creates conditions for long standing cooperation. The EU wants to get back to the agenda, back to dealing with many important issues such as the Chechnyan situation, politico-commercial co-operation, and the development of the northern dimension". He hoped that Russia, in creating its own profile, makes respecting democracy, the rule of law, human rights and the market economy universal values. According to Lipponen the EU views Russia as an equal partner. The EU’s and Russian future is in their cooperation and not in their fusion.
Commissioner Erkki Liikanen said in a speech given at the University of Turku that, whilst it was difficult for member states to express their views regarding the Austrian situation, for the EU Commission, the question was easy. Mr. Liikanen noted that the Commission works according to it’s founding charters in which the Commission’s tasks and basic values are set. According to Mr. Liikanen, it is the Commission’s task to supervise that the EU’s treaties are not violated. Liikanen also argued that Finland would not have had any possibility to change the opinion of the other 13 EU countries regarding the matter of Austria. Liikanen added that the previous presidential country is asked their opinion because they are expected to support the decision.
Journalist Unto Hämäläinen wrote in an article in Helsingin Sanomat that Finland's relations with Russia are no longer a bilateral affair. This became apparent as President Halonen and Prime Minister Lipponen underlined the EU’s role when congratulating the Russian President. The word ‘Finland’ was not mentioned. Mr. Hämäläinen wrote that Mr. Lipponen’s wording began with a sentence: "as the results from the Russian presidential elections are ensured, we follow with great interest in the European Union the formation of the new government and Mr. Putin’s direction of policy". Mr. Hämäläinen noted that the relations between Finland and Russia are not regarded similarly in Russia.
Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja made his first official visit to Sweden where he met his colleague Anna Lindh. As a result of the visit Finland and Sweden will undertake the strengthening of non-military crisis management in the EU. The aim is that civil crisis management would be raised to the same importance in the EU as military measures. It was hoped that this added importance would also become visible in the amount of resources set aside for civil crisis management. According to Lindh, Sweden and Great Britain have been the most active supporters of cooperation in civil crisis management in the EU thus far. The ministers also discussed the Northern Dimension. Sweden aims to continue the road that Finland has marked out in this issue.
The Cabinet Committee on Foreign and Security Policy dealt with peacekeeping in Lebanon. Finland wants the UN to find out how the situation in south Lebanon has developed and on what conditions the Unifil troops’ presence there is going to continue. Finland is not going to unilaterally withdraw from Lebanon. The Unifil troops’ operations have been traditional peacekeeping. The assignment has been criticised since with the traditional measures, the tasks set out cannot be achieved and the troops have wanted a mandate for a more extensive use of force. It is feared the withdrawal of Israeli troops will cause new problems. As the situation changes, Finland expects the UN to give the troops a new commission. Defence Minister Enestam said that Finland will consider participation on the basis of the new commission.
The proposal for the new Peacekeeping Law was considered in the Cabinet Committee on Foreign and Security policy, in which president Halonen was present. Minister of Defence Enestam proposed that the subordinate clause that Finland does not participate in operations considered to be peace enforcement should be removed as its interpretation is difficult. The government must decide on the extent of authority to use force in an operation before any decision on participation in that peacekeeping operation is made. It must also submit a report to Parliament on the matter. The report is required when deciding on operations that involve more extensive authority than in so-called traditional peacekeeping. The intention of the change is that commanders would not have to assess on the field what activity is in accordance with the Peacekeeping Law. Such considerations would be assessed when sending the troops. The Peacekeeping Law will change so that it would be possible to operate in humanitarian operations without the UN Security Council's mandate, but on the request of a UN organisation, like the UNHCR. The practical side of peacekeeping management will become the responsibility of the Main Headquarters of the Armed Forces, instead of the Ministry of Defence.
President Tarja Halonen stated at the opening ceremony of the Saami Parliament in Utsjoki that it is a principle of the Finnish Government to ensure the rights of the Saami population as an indigenous people. Ms Halonen also believes that research conducted by Justice Pekka Vihervuori, which was commissioned by the Ministry of Justice, grants Finland the opportunity to affirm the UN International Labour Organization’s (ILO) treaty on indigenous peoples. The Speaker of the Saami Parliament, Pekka Aikio, criticized the Finnish Government’s conduct in the matter as being inconsistent.
The Council of Europe's Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights, lead by Gunnar Jansson from Åland, put forward in Strasbourg the opinion that Russia’s right to vote in the Council's meetings should be abolished because of the country's policy in regard to Chechnya. The Council of Europe decided on 6.4. after a vote that Russia should lose its franchise in the Council's meetings. According to the plan accepted in the Council, Russia should begin negotiations with the parties in the conflict immediately and to instigate an instant cease-fire. In case the demands are not carried out the Council should take actions to deny Russia membership in the Council of Europe. It is also possible that legal actions will be taken against Russia in the European Court of Human Rights. The Russian question divided the Finnish delegation at the Council's parliamentary plenum. No-one, however, was willing to suspend Russia. The delegation also followed the instructions of President Halonen, according to which Russia must, at the least, be aware of how the Council's possible sanctions can be removed.
Helsingin Sanomat wrote that Finnish civic organisations have recommended, along with their international counterparts, that the UN should arrange a fifth conference on the position of women in 2005, when it will be the thirtieth anniversary of the first such conference which was held in Mexico. The Finnish civic organisations have also proposed that Finland could host the conference, as the first meeting in 1975 in Mexico was the achievement of the Finnish Deputy Secretary-General Helvi Sipilä.
Chancellor of Justice Paavo Nikula asked Prime Minister Paavo Lipponen for further clarifications on the origin of the decision on Austria. Mr Nikula had received written complaints from private citizens who had expressed the opinion that Mr Lipponen’s sole decision to raise sanctions against Austria along with the 14 other members of the EU was unconstitutional.
Parliament discussed the Foreign Affairs Committee’s report on the ongoing Intergovernmental Conference. It has been suggested in debates within the EU that the European Parliament should be strengthened so that a vote of no confidence could concern one Commissioner instead of the whole EU Commission. According to the Government and the Foreign Affairs Committee, one single Commissioner should not be held accountable to the EU Parliament, but a Commissioner’s accountability to the President of the Commission should be strengthened. Both the Government and the Foreign Affairs Committee rejected the Commission’s suggestion of enlarging the common foreign and security policy as well as the proposal that there should be countries that proceed faster in integration than others. The Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Liisa Jaakonsaari, pointed out that civil crisis management is receiving less attention than military crisis management. The Committee requested the Government to provide the Parliament with a special report on the matter. Foreign Minister Tuomioja noted that civil crisis management is not on the agenda of the Intergovernmental Conference, but the issue is important for Finland. The Foreign Affairs Committee did not support the idea of the big countries that the EU Commission should be composed of a core group of a few Commissioners and a group of vice Commissioners. This was rejected on grounds of inequality between the member states. The Committee suggested the division of votes to be renewed so that differences between small member states are taken into account, plus that the qualified majority would always equate with a majority of member states. The Committee favours leaving foreign and security policy outside the qualified majority decisions. Ms Jaakonsaari urged the Government to inform the Parliament in matters concerning the Intergovernmental Conference so that Finland is not tied with anything without asking the consent of the Parliament.
Foreign Minister Tuomioja visited Great Britain. He met his British colleague Robin Cook. The discussions concerned the development of the EU’s crisis management capabilities. The ministers expressed the hope that civil crisis management will be developed at the same pace and with equal seriousness as preparedness for military crises. Mr Cook suggested that Finland and Great Britain could cooperate in taking initiatives in international environmental questions, for example, water maintenance and access to water resources. Mr Tuomioja commented on the Council of Europe’s decision to deny Russia its right to vote in the Council in protest at violations of human rights. He regarded the decision as a serious matter and as an important reminder "for Russia that European Parliamentarians consider the Chechnya situation very grave, especially as the Council of Europe is an organisation focused on questions of human rights". According to Mr Tuomioja the Council’s decision is not to be interpreted as an intention to make Russia’s situation worse.
President Halonen said in an interview with the newspaper Kaleva, that Finland must remain in line with the other EU countries in sanctioning Austria. According to her, deviating from the common line would be a risk. Referring to Jörg Haider´s resignation from the leadership of the extreme right Freedom Party and the Austrian Government’s declaration on respecting human rights and democratic values, she argued that the EU countries have achieved results through uniform behaviour. Ms Halonen noted that she and Prime Minister Lipponen are in agreement on the Austrian question. The President considered that Finland's history and particularly its experiences from the Cold War have had an effect on the country's approach to the question of sanctions against Austria.
The bill for the new Peacekeeping Law was discussed in the Parliament. The Chair of the Defence Committee, Jaakko Laakso, criticized the bill. In his opinion, Finland should not take part in all tasks that NATO commanders hold necessary, in case the bill is passed. Minister of Defence, Jan-Erik Enestam, pointed out that the idea is not to permit Finland's participation in more challenging operations than at present. He believed that a situation in which the Finnish troops would be drawn back at the last moment from operations, that otherwise belong to them, could endanger successfully carrying out the whole operation. According to Mr Laakso, Finland should not participate in peace enforcement in the framework of any operation. Mr Enestam, on his behalf, noted that the question is not one of peace enforcement. Mr Laakso also contended that NATO troops are problematic because American troops are combat forces and therefore do not comprehend the nature of peacekeeping operations. He suggested that since the Finns' strength lies in traditional peacekeeping operations there was little sense in the Finns participating in other types of operations that great powers handle better. Mr Enestam said on his behalf that, according to the UN General-Secretary, the UN does not involve itself in peace enforcement operations because it is too dangerous. He found that peacekeeping in South Lebanon has changed. In case the operation does not get a more realistic a mandate, Finnish forces would have to be withdrawn from the area.
Prime Minister Lipponen attended the summit meeting of the Council of Baltic Sea States (CBSS), in Kolding, Denmark. It was decided in Kolding that the earlier established body of crime prevention will continue at least until the end of the year 2004. Mr Lipponen and the Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg paid attention to the Russian and Estonian tuberculosis problem. On Norway’s and Finland's initiative it was decided that a group of experts will begin to chart health problems and find means for their resolution.
European Ombudsman Jacob Söderman and European Commission President Romano Prodi settled their dispute on the publicity of EU documents in Strasbourg. Mr Prodi stressed that the Commission’s proposal on publicity, which has received a lot of criticism, is only a proposal. He also informed that he is ready to consider it again after the EU parliament has given its verdict. Mr Prodi recognised the European Ombudsman’s independence and his/her right to publicly criticize Commission propositions.
Minister of Finance Sauli Niinistö suggested in the newspaper Turun Sanomat that sanctions against Austria should be cancelled. Foreign Minister Tuomioja said on his behalf in Helsinki that he is concerned that the EU sanctions against Austria may also influence the OSCE’s work as some countries have threatened to boycott the organisations ministerial meeting in November. In an interview hour of Radio Suomi on 16. 4., Prime Minister Lipponen encouraged the Centre Party’s leader, Esko Aho, and the National Coalition Party’s leader, Sauli Niinistö, to contact their ideological brothers in Europe with regards to Austria. He pointed out that public statements given domestically do not help. The 14 EU countries must rather come to a collective decision on the matter.
President Halonen and Committee Councellor Pentti Arajärvi attended the 60th anniversary of H M the Queen of Denmark, Margrethe II in Denmark.
Foreign Minister Tuomioja visited Russia where he met the Russian Foreign Minister, Igor Ivanov. Mr Tuomioja stated in Moscow that Finnish and Russian standpoints are similar to each other on how to solve the war in Chechnya. He considered that Russia’s willingness to cooperate in the Geneva-based Human Rights Commission smoothes the progress of finding a way whereby the Chechen question can be resolved. Mr Tuomioja confirmed that representatives of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs met a Chechen spokesperson last March in Helsinki.
Prime Minister Lipponen gave an account of the decision-making process regarding the sanctions against Austria to the Chancellor of Justice Paavo Nikula. Mr Lipponen said in his report that he did not discuss the matter with anyone else, except his assistant before accepting the approach on Austria on Monday 31.1. The statement was first presented to Prime Minister Lipponen on 30.1. when Portugal's (then the presiding EU country) Prime Minister Antonio Guterres contacted him. Mr Guterres described the contents of the decision on the phone. Mr Lipponen said that he had underlined that the 14 EU member states must act as one under the guidance of the presiding country, and not to undertake economic or other sanctions. On Monday 31.1 the written proposal for a joint statement of the14 EU countries arrived and to which Mr Lipponen agreed. The President was not available at the time. Mr Lipponen reached President Ahtisaari on Monday evening. The President did not request that Finland should depart from the common line. Mr Lipponen mentioned that the focus is not on bilateral relations between Finland and Austria, but on the 14 countries’ joint action with the guidance of the presiding country. According to Lipponen, the aim of the sanctions is the desire of these countries to defend the EU’s values.
Two Finnish men were taken hostage along with twenty other persons in Sipadan holiday village in East Malaysia. The Malaysian Foreign Minister, Syed Hamid Albar, informed on 24. 4. that he knew where the hostages were being kept and that all were alive and safe. According to the authorities the captors are probably members of the extreme Islamic Abu Sayyaf terrorist group. Finland's Ambassador to the Philippines, Pertti Majanen, considered the situation serious. According to him the people captured by the terrorist group are not safe. 26. 4. the Philippine authorities said that the hostages have been transported to the small island of Jolo in the Philippines. According to the Philippines’ Minister of Defence, Orlando Mercado, the Philippines' Government does not have a direct contact for negotiations with the captors. The ransom demanded varies between FIM 4,5 million to 16 million. 27.4. The Philippines' President Joseph Estrada, said that he is not going to concede to the captors’ demands.
A nuclear non-proliferation treaty follow-up meeting began in New York. Sweden, Ireland, Brazil, Mexico, Egypt, South Africa and New Zealand presented the initiative on accelerating nuclear arms control. Around 50 other countries supported the motion in which it was demanded that the nuclear powers commit themselves not to employ nuclear arms first and to locate nuclear warheads separately from release mechanisms. Finland did not support the motion. The head of armaments control at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Kari Kahiluoto, said "the primary reason has been the solidarity approach within the EU. It is considered that it is not possible to take part in high profile projects outside the EU because they undermine the possibility for developing a common foreign and security policy". According to Kahiluoto, the mainstream of the EU follows a more moderate line in making demands to the nuclear powers. Finland wishes to follow this line believing that nuclear disarmament will better proceed by observing a moderate line.
A spokesperson of the UN’s refugee organisation UNHCR told in Bangkok that this year Finland would receive a hundred Burmese refugees from the Maneeloyn refugee camp in Thailand. The amount is approximately 15 % of Finland's refugee quota this year.
President Halonen and Committee Councellor Arajärvi travelled to the United States. Ms Halonen met President Bill Clinton and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright in Washington. The discussions between Foreign Minister Tuomioja and US Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott mainly concerned the Russian situation. Mr Clinton and Ms Halonen talked about the question of the Middle East. According to Ms Halonen Finland is pleased that Israel has declared that it will withdraw from South Lebanon. At the same time, Finland is concerned as to how peace will be preserved and whether the Finnish UNIFIL troops’ mandate is sufficient enough given the gravity of the situation.
Finland received three condemnatory decisions for violating human rights from the European Court of Human Rights. According to the court, Finland has broken the agreement in two cases of custodianship. Additionally, the court judged that Finland had failed to guarantee a fair trial in one case. Finland's Government is content with a ruling in one custody case and intends to appeal to the grand department of the Court of Human Rights.
Foreign Minister Tuomioja and the Swedish Foreign Minister Anna Lindh demanded in a joint article in the newspapers Helsingin Sanomat, Hufvudstadsbladet and Dagens Nyheter that the EU decide on the objectives of civil crisis management in the next summit conference in Portugal in June. This obliges member states to develop their own preparedness and to increase resources. The article by the Foreign Ministers included a programme of four points for developing civil crises management.
Minister for Development Cooperation, Satu Hassi, said that through development cooperation it is possible to positively influence reasons for emigration and thereby reduce illegal migration. She considered it possible in theory that preventing illegal migration could become a condition on the part of recipients for the instigation of Finnish international development cooperation. However, she did not believe the question to be a current issue. Human Rights lawyers have criticised plans for the effective curtailment of illegal immigration as this threatens the ability of legitimate asylum seekers to gain refuge.
President Halonen and Committee Councellor Arajärvi visited Sweden. President Halonen discussed with Prime Minister Persson issues of bilateral relations, EU politics, Russia, Chechnya, questions of the Baltic Sea area, and Finnish-Swedish economic relations. Ms Halonen gave a lecture on Finnish neutrality at the University of Stockholm. She noted that Finland plays an active role in developing the EU’s capacity for crisis management, but also emphasised the right of militarily non-aligned countries to act according to their principles, without a duty to defend the EU. The President also met representatives from organisations of the Finnish Swedes. The chairperson of their central organisation appealed to Ms Halonen to promote the acceptance of dual citizenship.
UNICEF’s Executive Director, Carol Bellamy, arrived in Finland for a three-day visit. Ms Bellamy met President Halonen, Foreign Minister Tuomioja and Minister for Development Cooperation Hassi and Mrs Elisabeth Rehn. She thanked Finland for its generosity towards UNICEF – Finland has donated FIM 67 million this year. She also discussed the Children’s Conference that is to be held in connection with the UN General Assembly in New York in September 2001. The conference will scrutinise how the objectives of the 1990 Children’s Conference have been attained.
Prime Minister Lipponen held discussions with President Estrada of the Philippines. Mr Estrada asserted that the safety of the hostages is the main concern and that the country’s Government would not therefore rush to a hasty decision.
Director General for Legal Affairs at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Holger Rotkirch, arrived in the Philippines in order to assist in solving the hostage crisis. The starting point was that as the crisis is an internal matter for the Philippines formally Finland will stand aside during the negotiations. 4.5. the Finnish, French and German foreign ministers offered to mediate in the crisis in a letter to the Philippines' Foreign Minister, Domingo Siazon. Mr Estrada proposed on 8. 5. that the hostages’ governments at home could pay a ransom. Mr Rotkirch said that Finland would not pay any ransom. He asserted Finland could only help through humanitarian assistance; the negotiation process is the responsibility of the Philippines' Government.
President Halonen said in a doctoral degree ceremony at the Faculty of Law at the University of Helsinki that improving human rights also requires a greater contribution from commercial enterprises, communities and citizens. According to the President, the cooperation activities of states and international bodies are insufficient to accomplish the goal of spreading universal values of human rights all over the world.
The Prime Minister of Great Britain, Tony Blair, enquired of former President Martti Ahtisaari whether he would consider the possibility, together with Cyril Ramaphosa, the former leader of the African National Congress (ANC), of overseeing the arms inspections process as laid out in the North Ireland peace treaty. 6.5. Mr Ahtisaari announced that he would accept the task.
The EU’s foreign ministers held an unofficial conference in Furnas, in the Azores. They discussed the Philippines' hostage crisis amongst other matters. The EU strongly condemned the kidnappings on the Island of Jolo. It was decided that the EU’s High Representative for the CFSP, Javier Solana, would go to the Philippines as an envoy of the EU on 9.5. Foreign Minister Tuomioja discussed the matter with Mr Solana, the German Foreign Minister, Joschka Fischer, and the French Foreign Minister, Hubert Védrine. The foreign ministers composed an appeal to the Philippine Government in which they expressed their desire that the crisis be solved peacefully and from the captives’ perspective safely. A further topic of the meeting was the question of cancelling the sanctions against Austria. Foreign Minister Tuomioja expressed his readiness to warm up relations rightaway. However, the previous day Mr Tuomioja had noted that Finland alone could not begin calling off the sanctions. He argued that the issue must be debated as the boycott has affected the EU’s work.
Prime Minister Lipponen visited Estonia where he met President Lennart Meri and Prime Minister Mart Laar. Mr Lipponen noted that, according to the general conception, Estonia would be the first in line when the EU decides on accepting new member states. Mr Lipponen also pointed out that Estonia should not look towards NATO and the EU at the same time. The discussions also focused on cooperation between the countries in technology, energy and transportation, as well as the negotiations on returning Finnish possessions that were left in Soviet-Estonia. Mr Lipponen also gave a speech on the Baltic Sea Area and the Northern Dimension at the University of Tarto. He regarded the Northern Dimension initiative as even more important than EU enlargement. According to him, it can even be held as an application of the original principles of European integration because its purpose is to promote peace and stability through economic integration.
A survey commissioned by the European Movement in Finland (Eurooppalainen Suomi ry) asked questions that were on the agenda of the EU countries’ Intergovernmental Conference. In the survey 80 % of Finns were of the opinion that citizens’ basic rights that are valid in all countries, should be written into the EU’s basic treaties. 55 % were in favour of a Constitution in which the member states’ and their regions´ boundaries of authority and governance are written. 70 % of the respondents accepted the forthcoming adoption of the Euro. 76 % of Finns thought that the Union ought to have more effective means to prevent and manage international crises. The EU’s common defence was supported by 43 %, and opposed by 48 %.
Minister of Defence Enestam said in the annual meeting of the National Defence Course Association that the Nordic countries could together set peacekeeping forces for the use of EU crisis management. According to Enestam, the common Nordic brigade that is being developed could fill this purpose. Nordic ministers of defence have in Copenhagen discussed the question recently. The idea was strongly supported by the ministers. Mr Enestam noted that Finland's contribution, considering national resources, is large.
Prime Minister Lipponen denied in Parliament an argument expressed by Swedish Radio that Finland is planning an initiative for bringing an end to the sanctions levied against Austria. He said that all the countries, under the leadership of the presiding country Portugal, would have to make the decision.
Former President, Mauno Koivisto, said in a discussion in the Parliament’s Committee for the Future that he is concerned about the situation of the UN. According to him, the UN's influence is getting ever smaller and its budget ever tighter. Koivisto referred to the UN’s role in the Kosovo crisis. Again he criticised NATO's bombings in Kosovo and the management of the Balkans' crisis. Koivisto also argued that military actions against Yugoslavia have left marks on Western European thinking. He believes that discussion is afflicted by a lack of honesty and that hurt feelings shine through. The former President reckoned that we are now in a situation in which it could be possible to pass opinions freely but he questioned whether this is actually happening.
The EU Interim Military Committee met at chief of defence level in Brussels for the first time in order to develop the Union's own crisis management forces. General Gustav Hägglund, Chief of Defence estimated Finland's potential contribution to be around 800, out of 60 000 soldiers all together. Mr Hägglund criticised the scenarios that the Interim Military Committee used, because they do not include a situation in which parties would give approval to the intervention of external troops as in Bosnia and Kosovo. In his speech at the meeting General Hägglund criticised the EU‘s sending of its High Representative for the CFSP, Solana, to the Philippines to solve the hostage crisis. In addition Mr Hägglund noted that it might be worthwhile for the EU's crisis management forces to establish a small strike-force, which could operate in rescue operations. He considered this to be clearly in the EU interest, as it would enable the Union’s citizens to be rescued. 11.5. Prime Minister Lipponen visited Brussels and commented that the idea of a strike force is "far fetched". Commando strikes are not suited to the ideology of the EU’s crisis management forces of 60 000 soldiers. Finland's foreign policy leadership was unaware of the ideas that General Hägglund presented in the meeting. Foreign Minister Tuomioja strongly criticised Mr Hägglund’s performance. The Defence Staff underlined that Mr Hägglund had not taken a stance on the management of the Philippines' hostage crisis. The Military Committee is a body of experts whose purpose is to generate ideas, whereas decisions are made on the political level.
President Halonen emphasised in Kuopio that the hostage crisis in the Philippines is a particularly difficult problem for the whole international community. She said that the Philippines' Government is carrying the responsibility of how the negotiations are conducted. Ms Halonen refused to criticise any of the negotiating parties or the negotiator. She put emphasis on cooperation and patience saying that "we must persistently, and hopefully skilfully, continue the operation".
Prime Minister Lipponen visited Brussels where he met the President of the EU Commission, Romano Prodi. Mr Lipponen encouraged Mr Prodi to elect representatives of small countries into high EU appointments. Mr Lipponen stressed that otherwise the Commission’s credibility would be weakened in the smaller countries. Mr Lipponen also met the Belgian Prime Minister, Guy Verhofstadt, the Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection, David Byrne, the Commissioner for Enlargement, Günter Verheugen, and the EU's High Representative for the CFSP, Javier Solana. Mr Lipponen also spoke of getting the new food agency office of the EU sited in Finland.
Olli Kivinen, columnist in the newspaper Helsingin Sanomat wrote that there are two lines of foreign policy in regard to security policy in Finland. Between the statements of President Halonen and the programme of Prime Minister Lipponen’s second Government there are differences, that appear in the relation to NATO. The President underlined Finland’s non-alignment on her visit to Sweden, whereas Lipponen’s Government programme says that Finland keeps the door open to new lines of policy in relation to NATO and the EU’s security policy "under the present circumstances". Mr Kivinen reckoned that differences derive partly from the dispute over spheres of authority between different governmental organs and partly from the different ways of thinking of the President and Prime Minister. Mr Kivinen presumed that keeping outside NATO and opposing the EU’s common defence are not without risk. The tightening of the EU’s military cooperation may add to Russia’s distrust of the EU and in which case Finland would be left without the protection of a common defence. On the other hand, Finland's NATO membership would irritate Russia. Mr Kivinen concluded that Western countries are not prepared to renounce their relations with
Russia by annoying Moscow with the acceptance of new members.
German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer gave a speech at the University of Humboldt in Berlin, in which he considered it possible that the core states of the EU would form a federation. The first step towards a European federation would be, according to Fischer, enhanced cooperation among countries that have already accepted the common Euro currency. The creation of a federation would not however undermine the nation state. Foreign Minister Tuomioja rejected this idea of a federation of the core states within the EU. According to him, flexibility should not mean that the core group would dictate the speed and development of Europe. He noted that "we are a union in which all are equal. Not even semi-permanent unequal structures may be accepted". He held it important that all the 25-30 member states are brought along in defining the EU’s direction.
During their meeting the President and the Cabinet Committee on Foreign and Security Policy agreed that Finland would apply for memberships in the Western European Armaments Group (WEAG). Minister of Defence Enestam submitted the application at the ministerial meeting of the WEAG in Porto in Portugal. 15.5. Mr Enestam considered that WEAG membership would not lead to the membership of the NATO military alliance, but through the group the EU countries´ cooperation would be tightened. He also reckoned that it is markedly beneficial for our defence industry to be within the WEAG.
Norwegian Prime Minister, Jens Stoltenberg, visited Finland where he met Prime Minister Lipponen. The relations between the countries were found to be without problems. Mr Lipponen expressed the hope that Norway would soon become a member of the EU. However Mr Stoltenberg said that Norway’s membership in the EU is not actual now. Mr Lipponen complimented Norway for putting energy and effort towards the Northern Dimension project that Finland promotes and hoped that Norway would also participate in the EU’s crisis management.
Sauli Niinistö, the leader of the National Coalition Party and the chairman of the European Democrat Union (EDU), condemned the Austria boycott at the Party Council’s meeting in Helsinki. He suspected that the very reason behind the boycott decision is to positively influence public support for the European common currency, which has been falling in Finland. Mr Niinistö thinks that the 14 EU countries that are boycotting Austria, should accept the Austrian offer and send a task force to examine whether the Austrian Government has broken EU regulations. Mr Niinistö described the boycott as a venture that endangers the Union's credibility and reliability. He also said that the conservative EDU has a quite clear view that it is time to cancel the boycott.
President Halonen made a visit to Estonia where she met President Lennart Meri. Ms Halonen encouraged the Estonians to be patient in the EU membership negotiations. She stressed that, due to the tighter integration, the requirements associated with EU-membership have increased since the early 1990s when Finland acceded to the Union. Ms Halonen gave a speech at the Estonian National Library about the EU’s enlargement. The visit was also connected to a visit to Saaremaa where President Halonen and Minister of the Environment Satu Hassi acquainted themselves with Finland’s and Saaremaa’s environmental cooperation.
Former President Koivisto said in a discussion at the Advisory Board of Defence Information (Maanpuolustustiedotuksen suunnittelukunta, MTS) that the consequences of the new Peacekeeping Law have not been discussed clearly enough. Mr Koivisto cautioned that as the capacity to intervene in crises grows, the risk of losses will also increase. He also warned that as the intervention capacity increases, the barriers for undertaking an intervention come down. He also pondered the question of who decides, and on what grounds to which crises the international community reacts. Mr Koivisto believed that public pressure, in other words the so-called CNN effect, seems to have become very effective. He emphasised that Finland must also be wary of domestic safety. Mr Koivisto contended that people should be given the possibility to settle their quarrels on their own or to help them in coming to a settlement, instead of forcing peace upon them.
NATO's Secretary General, George Robertson, visited Helsinki where he met President Halonen, Prime Minister Lipponen, Foreign Minister Tuomioja, and Minister of Defence Enestam. Robertson highlighted that countries outside NATO also have a clear role in European security arrangements that are based on NATO’s and the EU’s cooperation. According to him, Finland has given a vote of confidence "for a new widened security arrangement" by participating in NATO-led peacekeeping in the Balkans. Mr Robertson stated that Finland has the possibility to create for itself a distinct role in the new arrangements, even though it would not join NATO. Strong areas for Finland he mentioned to be crisis management, peacekeeping, and humanitarian aid.
According to an opinion poll made by Taloustutkimus at the end of April and the beginning of May, Finns do not support joining NATO. 62 % said no to membership of NATO, 21 % said yes, and 17 % did not have an opinion. The appeal of NATO lapsed in spring 1999 when NATO started its military operations in Yugoslavia.
Major General Jouni Pystynen, Commander-in-Chief of the Air Force cautioned in Tikkakoski that the lack of funds threatens to crumble Finland's ability to maintain a credible air defence. He stated that the deficit in funding will grow fast, from FIM 50 million even to FIM 100 million within a year. He justified his claim by noting that the plan for the defence forces has not taken into account the rise in petrol prices nor the strengthening of the dollar and pound. According to Pystynen, flying will not be possible in future years because of the shortage of funds and as a consequence the soldiers will be unable to maintain skills as fighter-pilots.
President Halonen held a phone discussion with the Philippines' Foreign Minister Domingo Siazon. She demanded the opening of a humanitarian channel for the hostages and repeated the EU’s promise to assist the Philippines' Government.
The Parliament’s Committee for Constitutional Law turned down a proposal on the fast treatment of asylum seekers presented by the Minister of the Interior, Kari Häkämies. The Government had proposed that according to the judgement of the authorities dealing with alien affairs, refuge seekers without grounds for an application, could be turned away in an express process of seven days. The Committee held the proposal to be unconstitutional, as there would be no time for an appeal by the asylum seeker to be heard. According to the Committee, foreigners must have the right to appeal
A Finnish hostage in the Philippines, Risto Vahanen, demanded Finland's Government to work more effectively for freeing the hostages from the Muslim guerrilla’s base on the island of Jolo. Foreign Minister Tuomioja said in Florence that the captives’ demands for more effective actions were to be expected. He stressed that the main responsibility in the matter is on the Philippines' Government. He said that the captives’ domestic governments had been influential in convincing the Philippines' army not to solve the conflict violently.
Prime Minister Lipponen reported that the Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Guterres had said that the 14 EU member states were considering establishing a special observer group to monitor whether Austria has broken any of the fundamental rules of the EU. Mr Guterres’ intention is that the boycott should not be debated at the Feira Summit, but rather that the issue of an observer group be agreed upon beforehand. Finland supports the idea of establishing such an observer group. According to Mr Lipponen, it is premature to estimate whether Finland is going to be in the follow-up group. The Prime Minister assumed that the boycott will not be reconsidered during Portugal’s presidency. The leader of the National Coalition Party, Sauli Niinistö, had earlier sent a letter in the name of European Democratic Union (EDU) to the President of the Commission, Romano Prodi, in which he asked the Commission to check whether Austria had actually broken any of the EU’s basic treaties. He also asked the Commission to take a stronger role in solving the boycott. The conservatives argue that, after a hundred days, it is time to normalise relations with the Austrian Government. In the letter Mr Niinistö emphasised that European integration is too valuable to be endangered by the boycott. Mr Lipponen pointed out that the Commission is not the right institution to deal with the matter, since the boycott concerns bilateral relations, that is individual member states' relations with Austria. Mr Lipponen did not consider the boycott decision a mistake; he sees that the sanctions have had an effect. He remarked that the question is of the EU’s values, although "not everyone has understood this in Austria, starting with Haider."
The EU Commission’s spokesman Jonathan Faul, reported that the Commission would not, at least for the moment, take measures on account of the letter from Sauli Niinistö, the EDU's and the National Coalition Party's leader. Mr Faul noted that "14 EU countries took sanctions outside the Union's official structures. The Commission has no role in the matter unless several member states request it." The Commission has followed this approach throughout the whole boycott.
Mr Eero Salovaara, Under-Secretary of State for the Administrative Department at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs negotiated, alongside German and French special envoys, with Philippine President Estrada. According to Estrada, official negotiations between the President’s delegates and the captors are in progress. 27.5. the guerrillas holding the hostages and the Philippine Government’s representatives had their first official discussions since the hostage crisis began over two months ago.
The Government renewed its plan concerning Finland´s cooperation with neighbouring areas. Cooperation has been adjusted to better fit the EU’s objectives, especially with respect to the Northern Dimension. The plan covers the next 3-5 years. Cooperation with the Baltic countries will continue in its present format until the countries are members of the EU, as well as with Russia until other decisions are made. The Russian exclave of Kaliningrad has been added to the areas receiving support. Finland continues to emphasise the need for cooperation on issues of the environment and nuclear safety. In supporting Russia stabilising democracy, developing the rule of law and constructing a civil society are considered important.
President Koivisto was heard by the Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee on the issue of the renewal of the Peacekeeping Law. Mr Koivisto took a critical view of the Government’s proposal. He mainly criticised the argumentation on the law. He regarded the analyses as feeble according to which post Cold War conflicts are internal to states and not between states. He urged people to remember that crises easily expand when internal crises are interfered with from outside. Mr Koivisto did not propose changes to the bill.
The Japanese emperor Akihito and empress Michiko paid an unofficial visit to Finland after having been to Holland on an official visit. During their visit, they met President Halonen and former President Koivisto and Mrs Koivisto. Prime Minister Lipponen met Member of Parliament and former Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto.
Minister Max Jakobson wrote an article in Helsingin Sanomat, where he referred to the recent speech of German Foreign Minister, Joschka Fischer. Mr Jakobson argued that attempts are underway to tighten the inner circle of the EU’s core members. However, he asserted that a federal state is likely to remain a utopian notion. He raised the question whether the Euro would do as Finland’s membership card in that situation. He underlined that the answer depends on EU-Russia relations. Mr Jakobson noted that Russian president Putin has said that Russia, as a great power, needs a sphere of influence to protect its borders. This Russian sphere of influence is to include the countries of the CIS. The Baltic situation he considered undecided: "the possibility cannot be excluded that the EU’s integration policy and Russian geopolitics will collide with each other. If the Union's expansion stops at the eastern border of NATO then a new grey zone will appear. Bearing this in mind it is extremely important to see to it that Finland remains in the core of the European Union."
Within the framework of the PfP programme Finland participated in NATO’s largest excise of the year Cooperative Banners 2000 in Norway. Finland sent about four hundred soldiers. The training scenario concerned a peacekeeping operation on a UN mandate in which NATO and PfP countries tried to prevent arms smuggling in an imaginative crisis area.
In a newspaper column in Turun Sanomat Prime Minister Lipponen expressed the view that "a tighter union is in Finland's benefit" and that German Foreign Minister Fischer is to be applauded for his open offer for discussions in Berlin on 12.5. However, Mr Lipponen criticised Fischer’s way of dividing countries into different castes and demanded guarantees for the equality of member states. According to the Prime Minister, Fischer’s ideas are radical, but it is not constructive to simply answer in the absolutely negative way. He stressed that the "EU evolves continually, integration deepens and no-no line would entrench us to become bystanders". According to Lipponen, flexibility must not consciously be made a means for political hegemonic aspirations for an inner circle. The risks of insider flexibility are associated with attempts to achieve advantages at the cost of other member states. Lipponen believes that it would be harmful, when the Union is about to enlarge, to give future member states the impression that some of them are classified into second or third class EU countries.
Minister of the Interior, Häkämies, attended a meeting of the ministers of the interior and justice in Brussels, in which the intention was to agree on establishing a refugee fund. The Commission has proposed a budget of FIM 13 billion for the years 2000-2004. The plan is to disperse to member states around 100 million already this year. The decision on the fund will be postponed at least until the autumn because of differences of opinion concerning burden sharing. The meeting dealt with a secret report on threats in Europe, tightening cooperation in investigating child porn, establishing a police academy, and cooperation between research units on money laundering.
Chancellor of Justice Paavo Nikula reproached Prime Minister Lipponen for improper performance in making the decision on boycotting Austria. According to Mr Nikula, Prime Minister Lipponen should have been in contact with President Ahtisaari before the boycott decision was made. The Chancellor of Justice found that " The Prime Minister's conduct can be defended with respect to the strong EU connection", however, Lipponen's decision was in fact an "activity in the presidential domain, according to paragraph 33 of the Constitution and thus against regulations". Mr Nikula held it mitigating circumstances that the President did not afterwards need to deviate from the common approach of the 14 EU countries. Chancellor of Justice Nikula concluded that the Prime Minister had committed an offence of negligence on 30.1. as Prime Minister's clarification indicated that there was no impediment for a contact. Mr Nikula did not however think that there was a cause to take legal actions. According to him, the approach by the President of the Republic afterwards mitigates minister's legal liability and there is no evident unlawfulness.
General Gustav Hägglund, Chief of Defence noted in the defence forces’ annual report for the previous year that defence preparedness had fallen further during 1999. The amount of days undertaken at military refresher courses had fallen to about 32 000, with which Hägglund considered only 8000 reserve men can be trained. The amount of days fell from the year 1998 with over 30 000, and the amount of trained reserve men over 5000.
Helsingin Sanomat published an opinion poll carried out at the end of May, according to which Finns esteem President Halonen highly. 73 % of the citizens polled, gave Ms Halonen a good overall assessment, a bad was given only by 15 %. Confidence in Ms Halonen’s foreign policy skills was strong: 78 % gave good evaluation on foreign policy. 61 % of citizens gave the Government a good evaluation.
President Halonen attended celebrations in Aachen, in Germany, in which the President of the United States, Bill Clinton, received the Award of Charles the Great. Ms Halonen had been a member of the award committee whilst she was foreign minister.
Foreign Minister Tuomioja said at the Council of the Finland-Russia Society in Helsinki that he hopes to see a greater contribution from civic organisations to activate cooperation between Finland and Russia. According to the Foreign Minister, civic organisations could have a notable role, not only in promoting democracy but also in solving various social problems. He noted that the Government is, for its part, ready to support the activity of civic organisations. The Society paid attention, amongst other things, to the abolition of the Russian Environmental Committee and the dangers of subordinating vital environmental issues under merely economic interests.
Questions were raised in Brussels during the drafting stage of the EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights. The members of the preparation board argued whether the charter should include all the articles on citizen’s economic and social rights. It is feared binding civil liberties could bring confusion in the European judicial system, as it would change the legal role of courts. In the meeting a member of the preparation board, Tuija Brax hoped that, according to the Finnish line, the charter would not become legally binding.
A special meeting of the UN General Assembly in New York, 'Women 2000', discussed gender equality, development and peace. 180 countries agreed to a final act, which confirmed proposals for improving the position of women that were agreed upon in Beijing in 1995. The final act is not binding for governments, but international organisations will be able to use it as a means of pressure, for example for changes in legislation. 8.6. Minister of Health and Social Services, Osmo Soininvaara who represented Finland in the conference, noted that Finland considers it important that the supplementary protocol for the UN’s Convention of Womens’ Rights will be approved. On her own behalf Finland intends to put it into effect.
Foreign Minister Tuomioja met his colleague Hubert Védrine in Paris. The main topics of discussion were the French EU presidency beginning in July, and its most important items, such as EU enlargement, the Intergovernmental Conference and the defence dimension. France wants to bring questions of flexibility onto the agenda of the Intergovernmental Conference. According to Tuomioja, Finland does not want this. He pointed out that no concrete example of using flexibility has been given. Finland's reservation "here is that we do not want mechanisms that would permanently create (or even for a long term) peoples distinguished into two different classes." The foreign ministers agreed on the Russian situation. Mr Tuomioja has highlighted that Russia can be influenced through the Council of Europe as the country listens to and pays attention to its statements. In regard to the EU’s defence, Mr Tuomioja said that Finland focuses on "what has been decided and agreed on in preparing for military crisis management this far". According to him, it is fruitless and it also complicates matters to open a wider discussion on defence cooperation as long as the purpose, objectives and content of it are undefined". It appeared in the discussions that the Austria boycott will probably be "cancelled so that the 14 EU countries’ activities can be finished." Mr Tuomioja said that Germany, France and Finland hold the same view on the Jolo hostage crisis – they will not concede to paying a ransom and they oppose military actions.
President Halonen visited Russia where she met President Vladimir Putin, Prime Minister Mihail Kasjanov and the Speaker of the Upper House, Jegor Strojev. Mr Putin refused unambiguously and bluntly any idea of returning Karelia to Finland and said that mere discussion of the matter threatens to undermine relations between the countries. Ms Halonen however said that "everything that requires discussion we can take onto the agenda and can be discussed between Finland and Russia". She underlined that she respects – as did Mr Putin – the work of her predecessors. Later Ms Halonen also noted that Finland has made decisions with regard to the provisions that were available. The peace settlements after the Second World War have not always been felt to be just, but Finland's political leaders decided to build the future on what the country had.
Former President Ahtisaari was appointed to the board of directors of the Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA) in Stockholm.
The Ministry for Foreign Affairs published an assessment of Finland's environmental cooperation in the neighbouring areas. It urged that more funds be directed to projects in St Petersburg. According to Environment Councellor, Jaakko Henttonen, all of FIM 45 million available for environmental cooperation in the neighbouring areas could be invested on St Petersburg’s water purification. Finland funds environmental projects in St Petersburg with FIM 10 million annually. Mr Henttonen reckoned that the need for international cooperation is still urgent.
The Centre Party’s parliamentary group tried to bring together people critical to Prime Minister Lipponen’s decision concerning the Austria boycott. In a letter, the Centre Party proposed a discussion on securing Parliament’s right for information concerning the functioning of foreign policy decision-making. The attempt to gather parliamentary groups on the matter failed on 8.6.
Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee supported the Government’s proposition for a new Peacekeeping Law. The Government proposed that the clause preventing peacekeepers from performing peace enforcement tasks be abolished. The law has proven problematic in the field, as the commanders have had to interpret whether operations contain situations in which Finland cannot participate. According to the new law, authorisations for the use of force will already be made in Finland before sending troops. If Finland is going to participate in more extensive operations than traditional peacekeeping, the Government will provide the Parliament with a report defining the extension of the use of force. Operations still require a UN or OSCE mandate. The decision to partake in a peacekeeping operation is made, as it has been done this far, by the President of the Republic on a proposition of the Government.
President Halonen said in a press conference in the Presidential Palace that she does not consider it essential whether it is the Finnish Government or the President who decides on cancelling sanctions against Austria. Most important she thinks is that unanimity prevails when the decision is to be made. In regard to future decisions, she believed that the advice of the Chancellor of Justice will be important. Ms Halonen said that she understands Russian President Putin’s strict opinion on the Karelia discussion. She assumed Putin’s thinking to be such that, "if one matter receives abundant attention, and different expectations arise, and perhaps conflicting arguments, then one may ask whether this avails other issues". Ms Halonen believes that countries ought to focus on matters that can be expected to proceed, such as cooperation in environmental protection. She noted that "most opportune from the Finnish perspective is to continue the line of policy that my predecessors have followed: building Finland's future on what was left".
Parliament’s Legal Affairs Committee rejected the bill, prepared by Minister of the Interior Häkämies, concerning the quick repatriation of asylum seekers at the border. The Committee decided by a vote 9-8 that an eviction decision by the Directorate of Immigration cannot be executed in cases in which the evicted appeals to Helsinki Administrative Court.
Foreign Minister Tuomioja attended on 12.6. a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Luxembourg . The Minister of Foreign Trade, Kimmo Sasi, represented Finland on 13.6. in the meeting. Portugal presented the agenda of the forthcoming Feira Summit meeting in which the most significant items were a common security and defence policy for Europe, the EU’s administrative restructuring, the EU enlargement and the Northern Dimension. Ministers accepted Portugal's report on the Union's common security and defence policy, and the action plan for the Northern Dimension. Ministers also agreed on providing FIM 120 million to support Montenegro.
Foreign Minister Tuomioja attended the funeral of the President of Syria, Hafez al Assad in Damascus.
The parliament accepted by a vote of 108-32, the bill for the quick eviction of asylum seekers without proper grounds for asylum. According to the amendments to the law, refugees coming from safe countries can be expelled from Finland in two or three weeks.
The President and the Cabinet Committee on Foreign and Security Policy decided that Finland would sends extra troops and Sisu staff transportation cars to the Lebanon to enforce the UNIFIL operation. The UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan had asked Finland for extra support and Finland decided to send 153 more peacekeepers.
The opposition asked for further clarifications from the Government on foreign policy decision-making according to the new Constitution. The Centre Party, The Christian Party, The True Finns, and Remonttiryhmä’s leaders addressed a letter on the matter to Prime Minister Lipponen and Foreign Minister Tuomioja. They hoped that a report on the matter could be given, which the committees of parliament could consider. The opposition pointed out that the Austria boycott had brought to the fore the fact that foreign policy decision-making appears vague to citizens.
President Ahtisaari received a Hessen peace award in Wiesbaden for his work in achieving the peace in Yugoslavia. Mr Ahtisaari said in his acceptance speech that "NATO’s activity hopefully works as a threat for other undemocratic governments, so that there is no need to resort to similar actions in the future".
The Swedish King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia, President Halonen and Committee Councellor Arajärvi attended the 700th anniversary of Turku cathedral.
Many former heads of state took part in a meeting of the association of former heads of state, Interaction Council IAC, in Helsinki. The former Prime Minister of Australia, Malcolm Fraser, strongly criticized the NATO bombing of Kosovo. Prime Minister Lipponen talked about Russia and the EU in his speech. According to him, freedom of speech has become part of Russian society. He stressed, that it ought not again be allowed to be silenced. He also noted that the international community follows Russian actions in Chechnya with concern.
President Halonen, Prime Minister Lipponen, Foreign Minister Tuomioja, Minister of Finance Niinistö and Minister of Foreign Trade Sasi represented Finland at the EU summit meeting in Santa Maria da Feira, Portugal. Leaders accepted the preliminary plan for the Union's common crisis management troops of 60 000 soldiers. They also agreed on the ways in which the EU’s decision-making structures could be brought closer to NATO structures. Additionally, they agreed to collect four groups of experts from the EU and NATO. The groups will deal with security questions, the EU’s resource objectives, the EU’s use of NATO resources, and the EU’s and NATO's future channels for communication. The EU countries' leaders agreed on "flexible" integration. The decisions of the Helsinki Summit on Chechen sanctions were cancelled.
Foreign Minister Tuomioja discussed the hostage crisis in the Philippines with the German Foreign Minister, Joschka Fischer, and the French Foreign Minister, Védrine. He confirmed that Finland opposes paying the ransom that the hostage-takers are demanding. Neither did Mr Tuomioja approve of the idea that the ransom could be paid, for example, through additional development aid to the Philippines. According to Mr Tuomioja "this thinking, that in a way indirectly rewards criminal action, must be taken with great reserve".
The WWF appealed to EU environmental ministers convening in Luxembourg on 22.- 23.6. that the oil terminal being constructed in Primorsk in the eastern part of the Gulf of Finland should receive an international assessment concerning its environmental effects. The appeal was initiated by the Finnish branch of the WWF, however, it was also supported by the Swedish, German and Danish branches. The abolition of the Russian environmental administration has hampered the attainment of information of the port’s environmental effects.
The EU´s presiding country, Portugal, distributed to the EU countries a proposal saying that an impartial report on Austria's domestic political situation should be made. The proposal suggested that the European Court of Human Rights appoint a group of three persons to make a report concerning the extent to which Austria adheres to "common European values" and how the "political nature" of the extreme right FPÖ has developed. 29.6. Austria informed that it accepted, with some reservation, the so called group of three wise men that the other EU countries had proposed. Prime Minister Lipponen said 30.6. that he hopes that the EU 14 member states' agreement on establishing an observer group for Austria would eventually lead to the removal of sanctions.
Ambassador Antti Satuli said at the EU Parliament that Finland would take an open attitude towards flexibility concerning defence policy, if the matter arises at the Intergovernmental Conference. He also stated, however, that Finland considers flexibility unwise in the realm of the common foreign policy.
MEP Ilkka Suominen noted in the Nykypäivä newspaper that Finland should commit to the programme of the Russian President, Vladimir Putin, and participate in developing the Russian economy. According to him, bilateral relations should be developed at a political level, and Finland should not restrict itself to only deal with Russia within the confines of the EU’s Russia strategy. Mr Suominen wondered why Finland's current politicians do not want to take up the Russian challenge, but instead hide behind the EU in neighbourly relations. Mr Suominen also reminded that developments in North Western Russia can affect Finland's position in Europe. If North West Russia develops, Finland's significance in Europe will grow. In addition, he pointed out that the Northern Dimension received too little attention during Finland's EU presidency. According to him, the "Northern Dimension will work only when we find common projects with Russia in which we will need the EU, even though the projects will be bilateral".
Prime Minister Lipponen participated in the unveiling of a memorial statue for victims of the Winter War in Pitkäranta in the Republic of Karelia. The Prime Minister noted in his speech that peace and harmony have been the winners in Finnish-Russian relations. The Russian Federation's Government representative, Deputy Prime Minister Aleksei Kudrin, assured at the events similar to the events in the Winter War will not be given the chance to recur. The discussions between Mr Kudrin and Mr Lipponen concerned the environmental investigation of the port at Primorsk and opening a new border crossing in Kuusamo.
French President Jacques Chirac proposed at the Bundestag in Berlin, that the European Union should not be attempting to create a federal state. On the other hand, however, countries that wish for faster integration should have the possibility for it in the manner they wish. He outlined the notion of a leading group of the EU, led by France and Germany, and with which other countries could participate. 30.6. the French socialist Government rejected President Chirac’s proposal. Prime Minister Lipponen also rejected Chirac's idea of a leading group. He said on 30.6. that the EU’s flexibility must be developed, but in accordance with the Union's current structures. Mr Lipponen would rather approve of a model along the lines of the Amsterdam Treaty in which decisions are still made on the basis of a majority vote. A single member state could remain outside if it wanted, but it could not prevent others from deeper integration. The model of the Amsterdam Treaty would also suit Finland because all member states could advance in the "front group" if they so wished. Mr Lipponen observes that the big countries have a tendency to take more power for themselves and to try to direct the EU’s development.
In a press conference in Helsinki, MEP Astrid Thors noted that she is concerned about the opposition that the European Ombudsman’s independent position has received. She argued that the mutual understanding achieved by the European Union´s Ombudsman, Jakob Söderman, and the President of the Commission, Romano Prodi, had not reached all the members of the Parliament.
The President of the Republic decided that Finland would continue its participation in peace keeping operation in Bosnia-Herzegovina in the NATO-led SFOR troops at least until the end of this year. Finland has at the turn of the year reduced the number of soldiers it has attached to SFOR from 470 to 120.
In an interview held by Turun Sanomat and Aamulehti President Halonen called for responsibility when it came to choosing new members for NATO. She emphasized that NATO should consider what the membership means to each individual country. According to Halonen it will affect the security policy of Europe and Northern Europe, if the Baltic Sea countries become NATO members. Halonen considered their membership in NATO very important for Finland. However, Halonen concluded that the Baltic Sea countries make their own decisions in foreign policy. She said that it is important for the Finnish security policy to focus on what is happening to the European defense policy. Halonen stated that she is ready to listen to the increasing discussion in the EU concerning a common defense as well as bringing flexibility to the defense question in general.
Ilkka Suominen, a member of the European Parliament and the ex-chairman of the Coalition Party, stated in his interviews with Turun Sanomat and Aamulehti that it would not be favorable for Finland, if the Baltic Sea countries joined NATO. "I cannot see how the membership would serve Finland. The Baltic Sea countries will decide for themselves. Healthy national selfishness is valid everywhere." According to Suominen the effects of the Baltic membership on Finland would depend on the security policy situation. If the situation remains peaceful, the membership would not complicate Finland’s position. He commented on President Halonen’s interview on July 2, 2000 in which the president called for responsibility from NATO when considering new members. Suominen stated that "we can not of course teach NATO, but Halonen is approaching the issue from Finland’s standpoint." According to Suominen, Russia would resist the NATO membership of the Baltic Sea countries.
The EU Parliament approved a report done by one of its members, Astrid Thors. According to the report the Ombudsman should have the right to publish his/her opinion on EU administration. In addition, the EU parliament approved that a complainant has the right to have access to all the documents connected to their case.
President Halonen visited the Institute of Migration on the day that the new alien law took effect in Finland. Halonen analyzed the changes of the law as well as Finland’s relatively new position as a country, who takes in foreigners. She stated, that "Finland has started to accept people from other nationalities. Opposition towards the migration movement can be avoided, if we have the ability to control it."
The EU Ministers of Foreign Affairs noted in Brussels that the economic sanctions against Serbia have not worked. The intention of the EU is to find new means to support the democratic development of Serbia. Tuomioja, the Finnish Minister of Foreign Affairs, commented that there is no sense in continuing the sanctions because they seem to strengthen Milosevic’s position. The ministers supported the plan to organize a November summit in Croatia between the Balkan and EU. The intentions are to smoothen the road for the Balkan countries to have closer relations with the EU. In addition, the Ministers of Foreign Affairs decided to cancel the EU sanctions against Russia. These sanctions were ordered due to the human rights issues in Chechnya. Tuomioja stated that Russia had taken the threat seriously that the European Council would suspend Russia’s membership. According to Tuomioja freeing the TACIS aid money would not serve EU goals because the program is specifically directed towards the development of democracy. Kimmo Sasi, the Finnish Minister for European Affairs who took part in the meeting, believed that the EU sanctions actually had a lot to do with the fact that Russia’s attitude towards the Chechnya question has improved.
Timo Soini, the chairman of True Finns, stated at the working group meeting dealing with the partyprogram that President Ahtisaari should decline from the position as the Austria-observer for EU’s Court of Justice for Human Rights, because he supported the Austria boycott when he was the president.
Erkki Tuomioja, Finland’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, and his Swedish counterpart Anna Lindh set the foundation stone for the new Finnish Embassy in Stockholm. Both Tuomioja and Lindh spoke highly of the relations between Finland and Sweden. Lindh emphasized that in addition to the European and global cooperation we should remember, that the important foundation for this cooperation lies in the relations between neighboring countries.
President Ahtisaari was appointed as a member of a three-person team to carry out the task of drawing up a report on certain aspect of the situation in Austria. Based on the report the EU member states will decide whether or not to bring the relations with Austria back to normal. There is no deadline for the report, but it was requested as soon as possible.
Tuomioja, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, traveled to the Philippines to meet his German and French counterparts, Joschka Fisher and Hubert Védrine, as well as representatives of the Philippine government. In addition, he met several people who negotiated with the Abu Sayyaf guerillas. Joseph Estrada, the President of the Philippines, assured the ministers that military operations will not be used in freeing the hostages. On July 14th a letter written by Risto Vahanen on behalf of all the hostages was published. The letter pleaded for a quick release of the hostages.
According to a research made by the Advisory Board of Defence Information (MTS) 71 percent of the Finns thought that Finland should remain unallied. One fifth of the interviewees thought that Finland should join an alliance. If Finland decided to join a military alliance, NATO and cooperation with the EU were the most popular choices; 39 percent believed in joining NATO, and 37 percent in joining the EU. 60 percent of the interviewees agreed that the EU constitution should contain a law stating that all member countries are obligated to join in defense, if one of the members is attacked. Overall the Finns (89 percent) have faith in the politicians’ ability to handle the foreign policy.
Alexander Stubb, who works at Finland’s Permanent Mission for the EU, wrote in an article in the Hufvudstadsbladet, that Germany and France are developing EU cooperation in the wrong direction. According to Stubb these developments, if realized, would be unfair, and decrease the power of the smaller member states. The two countries have suggested that the member states expand their cooperation outside the current institutions. According to Stubb the best solution for Finland would be to expand cooperation inside the EU. The Amsterdam Treaty’s principles of cooperation could be used as a basis for this collaboration. In addition, Stubb suggested that the EU should form a constitution. This constitution would guarantee common laws for supranational institutions. Stubb thinks that Germany and France, the two countries who are striving to be the core states of the Union, should prove their real desire to expand cooperation. He stated that in the development of the foreign and security policy power has been transferred from the Commission to the Council, and this is a concern for Finland. According to Stubb the more supranational the process is, the more we have authority.
The Chairman of the Center Party, Anneli Jäätteenmäki, emphasized at the party’s summer festival in Luumäki, that Prime Minister Lipponen’s government has consciously chosen to consider the relations between Finland and Russia as part of the EU policy. According to Jäätteenmäki "Finland’s Russia policy is not merely an extension of EU’s eastern policy. Finland must have her own active Russia policy, which is based on certain geopolitical realizations." The chairman was wondering why Finland did not have her own, independent goals for cooperation with the surrounding states. In addition Jäätteenmäki asked "Why are we using Finnish tax payers’ money to support the surrounding nations? Isn’t that tax collection enough, that the EU collects for implementing the union´s common foreign policy?" Jäätteenmäki demanded solutions that would facilitate relations and promote cooperation across the boarders.
Pertti Joenniemi, a special researcher from the Copenhagen Peace Research Institute (Copri), wrote in his column in the Helsingin Sanomat, that the European security policy changed in the beginning of the 1990’s due to the signing of the Paris declaration. The trend which was based on realism and sovereignty lost ground, and made room for a new trend which contains the respect for human rights, market economy and democracy. Security was detached from the national context, and Europe herself became the enemy, i.e. the patriotic chauvinism, the oppression of minorities as well as the inability to forget the past. Cooperation across boarders, and common applied values were considered the solution. This trend differs significantly from that of the UN-centered system. UN has been built on national sovereignty, and respect for the stronger nations. Joenniemi asked which system would be applied in a conflict situation, and would it be justified to supersede the UN and the UN Security Council in certain situations. Can Finland visibly support a new trend, and still keep up a defense policy, which confines the country’s responsibility to merely its own area?
The EU envoys of the member states agreed on tighter principles on keeping documents confidential. The ambassadors amended a decision on open access to information made by the Council of Minister in 1993. Documents linked with security and defense policy classified as "top secret", "secret", or "confidential" are to be left outside the rules of public access to information. Finland, the Netherlands, Sweden and Denmark disagreed, and stated that instead of entirely excluding military documents altogether, confidential issues could have been listed separately in the "transparency" decision. However, everybody agreed on keeping the documents concerning defense and security policy confidential for the sake of security.
At the 25th anniversary of CSCE Final Act in Tampere, Tuomioja, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, warned against unilateral attempts to resolve international crises without the support of the international community. Tuomioja called for cooperation as well as division of labor from the different organizations. He stated that in addition to OSCE there are several organizations such as the UN, EU and NATO between which the division of labor varies significantly according to the situation. According to Tuomioja each organization should focus on their strengths. In his speech Tuomioja referred to the crisis situations in Bosnia and Kosovo. These crises have revealed many weaknesses in the international community in their ability for crisis management. According to Tuomioja the OSCE has the readiness for military peacekeeping although the organization´s strength continues to be on civilian aspects of crisis management. The Minister of Foreign Affairs also stated that solving conflicts outside the international community would mean returning back to the old division into blocks. Tuomioja said that the most important task for OSCE is to ensure multilateral action. This may be the only permanent solution in solving long-term conflicts. According to Tuomioja the participation of several international bodies would guarantee the necessary transparency, and would strengthen respect for international law.
The Ministry for Foreign Affairs announced that Finland would send a forensic medical team of 12 experts to assist the investigations of the UN International Criminal Tribune for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in Kosovo. The team consists of pathologists and crime scene investigators.
In the opening remarks of the 18th conference of the International Peace Research Association (IPRA) in Tampere President Halonen stated that eliminating poverty and ensuring rights for minorities should continue to be a central goal in the work of conflict prevention. She also remarked that increasing the amount of development aid is necessary as well as focusing it more effectively. According to Halonen we have even seen military interventions concerning human rights. This is a new situation and it deserves unbiased investigation in the peace movement. Halonen also remarked that encountering new cultures can lead to conflicts, but it may also give the opportunity for positive development. The President underlined the importance of improving women’s rights. She said that "gender equality is a prerequisite for development - and for development cooperation". She referred to the important women’s anti-war movements in for instance Chechnya and Argentina, and also pointed out that rapes have been a central form of violence in for example the Balkan conflicts.
In an interview held by the STT and News Channel YLE Tuomioja, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, did not entirely dismiss the suggestion that Finland should pay the ransom for the Finnish hostages held captive in the Philippines. The Chief of Negotiation of the Philippines has publicly spoken about involving Malaysia and the West in developmental projects in the Southern Philippines in trade of releasing the hostages. Tuomioja said that Finland would consider participating in such projects, if this opportunity was offered.
Professor Esko Antola wrote in his article in Helsingin Sanomat that the European Union is not ready for enlargement. Nevertheless, new members will be entering the Union in the next few years. He characterized the decision made at the Helsinki Summit to double the amount of applicant countries to twelve as an unfortunate compromise in everybody’s behalf. He stated, that "it is just as difficult for the EU to be prepared as it is for the applicant countries to fulfill the requirements." According to Antola EU faces four problems, which will increase as a direct effect of the enlargement: institutional readiness, money, the member states, and the opinion of the people.
Yasir Arafat, the President of Palestine, reflected the Israeli peace talk to President Halonen and Tuomioja, the Minister of Foreign Affairs at the Helsinki-Vantaa airport. In the meeting he emphasized the right of the Palestinians to declare their independence. He expressed his disappointment in the fact that Camp David did not result in a peace treaty.
In addition, he stated that Palestine will continue the peace talks for the sake of the future generations. Postponing the declaration of independence on September 13th is still a possibility. Halonen stated that she believes the Palestinians have a strong will to continue the negotiations for peace.
In an interview with Aamulehti Jacob Söderman, the European Union Ombudsman, criticized the decision made by the EU ambassadors’ Coreper-committee on the 26th of July. The decision classified all documents and decision making in crisis management as confidential. In addition, he criticized the nomination of Javier Solana as the Secretary-General of the Council. Söderman stated, that "it was a serious mistake to appoint NATO’s former Secretary-General as the leading person of EU’s foreign policy." There has been speculations that Solana and the larger NATO countries asked for the confidential status of all crisis management issues. According to Söderman, the problem is not the confidentiality of the documents, but the immensity of the decision. The decision covers not only military crisis management, but also police operations, and all legal actions. Söderman thought that the current rules would have been enough to protect military information. The adjustment of the transparency decision concerning crisis management in the EU may lead to a court hearing. Heidi Hautala, a member of the Green Party, will try to convince the EU Parliament to take the Council representing the member states to the European Court of Justice, because it seems illegal to change laws on the ambassador level.
The Finnish Air force took part for the first time in an international flight exercise. Finland sent three F-18 Hornet interceptors, and 21 men to the Baltic Link 2000 Partnership for Peace exercise held in Rönneby, Sweden. It was the first exercise in which fighters from all Baltic Sea region countries were present.
Jan-Erik Enestam, Minister of Defense, met his Norwegian counterpart Björn Tore Godal in Oslo. The discussion revolved around the Scandinavian helicopter project. Due to the different needs of each country, the schedule for the helicopter project has not been held, and offers need to be reconsidered. Enestam believes that the Scandinavian helicopters will be in use by 2003, which is according to the original plan.
Gregg Bemis Jr., an American millionaire, and Jutta Rabe, a German reporter-producer, inspected the sunken Estonia-ship. The American-German team demanded that the governments involved should reopen the investigations of the accident. Kari Lehtola and Tuomo Karppinen, the Finnish members of the Estonia-commission, viewed the tapes taken by Bemis’ team, and stated that there was no reason to reopen the investigation.
Antti Satuli, the EU Ambassador, spoke at the meeting of the Atlantic Council of Finland. The theme of the meeting was strengthening the security and defense policy of the EU. Although several tasks being transferred from the WEU to the EU during the autumn Satuli believed that the WEU fifth article, which is problematic for Finland as well as other neutral countries, will not become an issue in the EU. According to Satuli plans for common defense between member states will not be forgotten, and the article concerning the common defense can be brought up again. Member states can sign defense agreements between themselves apart from the EU. According to Satuli it is impossible to organize a working solution for crisis management without close cooperation with NATO. Satuli says that the EU recognizes NATO’s abilities and existing control structures; the work is already done, it would be a waste of time for the EU to do it again. The European Union has created new structures, for instance a Political and Security Committee to complement the cooperation that will be done with NATO concerning crisis management. In the meeting Satuli commented that Jacob Söderman, the EU Ombudsman, went too far in criticizing the nomination of NATO’s former Secretary-General Javier Solana as the Secretary-General of the Council. Satuli also stated, that although it is Söderman’s line of business, he was out of line when he interfered with the rule changes concerning crisis management.
The Scandinavian Ministers of Foreign Affairs met in Middlefart, Denmark. Before the meeting the ministers had visited Pärnu, Estonia, where they had given their support to the EU-membership project in the Baltic countries. The ministers discussed EMU-vote in Denmark, the enlargement of the EU, and Sweden’s forthcoming EU chairmanship. They assured unanimously that Denmark’s membership in the EMU would not affect Scandinavian cooperation. On August 30th the Baltic Ministers of Foreign Affairs, and EU High Representative Javier Solana joined the meeting. The ministers condemned the actions of the Burmese military junta against Aung San Suu Kyi, and the democracy movement in the country. At the meeting Solana contradicted the notion that he influenced the EU Ambassadors’ Coreper-committee in their decision in July to declare all documents concerning crisis management and decision-making confidential. Solana did not want to comment on the EU Ombudsman Jacob Söderman’s newspaper interview in which he harshly criticized appointing NATO’s former Secretary-General as the leader of the EU foreign policy. Minister Tuomioja also disapproved of Söderman’s comments. In an interview with the Agence Europe news group on August 29th Söderman admitted that he had made a mistake in criticizing Solana’s nomination. However, he still felt that his criticism towards EU crisis management was appropriate. In addition, a concrete decision was made in Middlefart. Until now the meeting between the Scandinavian and Baltic Ministers of Foreign Affairs has been characterized as 5+3, but from now on it will be called "the eight".
President Halonen gave the Urho Kekkonen lecture at the Paasikivi Society in Helsinki. Halonen said that she respects Kekkonen as a radical and wise person. According to Halonen the line chosen by Kekkonen and Finland did not always gain full understanding in other countries, but today there is no longer any talk of Finlandization; instead it is more likely to hear Finland’s success stories being discussed. Halonen also spoke about the enlargement of the European Union, which she saw as the most important factor in improving stability and security in Europe. She stated, that "in the view of a majority of our people, the multidimensional security that EU membership brings was and is more suitable for Finland than the guarantees of military security that NATO, which is based on collective defence, offers." Halonen commented that Finland has been criticized for letting the EU overshadow Finland’s Russia policy, but that she felt that on the contrary the Finnish Russia-policy has become an operational model for implementing the EU strategy on Russia. Finland has a special relationship with Russia as well as Sweden and Estonia. She added that developing a common foreign and security policy for the EU is in the best interest of Finland. She stated that the most work has been put into developing military crisis management. Halonen emphasized that the development of civilian crisis management must be recorded as priority compared with military crisis management. "Crises can be prevented and resolved by promoting democracy, respecting human rights and realising the rule of law. What this means in practice is, for example, an effective system of schools, a justice system that can be trusted and good police and rescue services. An efficient economy is likewise especially important." The President voiced her doubts about predictions "that the Common Foreign and Security Policy together with the development of a crisis-management capability could supplant NATO. The European Union is not developing into a collective security organisation. What is more likely to happen is that the EU and NATO will develop their cooperation in the field of crisis management." President Halonen said, that US commitment to Europe is realized mainly through NATO. She stressed that this commitment is very important and that "we must ensure that the transatlantic link remains strong". She also commented, that "the question of the alliance’s further enlargement will come up at the next NATO Summit in 2002. Whatever decision is reached, it will affect the whole of Europe and therefore also Finland. I believe that those in NATO will understand the responsibility they bear." Halonen stated that in her opinion Finland’s security position is currently better than it has ever been in the past.
Prime Minister Lipponen visited the Mecklenburg-Vorpommern region in Germany. Lipponen met Gerhard Schröder, the Federal Chancellor of Germany, in Dessau. Above all, the discussion involved the reform of the EU. According to Prime Minister Lipponen "we mostly agree with each other. However, the larger countries want to secure their position in the EU before the eastern enlargement, and this has created a need for negotiation between the smaller and larger countries. I am positive that we will find a balanced solution". Talking about the Intergovernmental Conference, Lipponen said, that he agrees with Schröder that the development should happen according to the rules within the EU institutions rather than outside them. At a local Northern Dimension- seminar in Schwerin Lipponen emphasized that it is worth investing in the north.
The EU Ministers of Foreign Affairs had an informal meeting in Evian-Les-Baines in France. The subjects of the meeting were the rationalization of the external affairs of the EU, the future of the Union, relations to Serbia, and the peace process in the Middle East. Minister Tuomioja stated that there are many shortcomings in the Union’s external affairs, mainly in the development cooperation, and aid programs. Over 50 billion marks worth of financial aid, most of it directed to the Balkan, has not been received in the area. Tuomioja said that the committees that are formed to prevent misuse of the aid also prevent the financial aid from making its final destination. In addition, the ministers discussed how to bring the Union to the level of the United States in world politics. There are also problems in delegation of tasks in the Union. Solana wants more control, when Chris Patten, the EU External Relations Commissioner, and some member states feel that he already has too much power. The ministers decided, that the European Union will not change its actions against Serbia before the country’s elections in the end of September. Tuomioja stated that Finland agrees with this decision.
At the reception celebrating the 100th anniversary of President Urho Kekkonen’s birth former President Mauno Koivisto stated that Kekkonen would not see a conflict between Finland’s current position, and his own aspirations. President Halonen revealed the Kekkonen-monument, and emphasized that Kekkonen’s work deserves the respect of the future generations. At the UKK seminar held at the House of Estates Prime Minister Lipponen gave credit to Kekkonen’s work as a statesman, and stated that his strategy in foreign policy was still suitable. However, Lipponen strongly criticized Kekkonen’s wielding of power. As an example of this power Lipponen used the breaking of relations between President Kekkonen and Prime Minister Mauno Koivisto in 1981.
The United Nations General Assembly started off a new term in New York, and the Presidency was passed from Namibia to Finland. Harri Holkeri, the Councilor of State, acted as chairman of the Assembly. President Halonen along with Sam Nujoma, the President of Namibia, acted as chairman in the three-day Summit concerning the UN in the 21st century. Halonen opened the discussion at the Millennium-Summit by saying that "we must continue clarifying UN’s role in the world, and we must help the United Nations follow its time through transformation" On September 7th Halonen stated that the UN must remain as an important institution in maintaining the international peace. According to Halonen we still need traditional peacekeeping. The president suggested that the participation must be extended to the civil society as a whole, including parliaments, the private sector, and the business community. In addition, Halonen emphasized the importance of civilian crisis management as well as traditional peacekeeping of the UN. The 15 countries in the Security Council accepted a statement, which promised to clarify peacekeeping operations, and improve the training of the troops. Halonen also took part in a meeting held for female presidents and prime ministers. Madeleine Albright, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the United States hosted the meeting.
Finland agreed to take part in UN’s peacekeeping operation in Ethiopia and Eritrea by sending 7 military investigators and 2 to 3 staff officers to the area.
The group of "three wise men", comprising former President Martti Ahtisaari , German legal expert Jochen Frowein, and Spain's former Minister of Foreign Affairs Marcelino Oreja, handed in their report concerning the EU boycott against Austria to French President Jaques Chirac. The report recommended that the boycott be called off. The team stated, "it is our opinion, however, that the measures taken by the XIV Member States, if continued, would become counterproductive and should therefore be ended". In addition the team believed that the Austrian government is following the common European values. Prime Minister Lipponen said in a short press release that "based on the report, each country can consider their individual relations with Austria." He stated that Finland finds it important that the 14 countries involved in the boycott should form a common opinion as soon as possible. Sauli Niinistö, the Minister of Finance, who has criticized the boycott, felt that the report by the "three wise men" was accurate.
Risto Vahanen and Seppo Fränti, the two Finnish men held as hostage for 140 days on the island of Jolo in Southern Philippines, were released along with two other European men. After they were released the men were flown to their home countries via Libya, who paid their ransoms. Tuomioja, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, flew to Tripoli to take part in the Libyan festivities. He thanked Libya for her fundamental action to solve the crisis. In addition, he thanked the governments of France, Germany, and South Africa for their cooperation. Tuomioja emphasized that taking hostages in any situation is always a crime against human rights. He also said that the security situation in the Philippines is weak, and he advises for all Finns to avoid situations, which may lead to problems. According to Tuomioja "poverty, human rights violations and unsolved religious, ethnic and other conflicts provide a feeding ground for terrorism and that also applies to the Philippines." This statement offended the Philippines, and Ambassador Raimo Antola was invited to give an explanation at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the Philippines. Finland did not feel that there was basis for any further discussion concerning the subject.
In an interview held by TV 1 former President Mauno Koivisto stated that the constitution reform took away the presidents power. According to Koivisto the changes made during his precidency would have been enough: a two term limit, and a reduction in the right to dissolve Parliament. During the term of President Ahtisaari the President’s foreign policy powers were linked with the government, and the formation of the government was transferred to Parliament. This happened against Ahtisaari’s wishes. Koivisto recalled that in the early years of Finnish independence, in 1919, a basic compromise was made on the issue, and he said that changes should not be made in this without the agreement of both sides. "It is always easy to go toward more pure parliamentarism, but it is very difficult to move in the other direction".
Koivisto also admitted that the changes in Europe came as a surprise to him. He had believed that Germany would remain divided, and that the Soviet Union would stay united.
Finland was the center of attention at the meeting in Geneva concerning a treaty, which prohibits anti-personnel landmines. In the meeting, Jody Williams, who is in charge of the movement against landmines, demanded the governments and organizations to pressure those that have not agreed to give up anti-personnel landmines. Williams declared that the EU should recognize the signing of the Ottawa Treaty as a condition for joining the Union. Finland is the only EU country that has not signed the Ottawa Treaty.
The European Union decided to call off the boycott against Austria. France, the chair of the EU, assumed that the actions taken by the 14 member countries against Austria were beneficial. The relations were brought back to normal immediately. However, the EU states expressed their suspicions against the Freedom Party, and decided to continue monitoring the party’s actions. In addition, a decision was made on how to handle similar situations in the future. The government of Prime Minister Lipponen, and President Halonen agreed on calling off the boycott. The Government was genuinely pleased that the affects of Jörg Haider and his Freedom Party in Austria will be monitored in the future. Lipponen wrote in his column in Turun Sanomat, that "monitoring Austria would be a suitable task for the European Council, which has an extensive role in the observation of human rights." According to Lipponen in the future decisions like the Austria boycott should be handled through the EU system instead of externally as the 14 countries did in this case.
Prime Minister Lipponen and the Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov inaugurated a new customs station in Saimensk in the Russian Karelia. Lipponen described the inauguration as a memorable event not only between Finland and Russia, but also between the EU and Russia. At the negotiations in Imatra Kasyanov mentioned that the oil pipe that is being built from northwest Russia to the Primorsk harbor could in the future be extended to the Fortum refinery in Porvoo.
Prime Minister Lipponen visited France, where he met President Jacques Chirac and Prime Minister Lionel Jospin. Lipponen and Chirac discussed the new power structures in the Russia relations, and the location of the new office for the Food Agency. In addition, Lipponen discussed the calling off of the Austria boycott. According to Lipponen the boycott had been useful, because it had brought up the important fact that "some parties are not welcome at European tables. The Haiders are not welcome". In Paris Lipponen commented to Chirac that Finland is not ready to give up her portfolio of the Commissioner. Lipponen emphasized that France and Finland have similar views about the future of Europe. Finland does not approve on emphasizing the differences between the small and large member states. Lipponen underlined the importance of majority votes. According to him there must be flexibility in all decision making in the EU, also in foreign and security policy, but it must follow the rules of the Union. The Prime Minister emphasized that Finland must accept "the possibility of flexibility, lest some countries do what they want among themselves." Jospin and Lipponen discussed the current rate of the euro. Lipponen stated, that "new declarations concerning the rates are not useful, because they weaken the credibility of the euro. Instead structural reforms and the development of internal market are needed."
The NATO Permanent Council and the EU´s interim Political and Security Committee held a first joint meeting in Brussels. The meeting marked the beginning of formal relations between the EU and the Atlantic Alliance. At the meeting NATO’s Secretary-General George Robertson expressed his wish that similar conferences be arranged often in the future. In Brussels the two institutions discussed progress achieved and tasks that remain to be carried out, in view of the European Headline Goal of a force of 60000 troops. The unallied countries including Finland have not been able to receive NATO’s confidential information, and this has been a problem. Javier Solana, High representative for CFSP, hoped for as open communication as possible. Turkey and the United States emphasized their wish to take part in EU’s decision-making process not only during military operations, but during normal circumstances as well.
The Cabinet Committee on Economic Policy signed an agreement on having an outside proprietor own all of the defense administration’s real estate. According to the agreement the National Defense will stay in their old facilities, but agree to pay more rent.
The President of Iceland, Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, invited President Tarja Halonen and Committee Counsellor Pentti Arajärvi to Iceland for a state visit. The Prime Minister of Iceland David Oddsson stated that it is important that the non-EU states should be given the opportunity to participate in the development and decision-making of crisis management. Accordingly, Halonen stated that Finland, as a non-member of NATO, wishes that decisions would not only be made in NATO. In her speech at the University of Akureyri Halonen expressed her concerns about the climatic changes threatening the arctic areas. According to the President the Arctic Council has not been able to act as an international voice for the area. Finland, who assumes the Presidency of the Arctic Council, will initiate cooperation between the Arctic Council and the European Union.
The European Union Chiefs of Defense met in Brussels to discuss crisis management. The crisis management troops will consist of 90 000 men. At the Helsinki Summit the estimate of troops was 60 000 men. According to General Gustav Hägglund, the Chief of Defense of Finland, this number increased because reserve troops for peace-keeping and transportation of the aid workers should exist. It has been estimated that the separation of a conflict would be the most demanding EU-operation, and it would demand a triple amount of troops. The size of the land troops would be approximately 250 000 soldiers, since soldiers will be rotated at crisis areas. Hägglund stated that the objective of 90 000 soldiers has been met, but the capacity for air transportation is still too low. In addition, there are holes in the information and communications system. The EU Ministers of Defence convening near Paris on September 22nd congratulated the interim military body for its work in building the troops for crisis management. On November 20th the EU member states will meet in Brussels to compile an official list of the amount of soldiers and equipment each country will assign to the troops. Finland will be sending 1500 men.
Erkki Tuomioja, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, stated at a public hearing of the Parliamentary Committee for Foreign Affairs, that the UN nominations are increasingly poisoned by unhealthy actions such as trading. According to Tuomioja open campaigning, in which member states simply bring forward the positive qualities of their own candidates, and the principle of taking turns do not always seem to be enough. Tuomioja said "it is reciprocal trading, and it is possible that sometimes this trading involves matters that would not quite stand up to public scrutiny." According to Tuomioja the issue involves both the choice of temporary members of the Security Council, and the choices for other UN bodies. In addition he said that this situation does not portend well for countries like Finland, which cannot, and will not use all these types of methods.
A 154-man light infantry unit from the Pori Brigade in Säkylä attended a military exercise in Sweden. This was the first crisis management exercise between the two countries. The main theme for the exercise was the supervision of the municipal elections in Kosovo in October.
Minister Max Jakobson wrote in his column in Helsingin Sanomat "Laaja unioni on Suomen etu"(Finland would benefit from a larger union) that a negative attitude towards the enlargement would be shortsighted. According to Jakobson uniting Europe through the EU is so important to Finland, that the price the Union is asking the member states for is well worth paying. A new division of Europe would weaken the stability of the entire Baltic Sea area. If the Baltic Sea countries are left outside the Union, and possibly even NATO, it could be considered a security risk for Finland. In addition, expanding the internal market would strengthen the economy. Jacobson suggested that Finland should defend the EU principle that each of the12 candidate states will get a fair process, and have the chance to become a member as soon as they fit the bill.
Yugoslavia held their federal and presidential elections. On the Election Day it became obvious that the elections were not conducted honestly. The Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the EU discussed on the phone how to respond to President Slobodan Milosevic’s unethical victory. Both President Milosevic and Vojislav Kostunica, the candidate of the opposition declared themselves winners of the federal and presidential elections. On September 25th the European Union as well as the OSCE came to the conclusion that Kostunica, the candidate of the opposition in Yugoslavia, won the majority of votes. Hubert Védrine, the French Minister of Foreign Affairs, made a suggestion to the other member states that the constraints against Serbia should be cancelled immediately. Tuomioja, the Finnish Minister of Foreign Affairs, said that the clock was ticking for Milosevic, and at the moment he does not have many friends in, or outside his country. He hoped that Milosevic would realize his situation, and give up his power peacefully. On October 5th Tuomioja stated that Kostunica would open the way for Yugoslavia to the circle of the international community. He emphasized that democratic Serbia will be welcomed with open arms. On October 9th the European Union decided to cancel the constraints against Yugoslavia. According to Tuomioja trying Milosevic in the UN International Criminal Tribunal to the Former Yugoslavia in the Hague is not on the top of the list, and will not be a condition for canceling the constraints. However, Kostunica should work closely with the international justice system.
A suggestion for the EU charter of fundamental rights was published. The charter will be a declaration instead of a law that would restrict the EU member states. Fundamental rights will be discussed at the two EU Summits taking place in France. The Summits will take place in Biarritz in October, and Nice in December.
The EU Ministers of the Interior made a decision in Brussels that the EU will establish a foundation for refugees, which will distribute more funds towards helping refugees. The Foundation will be in charge of distributing up to 1.3 billion marks of aid during the next five years. Finland will be responsible for 16 million marks. Finland will on a reciprocal basis receive the basic amount given to every country. More funding will be available according to the amount of refugees that a EU country receives. However, the refugee count in Finland does not entitle her for more funding.
In Rovaniemi at the fourth meeting of the Arctic Council Prime Minister Lipponen stated that the government would establish a national forum in Finland to develop the policy of the Northern Dimension. Lipponen has asked Esko Riepula, the Dean of the University of Lapland, to form a team to prepare the forum, and to act as chairman. According to Lipponen, when Finland becomes President of the Arctic Council in October her goal will be to enhance cooperation between the United States and the EU Commission. The Rovaniemi meeting focused on the importance of the initiatives for sustainable development, and the importance of information technology in developing the Arctic region.
Prime Minister Lipponen stated at a press conference in Helsinki, that it was "definitely a setback when Denmark voted against the EMU in the referendum 28.9., but the effects can be alleviated." According to Lipponen Denmark’s choice will not affect the EU policy, or the progress of the EMU or EU. Lipponen expressed that "Europe will continue to move forward." He also added, that "Denmark has lost her power in developing the EMU."
President Halonen took part in the ceremonies marking the tenth anniversary of German reunification in Berlin. She gave a speech at the ceremony held at the Gendarmenmarkt concert hall in Berlin, in which she stated that the effects of the German reunification on Finland were the same as for the rest of Europe. "It enabled Europe to enlarge quickly, and this enlargement, of course, is still in process." According to Halonen the eastern enlargement of the EU is a central task for contemporary Europeans. In addition, on 3.10. Halonen took part in the main ceremony marking the reunification held in Dresden.
Erkki Tuomioja, the Finnish Minister for Foreign Affairs, stated at a briefing in Helsinki that Vojislav Kostunica, the candidate of the Yugoslavian opposition, won the majority vote in the federal and presidential elections held on 24.9. According to Tuomioja the clock is ticking for President Slobodan Milosevic, and that he no longer has friends in or outside his country. Tuomioja hoped that Milosevic would realize his situation, and give up his power in a peaceful manner.
Prime Minister Lipponen took part in a seminar held in Estonia by the European Metalworkers’ Federation EMF, which discussed the Nordic Dimension of the European Union. Together with Mart Laar the Prime Minister stated that he does not expect that Estonia’s possible membership of the Union would lead to a surge of Estonians moving into the Finnish labor market. With this statement Lipponen was referring to an opinion poll published in September by the Central Organization of Finnish Trade Unions SAK, according to which up to 400 000 Estonians might be interested in at least occasional work in Finland. In addition, Lipponen stated that the Northern Dimension of the European Union offers opportunities for extensive cooperation in environmental and information technology, and in the energy sector. The Finnish Prime Minister also had a message to the President of the European Commission, Romano Prodi, concerning the rise in the price of oil. He noted that the Northern Dimension already exists, and it includes Russian natural gas fields, which the EU needs to have access to. He called for immediate actions, and warned against waiting until the problems are on the doorstep.
At a meeting between the President, and the Cabinet Committee on Foreign and Security Policy a decision was made that Finland will apply for membership in NIMIC, the NATO Insensitive Munitions Information Center. In addition, Finland will seek the presidency of the Missile Technology Control Regime MTCR. The meeting also discussed the situation in Yugoslavia, and decided that Finland will continue to take part in the Kfor-peacekeeping operation. In principle Finland has agreed to take part in the operation for an indefinite time.
Helsingin Sanomat wrote that there is a power struggle within the EU preceding enlargement, and it concerns the future of the EU. For instance the German Minister of Foreign Affairs, the French President and the EU President have been outlining the future of the Union as variously as: a federal state, a union of states, a super power, or a super state. According to Alexander Stubb, a researcher at Finland’s EU mission, the rights of the smaller states would be secured best when part of a federal state. He emphasized that there is no difference between the representatives of different states in the Senate of the United States. Finland’s EU Ambassador Antti Satuli stated that Finland supports a strong Commission. According to Satuli, Finland would be ready to increase the power of the Commission along the lines of Roman Prodi’s, the Commission’s President’s ideas. The only issue that he questioned in Prodi’s policy was increasing the power of the Commission in foreign and security policy. Satuli pointed out that the Commission was created to counterbalance France and Germany. According to Satuli the Commission protects the rights of all member states, not just the larger member states.
The Foreign Ministers of the EU decided to lift all sanctions against Yugoslavia. Only the visa restraints against Milosevic and his immediate circle remained valid. Tuomioja, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, said that Milosevic has broken down mentally, and that going after him is no longer the main focus. According to Tuomioja Serbia must respect its international duties like everyone else. These duties include cooperation with the International Court. France, Germany, Italy and Austria suggested in Luxemburg that some EU states could, if they wanted, proceed in defence cooperation faster than others. The Finnish negotiators were worried that Finland would automatically stay outside a common defence because it does not belong to military alliances. It would be more beneficial for Finland if there were at this time "a possibility to deepen the defence cooperation in the future." The countries joining in the common defence would be listed later.
The working group called "The Wiseman’s Board" formed by the Nordic Prime Ministers in the summer of 1999 released its report "The North – open to the winds of the world." Finland’s representative in the group was Ole Norrback, the Finnish Ambassador of Norway. The group stated, that "globalization, the enlargement of the European Union, and the deepening of the European integration will increase the meaning of the cooperation between the Nordic countries in protecting common values and interests."
At a press conference held in Helsinki before the additional EU Summit in Biarritz, France, Prime Minister Lipponen stated that he urges the EU countries to seek a compromise in the controversy concerning the reform of the EU organizations. He said that Finland emphasizes, "that we should not artificially force the juxtaposition of big against small." He stated, that "we should truly search for compromises from the standpoint that a certain balance between the large and small states in the Union must remain for the Union to stay together. That means one commission seat per country, and balancing the votes so that changes favoring the large states would be made moderately."
Tuomioja, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, stated that the situation in the Middle East is very alarming following today’s acts of violence. The Israeli army retaliated to the reprehensive lynching of Israeli soldiers with massive strikes. Tuomioja suggested that the circle of violence should be broken immediately. In addition he hoped that despite the setbacks the negotiations could be resumed expeditiously.
Finland took over the two-year chairmanship of the Arctic Council in a ministerial meeting held in Barrow, Alaska. Johannes Koskinen, Finland’s Minister of Justice, led Finland’s delegation. For its chairmanship Finland has compiled a national support group, which consists of members from different sectors of the government, the Lapland province (including Sami representation), the business sector, the research community as well as national organizations. Finland seeks to strengthen the role of the Arctic Council as a political actor in global affairs, and to involve the EU in arctic cooperation. A particular key task will be the launch of an evaluation process on the work and structures of the Arctic Council.
The small and large member states of the Union were on collision course when discussing the changes in decision making at the EU Summit in Biarritz. The size of the Commission, the possible inequality of the Commission members, the power of the Commission in the future, the voting right in the Council of Ministers, and decisions based on majority voting were causing disagreement. The larger states want to limit the size of the Commission, and rotate the Commissioner’s seats every five years. The Commission would become an organization similar to the UN, in which there would be five permanent members and ten alternating members. Finland wants to keep her own commissioner, and see that a majority of issues are resolved with majority vote. The Summit also discussed the conditions in which a group of member states could deepen their cooperation within the Union in for instance defence issues. According to President Halonen it is too early to discuss Finnish participation in a common defence, if you look at the juridical side of the question. On a political level discussions of the issue are, according to Halonen, taking place. The President stated that concerning security matters she is a "pragmatic." She believes that results are more important than resolutions. According to the President "Finland can allow the defence cooperation of certain countries, but if she wants to be part of it herself is a separate issue." Tuomioja, the Minister for Foreign affairs, stated that it might be favorable for Finland if some countries were allowed to deepen their defence cooperation. According to Tuomioja "in that case the countries who do not want to participate can choose to stay outside without having to negotiate it separately." Prime Minister Lipponen stated that Finland does not have to change the line of her foreign policy in any way. According to Lipponen the most important thing is to discuss "how to develop the Union so that the integration can be deeper, and Finland’s power to influence is secured."
In an interview with the newspaper Kaleva Jan-Erik Enestam, the Minister of Defence, said that Finland might, because of power-politics, have to join NATO or at least the Union’s mini defence alliance to stay in the core of the EU. He emphasized that he is not suggesting that Finland should join NATO, but is considering the issue in principle by analyzing the development of the Union. Enestam stressed that the point of view is of power-politics rather than defence policy. Because Finland is a producer of security, Enestam cannot see that NATO could offer Finland any more security. Therefore, he stated "it is good to continue with the option that the membership is not ruled out entirely, but that right now is not the time to join."
President Halonen led Finland’s delegation in Soul, South Korea at ASEM III, the third Summit between the Asian and European leaders. Tuomioja, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, took part in the preparative ministerial meeting preceding the Summit, in which the Asians inquired about the common currency trial in the EU and the usage of the crisis management troops. At the ASEM Summit the leaders of the Asian and European countries agreed to support the peace development of the Korean Peninsula, and discussed the economic cooperation between the two continents. In addition, the widening of the technology gap concerning the third world countries was one of the main topics of the meeting. The meeting approved the common motion by Finland and China concerning permanent forestry economy. Halonen and China welcomed other Asian countries to join in the forestry program as well. In addition, President Halonen had private meetings with President Kim Dae Jung, and the Indonesian President Wahid. Halonen commented on the news about Great Britain and the USA opening their diplomatic relations towards North Korea by stating that this proves that the international community wants to bring both Koreas closer to the rest of the world. She stated that this will increase the effect of the foreign states on the peace process of the Korean Peninsula. Tuomioja, the Foreign Minister, said that other countries will follow the example set by Great Britain and the USA, and open their relations with North Korea. According to him Finland "has had as ‘normal relations’ as are possible with North Korea."
Professor Antero Jyränki, a permanent expert of the Constitutional Law Committee, wrote in the Huvudstadsbladet that there are apparent signs that President Halonen wants to be a strong president. The government has through its actions given the President more power than the new constitution states. Jyränki referred to two separate instances, in which the President has extended her rights. The first issue concerns the role of the President of EU Summits. According to Jyränki the President has herself decided on her participation, although the Council of State should be the one making the decision. The other issue concerns the nomination of the Member of the Board of the Bank of Finland, in which the government and the President disagreed. According to the new constitution the president and the government should have negotiated to find a compromise on the issue, instead everything was decided within an hour after the government gave in to the president. Jyränki did not see this as a positive thing since the disagreements between the government and the president are not supposed to be solved in this manner. It is difficult to change the practice later, because the first applications determine both the political and juridical interpretation.
Tuomioja, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, introduced to the Parliament the ratification of the charter for a new International Criminal Court (ICC). Tuomioja described the project as historical and exceptionally important. He stated that genocides and serious crimes against humanity are not only internal problems of certain states. Tuomioja emphasized that "it is ultimately the mission of the international community to ensure that such crimes do not go unpunished."
President Halonen visited Norway with her spouse on the invitation of Norway’s King Harald V. During her visit the President met Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg and Kirsti Kolle Grøndahl, the Parliamentary Speaker of Strotinget. President Halonen gave a speech at the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs, in which she emphasized that there is a clear distinction between crisis management and warfare. During her visit Halonen had to explain to the Finnish press why Finland voted, as the only Nordic country, in favor of a resolution in the UN on 20.10. condemning Israel. Halonen said that the Finnish UN mission in New York, led by Ambassador Marjatta Rasi, had determined Finland’s view.
According to the latest EU book of statistic, euro-citizens and political leaders disagree about nearly everything that is connected with the future development of the Union. According to the decision-makers the most important issues at the moment are the eastern enlargement, increasing the efficiency of foreign policy, and changing the power structures. In the value system of the citizens these issues were among the least important ones. The citizens of Europe feel that urgent improvement should be made in areas such as employment, security, preventing organized crime, and managing poverty.
General Sir Rupert Smith, the Deputy Supreme Allied Commander of Europe, visited Finland where he met with the highest commanders of the Finnish army as well as specialists of the foreign and security policy. Lieutenant General Ilkka Hollo, Chief of the Defence Staff, hosted the visit.
Tuomioja, the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Finland, stated that Finland would have voted to censure Israel even if the UN Ambassador had referred the decision to the Foreign Ministry and the President before hand. Tuomioja felt that Finland’s voting behavior concerning that resolution was justified. Tuomioja, Prime Minister Lipponen, and President Halonen criticized Finland’s UN Ambassador Marjatta Rasi for making the decision on her own. According to Rasi the timetable problems were caused by Sweden’s last-ditch changes in voting behavior. In a press release on 30.10. Tuomioja stated that Finland will not automatically align with the EU. According to Tuomioja in many cases the Nordic countries are the natural reference group for Finland, and sometimes it can even be non-aligned countries. The fact that the decision, after the situation had changed, was not submitted to Helsinki was a breach of procedure.
The 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Finland and China. China is currently Finland’s second most important trade partner outside of the EU after the USA.
At the Humanism theme day of the Humanist Union of Finland Minister for Foreign Affairs Tuomioja rejected the comment that Finland primarily brings up EU’s common Russia policy when discussing her Russia relations. Tuomioja stated that this is an illusion created by the fact that we have been members of the Union for a short period of time. He emphasized the Russia policies that Finland implements through the EU and bilaterally complement one another. According to the Minister for Foreign Affairs Finland has, with her Russia knowledge, been able to influence the Russian policy of the EU through the Northern Dimension and TACIS-program. In addition, Tuomioja commented on the remigration of the Ingrian Finns to Finland. He stressed that the Ingrian Finns who have moved to Finland should be seen as a resource, and treated accordingly.
Finland, Sweden, Norway and Denmark’s Nordcaps-planning center started operating in Näsbypark close to Stockholm. Enestam inaugurated the center on behalf of Finland. The objective of Nordcaps is to create a Nordic brigade that has been trained coherently, and which will operate according to the NATO standards. The working language of the brigade is English, and it is directed to answer the challenges of the common defence cooperation of the EU in the future. The brigade can also take part in operations led by NATO, although Finland requires that the operation should in that case have the consent of either the UN or the OSCE. The size of the Nordic brigade will be from 2000 to 4000 men. Currently Nordcaps consists of six officers. Major Jukka Tuomainen, and Commander Juha Pallaspuro represent Finland.
Defence Minister Enestam stated in Stockholm that the Armed Forces would put an order in for 57 TA 2000 armored personel carriers. Patria Hägglund, a Finnish-Swedish company, will provide the carriers. The trade contract will be signed in Helsinki on 2.11. The carriers will be used by the Finnish rapid reaction brigade.
Pierre Moscovici, the French Minister in charge of Europe, visited Helsinki, where he met with Prime Minister Lipponen, and Foreign Minister Tuomioja. In the discussion Moscovici assured that his country is making an effort to reach a compromise in the negotiations on the structure of the EU Commission. Foreign Minister Tuomioja believed that Finland will keep its Commissioner.
Paula Kokkonen, a Member of the Parliament, and a special envoy for Benita Ferrero-Waldner, the Foreign Minister of Austria, led a 23-person delegation to observe the electoral procedures of the parliamentary elections held in Azerbaijan on 5.11.
Russia’s Ambassador to Finland, Aleksander Patsev, visited Oulu, and stated in an interview with the newspaper Kaleva that he would like Finland to increase its bilateral contacts with Russia. According to Patsev Finland should have its own national program for developing relations with Russia independent of the EU. The Ambassador also said that, if Finland’s stand on NATO were to change, Russia’s relationship with Finland would change. As for the Karelia question, Patsev called it a closed chapter. Foreign Minister Tuomioja stated in a radio interview on 3.11. that Finland would in the future follow the Union in its Russia relations. According to Tuomioja EU has not weakened Finland’s relations with Russia, quite the contrary, Finland has, due to the Union, reached new dimensions in economy policy.
The Cabinet Committee on EU Affairs decided that Finland would support Holland in the motion against the Council of the European Union. The motion concerns the so-called Solana-decision. In August the Council decided that certain documents concerning security, defence, and military and non-military crisis management would be announced confidential. Javier Solana, the Secretary General of the Council, pushed the issue strongly.
Both the Cabinet Committee on European Union Affairs and the Cabinet Committee on Foreign and Security Policy led by President Halonen deliberated on Finland’s view over intergovernmental issues. The government specified its opinion concerning how many member states are needed so that flexibility can be used. According to Finland the threshold could be lowered to a third of the member states, if there were at least eight member states. The government also emphasized that using flexibility should not divide the common foreign policy into the foreign policy of several small groups. In other words all EU statements should be given on behalf of the whole Union.
Prime Minister Lipponen unveiled the monument to Jewish refugees at Tähtitorninmäki in Helsinki. The Prime Minister apologized to the Jewish community in Helsinki on behalf of Finland and the Finns for handing over eight Jewish refugees to Germany on 6.11. 1942. Only one of the eight Jews survived the concentration camp of Auschwitz.
Prime Minister Lipponen strongly denied the claims that he will act as a mediator for the Intergovernmental Conference while visiting Belgium, Great Britain and the Netherlands. According to Lipponen the work related visits had been planned a long time ago, and the "mediating mission" is entirely the imagination of the media.
In a speech at the College of Europe in Bruges, Belgium, Prime Minister Lipponen stated that the Union should get its own constitution, which would outline the power of operation of the member states and the institutions of the EU. Preparation for the constitution should begin immediately after the current restructuring of the EU is finished. Governments of existing and would-be-members, as well as EU institutions and national parliaments, should take part in the process. The purpose of the constitution would be to prevent heavy bureaucracy in connection with the enlargement of the Union. Lipponen expressed his concerns about how the intergovernmental cooperation threatens the balance of the institutions of the Union. He declared his support to Tony Blair in his aspirations to develop the Union into a foreign policy superpower. Lipponen’s speech was an answer to the proposals for the EU’s future put forward by German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, French President Jaques Chirac, and British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
The influential people of the opposition Center Party, and some of the governmental parties as well were surprised by Lipponen’s speech in Bruges. Mauri Pekkarinen, the President of the Center Party’s parliament group stated that it was astonishing that according to the speech, Finland would detach itself further from the Nordic group. In addition, he demanded a discussion on, whether Lipponen’s federal state policy is Finland’s policy as well. Pekkarinen feels that the Central Party should not agree. Furthermore, Sirkka-Liisa Anttila, the First Deputy Speaker, claimed that Lipponen should bring a report concerning his address to the Parliament, and be prepared for a popular referendum on the future of the EU. Prime Minister Lipponen explained his EU comments to the Center Party’s parliamentary group, and again at the question time of the Council of State on 16.11. There was disagreement between the opposition and the Prime Minister about how far it is appropriate to go when deepening the Union. Mauri Pekkarinen, the leader of the Center group, said that the Party is satisfied if the Parliament looks into the Prime Minister’s policy at the same time it discusses the policy on the Nice Summit in December.
Finland was accepted as a member of the Western European Armament Group WEAG in Brussels along with Sweden, Austria, Czech Republic, Poland and Hungary. WEAG’s goal is to develop cooperation between arms manufacturers, and enhance Europe’s position compared to the United States. Defence Minister Enestam believes that Finland will benefit from the membership, because it will help the defence industry in getting more delivery prospects.
Prime Minister Lipponen discussed the changes in the Union’s power structure in Brussels with the EU Commission and Guy Verhofstad, the Prime Minister of Belgium. Belgium supports Lipponen’s view that plans for fundamental changes to the EU including the constitution for the Union should be set in motion next year. In addition, Lipponen met Chris Patten, the EU External Relations Commissioner, and Michel Barnier, who is responsible for institutional reform. Commissioner Barnier encouraged Lipponen to persistently keep pushing majority decision-making. On 14.11. Lipponen met Tony Blair, Britain’s Prime Minister. The discussion concerned the size of the Commission, and qualified majority voting (QMV). According to Lipponen the starting point must be that every country has a member in the Commission, after the Nice Summit. Lipponen did not comment on if the size of the Commission would be changed after the next phase of enlargement. Both Blair and Lipponen agreed that the enlargement is important, and should not be slowed down. The Prime Ministers said that after the meeting in Nice preparations for the next Intergovernmental Conference should take place. A public debate, in which parliaments and citizens could take part, should take place before the next significant decisions. On 16.11. Lipponen and Blair issued a joint article in Helsingin Sanomat, in which they named the areas of operation they thought were important for the future of Europe. Lipponen also visited the Netherlands, where he met the Prime Minister Wim Kok.
The Defence Ministers of the WEU took part in the closing meeting of the Western European Union in Marseilles, France. Finland participated in the meeting as an observer, and was represented by the Defence Minister Enestam, and the Under-Secretary of State, Jaakko Blomberg.
Government officials, environmental organizations, representatives of the industry, researchers and journalists took part in a climate conference in The Hague. The subject of the meeting was the Climate Agreement of Kioto. Hassi, the Environment Minister, led the Finnish delegation in the meeting. In The Hague EU demanded that the industrial countries must renew their traffic and energy policy according to the Kioto Agreement concluded three years ago. However, on 25.11. the negotiations miscarried. Hassi stated that despite good intentions and speeches on slowing down the climate change, "most importantly everybody was out for their own interest ." Sinikka Mönkäre, the Minister of Trade and Industry, said that Finland would continue preparing its national climate program despite the results of The Hague meeting. According to Mönkäre Finland has not relied on emission trading or other flexibilities, those have mainly remained an aid. She also stated that the climate agreement has not been questioned, and the negotiations in The Hague will proceed in the spring.
The parliamentary group of the Center Party asked Lipponen to explain his EU policy to the Parliament. According to the Center Party, Lipponen has on his own laid out the deepening of integration further than what has been decided by the Finnish Parliament.
Finland’s National Coalition Party Chairman, Finance Minister Sauli Niinistö, stated in the Helsingin Sanomat that "a constitution does not necessarily turn the EU into a federal state." Niinistö concluded from Lipponen’s speech that the Prime Minister is strongly concerned for the future of the EU. Niinistö believes that the current general agreements are already similar to a constitution; they define the active institutions of the Union, and their power. The intention is to also include the fundamental rights of the citizens in these agreements. Changing the name of the agreements to the Constitution does not create a federal state. Lipponen did not define the nature of the constitution, he only commented on how it will be prepared. "The beginnings would come from national levels, and then they would be carried on to the highest level of the EU." Niinistö believed that the views of the people would decrease instead of increase the power of the Union. He remarked that the greatest merits of Lipponen’s address were hidden between the lines. "A bold opening of a discussion could perhaps generate spirit and leadership in other quarters as well. Without spirit and leadership there will be no constitution. However, if there was any spirit or leadership, there would hardly be talk about the constitution." In an interview with the newspaper Nykypäivä on 28.11. Niinistö said that EU’s biggest problem is the lack of solidarity, which cannot be produced by forcing Europe towards a federal state.
In an interview with Helsingin Sanomat Harri Holkeri, the President of the General Assembly of the UN, said that he is concerned about the destiny of the meeting’s goals. Lack of money and political will of the member countries are the main problems. Holkeri mentioned that according to the new report the peacekeeping expenses would be partly transferred to UN’s primary budget. Until now peacekeeping has been funded separately. Holkeri stated that "the alignments of the foreign policy cannot succeed without the support of the Finance Ministers."
Tuomioja, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, gave a speech at the French Institute for Foreign Affairs, in which he stated that the EU can become a federal state only with the support of the people. He did not believe that the citizens of the European countries are ready for that. According to Tuomioja a possible constitution does not automatically mean a federal state is created. Instead, the constitution could have a resemblance to the UN Charter rather than the constitutions of the member states. Tuomioja thought it was not a bad idea to select certain essential points from the EU treaties and compile a document, in which at least the main tasks and structure of the institutions as well as the division of competencies between the member states and the Union would be determined. However, he thought it would be the wrong objective to try to make the EU into a superpower in global policy. Foreign Minister Tuomioja said that the democratic deficit in the EU should be decreased by increasing the national parliaments’ share concerning the handling of EU issues.
Stefan Forss, a researcher of the VTT, The Technical Research Center of Finland, said in Hufvudstadtsbladet that it is for the advantage of both Finland and Sweden that Sweden does not have unrealistic expectations of Finnish defence. He stated that Finland’s defence doctrine is being non-allied yet having a credible defence. Forss asked how is it possible to maintain a credible defence when the defence funds decreased in the 1990’s. For decades Finland’s defence budget has not been even one third of Sweden’s defence budget. According to Forss the myth of Finland’s strong defence still exists. Finland’s will in defence is world class, but insufficient resources cannot change will into ability.
Tuomioja, the Foreign Minister, opened the meeting of the Green League delegation by saying that a constitution would not turn the EU into a federal state. There is no reason to oppose the idea of a constitution, if it solely means revising EU’s general treaties so they are comprehensible without new transfers of power. According to Tuomioja Europe does not currently have the opportunity or the right to decide on changing the EU into a federal state. Tuomioja did not support the idea of combining the EU and national parliamentary elections to the five-year "euro rhythm." Tuomioja thinks that it would be a symbolic gesture towards the federal state, because then an outer force, Europe, would determine the political rhythm.
The foreign and defence ministers of the European Union met in Brussels to discuss the Union’s resources in military crisis management. Foreign Minister Tuomioja and Defence Minister Enestam were Finland’s representatives at the meeting. In the meeting Finland confirmed her offer to the Union, which contains a mechanical battalion, engineer battalion, transport company, joint civil and military company (CIMIC), a mine laying vessel, staff officers and military observers. Finland and Sweden informed the Capabilities Commitment Conference that in EU-led crisis management their troops would primarily be offered as part of a Nordic multinational unit. Finland will decide on her participation case by case. Foreign Minister Tuomioja stated that sufficient resources are the basis of the Union’s crisis management. The Union should improve its readiness in peacekeeping, and be able to take responsibility in crisis management in Europe, and the surrounding regions. He emphasized that it is necessary to develop civilian readiness in crisis management along with military resources. Defence Minister Enestam commented positively on Norway’s intention to take part in crisis management led by the European Union through the NORDCAPS agreement. Enestam believed that "in the future there will be more trust in what the Union says internationally because the words have credibility."
Prime Minister Lipponen explained his EU visions at a seminar held by the Europe-club in Gothenburg, Sweden. Lipponen called for open discussion concerning the direction of European Union’s development. According to the Prime Minister we must actively take part in EU’s development discussions with our own initiatives to ensure that the negotiations do not solely turn into a battle against initiatives threatening smaller member states. Lipponen stated that he has defended the position of strong institutions and especially the Commission. He said that the practice of decision-making has indicated that the Commission, which supervises the adherence of rules, is ultimately the protection for a small country against the ambitions of the larger countries. Lipponen explained Finland’s experience as President of the EU. He said that the confidence towards Finland has increased, and can be seen in her closer bilateral relations with other member states. He also believed that "our own perspectives are understood better since we have pursued the Union’s common interest in a believable manner." In addition, he emphasized that every presiding member state has the responsibility to pursue the Union’s interests further.
The Parliament considered EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights, and agreed that it could be accepted as a political declaration. Matti Vanhanen, the chairman of the Parliamentary Grand Committee, said that the preparation process of the document was not democratic, but nevertheless the end result is appropriate. Tuija Brax from the Green League stated that "this is a first noteworthy international fundamental rights document, in which environment has been listed as a basic value, and an obligating norm." Mauri Salo from the Centre Party was concerned that the document would later become part of EU’s constitution. Jaakko Laakso from the Left-Wing Alliance was afraid that the document would become legally binding after the Nice Summit. Johannes Leppänen from the Centre Party denied Laakso’s suspicions of a federation. He emphasized that the document only concerns the fundamental rights of the citizens. He believed that the document is a protection against bureaucracy. Johannes Koskinen, the Minister of Justice, stated that the declaration would increase the legal protection of the citizens.
The government agreed that the position of Ombudsman for Discrimination would be created. The Ombudsman for Discrimination will replace the current Ombudsman for Immigrants. The government also supported the program against ethnic discrimination and racism prepared by the Ministry of Labor.
Olli Kivinen, a columnist for Helsingin Sanomat, stated in his column "The Equation Twists Towards NATO" that "EU’s common defence, which is developing under the code name "crisis management", took a major step forward when the plan to gather troops was announced in Brussels in the beginning of the week." According to Kivinen the project is a big change especially for the neutral countries of the Union, because it means that they will be led "deeper into the European defence mechanism." He did not think that the effect of the defence cooperation would be sudden, but that an effect would be inevitable. In addition, he claimed that it is clear that EU’s defence will be implemented together with the military alliance NATO. This means that Finland and Sweden both should be prepared to make quick decisions incase NATO suddenly decides to expand, or if the idea of mutual memberships flourishes. Finland pursues the core of the EU and the European defence mechanisms. Finland, according to Kivinen, "is actually closer to NATO’s mainstream than many of its full members." The danger is that in the midst of the fast action Finland will have to "bear the weight of the western countries without having the security, which can only be achieved by joining NATO."
Professor Esko Antola published research he had conducted for the Ministry of Trade and Industry titled "Liittovaltiomalli Euroopan unionin kehittämisen vaihtoehtona" ("The Federal State Model as an Alternative in the Development of the European Union"). According to Antola EU’s development towards a federal state is not inevitable, but a probable alternative that should be prepared for in advance. Antola stated that a small state such as Finland would benefit from a federal state. A federal state would have a constitution and strong supranational institutions. The same rules would apply to small and big countries. In addition, institutions would even out the power balance between the small and large member states. Having to commit to issues, which Finland is trying to avoid Antola saw as the disadvantage of the federal state system. He stated that if the European federal state were to happen, it would have a decentralizing instead of a centralizing effect. According to Antola the European Union is already very much like a federal state especially concerning its trade policy. Professor Antola saw two different models in the development of a federal state. One is the constitutional model, which Prime Minister Lipponen introduced in a speech in Belgium, and the other, a model in which the cooperation of the core countries gets tighter. Fisher, the German Foreign Minister, and Chirac, the French President, outlined this model. According to Antola the latter model is more realistic. He believes that it would not be difficult to implement from the standpoint of Finland’s EU strategy, because Finland has been pursuing the core of the EU from the beginning.
President Halonen gave a speech at a seminar organized by the German Herbert Quandt Foundation in Berlin. She stated that Russia’s political leaders are nowadays in relatively firm agreement that Russia is part of Europe. She believed this view is in the interest of all Europeans. In addition, she felt that Finland’s and Russia’s relations are better than they have ever been. In Berlin Halonen stated she welcomes discussion concerning the long-term future of the EU, but it should not happen at the expense of the short-term goals. She advised everybody to keep their feet firmly on the ground concerning the long-term goals of the Union. Halonen also met with the President of Lithuania and the Prime Minister of Latvia in Berlin.
Foreign Minister Tuomioja stated at a seminar in Helsinki organized by the Social Democratic Party’s Committee on cooperation in the neighboring areas that Finland has its own active policy on Russia. According to Tuomioja Finland has through the EU actively influenced the Russia policy of the Union. As an example he mentioned the Northern Dimension, and the input by Finland on the establishment of the EU’s strategy on Russia. Tuomioja was convinced that the enlargement of the EU would further improve the relations between the EU and Russia. He especially thought that the accession of the Baltic States would enhance cooperation. He also reinforced his earlier view that Finland’s opportunities in the field of trade and economic cooperation were better as a member of the EU than as a non-member.
Jaques Chirac, the President of France, visited Finland before the Nice Summit to negotiate with President Halonen and Prime Minister Lipponen. At a briefing Chirac stated that Finland would have an important role in Nice. He was confident that Finland will support France as the holder of the EU Presidency in all issues in which Finland’s own interest is not threatened. There is still a conflict between the interests of the small and big countries, although both Chirac and Lipponen are eager to dispense with the large vs. small conflict. In addition, Halonen emphasized that the most important thing is to ensure the ability to enlarge. She also stressed the meaning of democracy within the European Union.
The government published a report on its human rights policy, the second of its kind. The government’s key focal points in human rights policy are women, children, minorities, and indigenous people. Liisa Jaakonsaari, the Chairperson of the Parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee, stated as she received the report that human rights are not just a "good hobby". She sees the issue as part of the core of Finnish security policy.
Prime Minister Lipponen made an announcement to the Parliament concerning Finland’s preparations for the Nice EU Summit. Lipponen believes that the changes made in how the votes of different countries are weighted, and the increase in the practice of qualified majority voting would be difficult issues in the Nice Summit. Lipponen stated that Finland would pursue increasing qualified majority votes. Furthermore, Lipponen demanded that the "future work" of the Union be continued. He said that "the final documents of the Nice Summit should have a clear political commitment to future work without any anticipation of what the final result will be."
Vaira Vike-Freiberga, the President of Latvia, visited Finland, and talked with President Halonen and Foreign Minister Tuomioja. Halonen commented on Latvia’s excellent progress in fulfilling EU’s member criteria. In addition, they discussed NATO and security policy in general. Both Halonen and Vike-Freiberga agreed that Latvia’s possible NATO membership would not affect the security situation of Northern Europe very much. Halonen stated that the Finnish government has taken this alternative into consideration in both their first report concerning the security policy as well as the second one, which is currently being compiled. She believed that there has been positive development in Latvia’s and Russia’s relations during Putin’s era, although some problems still exist.
Prime Minister Lipponen briefed the Grand Committee on the negotiations at the Nice Summit. The Grand Committee gave the Prime Minister a mandate to accept a new order under which EU commissioners would be rotated "if all else fails." Finland considers accepting the rotation as a long-term plan i.e. in the next ten years, if the Union then has 25 members.
On Independence Day in the order of the day Gustav Hägglund, the Chief of Defence of Finland, urged Finns to evaluate the meaning of independence. In addition, he stated that the Finnish Defence Forces are the guarantee of independence. According to Hägglund the defence readiness of Finland has achieved international recognition. A prestigious international military publication has stated that Finland’s defence readiness is better than that of other EU countries. Hägglund believed that this is because of the Finns’ strong will for defence, and readiness to defend their independence in all situations.
President Halonen, Prime Minister Lipponen, Foreign Minister Tuomioja, Finance Minister Niinistö, and the Foreign Trade Minister Sasi took part in the Nice Summit, which focused on the structural changes in the EU before the eastern enlargement. On 11.11. the leaders of the EU states agreed on the so-called Treaty of Nice. The purpose of the agreement is to facilitate the enlargement of the Union. All member states can keep their commissioners until 2005, when the larger states will lose their second commissioner. The number of votes of the Council of Ministers will increase to 346. Finland has 7 votes. The Summit decided that when the Union enlarges the number of MP’s in the European Parliament would increase to 738. Finland will receive 13 seats. There will be more flexibility so that a minimum of eight countries can have closer cooperation, when others can join in later. The qualified majority voting concerning trade policy was increased according to Finland’s expectations. In the future unanimous vote is not required in international agreements, which concern the trading of services. The Summit also agreed on how to proceed if a member country violates common democracy and human rights values. Concerning the crisis management resolutions the EU leaders discarded references to EU’s independent defence ability. Finland’s government, for instance, believes that it is wise to use NATO’s existing resources. In a press conference on 11.11. Lipponen stated that the Nice Treaty weakens EU’s ability to operate, and it cannot be considered a permanent solution. According to Lipponen we should consider "which way the Union is heading. The trend is intergovernmental, which means that the larger states will increase their power." Finland did not want to overturn the Treaty, because the failing of the Nice Summit would have, according to the government, slowed down the Eastern enlargement of the EU. Tuomioja believed that during the meeting the EU did not break into two camps – the small and large countries. He felt that the lesson of the meeting was that smaller states must make sure that their interests are efficiently attended to concerning institutional questions.
Nearly three thousand people from all over Finland took part in a demonstration in Helsinki to defend Israel. The demonstrators criticized the decision Finland made a while ago in the UN concerning Israel, which differed from the decision made by the other Nordic countries. The demonstrators called for fair treatment in the mediation of the Israeli and Palestinian conflict. The media was criticized for covering up for the Palestinian terrorism.
At the meeting of the Atlantic Council of Finland in Helsinki Prime Minister Lipponen stated that the negotiations in Nice were difficult. He felt that the situation that emerged from the results of the negotiations was satisfactory. EU will be able to enlarge, but the efficiency of decision-making did not become better with the resolutions that were made. Lipponen believed that it is important to focus on increasing qualified majority voting when the Union enlarges. In addition, the voting system of the Council should be reformed fairly soon.
According to research published by the Advisory Board of Defence Information (MTS) 52% of the Finns have a positive view towards the establishment of EU’s crisis management troops. 43% were against military operations being part of EU’s agenda. 57% supported Finland’s decision to place 1500 soldiers to the EU crisis management troops when 37 percent were against the decision. The Finns supported peace keeping more than crisis management troops, because only 7% were against it. Most of those asked (63%) did not approve of peace enforcement and aerial attacks such as the ones implemented in Kosovo. 56% supported participation in UN-led peacekeeping operations, and 33% felt that Finland should take part in operations led by EU and NATO as well. Neutrality is strongly supported in Finland (66%). In the spring 20% of the Finns supported becoming militarily allied, and in the fall the percentage was 25%. If Finland would decide to join an alliance, 48% of the Finns felt NATO would be an acceptable solution. One fifth of Finns believed that Finland’s best choice for alliance was developing EU into a military alliance. 17% (26% in June 2000) felt that Sweden would be the best choice for an alliance.
UNHCR, UN’s refuge organization, had its 50th anniversary, and the main event for the Baltic and Nordic countries was held in Helsinki. Gary Troeller, the regional representative for the Baltic and Nordic countries, predicted that there will be new Yugoslavias, Rwandas, and Timors for the world to mourn over. Helvi Sipilä, a former Vice Secretary General of the UN, who founded Finland’s own Refugee Council in 1965, emphasized the value of education for refugees.
Prime Minister Lipponen briefed the Parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee, and the Grand Committee about the resolutions of the Nice Summit. Lipponen stated that there are errors and unclear parts in the version of the Nice Summit resolutions made by France. He criticized two indistinct decisions. The other concerned holding the supplementary Summit in Brussels, in which according to Lipponen no decision was made. The other was the percentage threshold for quality majority votes, and the number of votes linked to it, which according to Lipponen was recorded incorrectly. According to the Prime Minister the forthcoming emphasis on the votes is not solid, and does not correspond to the European principles of equality.
Gerhard Schröder, the Federal Chancellor of Germany, proposed in Weiden, Germany that a seven-year interim period should be placed on Central and Eastern European countries, before the labor forces could move to other Union states. Tarja Filatov, the Finnish Minister of Labor, did not support the idea of a long transitional period. She stressed that free movement of labor is one of the four basic rights.
Alexander Stubb, the Secretary of the Finnish delegation, described the atmosphere of the Nice Summit at an occasion organized by the Department of Political Science of the Helsinki University and the European Security Forum. He stated that the Summit resulted in "much bad news and some good news." According to Stubb the greatest loser was the EU decision-making system, which was made more complicated. He criticized the EU President state France for its lack of objectivity, ability to organize and leadership. It also lacked an overall view and a strategy. However, three Prime Ministers had what France did not: Belgium’s Verhofstadt, Finland’s Lipponen, and Portugal’s Guterres were willing to defend the community point of view. Stubb was in favor of Lipponen’s idea that the agenda for the next IGC would be prepared by an extensive convention. This would make it possible to link the national parliaments, and non-governmental organizations to the process. Stubb believed that "smart federalism" would be a good solution for EU’s future. He stated that a US-type of federation model would be appropriate, with a clear distribution of jurisdiction among the regions of the member states, and the institutions of the EU."
Foreign Minister Tuomioja evaluated the fall term of the UN. He believes that confidence towards the UN has notably increased. He thanked Annan, the Secretary-General, for his work to restore the authority of the organization. Tuomioja stated that during the fall term Finland supported the reform of UN’s peacekeeping operations. He emphasized that in the future UN peacekeeping troops must have a clearer mandate than before. According to Tuomioja there must be specific rules concerning using power so we can avoid catastrophes such as Rwanda and Srebrenica. According to the Foreign Minister "UN must react strongly if one or the other breaks the peace treaty."
Aamulehti interviewed the upcoming Chief of Staff of the Ministry of Defence, Lieutenant General Matti Ahola. Ahola saw Finland’s situation in military policy strange in the sense that after the Cold War it did not change at all. According to him many other European countries have changed. Germany has other NATO-countries protecting it, and Sweden’s latitude has broadened due to Finland’s defence. According to Ahola the probable NATO membership of the Baltic Republics would bring NATO from the southern part of the Baltic Sea to the Gulf of Finland, which would bring possible crises closer to Finland. Ahola believes the situation requires a thorough reassessment of Finnish defence, and that the question of NATO membership would become much more important than it is now. If the level of the Finnish defence decreases, the defence deficit could only be replaced in a crisis situation by joining an alliance. Ahola stated that Finland would become increasingly dependent on the rest of Europe for the supplies it would need in a time of crisis. Ahola also said that he does not see much sense in giving up the use of anti-personnel landmines since no sensible solutions have been found that would replace them. Finland is the only EU member who is bordering Russia, and has not signed the treaty banning landmines. He emphasized that extensive use of landmines is part of Russia’s military doctrine. Furthermore, he stated that it is in the interest of the EU that the Finnish defence should hold. He added that all landmines are in storage, and there are no minefields on Finland’s land or maritime boarders.
Vladimir Putin, the President of Russia, spoke by telephone to President Halonen to mark the upcoming 80th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Finland and Russia. In addition, Mihail Kasjanov, Russia’s Prime Minister, sent a telegram to Prime Minister Lipponen, in which he affirmed his faith in the fruitful development of cooperation between the two countries in the new millennium.
Belgium asked the EU Defence Ministers to discuss the so-called Balkan syndrome. Nine peacekeepers from Belgium have fallen ill with cancer, of which five have died. Depleted uranium, which NATO used in the war in Kosovo for eleven weeks in the summer of 1999, has been suggested as one of the explanations for the deaths. A fourth of the Finnish peacekeepers, which served in Kosovo, have been examined this year. Colonel Pekka Majuri, who is responsible for peacekeeping in the Defence Ministry, stated that there have been no reasons for concern in the health of the soldiers.
In an interview with Aamulehti and Turun Sanomat Prime Minister Lipponen stated that he asks for patience when evaluating the effects of NATO’s possible expansion. According to him it is not wise to try to maneuver the decisions of Sweden and the Baltic, or to attempt to pre-evaluate what is good for Finland and what is not. Lipponen believes that Finland should pursue security policy side by side with Sweden, if it is possible. He stated that the two countries already have close cooperation, and he hoped to continue to be close in the future without additional drama.