Tarja Halonen, the President of Finland, stated in her New Year’s speech that Finland’s relations with its neighbouring countries are excellent. She said that Finland is still part of the Nordic family, and urged Finns to promote the Nordic welfare society. Halonen reminded the Finnish people that 31.12.2000 was the 80th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Finland and Russia. She stated that in her conversations with President Putin of Russia both Presidents noted that the relations between the two countries were now excellent. According to Halonen Russia has retained her importance as a major partner of Finland. She also said that there is a strong desire on Russia’s part to develop as a European state. Halonen believed it to be natural that at a time when a country is seeking a new way, that development in various segments of society has not been uniform; both the pace and direction have varied. Concerning the EU Summit held in Nice in December Halonen wanted to emphasize that despite the criticism, the conference succeeded in its basic objective: "The European Union is now ready to admit new members.”
Sweden took over the EU Presidency. Sweden’s goal is to promote the enlargement of the EU, as well as environmental and employment issues, to increase openness in the EU, to promote crisis management, and to develop relations between Russia and the EU. In addition, Sweden wants to actively take issue with crises affecting Europe, it has not been completely satisfied with the EU’s actions concerning the Middle East and the Balkans. Sweden also hopes that it could host a summit meeting between the United States and the EU.
Finland was appointed as the president of the Nordic Council of Ministers. In addition, in November Finland will receive the presidency of the Nordic Council. Finland´s theme for the presidency is "The Citizen of the North 2001. The object is that the citizens will receive information on the possibilities of being part of Scandinavia, especially considering hte job market and education.
According to the preliminary statistics of the Directorate of immigration 2970 people had sought refuge in Finland by the end of November. There were 2596 applicants at the corresponding time in 1999. Altogether 3106 refuges entered the country in 1999. A new law, which enables Finland to turn back the refugees quite quickly, became effective as of 10.7.2000, and the amount of refugees from Eastern Europe decreased rapidly.
The Ministry of Defence decided to begin an investigation as soon as possible to clarify if being exposed to depleted uranium (DU) had caused a health risk to the peace keeping troops. NATO used depleted uranium in armor-piercing rounds in the Balkans.
The Estonian Prime Minister Mart Laar met President Halonen in Helsinki. Halonen and Laar mainly discussed Estonia’s EU membership negotiations. Laar, who was on a private visit in Finland, traveled from Helsinki to Ilomantsi to meet with Prime Minister Paavo Lipponen. The prime ministers stated that both Estonia and Finland are interested in increasing economic and environmental cooperation with Russia. Both countries also want to research the environmental effects of the oil terminal at Primorsk. In an interview with the newspaper Karjalainen, Laar expressed his wish that NATO would make their decision soon concerning Estonia’s possible membership. He thought that the current uncertainty gnaws at relations between Estonia and Russia more than Estonia’s NATO membership would. According to Laar, negotiations concerning Estonia’s EU membership have been advancing so fast, that the country is sure to join the EU in the next wave.
The Finnish Ministry of Justice stated that the dives to the sunken "Estonia” ferry conducted by the American Gregg Bemis Jr. and the German Jutta Rabe were unethical, and condemned their aspiration to pressure the Swedish government into starting a new "Estonia” investigation. Finland said that a new investigation is unnecessary, because nothing new has surfaced. Sweden had asked Finland for a statement after two Swedish organizations linked with the "Estonia”-case had demanded a new, independent international investigation of the case.
Gianni Mattioli, the Italian minister in charge of EU issues, met in Helsinki the president of the Green League of Finland Satu Hassi, Minister of the Environment, Osmo Soininvaara, Minister of Health and Social Services, and Pekka Haavisto of the United Nations Environment Programme, who leads the team that is researching the environmental effects of the Kosovo war. Minister Mattioli claimed that the people living in Kosovo should be warned about the possible health risks of DU. Hassi stated that the current discussion on depleted uranium might lead to prohibition of the usage of DU in the future. Hassi had suggested a similar ban during Finland’s term as EU president in 1999, but at the time the motion did not receive enough support.
The EU Commission announced that it would form a group to investigate the potential health risks caused by DU ammunition in the Balkans, and particularly in Kosovo and Bosnia. 10.1. NATO’s Council decided in a meeting in Brussels to form a committee to study the possible health risks of DU. 10.1. the Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs stated that it had sent the Finnish civilians employed by the UN or NGOs in Kosovo a letter concerning the health risks of depleted uranium. The Foreign Ministry has advised the experts currently working in Kosovo to undergo normal physical examinations on their return home or during leave.
Prime Minister Lipponen had an unofficial meeting with Göran Persson, his Swedish counter part, in Harpsund, Sweden. After the meeting Lipponen stated that Finland must accept the situation, in which all EU summits would be held in Brussels. In addition, Lipponen said that Finland fully supports the central themes of Sweden’s EU presidency i.e. the enlargement of the Union, environment and employment questions, and the Northern Dimension initiative.
Esko Seppänen, a member of the European Parliament, published a book called ”Liittovaltio. Nyt?” (Federal State. Now?) At the publishing ceremony Seppänen challenged the Finnish government not to confirm the Treaty of Nice concerning the renewal of the EU institutions. Seppänen said it would stop the federal state development. According to Seppänen, Lipponen and his government have chosen a policy that moves towards a federal state without getting approval from the people. Furthermore, he demanded a referendum concerning the development towards a federal state.
Jan-Erik Enestam, the Defence Minister, confirmed that he would also bring up the subject of purchasing escort helicopters when the government renews the 1997 defence policy report. He felt it was natural to bring the subject up again, since the 1997 report comments on the purchasing of transportation and escort helicopters. According to Enestam the Defence Forces need escort helicopters.
The Cabinet Committee on European Union Affairs approved the Treaty of Nice on their behalf as well as the adjustments made by the EU Ambassadors. The final signing on behalf of Finland will be made by the Parliament. Finland had postponed the approval, because the threshold for the qualified majority voting was unclear, and because the decision to organize all summit meetings in Brussels had been slipped into the Treaty. According to Finland no resolution on the subject was made in Nice. The Cabinet Committee demanded that the efficiency of the decision-making system and the equal treatment of the member countries should be reconsidered when preparing the 2004 Intergovernmental Conference.
Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja stated at the meeting of the Scandinavian social democrat parties in Oslo that he supports the German defence minister Rudolf Scharping in his suggestion that ammunitions containing depleted uranium should be banned for the time being. Tuomioja thought that the suggestion was justifiable despite the fact that the Finnish Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority had stated that there was no problem. Tuomioja did comment that prohibiting DU ammunitions is not Finland’s but NATO’s business.
In an interview with news service UP-Uutispalvelu Defence Minister Enestam presented an estimate concerning Finland giving up anti-personnel land mines by the year 2010. According to Enestam it would cost Finland at least a billion marks to establish an alternative weapons system, and Finland cannot afford that. Enestam suggested that in 2006 Finland would make a decision in principle to give up the land mines. Because of the lack of funds this decision would be carried out as the mines become unusable, and not in the four years stated in the Ottawa Convention.
YLE radio reported that Defence Minister Enestam had stated that the Defence Ministry is considering lowering the age limit of the reservists from 50 to 35. This would mean, that Finland’s troops during warfare would be 300 000 instead of 430 000. Later Enestam clarified his statement. He said that in the radio interview he had only made a suggestion relating to the time after 2010, when preparing a new defence report. Lieutenant General Ilkka Hollo, Chief of the Defence Staff, stated on his behalf that at the moment the Headquarters have no plans to change the draft age.
Prime Minister Lipponen spoke in Oulu at the first national forum on the Northern Dimension, which prepares practical projects based on the plan of action approved by the European Council last summer. According to Lipponen the administration of the Northern Dimension should be strengthened in the European Commission. The Commission should hire personnel to manage the realization of Northern Dimension’s plan of action, and reserve funding for the upcoming projects. He said that it would not be possible to add more funds for the project from EU’s budget. When presenting the project, Finland’s standpoint was that Finland would not seek more funds from the structural funds of the Union. The European Investment Bank, the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) as well as the Nordic Investment Bank (NIB) could act as possible sponsors for the project. In addition, it was suggested in Oulu that the plan of action would contain creating a forestry programme for northwestern Russia, and establishing an internet connection in every school in the Baltic Sea region.
Eduard Kukan, the Foreign Minister of Slovakia, met Foreign Minister Tuomioja in Helsinki. Kukan stated that he gives little credence to the fears of Germany and Austria concerning the mass immigration of labour from Slovakia after it joins the EU. Tuomioja as well felt that the fear was unrealistic. However, he commented, "that such concerns are political reality in these and other EU countries.” The Finnish government, or the EU has not yet discussed the transitional periods.
Defence Minister Enestam said in the newspaper Karjalainen that he hopes that the NATO discussions could move on to analyzing the advantages and disadvantages of entering the alliance. According to Enestam one of the advantages of membership is the economic benefits that come with it. He said that in the long run joining the alliance has its economic benefits because it would be possible to specialize in certain areas of defence, and not have to purchase all the weapons systems needed for unilateral defence. According to Enestam having a safety guarantee is another benefit of joining the alliance. He mentioned that this would be an unambiguous benefit, if Finland was in a security policy vacuum. Enestam said that the drawbacks of the alliance are losing your independence and the possible negative impact joining the alliance would have for the security of Finland’s neighbouring areas. However, Enestam said that Finland is not pursuing NATO membership. He called for an impartial study of the issue. He also mentioned the lack of funding for the Defence Ministry. He stated that the defence expenses are realistically already a billion marks below the level that was suggested in the 1997 report. Enestam estimated that the deficit would increase to 4 to 6 billion by year 2004, if the proposition of the Ministry of Finance materializes. The Defence Minister considered it necessary to purchase escort helicopters to protect the transport helicopters.
In an interview with the newspaper Huvudstadsbladet Defence Minister Enestam repeated his statement that Finland cannot maintain a credible defence with the resources planned in the budget until year 2004. Enestam also emphasized that it is impossible to replace mines with other weapon systems within the framework of the normal defence force budget. A study is taking place, which investigates replacing the mines as they become unusable. Enestam commented that because of outside pressure it would be best to follow the regulations of the Ottawa Convention soon. When asked how quickly would NATO membership become economically profitable, he stated that the savings would really not be that big, and that economic arguments would not make a difference when deciding on the membership. He supported an impartial investigation into the issue, because he felt that a study conducted by the Ministry could easily be seen as partial. In addition, he stated that Finland should not join NATO if the majority of Finns are against the membership of the military alliance.
Foreign Minister Tuomioja stated at the Turku chapter of the Paasikivi-society, that the outcomes of the Nice Summit concerning EU decision-making are not sustainable. He said that it is vital to re-examine the decision-making structures in 2005 at the latest, when the EU enlargement has possibly begun. According to Tuomioja twelve out of fifteen countries would be ready to accept the so-called simple double majority, which would have been the clearest solution. According to Tuomioja flexibility was solved satisfactory. Defence was excluded from flexibility. Tuomioja said that the countries, which wanted to include flexibility in defence, aimed to bring the Eurocorps forces under the EU flag. According to Tuomioja this is a good example of cooperation, which should be kept outside the EU structures. However, he was unhappy that Finland’s interest, the flexibility option, was excluded from cooperation in military industry.
Information leaked out that EU’s foreign policy representative Javier Solana had strongly criticized the Union’s strategy in foreign policy in his report, which was distributed to the EU countries in December 2000. In Solana’s opinion the policies concerning Russia, the Ukraine, the Mediterranean, and the Balkans were not effective enough. Instead, according to Solana, only issues in which the 15 member states could agree upon were chosen to be included in the policies. Foreign Minister Tuomioja admitted that the criticism was partly justifiable. The foreign ministers of the EU considered where to direct the aid concerning external affairs in the future. According to Tuomioja decisions have not been made concerning the areas of emphasis of the aid. The countries of Northern Europe were not satisfied with the current policy, in which notably the Mediterranean countries get more aid than Russia.
Prime Minister Lipponen paid a work related visit to Moscow, where he met President Putin and Prime Minister Mihail Kasyanov. In the negotiations Finland and Russia reached a unanimous decision in principle concerning the gas pipeline. The gas pipeline of the Barents Sea would run through Northern Russia down to Vyborg from where it would continue through Finnish territorial waters, and then turn south across the Baltic Sea to Germany. Lipponen said that the next stage in this project is the establishment of an international consortium. In addition, he hoped that it would be possible to form a working group within the EU so the energy dialogue with Russia, which started in the autumn at the EU Summit in Paris, could be continued. The talks also included the Russian oil terminal at Primorsk, which is now under construction. Lipponen hoped that because of the massive increase in traffic caused by the oil terminal, it would be possible to use only double-hulled tankers in the Gulf of Finland. Lipponen envisioned the same kind of safety rules for the Gulf of Finland as the ones that are in force in the Straits of Denmark and the English Channel. A third question that came up was the planned Euro-Russia Agreement, which would allow the export of goods such as electronic components to Russia, and the import of finished goods from Russia without customs duties, or cumbersome formalities.
President Halonen visited the Council of Europe in Strasbourg. She visited the Council’s court of justice, and spoke at its Parliamentary Assembly. Halonen gave her support to ensuring Russia’s membership. The Russian delegation’s credentials had been placed on the table on 22.1. In the President’s view, human rights are a solid foundation on which to build European cooperation. According to Halonen human rights give "positive security guarantees.” At the Assembly Halonen suggested that Russia should set interim goals concerning the EU’s requirements. Halonen did not want to speculate whether or not the Council had set the right interim goals for Russia. She said that the suspension of Russia’s vote last spring had been "a tough measure.” Halonen repeated her view that officials, legislative bodies, and governments dealing with the European Union, the Council of Europe, and the OSCE should coordinate their operations better than at the moment. She proposed "that serious consideration be given to a need to create for the Roma some kind of consultative assembly to represent them on the pan-European level. According to Halonen the Roma are a European minority that lacks advocates.
Foreign Minister Tuomioja stated at a press conference in Helsinki, that he does not agree with Defence Minister Enestam’s suggestion to postpone the renunciation of anti-personnel land mines. He said that the government and the President made a decision concerning the subject, and that he sees no reason to change the decision, or the tentative schedule. In addition, Tuomioja said that postponing the decision would reflect negatively on Finnish foreign policy. He stated that Finland had avoided criticism on the mine issue because it has a clear program concerning the renunciation of the land mines.
The Council of State confirmed that Finland would support neighbouring regions with 230 million marks this year. The main focus of the aid is, according to the Northern Dimensions policy, northwestern Russia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and the Kaliningrad area. According to the Foreign Ministry the main goal of the aid is supporting the political and economical change in the neighbouring regions.
General Gustav Hägglund, Chief of Defence stated that the defence appropriations are billions behind from what was recommended in the defence and security policy report in 1997. The General, who was concerned of the military funding, said that closing one garrison might be possible, but closing two garrisons would affect the number of conscripts. Hägglund stated, "if the appropriation decreases significantly we will have to close down the air force or make some major decisions.” Furthermore, Hägglund stated that there are no plans to lower the age limit of the reservists from 50 to 35.
Sunnuntaisuomalainen, a supplement appearing in the Sunday editions of a number of provincial Finnish newspapers, published a poll it had conducted concerning President Halonen’s job performance. Halonen received a relatively good grade. On the 4 to 10 grading scale used in Finnish schools, Halonen averaged a 7.6 from both the people as well as her revivals from the presidential elections. According to the results Halonen came close to the 7.7 rating of her predecessor Martti Ahtisaari at the end of his term early last year. Halonen got her highest marks in promoting gender equality, and in her leadership of Finnish foreign policy. Her weakest marks were for her role as commander of the Defence Forces, and in promoting regional development.
Tarja Filatov, the Minister of Labour, represented Finland in Stockholm at the EU meeting on xenophobia. Göran Persson, the Swedish Prime Minister, opened the meeting. He stated that to abolish xenophobia we must move from talking to acting. UN’s Human Rights Commissioner Mary Robinson, and the Secretary General of the UN, Kofi Annan, criticized the immigration policy of the EU. Annan was surprised that EU’s immigration policy is getting stricter when at the same time the EU admits it has a need for outside labour. According to a member of the EU Commission the EU does not limit the amount of immigrants and refugees, but, in fact, supports legal immigration in many ways. The EU working groups are currently discussing how it would be possible to implement the same rights for immigrants coming from outside the EU in all the member states.
The Norwegian Foreign Minister Thorbjörn Jagland visited Finland. The host of the visit was Finnish Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja. In addition, Jagland met President Halonen and Prime Minister Lipponen. The subjects of the discussions were the enlargement of the EU, EU crisis management, relations between EU and NATO, Norway’s actions in the United Nations Security Council, and the situation in the Middle East and the Balkans.
Prime Minster Lipponen held a press conference, which has become a tradition of sorts at the beginning of the Parliament’s spring session. He reported on the government’s plans for the coming months. Preparations for the report on security and defence policy received considerable attention at the meeting because of recent public disagreements on military funding that have broken out between the Finnish military chiefs, and second Finance Minister Suvi-Anne Siimes. Lipponen stated that the government has not yet discussed issues of military funding. The Prime Minister said that the question would be taken up when the government has analyzed the potential threats facing Finland, and discussed what priorities should be set for the Defence Forces. Lipponen appealed to the leaders of all government parties to take the issue seriously.
An authoritative economic council, consisting of representatives of the government, industry and commerce as well as other interest groups, evaluated the economic effects of eastern enlargement in their report concerning EU enlargement and Finland. According to the evaluation the enlargement will not shake the basis of Finnish economy. Furthermore, the Council stated that mass immigration of labour to Finland is not expected to happen. The enlargement is predicted to affect Finnish economy through both the markets and the monetary systems of the EU. Because the level of income in the new countries is below average, the new member states get more financial aid than they pay membership fees. Since the level of income of these countries is lower than Finland’s level, Finland’s net payments will increase a little. The size of the bill depends on how much money will return to Finland through agricultural, regional and other support. The Ministry of Finance has estimated that Finland’s share of the increase in net cost after all applicant countries are accepted is roughly 3 milliard Finnish marks a year.
Finland supplied a field hospital, with 160 beds, to the earthquake area of Bhuji in India. The hospital started operating on 1.2. to help the victims of the earthquake.
In an interview with Uutispäivä Demari, President Halonen indirectly commented on Defence Minister Enestam’s statement that the membership of NATO would in the long run be more economical than staying outside the alliance. According to Halonen, NATO membership cannot be considered as a question of money. If such a decision were made, it would be based on political arguments. She said that in her opinion it is more important that Finland’s Defence Forces have the right capacity for territorial defence and crisis management. In addition, Halonen commented on the debate concerning Finland’s timetable on signing the international agreement banning anti-personnel land mines. According to the President everybody should remember that Finland should try to reach an agreement. Halonen said that there is no reason to rush deepening the EU. She stated that it would be appropriate to discuss Prime Minister Lipponen’s suggestion concerning an agreement similar to the constitution, but that there is no need for Sweden as the EU President to rush the issue.
At the official opening of the Parliament President Halonen stated that decisions involving EU enlargement and integration require the positive contribution of all the highest institutions of the state. According to Halonen it would be desirable to achieve the highest-possible degree of agreement in the political will on these matters. Decision-making in foreign policy, according to the President, operates in the manner that the President makes her formally structured decisions together with the government on the basis of its preparation and recommendation. The President commented on the new constitution, which came into effect at the beginning of President Halonen’s term in office. Halonen noted that the constitutionally mandated cooperation between the President and the government has proceeded well.
Minister Max Jakobson stated in his Helsingin Sanomat column that Finland has only two alternatives concerning defence policy: either to maintain a military non-allied status or seek entry into NATO. He commented that the alternatives are not as clear-cut as during the Cold War era. Continuing the present course i.e. maintaining independent defence does not mean that as a EU member and as part of NATO’s Partnership for Peace- programme Finland would be left hanging, if threatened with an attack. According to the present policy Finland can receive outside help, but is not committed to providing it to others. According to Jakobson the drawbacks of the present course is that Finland remains out of NATO decision-making, and on the possibility of exerting influence on the European security. The other drawback is due to the decline of the defence budget, Finland cannot maintain credible defence alone. Finland does not practically have any other way to maintain credible defence except by joining an alliance. In addition, Jakobson stated that the Baltic region is not stable as long as the small Baltic countries are both outside the EU and outside NATO.
Prime Minister Lipponen visited Latvia, where he negotiated with his Latvian counterpart Andris Berzins and President Vaira Vike-Freiberga. During his visit Lipponen promised that Finland would increase its economic, political, and administrative aid to Latvia to help the country prepare for membership in the European Union. At the moment Finland is assisting Latvia in issues concerning domestic and legal affairs, and in language education for ethnic minorities. The Northern Dimension was also a subject of discussion between the Prime Ministers. Especially concerning energy, Finland and Latvia share a common interest. Both countries are promoting an energy network that would go around the entire Baltic Sea, and which would include electricity and gas. Lipponen also believes that the EU memberships for Baltic States would help them improve their relations with Russia.
A Swedish daily newspaper Dagens Nyheter stated in an article titled "Sveriges bantade försvar kräver utländsk militär hjälp” that Sweden’s renewed and reduced defence forces couldn’t repel a possible attack from Russia on its own. Colonel Heikki Hult, Chief of the Department of Strategic and Defence Studies at National Defence College, stated in an interview with Hufvudstadbladet 8.2. that the cut backs in the defence capacity will lead to a situation where both Sweden and Finland become NATO members.
Foreign Minister Tuomioja commented on Israeli elections, which were won by Ariel Sharon of the Likud party. He emphasized that Sharon should be judged by his actions as a Prime Minister, not by his earlier statements or actions. According to Tuomioja it is important to stick to what has been previously decided between the Palestinians and the Israelis, and not to start off from the beginning in the negotiations. That would endanger the peace process, and according to Tuomioja it would be hard to start the process again without violence.
At a panel discussion of the European Commission Representation in Finland at the Old Student House, President Halonen said she would like to see the EU put greater emphasis on enlargement, and on the implementation of decision that have been made. According to Halonen the greatest concern raised by the Nice Summit was a lack of political will. She said that the lack of faith in a common future makes many people in the member states focus on blocking decisions that are disadvantageous for them instead of trying to achieve common solutions. Halonen expressed the hope that in the future the development of the EU would be viewed more from the point of view of the EU citizens. President Halonen suggested joint familiarization training in civilian crisis management. According to Halonen, many questions remain unsolved both nationally and internationally concerning the coordination of such training. The President said that she personally discussed with President Ahtisaari the need for training and the possibility of commencing this training in Finland.
The Cabinet Committee on Foreign and Security Policy discussed the Unifil-operation. According to the committee Finland is prepared to decrease its troops in the Unifil-operation in Lebanon. By the end of July half of the troops i.e. 300 to 350 men, will be pulled out. Finland will prepare to pull out of the operation completely at a later time, possibly this year.
Foreign Minister Tuomioja proposed in an interview with the Swedish-language radio news Aktuellt of Finnish Broadcasting Company YLE that the European Union foreign ministers discuss the United States’ plan for missile defence system in their upcoming meeting. The Swedish Foreign Minister Anna Lindh, heavily criticized the US undertaking last week. Tuomioja stated that he shares Lindh´s concern about a possible arms race. He emphasized that Finland strives to keep both Russia and the United States cooperating with the European nations. According to Tuomioja everybody should be concerned about the situation in Russia. Tuomioja sees the economic development in Russia as good, but that it should also lead to changes in social conditions.
Ilkka Suominen, Member of the European Parliament, demanded at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, that the EU should give Russia greater economic support. He stated that the EU has invested in the cooperation around the Mediterranean although there have not yet been any results. The EU’s investment in Russia has only been one tenth of the share given to the Mediterranean area. Suominen called, for instance, for loan arrangements for the environmental projects in Finland’s neighbouring regions.
The President of Austria, Thomas Klestil, visited Finland, where he met President Halonen, Prime Minister Lipponen and the Parliamentary Speaker, Riitta Uosukainen. Halonen stated that the boycott of Austria no longer harmed the "excellent relations” between Finland and Austria. Halonen said that human rights issues are in good shape in Austria. She said, "Racism and xenophobia are a common risk for Europe, a risk for all humanity. We have no reservations towards Austria in this respect.” President Klestil stated in Helsinki that a possible decision on NATO membership is up to Austria itself, however, he commented that the issue is not a particularly topical one. Both presidents agreed that the EU countries that are outside of NATO should see to it that all EU countries are treated equally when decisions are made on defence and security issues. Both presidents underlined their respective countries’ responsibility in advancing the enlargement process of the EU. After the meeting Lipponen commented on the Austria boycott. According to him the effects of the boycott were positive because "principles were clarified. This is not just an issue for Austria. We have agreed together how issues can be followed, and how to act.”
In an interview with newspaper Hufvudstadsbladet President Halonen expressed her wish that an active Parliament could counterbalance the increased power of the government, and make popular referendums unnecessary. She stated that the problem of referendums was that "it is hard to condense the questions to fit the yes or no answers.” However, Halonen emphasized that she is not entirely against referendums; after all they are legal in Finland. She also added to her earlier statement concerning the NATO membership for the Baltic States, that she never meant to warn NATO not to take the Baltic States in, but to emphasize that NATO should treat every applicant equally, and according to its rules. The President stated that NATO’s decision to open its doors to new member countries would affect the stability of the Baltic Sea region. She hoped that the relations between NATO and Russia would get better. Halonen underlined that "the most important way to strengthen security and stability in Europe is the eastern enlargement of the EU.”
The leaders of the Estonian Social Democrat party Möödukats, the party President Andres Tarand, and Foreign Minister Toomas Ilves met with the President of the Finnish Social Democrats (SDP), Prime Minister Paavo Lipponen, and several representatives of the SDP parliamentary group. The discussions revealed that both Ilves and Lipponen are concerned about the status of the small countries as the EU enlarges. Ilves did not believe that Estonian mass immigration to Finland would occur once Estonia becomes a EU member. He said that the immigration would rather focus toward the United States, Great Britain and Germany.
Foreign Minister Tuomioja visited the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, where he met the new head of UN Mission in Kosovo, Hans Haekkerup, as well as leaders of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia such as Foreign Minister Goran Svilanovic, and Federal President Vojislav Kostunica. In addition, Tuomioja was introduced to the operations of the Finnish KFOR battalion. In a telephone interview with STT he stated that the KFOR peacekeeping troops would be needed in the area for quite a while. The purpose of Tuomioja’s visit was to gather information for the EU foreign ministers´ meetings.
Foreign Minister Tuomioja stated that Finland supports re-evaluating the sanctions against Iraq. According to Tuomioja Finland has had this opinion for a while, and the opinion has nothing to do with last weeks bombings of Iraq. Tuomioja said that the sanction policy has not been effective, instead it has caused sufferings in bystanders.
The Office of the Council of State decided that the victims of genocide would get their own memorial day in Finland. According to the decision the Memorial Day is the 27th of January, which is the liberation date of Auschwitz.
The President of the Center Party, Anneli Jäätteenmäki, demanded in Helsingin Sanomat that the Government make a proposal concerning Finland’s EU goals. According to her there must be a debate over what Finland wants on the agenda of the Intergovernmental Conference of 2004. Jäätteenmäki stated that the Parliament has not had the opportunity to discuss any major EU questions, with the exception of EMU, since Finland became a member. Jäätteenmäki wants to discuss issues such as the possibility of a federation or cooperation between governments as an alternative, eastward expansion, and the role of Parliaments in EU cooperation.
Helsingin Sanomat reported that the Finnish Institution of Occupational Health had studied the urine samples of 50 soldiers that have served in Kosovo. The uranium content of the urine samples were the same as those taken from 50 healthy Finns.
At the traditional Matthie-mahlzeit dinner in Hamburg Prime Minister Lipponen repeated his call for a constitution for the European Union in a somewhat modified form. Lipponen said that there would be a reason to "discuss moving the Union in the direction of a constitution.” The justification was that this way it would be possible "to establish clearer and more equal starting points" for the development of the EU. Lipponen was critical of the present model based on cooperation among the governments of the EU states. He stated that the world would not stop "to wait for decisions which get bogged down in complicated decision making mechanisms and disputes between governments.” According to Lipponen greater efficiency in decision-making is necessary. Lipponen pointed out that concrete results are expected from the EU in issues such as environmental protection, food safety, the fight against international crime, and harmonization of immigration policies. At the same time the EU is expected "to implement the same kind of democratic decision-making, and to have the same kind of structure of political responsibility as the nation-states that have transferred tasks to the EU”.
The Polish Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek visited Finland and expressed Poland’s concern over the next enlargement process of the EU. Prime Minister Lipponen said that it should be clarified how to speed up the membership discussions.
Johannes Koskinen, the Minister of Justice, stated in his column in the newspaper Hämeen Sanomat that as the EU enlarges, he would like to see transitional periods for the opening of the employment market. According to Koskinen the effects of free movement of labour have been underestimated in official reports.
The foreign ministers of the EU signed the Treaty of Nice in Brussels. Foreign Minister Tuomioja signed the Treaty on behalf of Finland. The Treaty will take effect in the beginning of 2003 at the earliest, when the EU Parliament and the Parliaments of the 15 member states have approved the Treaty. In the meeting the EU foreign ministers decided to give 60 million euros aid to the Palestinian government. In addition, they decided to have a special funding meeting to discuss supporting Palestinian regions, because EU does not want to support the Palestinians on its own. The EU also agreed on a notable support package for developing countries: 48 of the least developed countries are allowed to start exporting their goods to the EU countries without tariffs starting in March. However, the agreement includes long interim periods for important goods.
The Finnish Parliament formed its own ATTAC-group. The name ATTAC is an acronym for Association for the Taxation of Financial Transactions for the Aid of Citizens. The group is opposed to international currency speculation, and wants more efficient taxation of capital gains incomes. It also wants to abolish tax havens, slow down the spread of private pension funds, promote openness and transparency in investments in developing countries, and supports calls to write off Third World debt. One of the key goals of the association is the so-called Tobin tax, which would tax currency transfers on the currencies market.
The newest report on Finnish attitudes conducted by EVA, the Centre for Finnish Business and Policy Studies, revealed that criticism towards the EU has notably increased, although the majority still takes a positive view towards the Union. The Finns have a reserved attitude towards the EU’s eastern enlargement, the euro, and NATO. Belief in the development of a federal state has increased in all groups of the population.
Officials from Finland’s Ministry of the Environment visited Moscow. At the meeting the Russian officials ensured the Finns that the planned oil terminal in Primorsk on the Russian coast of the Gulf of Finland, and the oil pipe that will run to it fulfill both the Russian and international requirements.
President Halonen discussed the role of the president on the anniversary of her first year in office. She stated that she never intended to be a weak president, but she said she had made the decision at the beginning of her term that she would not encroach on the role of others. Halonen concluded her message by saying that "you must be constitutional, strong and cooperative.” She emphasized that the new principle of cooperation is included in the new constitution, especially concerning the leadership of foreign and security policy. She felt that participation in the EU Summits has been necessary, because the meetings have handled issues that are part of the president’s authority.
Helsingin Sanomat published the newest study conducted by Taloustutkimus, the Full Service Marketing Research Company, concerning the Finnish opinions on NATO. 65 percent of the respondents were against Finland joining NATO. 21 percent were for the membership, and 14 percent could not state their view. NATO’s popularity peaked in the autumn of 1998 when around one-third of the respondents were in favor and slightly less than half were opposed. This position collapsed abruptly by the spring of 1999 when NATO began to take military action against Yugoslavia.
The European Ombudsman Jacob Söderman criticized the lack of openness in the European Commission in a letter addressed to the President of the Commission, Romano Prodi. Söderman called on the Commission to give a cleaner definition of the freedom of speech of EU civil servants. Söderman criticized the practice in the Commission under which officials need to have the permission of their superiors before giving statements or writing articles in newspapers. According to Söderman "a careful reading of the rules could prevent all types of useful exchange of information between a civil servant and the public at large.”
Göran Persson, the Prime Minister of Sweden, visited Finland before the EU Summit in Stockholm. Both Persson and Lipponen were very pleased that the Northern Dimension is finally reaching a concrete phase in Stockholm, when the European Investment Bank will support Russian environmental investments such as the further building of the southwestern water treatment facility in St. Petersburg.
Jan-Erik Enestam, the Minister responsible for the neighbouring regions, said that supporting the St. Petersburg water treatment plant is one of the most significant measures that Finland could take to better the environment. According to Enestam Finland must bear its responsibility, and join the environmental foundation, which will be established soon to help finish the work on the water treatment facility.
Foreign Minister Tuomioja said in the Hämeen Sanomat newspaper, that he believes that the epidemic in foot and mouth disease might lead to changes in the EU’s agriculture policy. According to Tuomioja it would not necessarily be a bad thing if the funding of agriculture became national. In the long run this could be one way to change agricultural policy. Although if funding were to be managed nationally, the principles would be decided upon together.
Prime Minister Lipponen stated at the Social Democrat Party’s EU seminar, that it appears to be necessary to have transition periods before the free movement of labour begins when the EU enlarges. However, Lipponen would like the EU to go ahead and enlarge all at once. Lipponen feels that the best option would be to end all the membership negotiations at the same time with most of the applicants. The rest should be clearly informed about the timetable for joining the EU.
At a seminar at the Swedish Embassy in Helsinki former Swedish Prime Minister Ingvar Carlsson said that he regrets that he did not personally inform President Mauno Koivisto of his countries intentions to apply for the EU membership. He also said that Sweden did not try to push Finland away when the negotiations and discussions for the membership were at their peak. In the autumn of 1990 at the Parliamentary economic policy discussions Carlsson suddenly announced Sweden’s intention to apply for the EU membership. Carlsson said he had asked his civil servants to tell President Koivisto or Jaakko Kalela, the Secretary General of the President’s Office, about the application, a day before his announcement. Tom Westergård, the then Head of Information of the Office of the Council of State, had received the message, but was unable to pass it along to Koivisto or Kalela because they were in Portugal at the time. Koivisto said that on the plane on his way home he commented on Sweden’s decision, and asked that his comments would not be published. Nevertheless, the STT reporter spread the news, that caused confusion in the relations between Finland and Sweden.
Joseph Kabila, the President of the Democratic Republic of Congo, visited Finland, where he met President Halonen and Foreign Minister Tuomioja. The discussions involved the peace endeavors to stop the civil war that started in 1998 in the DRC. Kabila stated that the EU should clearly condemn the presence of foreign forces in the DRC.
President Halonen opened the seven-part Studia Generalia-seminar concerning the crisis points and the role of religions in the world politics. Halonen discussed means of civilian and military crisis management, and emphasized that the wisest thing to do would be to focus on the prevention of crises. She stated that all relevant institutions should be used in civilian crisis management i.e. also the Council of Europe and the OSCE. She reminded people that at the moment soldiers are also taking care of civilian tasks, because there is nobody else to do them. In addition, Halonen hoped for a strengthening of the UN as soon as possible. The President commented on the enlargement of NATO to the Baltic countries, and said that NATO membership of the Baltic countries would not change Finland’s position in any way.
The Cabinet Committee on European Union Affairs framed Finland’s preliminary opinion concerning the free movement of labour when the eastern enlargement of the EU takes place. Finland supports the so-called flexible transition period, which means that the decided upon transition period would be re-evaluated at some point in the middle of the term. If there are no problems i.e. mass immigration of labour has not occurred, the restricted time period could be shortened. In addition, individual countries could implement a shorter transitional period than the Union. Furthermore, Finland wants a security clause included, which would make it possible to slow down immigration, if a country is suddenly threatened by a mass immigration of labour. Mass immigration of labour would cause a decrease in the level of wages in the old member states, and mix up the employment market. The Party Council of the SDP, and SAK, the Central Organization of Finnish Trade Unions, have supported the flexible transitional period, among others.
Helsingin Sanomat reported an opinion poll conducted by the information office of the European Parliament and the television station MTV3, which inquired about opinions on several topical EU questions. 41 percent of Finns would like to keep the EU as it currently is, and 31 percent would like to make the EU a looser organization. The citizens do not relate to the idea of a federal state. 40 percent of the citizens would like the power of the Parliament to stay as it is, when nearly 30 percent would like to see an increase in the Parliament’s power. Only one fifth of the respondents would decrease the power of the members of the Parliament. Two thirds would like to restrict free movement of labour as the EU enlarges to the east. Only every fourth respondent thought the EU should have a constitution. Most respondents (66%) supported the current system, in which basic rights are "declared.” Popular referendums were considered the best way to decide about the EU’s future.
Foreign Minister Tuomioja stated at a function organized by Finland’s branch of Amnesty, the human rights organization, that the international consumer boycotts have strongly influenced multinational companies, as being connected to breaches of human rights can have serious negative effects for the companies. Tuomioja saw globalization as a mostly positive subject from the point of view of human rights, because globalization has increased openness and transparency.
Aftenpost, a Norwegian newspaper, published an interview with Prime Minister Lipponen a day before the Prime Minister’s Norway visit. Lipponen said that plans by many European countries to give up nuclear power are economically senseless, and that all sources of energy are needed. He denounced the threats by environmental organizations to boycott Finnish products if Finland decides to build a fifth nuclear reactor. In the interview Lipponen especially criticized the Norwegian environmental organization Bellona, which conducted a raid against a salmon breeding plant in Finnish Lappland in 1995, and was fined. Lipponen called the activists terrorists. On 19.3. Frederic Hauge, the President of Bellona, said that he would demand an apology, or he would investigate the possibility of taking Lipponen to court over the statement. 20.3. Lipponen and Bellona settled their dispute, Lipponen admitted that he had chosen his words poorly when he talked about terrorist actions. However, he said that in an open society such as that of Finland, where there are other ways of solving problems people should not break the law.
The EU countries and NATO condemned the Albanian separatist attacks against the Macedonian security troops. They emphasized that any kind of support for the Albanian rebels should be prohibited. In a meeting in Brussels with the Foreign Ministers of the EU and George Robertson, the Secretary General of NATO, Srgan Kerim, the Foreign Minister of Macedonia, said that Macedonia does not want western troops in the country. Kerim stated that security should be strengthened on the Kosovo side of the border. The EU promised Macedonia 200 million Finnish marks more of financial aid in order for it to remain a functional multi-national society.
Prime Minister Lipponen visited Norway, where he met Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg. In their meeting Lipponen said that in his opinion Norway’s reaction to the foot and mouth disease was slightly exaggerated. The Prime Ministers agreed that as the EU enlarges, Nordic cooperation becomes more important. Lipponen hoped that concerning the Northern Dimension, it would be possible to eliminate the overlap in the operation of Nordic organisations, and thus increase the efficiency of activities. Both Prime Ministers brought up the plan, which the Baltic Sea Prime Ministers started last summer to fight infectious diseases in the Baltic countries and Russia. In addition, Lipponen said that Finland is especially interested in cooperation concerning energy, and underlined that Finland’s strategic goal is to build a gas pipeline that would supply the whole Baltic Sea region.
President Halonen told the Constitutional Law Committee that she wants to protect the new constitution from threats that are coming from outside of Finland. According to Halonen, EU decision-making could be such a threat. She thought that it would not be desirable to end up in a situation where important constitutional issues would be decided upon within the EU institutions. Such a decision could be connected, for instance, to security policy. Halonen told the committee that she wished to maintain close cooperation with the Parliament by meeting directly with the its committees and the Human Rights Group of the Finnish Parliament.
All Nordic countries celebrated the Nordic Day. In a topical debate, the members of Parliament emphasized the meaning of Nordic cooperation. A special seminar took place at the Parliament to honour the day, and to reaffirm a strong trust in the power of Nordic cooperation. Media coverage of Nordic cooperation was considered minimal, but it was considered that the established cooperation does not necessarily need big headlines.
Helsingin Sanomat and Hufvudstadsbladet published a collective article by Prime Minister Lipponen and the Prime Minister of Great Britain, Tony Blair, in which they spoke on behalf of the competitive ability of the companies in the European Union. The Prime Ministers said, that "too often in the past, Europe has lost its economic advantages to others because of an unwillingness to capitalise on its advantages”. Blair and Lipponen stated that "a key requirement is a coherent, well functioning and efficiently implemented competition policy”. According to the Prime Ministers the Stockholm meeting, in which European leaders discussed problems for the entrepreneurs trying to create more jobs, is it in itself a reason to be proud. They wished that the meeting would "provide the foundation of that competitive and dynamic world leading economy we pledged ourselves to for all our citizens at Lisbon”.
President Halonen, Prime Minister Lipponen, Foreign Minister Tuomioja, and Finance Minister Niinistö took part in the EU Summit meeting in Stockholm. Vladimir Putin, who also took part in the meeting, was the first Russian President to participate in the discussions at an EU Summit. The Summit decided to fund some Russian environmental projects. The European Investment Bank will advance funds for the St. Petersburg water treatment plant. Furthermore, there will be funds to clean the water of Kaliningrad. Prime Minister Lipponen thought the decision was ground breaking. He stated that it would strongly advance the relations between Russia and the EU. President Halonen stated that the project proves that the often-slandered Northern Dimension does work in reality. At the meeting Putin demanded that before the eastern enlargement of the EU, a decision would be made to secure the traffic to Kaliningrad.
The Stockholm Summit took a step towards common finance markets, which will be created by the year 2005. The differences in opinion of the member states prevented them from making decisions concerning the dissolution of state monopolies, and opening the markets to competition. Finland got what it wanted from the Summit when, on Lipponen’s initiative, the Summit authorized the Commission to give an account on how the big losses of the auctions of the third generation mobile phones (umts) affected the competitive ability and development of the field. The Summit sent a message to the United States in which it criticized the decision of United States’ new administration for abandoning the climate objectives of Kyoto.
The Schengen Agreement took effect in Finland. In addition to Finland other Nordic countries joined the area in which border control is minor or nonexistent. Thirteen EU states, and Norway and Iceland are part of the Schengen Agreement.
President Martti Ahtisaari, visiting Macedonia, stated that the National Liberation Army (NLA), the organization which claims to represent the Macedonian Albanian minority, has succeeded in alerting the world to the Albanian minority´s lack of rights. He said, that the international community would make sure that the Albanians situation improves.
The EU interim Military Committee selected in Brussels General Gustav Hägglund, Chief of Defence of Finland, as a candidate for the position of permanent President of the Military Committee. General Hägglund stated that the election was also an acknowledgement of Finland, which has focused on developing the EU crisis management. In his position Hägglund will lead the Committee consisting of the European Union defence chiefs for three years starting next summer.
Prime Minister Lipponen visited Bulgaria where he met Prime Minister Ivan Kostov. The discussions involved Bulgaria’s EU membership, and the Macedonian situation. According to Kostov there is a real danger that Macedonia will dissolve. Lipponen hoped for patience from the Macedonian government, but also said that the Albanian government and politicians should control the disputes between the Albanians and other groups within the society.
At the Finnish Air Force Headquarters in Tikkakoski President Halonen stated clearly that Finland’s membership in NATO is not a topical issue, and that there are no efforts under way to secretly bring Finland into the inner circle of the alliance. In a new book by Jaakko Laakso and Pekka Ervasti called "Karhun naapurista Naton kainaloon” (From the bear’s neighbour to under the wing of NATO) Halonen emphasized that Finland’s security interests do not require that Finland should join NATO. Furthermore, she stated that it is not even possible to slip into NATO unnoticed. Applications have to be dealt with in both Finland and NATO. She also underlined that this is a long process. According to Halonen much more interesting than the NATO membership, is what is happening in the European Union. The Union’s security policy is being established, and Finland has a role in the process. The President said that crisis management capabilities should be improved both qualitatively and quantitatively. She emphasized that the EU and NATO implement the same policy in the sense that all countries that are willing, and who meet the requirements, can become members. According to Halonen this has a positive effect on European security, and in that respect NATO enlargement is part of European development. Halonen noted that 11 of the 15 EU member states are also members of NATO. From the point of view of crisis management it is important to maintain cooperation with NATO and to master the game of linking up the different systems. According to Halonen the EU will still for a long time be dependent on what it receives from the United States through NATO. Halonen expressed satisfaction at the choice of General Gustav Hägglund as the head of the EU’s Military Committee. She underlined that the best candidate was sought for the position. Whether the candidate was from an EU-country being member of NATO or not, was not important.
Foreign Minister Tuomioja was the opening speaker at a meeting of ATTAC, a citizens group against currency speculation, that has been characterized as radical. According to Tuomioja, globalization has come to a point where there is demand for politics. The initiative now is that governments should respond to the negative sides of globalization. Tuomioja said that globalization is not a bad thing, but he feels that the problem is that "the benefits are divided unevenly and unfairly.” He did not think that the Tobin-tax would take effect, because the United States and Japan are against it. According to Tuomioja it would be possible to gain stability on the international money market by, for example, revising supervision of international monetary institutions with national action, or by regulating the stock market in the context of the EU.
Foreign Minister Tuomioja stated in Helsinki that he hopes that the fighting in Macedonia could be brought to an end soon. He believes that the fighting will not spread to other part of the Balkans. According to Tuomioja the possibility of sending the UN troops to Macedonia again is not entirely excluded. He stated, "that the biggest mistake of the international community was when the UN pulled their troops out of Macedonia. I think it is likely, that the situation would not be what it currently is, had the UN troops been allowed to remain.” The UN troops had to leave Macedonia due to China’s veto resulting from Macedonia and Taiwan establishing diplomatic relations.
On her visit to the Lapland region, President Halonen denied that the participation of two Finnish F-18 fighter planes in an exercise in Germany was proof that Finland’s interest in NATO had grown. According to Halonen the exercise and participating in crisis management missions in the Balkans merely reflect the increase in cooperation in Europe. In addition, she said that Hägglund’s nomination, as the leader of the EU´s military committee, is proof of equality, and not of Finland’s increasing aspirations towards NATO.
Sinikka Mönkäre, the Minister of Trade and Industry, disapproved of the American President George W. Bush’s decision not to enforce the Kyoto climate agreement. She stated that the decision was selfish and irresponsible. Mönkäre emphasized that the decision would not affect Finland’s climate strategy. Also Satu Hassi, the Minister of the Environment, stated that Bush’s decision was very unfortunate.
The EU’s Ministers of Environment decided in their unofficial meeting in Kiruna, Sweden, that the EU would continue the Kyoto process without the United States, if the government of the United States made the decision to end the climate negotiations. The EU’s goal is to ratify the Kyoto Treaty in the year 2002. For the first time the EU emphasized that the Kyoto Treaty does not depend on the United States. Prodi, the President of the Commission, criticized Bush’s decision on 29.3. He underlined in the Italian La Republica newspaper that if you want to be a world leader, you have to cherish the whole world, and not only the US industry.
Helsingin Sanomat interviewed Prime Minister Lipponen at Kesäranta in Helsinki after the government had completed half of its term, almost two years. The same parties have continued in Lipponen’s two governments for the past six years. According to Lipponen his governments have completed "the most sustained policy in the history of the country.” Lipponen also commented on Finland’s NATO relations. He denied the claims that Finland would be secretly led into NATO. According to Lipponen people who claim this do it on purpose. They would like to see that Finland would not have this Nato option, when the time comes. That would, of course, mean that Finland’s nonalignment policy is not credible. And to still maintain this NATO option, we need a certain amount of cooperation.” Lipponen reminded everybody of the immensity of NATO’s Partnership for Peace cooperation. Russia is, among other countries, part of this cooperation. Lipponen stated that Finland has not joined this cooperation just to secretly sneak into NATO. According to Lipponen the ultimate reason is the stability of Europe. The presence of the United States is important for a small country such as Finland. Lipponen said that there is no other alternative for the euro-atlantic security community.
The newspaper Itä-Savo published an interview made by the news agency UP, in which security policy researchers Teija Tiilikainen and Markku Salomaa assessed the appointment of General Gustav Hägglund as Chairman of the Military Committee of the European Union. The researchers thought that the appointment indicated a change in the line of Finnish security policy. According to the researchers, Hägglund is now in a position in which he cannot pursue the Finnish line in issues involved in peacekeeping operations. In the interview, Tiilikainen thought that the Finnish line is changing without any clear political discussion or decisions. She said that Finland is sliding toward the EU line ratified in the Treaty of Amsterdam. For Tiilikainen, the adjustment of the Peacekeeping Act also indicated a change of policy. According to Salomaa, the post as Chairman of the Military Committee will not only be a test for Hägglund, but also for the "flexibility of the government's line and interpretations of the Peacekeeping Act". Tiilikainen thought that Hägglund was appointed because of his personal achievements but also because "Finland's constructive attitude toward the increase of integration and the military dimension has made us a good country in the eyes of the NATO countries". In the interview, the researchers considered Finland's policy that forbids peace enforcement as antiquated.
Erkki Tuomioja, the Finnish Minister for Foreign Affairs, commented on the statements of Teija Tiilikainen and Markku Salomaa on the appointment of General Gustav Hägglund as Chairman of the Military Committee of the European Union. According to Tuomioja, there is no conflict between Hägglund's appointment and the Finnish policy, since in his new post, Hägglund is not bound by Finnish legislation. Tuomioja stated that "Hägglund is not our national representative in the Military Committee. Finland has separate representatives there, while Hägglund represents the EU". The issue was widely commented on elsewhere. In the press, the statement about a change in the Finnish line was rebuked on 2 April in Kainuun Sanomat by Under-Secretary of State Pertti Torstila and on 3 April in Helsingin Sanomat by Juha Harjula, Director General of the Defence Policy Department, Ministry of Defence and in Nykypäivä by Ambassador Antti Sierla, Finland's representative in the EU's Political and Security Committee. On 3 April, Liisa Jaakonsaari, the Chairwoman of the Parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee, denied the claim that Finland was sliding toward a more liberate EU policy by stating in Helsingin Sanomat that Finland's non-alignment policy was, on the contrary, gaining more space. Still, on 3 April the Director of the Finnish Institute of International Affairs, Tuomas Forsberg, noted in Hufvudstadsbladet that the Finnish line has already changed considerably with the European crises of the 1990s.
In a seminar arranged by The Economist in Athens, Foreign Minister Tuomioja stated that a regional co-operation and security conference similar to the CSCE should be arranged in the Balkans. He thought that this could be the correct way to solve the region's problems, once the time is right. Sufficient time should be reserved for the conference, which itself should be based on the outlines of the 1975 CSCE conference. Tuomioja also thought that the crisis in the Balkans has demonstrated the inadequacies in the EU's operational capability. According to Tuomioja, the crisis has taught that the EU must make its decisions and carry out its promises more quickly and efficiently.
President Tarja Halonen and her husband made an official state visit to Denmark at the invitation of Queen Margrethe II. During the visit, the President met Danish Prime Minister Poul Nyrup Rasmussen. President Halonen held a speech at a reception arranged by the Danish Foreign Policy Society. In the speech, the President said Finland made the right decision in joining the EU. She also emphasised the connection between the enlargement of the EU and a safe society. In Copenhagen, the President commented on the appointment of General Hägglund. She saw nothing unusual about his appointment. She stated that in his new position Hägglund does not represent the Finnish line and instead, his task is to bring about consensus. Nevertheless, Halonen thought that it was quite natural that Hägglund would understand Finland's interests. She also emphasised the fact that Finland continues to make decisions concerning participation in crisis management based on its legislation. At the end of the state visit, Halonen said that she has noted a new political interest in Nordic cooperation. She thought that there was interest in regional cooperation in Sweden, Denmark and Finland. She also considered it highly important that the Baltic countries be somehow connected to Nordic cooperation.
During the parliamentary question time, Prime Minister Paavo Lipponen said that without additional defence funding, significant cuts might have to be made in the number of garrisons. He also stated that in the decisions to disband garrisons, regional policy would be taken into consideration where possible.
Defence Minister Jan-Erik Enestam participated in a meeting of EU Defence Ministers in Brussels. In the meeting, Belgium promised to organise a new resource conference in November 2001, in which the inadequacies of EU crisis management will be addressed.
The Green League approved the outline of its EU policy, according to which the party's objective is to develop the EU toward a decentralised constitutional federation. With a vote of 10-4, the delegation approved the alternative that gives the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights a legally binding status. According to the Green League, the EU should have a constitution that clearly defines the division of labour between national parliaments, the Commission, citizens, the Council and the European Parliament.
The meeting of the Left Alliance party delegation approved a security policy programme, in which the party continues to oppose the acquisition of combat helicopters. The Left Alliance is also ready for significant cuts in the territorial defence and general conscription. Suvi-Anne Siimes, the chairwoman of the party, considered the drawing of lots a possible model for selecting conscripts.
The German weekly Der Spiegel published an interview of President Halonen, in which she mentioned that Finland could not prevent nor advance the NATO membership of the Baltic countries. Halonen emphasised each country's right to make its own decisions concerning security policy. She stated that Finland is not currently interested in NATO membership and that she is convinced that non-alignment serves best both Finland and the stability of the Baltic region. According to Halonen, the difference in views between Finland and Estonia concerning NATO membership does not affect cooperation between the two countries. She also stated that she cannot accept the metaphor used by the Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga about EU and NATO membership being as inseparable as the two arms of a human body. Halonen stressed that a modern and democratic Europe must be ready to live peacefully with itself. According to the President, what we need is a transatlantic partner but not a transatlantic alliance.
In a speech held at the European Institute in Florence, Prime Minister Lipponen said he wants to connect the national parliaments of EU member states more closely to the EU's decision-making and institutions. According to Lipponen, this would raise interest in the EU among citizens. The Prime Minister hoped that as many as possible of the 12 applicants would be accepted into the EU in the first wave and that those left outside would be given an estimate on when they could be accepted. He thought that the first new applicants could join the EU and participate in the parliamentary elections in 2004.
Foreign Minister Tuomioja participated in a meeting of EU Foreign Ministers in Luxembourg. The meeting confirmed the appointment of General Gustav Hägglund as Chairman of the Military Committee of the European Union. Tuomioja thought that Hägglund's appointment is significant for Finland. According to the Foreign Minister, the appointment showed that also the opinions of small and non-aligned countries are taken into consideration in the establishment of crisis management forces. Tuomioja stated that Hägglund had the strongest background in peacekeeping activities.
Helsingin Sanomat published a survey in which it had asked 16 Finnish Members of the European Parliament whether they wanted to give more power to the EU's institutions or to the member states in the Union. A majority of the respondents wanted to increase the power of the Union's institutions. 9 of the 16 MEPs felt that the strengthening of the EU's structures would benefit small countries. The rest of the MEPs felt satisfied with the current balance of power or thought that power should be shifted back to the member states.
President Mauno Koivisto published his book titled "Venäjän idea" (The Idea of Russia). In the book, he sharply criticised the development of the European Union, Finland's participation in the development and Finnish policies, particularly toward Russia and Sweden. Koivisto felt that the development of the EU lacks direction. He compared the Union to an amoeba that spreads and moves without knowing any boundaries. According to Koivisto, Finland is hurrying to the front of the federalist development without any reason, while neglecting its neighbour relations. He finds the integration of security policies particularly repulsive. At the reception marking the publication of the book, Koivisto stressed that nothing can replace good neighbour relations. In the book, President Koivisto advised the current President not to attend EU summits. Koivisto's book "Koulussa ja sodassa" (In School and War) was published in Stockholm on 29 April, where he restated that Finland is neglecting its neighbour relations.
The business paper Kauppalehti Optio published an interview of President Halonen, in which she told that she had taken a year off from promoting Finnish exports to think about the issue. According to Halonen, the president is the last link of a chain that begins from each company's own export efforts. She thought that the president could participate in export efforts more naturally with countries in which the state has a central role. The president's export efforts may also be appropriate in countries experiencing national liberation. The president could promote the message of democracy during visits to such areas. The President considered Asia and Latin America as suitable regions for promoting exports.
On his personal Web site, Foreign Minister Tuomioja commented President Koivisto's book "Venäjän idea" (The Idea of Russia). He assured that Finland continues to maintain its relations with Russia directly and not only through the EU. He noted that Russia is more interested in Finland than before precisely because of the EU, and that Finland considers its participation in EU crisis management operations on a case-by-case basis. Tuomioja thought that Koivisto's worldview is still dominated by the political scene of the Cold War.
Helsingin Sanomat published an excerpt from Prime Minister Lipponen's new book "Kohti Eurooppaa" (Toward Europe). In the book, Lipponen stated his concern about the increase of intergovernmental activity in the EU. According to Lipponen, intergovernmental cooperation favours large member states, and leads to agreements made behind the scene. Lipponen urged the Nordic countries - including Norway and Iceland, which are not members of the EU - to increase their mutual cooperation and to look at the example of the small but resolute Benelux countries. According to Lipponen, the Nordic and Benelux countries could increase their cooperation. Also, the Nordic countries could increase their cooperation with the Baltic countries. Lipponen thought that after the Nice Summit, the EU discussion in Finland has turned inward. He also considered the political debate superficial and labelling. At the reception marking the publication of "Kohti Eurooppaa", Prime Minister Lipponen asked the Centre Party to clarify its EU line. He feared that Finland's role as a member of the EU would weaken if the country's internal political discussion concerning the Union's future turns into populist federation scare-talk.
At the traditional diplomatic dinner arranged at the Presidential Palace, President Halonen stated that all countries are entitled to make their own decisions concerning NATO membership, and that Finland has no reason to hinder the membership desires of other countries. In her speech, the President repeated that although Finland is developing cooperation with NATO, the country is not giving up its policy of non-alignment. Halonen emphasised that also the enlargement of the EU will create additional stability in Europe. Finland aims to support the enlargement process and assist applicants in their efforts to meet the membership requirements.
President Halonen opened the Swedish Assembly of Finland in Mariehamn, Åland. At a press conference, Halonen admitted that Finland's current foreign policy is somewhat "EU-dominated". She felt that "our good position in the EU has raised Finland's value in our region. Today, we have more voice in Nordic cooperation, and therefore I believe we are also valued more in Moscow." Halonen thought that in his criticism of Finland's relations with Russia, President Koivisto was thinking of the psychological aspects of the relationship. According to Halonen, the previous months have been an extremely intensive period also in Russia relations. During the next six months, Finland will be visited by the President, Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Russia.
At a meeting of the Paasikivi Society, Russia's Ambassador to Finland, Aleksander Patsev, rejected President Koivisto's claim that as a member of the EU, Finland has neglected its relations with Russia. According to Patsev, the Russian leadership does not see any change in relations following Finland's EU membership. On the contrary, Finland's EU membership has "opened new perspectives for developing bilateral contacts".
President Halonen and her husband made a state visit to Poland, where Halonen met both President Aleksander Kwasniewski and Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek. Poland's EU membership became the main topic during the visit. Halonen thought that Poland's application process has moved forward successfully. The yet unsolved question of Poland's agriculture is likely to cause problems. During the state visit, Halonen emphasised that cooperation between the EU and NATO is important for the stability of Europe. According to Halonen, also the enlargement of the EU ensures European security, not NATO alone. However, Kwasniewski saw NATO as a guarantee of European security and hoped that as many countries as possible would join the organisation. Halonen stated that new members in the organisation change the security situation in Europe and NATO must take this into consideration. She assured that Finland has nothing against the NATO candidacy of other countries. Halonen also said that Finland has no reason to change its defence doctrine.
During his regular radio interview with Radio Suomi, Prime Minister Lipponen said there is nearly complete agreement on the defence report. According to Lipponen, defence appropriation is no longer an issue of major disagreement. He said that national defence continues to be based on general conscription and a territorial defence system. In addition, a few brigades are equipped to repel a strategic strike. Lipponen did not name any garrisons which are to be disbanded. The Prime Minister also commented on President Koivisto's argument that Finland's relations with its neighbours, Russia and the other Nordic countries, have weakened due to EU cooperation. Lipponen stated that the issue should be seen from the perspective of how Finland has influenced the EU alone and together with the other Nordic countries. He noted that Finland and Sweden made a joint initiative on the development of crisis management, which has now been started. Finland has also made an initiative on the Northern Dimension, in which cooperation with Russia plays a major role. The Prime Minister thought it was surprising how much Finland has been able to influence EU policies also in issues important to Finland.
In an interview with Aamulehti and Turun Sanomat, Defence Minister Enestam suggested that an alternative type of training could be introduced in the training of conscripts. The training would be focused on skills needed in EU civilian crisis management. After a basic training period, conscripts could choose the normal training programme for conscripts or a civilian crisis management alternative, such as medical training, rescue service or police training.
The EU Commission's Eurobarometer was published in Brussels. According to the public opinion survey, the majority of Finns hope that in the near future, the influence of the EU on everyday life remains at the current level or decreases. 46 percent of respondents do not want changes in the role of the EU. Every fourth Finn would like the EU's role to decrease during the next five years. Only about 23 percent of respondents would like to see an increase in the Union's role during the same period. The last figure is the smallest in any EU country. Attitudes toward EU membership have remained the same as before. 39 percent of Finns have a positive view of the country's EU membership, while 22 percent regard EU membership negatively. 34 percent were neutral about the issue and 5 percent stated no opinion. On the whole, the Finns are less positive about EU membership than the citizens of other EU countries. In the EU, every second person has a positive view of EU membership.
Prime Minister Lipponen visited the Czech Republic and Slovakia. In the Czech Republic, Lipponen met Prime Minister Milos Zeman and President Vaclav Havel, and in Slovakia Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda, President Rudolf Schuster and Deputy Prime Minister Pavol Hamzik. In the Czech Republic, Prime Minister Lipponen suggested that small EU countries could cooperate more within the EU, and said that "the Benelux, Visegrad and Nordic countries could form a network".
General Gustav Hägglund, Chief of Defence, rejected the recent study conducted by the US-based research institution RAND. In the study, researcher Thomas Szayna stated that for NATO, Austria and Sweden are more appealing candidates than Finland. According to Szayna, Austria and Sweden are in a better strategic position and their armed forces are in better condition than those of Finland are. He thought that Finland's membership would create difficulties for NATO because of strategic costs. Szayna also stated that Russia would be more opposed to Finland's NATO membership due to Finland's proximity to Russia's population centres, the long common border and history of relations during the Soviet era. In addition, Szayna thought that if NATO should decide to accept Finland and the Baltic countries, which have already applied for membership, it should be prepared for extensive negotiations with Russia, as well as some type of compensation. Hägglund stated that RAND's assessment of Finland's defence capability is incorrect. He continued by saying, "it is difficult for Americans to understand our mobilisation system. During a war, we operate with reserves."
In an interview with the newspaper Lalli, the chairman of the Parliamentary Grand Committee, Matti Vanhanen, demanded a consultative referendum to be arranged if the EU begins to develop in the federalist direction proposed by the German Chancellor, Gerhard Schröder. According to Vanhanen, a federal EU would be quite different from the EU Finland originally joined.
The Director of the Finnish Institute of International Affairs, Tuomas Forsberg, gave a lecture at a seminar on the changes in Finnish foreign and security policy in the 1990s. The seminar was arranged by the Academy of Finland. Forsberg and Professor Raimo Väyrynen, University of Notre Dame, USA, thought that the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union have removed the political obstacles from research work. Forsberg also said that foreign and security policy are no longer "on top of the nation's cupboard" and that they are no longer valued as they were during the Cold War. In the seminar, Forsberg also stated that Russia relations have not been neglected. According to Forsberg, both President Ahtisaari and President Halonen have spoken more about Russia at international forums than President Kekkonen did in his time.
Helsingin Sanomat interviewed the Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga shortly before President Halonen's visit to Latvia. President Vike-Freiberga hoped that President Halonen would explain in her own words what she meant in her recent interview with Der Spiegel, in which Halonen said she cannot assist the NATO membership efforts of the Baltic countries. In the interview with Helsingin Sanomat, Vike-Freiberga stated that Latvians have a profound understanding of Russia. She thought that Finland would have to give up its position as an expert on Russia once Latvia is accepted into the EU.
A survey carried out by Taloustutkimus for the European Movement in Finland showed that slightly more than half of Finns consider it important to Finland that Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania join the EU in the next enlargement stage. 53 percent of Finns supported the quick accession of the Baltic countries. About ten percent of respondents opposed the accession and one third felt the issue was of no importance to them. The survey also assessed how the four principles of the Single European Market should be applied to the future member states. Half of Finns opposed the immediate introduction of free movement. The movement of labour, goods, services and capital would be allowed only after transition periods.
The Service Centre for Development Cooperation (KEPA) published a report titled "Suomen kehitysapu ja vähiten kehittyneet maat" (Finland's Development Aid and the Least Developed Countries) by researcher Yrjö Uurtimo. The report revealed that during the past ten years, Finland has dramatically cut its assistance to the least developed countries, despite the fact that the alleviation of poverty has been one of the key principles of Finnish development aid. During the 1990s, Finland's aid to these countries decreased by 67 percent. During the past 20 years, the number of these countries has increased by 50 percent, and today, nearly 50 countries are considered among the least developed. The Executive Director of KEPA, Folke Sundman, stated that Finland's aid level violates the UN action plan, which pursues resolved assistance for the least developed countries. KEPA's objective is that Finland raises its portion of development aid directed at the least developed countries from the current 0.08 percent to 0.2 percent of the gross domestic product.
The Finnish Broadcasting Company's television news reported that an espionage incident had occurred in the Finnish Defence Forces in early spring of the same year. An official of the Defence Forces was suspected of turning secret information over to the Russians. The Defence Staff has filed a report of an offence concerning the issue. On 28 May, Lieutenant Markku Lehesvuo, who worked in counterespionage in the Finnish Army in Vaasa, was charged with trading secret information to the Russians. On 20 June, the Helsinki Court of Appeal sentenced Lehesvuo to a prison term of one year and two months. He also lost his position and military rank.
In his column in Helsingin Sanomat, Alexander Stubb, Special Researcher at the Finnish Permanent Representation to the EU, wrote that "as a federation the EU would be more democratic than it is today". Stubb thought that the increase of intergovernmental cooperation would be unlikely and ineffective after the Union's enlargement. He personally supported the direction of a decentralised federation. He encouraged the Finns to influence the development of the EU by making proposals about the Union's future.
The Foreign Minister of Estonia, Toomas Hendrik Ilves, made an official visit to Finland, where he met Foreign Minister Tuomioja. They discussed issues related to EU enlargement. In a press conference, Tuomioja said that the free movement of labour is not a particular problem between Finland and Estonia, once Estonia becomes a member of the EU. Ilves estimated that a relatively small number of Estonians would move abroad after the opening of the EU labour market. He felt there is no need for transition periods, but if they are nevertheless adopted, they should be considered individually for each applicant. Ilves also thought that since Finland is not a member of NATO, it cannot speak for the NATO membership of the Baltic countries.
President Halonen and her husband made a state visit to Latvia at the invitation of the Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga. During the visit, President Halonen had private discussions with President Vike-Freiberga and Prime Minister Andris Berzins. Among other issues, the presidents discussed the possible NATO membership of the Baltic countries. They stated that each European country is entitled to choose its security solutions. After the discussions, Halonen announced that Finland supports Latvia and the other Baltic countries in their decisions. Latvia's suspicion, that Finland would oppose the NATO membership of the Baltic countries was considered a closed matter. President Halonen also gave a speech at the University of Latvia. She stated that the cooperation between the Nordic and Baltic countries creates a "northern reference group". Once the Baltic countries have joined the EU, this cooperation will further promote projects of the so-called Northern Dimension. Halonen felt that regional cooperation would play a more important role in the enlarged EU. She also encouraged the Latvians to join the EU, promising Finland's full support in the efforts.
Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov visited Finland, where he met Foreign Minister Tuomioja. Tuomioja said the recent espionage incident was not taken up because the matter is being solved in Finland and does not have to be discussed with the Russians. He stated that Russia has independently informed Finland about the incident. Ivanov felt that Finland has not neglected its Russia relations. He said that the relationship between the two countries has been handled well and that the EU has only brought added value to the relationship. Tuomioja thought that "EU membership is also likely to ease the relationship between Russia and the Baltic countries". Ivanov and Tuomioja also discussed the situation in Chechnya and the freedom of the press in Russia.
In his column in Helsingin Sanomat, Minister Max Jakobson wrote that people do not in security policy discussions define a threat or whether there is a threat in the first place. He felt that there would be no stability in a security policy sense in the Baltic region until there is an unconditional confirmation of the status of the Baltic countries as independent European states. This would require NATO and/or EU membership. He stated that while there are difficulties in the EU enlargement schedule, NATO is getting ready to accept new members in Prague in November 2002. According to Jakobson, we are facing an important phase in the stability of the Baltic Sea region and Finnish security. He noted that also Finland might end up under pressure and that the pressure would be more intense if our defence capability was considered weak.
In his 12 May column in Helsingin Sanomat, Jakobson continued by stating that it would be in the interests of Finland that the Baltic countries join both the EU and NATO. While Finland cannot influence the NATO membership of the Baltic countries, it can actively support their membership in the EU. He thought that the possible crisis in Russia relations, following the accession of the Baltic countries into NATO, would only be a temporary setback.
Foreign Minister Tuomioja, Defence Minister Enestam and Foreign Trade Minister Sasi took part in the EU's General Affairs Council in Brussels. The ministers agreed that the EU would arrange its first crisis management training in 2002. The objective is to improve decision-making in the EU's military structures.
The parliamentary group of the Social Democratic Party rejected the idea of mentioning the acquisition of combat helicopters in the defence report soon to be published. There are plans to acquire combat helicopters to support the transport helicopters to be acquired by the Defence Forces. The group's decision means that the preparation of the acquisition project is postponed until the next defence report of 2005.
The Finnish section of the organisation Attac was established. The organisation opposes the detrimental effects of globalisation. On 20 May, a 21-member executive body was elected for Attac Finland.
During his regular radio interview with the Finnish Broadcasting Company, Prime Minister Lipponen said that the issue of combat helicopters is connected to a decision on the Army's main weapons system. This decision will be made in the next few years, because the Army's tanks are ageing rapidly. The question is whether or not the tanks are replaced with new ones. Combat helicopters could be an alternative weapons system for the Army.
In an interview with Helsingin Sanomat, the Swedish Prime Minister Göran Persson hoped that Finland, Sweden and Denmark would increase their cooperation in the EU. Persson admitted that so far the cooperation had been quite pitiful. He said he had agreed with Paavo Lipponen and Poul Nyrup Rasmussen that in the future, the prime ministers will meet regularly on the eve of each EU summit. The objective of these meetings is to prepare a Nordic plan for each summit. Persson noted the strengthening of regional cooperation within the EU. Therefore, he felt it was natural that also the Nordic countries would tighten their common front, simply because of their similarity. The Nordic countries have had different views about the future of the EU. Persson thinks that the current system has functioned well and that it could serve as a basis for discussions concerning the future.
The Irish President Mary McAleese and her husband made a state visit to Finland, where she met President Halonen and Prime Minister Lipponen. The presidents discussed issues related to the EU and the UN. Minister for Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands Sile de Valera thought that the Irish would vote in favour of the Treaty of Nice, which deals with EU enlargement.
The Swedish Prime Minister Göran Persson began his tour to capitals ahead of the EU summit. In Finland, he met Prime Minister Lipponen and President Halonen. Persson promised to support Finland in its efforts to locate the European Food Authority in Finland.
On Defence Forces' Flag Day, Vice Admiral Juhani Kaskeala was promoted Admiral. On 5 June, Admiral Kaskeala received the duties of Chief of Defence from General Gustav Hägglund, who heads to Brussels to chair the Military Committee of the European Union.
The EU High Representative Javier Solana visited Finland, where he met Prime Minister Lipponen, Foreign Minister Tuomioja and Defence Minister Enestam. They discussed current issues, such as the West Balkans, the Middle East, the EU's relations with the United States and Russia, and the development of a common foreign and security policy for the EU. Solana thought that EU crisis management was advancing on schedule. He felt that the worst obstacle for crisis management capability is the dispute over the use of NATO troops in EU operations. He hoped that the issue could be settled before the EU summit in Gothenburg. He thought that the biggest challenge of current European leaders was EU enlargement.
The Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Alvaro Gil-Robles, visited Finland to familiarise himself with the country's human rights situation. He will draft a report about his visit for the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. One of the issues that interested him was the quick refusal of asylum seekers in Finland. Gil-Robles also met President Halonen, several ministers, officials and representatives of non-governmental organisations.
Admiral Juhani Kaskeala, the new Chief of Defence, said in a press conference that he considers the possible NATO membership of the Baltic countries as a stabilising factor in the area near Finland. According to Kaskeala, NATO membership would remove speculation on what the minority problems in the Baltic countries might lead to. Kaskeala thought that the NATO membership of the Baltic countries would not increase the pressure on Finland or Sweden to join NATO. He thought that Finland would be an acceptable member for NATO any time. In the press conference, Kaskeala rejected the arguments that Finnish defence resources were being directed from national defence to international tasks. He thought that the international use of Finnish forces was marginal and that it improved Finland's own defence capability. On 15 June, President Halonen took up Kaskeala's statements concerning the NATO membership of the Baltic countries and its impact. The President made it clear that in order to avoid surprises, one should be careful about one's words. Various sources stated that the Supreme Commander and Commander had shared their views on the NATO membership issue. The problem was that Kaskeala stated the position that Halonen was preparing to announce at a suitable time. On 15 June, Prime Minister Lipponen said that Kaskeala's statement did not necessarily contradict Finland's official line.
The Parliamentary Defence Committee heard President Martti Ahtisaari. The issue was the improvement of EU civilian crisis management. During the hearing, Ahtisaari noted that the EU provides no security guarantees. He said that Finland could obtain such guarantees only by participating actively in international operations, in peacekeeping and civilian crisis management. He thought that carrying one's responsibility creates solidarity and understanding. Ahtisaari presented his report on civilian crisis management to the Defence Committee. Ahtisaari has been promoting a project aimed at establishing in Finland a research and training centre focused on civilian crisis management. According to Ahtisaari, it would be important for the EU to have a common training system. He did not wish to comment on the location of such a centre. However, he did mention the human rights centre of Åbo Akademi in Turku as a possible location.
The citizens of Ireland rejected the planned change in the country's constitution, which was required for the approval of the EU's Treaty of Nice. Prime Minister Lipponen commented the issue based on the initial results. He said that the possible Irish 'No' vote in the referendum concerning the Treaty of Nice does not overturn the treaty. Lipponen thought that "they can always arrange another referendum". According to Lipponen, the advancement of a positive result is above all a matter between the Irish government and parliament.
Prime Minister Lipponen presented the agenda of the EU's Gothenburg summit to the Parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee and Grand Committee. According to Lipponen, it is vital to Finland that a decision is made on the location of the European Food Authority during the summit. He said that if there is no decision, the credibility of the Union might be at risk. He recalled the decision made by the EU in 1992 in Edinburgh, according to which EU institutions are to be located in countries that do not host such institutions. The Prime Minister said that he does not accept the bulldozing of bigger member states. Lipponen also said that Denmark, which will be chairing the EU later in 2002, has promised to advance the Northern Dimension, an issue of natural interest to Finland. The Northern Dimension is expected to pick up pace as the EU's financial institutions are now ready to fund Northern Dimension projects in Russia.
The Swedish People's Party held their Party Conference in Parainen, where the party accepted a statement emphasising that the EU needs a constitution to make its decision-making more understandable to citizens. For this reason, the constitution should define the division of labour between member states and EU institutions.
The 10th anniversary meeting of the Arctic Council's environmental cooperation was held in Rovaniemi. The meeting assessed the results of northern environmental cooperation, or the so-called Rovaniemi Process. Former Minister of the Environment, Pekka Haavisto, had drafted a consultative report on problems in the work of the Arctic Council. He thought that the Council needed a permanent secretariat and clear division of labour between the working groups. At the meeting, Prime Minister Lipponen reminded that we are now facing problems related to climate change. Lipponen thought that the Arctic Council had succeeded in bringing together significant bodies and drawing global attention to the problems of the arctic region.
The government approved the final form of the security and defence report, which is to be presented to the parliament. According to the report, the main elements of Finnish defence remain the same: non-alignment "under the prevailing circumstances", general conscription and active participation in international crisis management in cooperation with the EU and NATO. In the report, Finland is expected to maintain credible defence, which is used to eliminate threats in advance. The wartime number of troops is reduced from 430,000 to 350,000. The main emphasis in the development of the Defence Forces is moved from the traditional territorial defence to technical, mobile units with extensive firepower. These units include three rapid deployment brigades, the Air Force and the Navy. Finland's main weapons system should be determined by 2004.
Defence Minister Enestam stated in a press conference that the main lines of the Finnish defence policy do not change in the new report. Enestam said that a regional crisis was added to the Finnish threat scenarios. Such a crisis would mean a regional or local conflict in Europe or its neighbouring region. The conflict may even affect Finland indirectly. Finnish defence continues to be developed so as to prevent and repel a strategic strike. Despite an increase in the defence allocation, there are not enough funds to replace landmines. According to the report, Finland aims to sign the Ottawa Convention in 2006 and give up landmines by 2010.
Helsingin Sanomat published a survey it had ordered from Suomen Gallup on the popularity of the government, the opposition and the President. In the survey, Paavo Lipponen's second government received the best rating since 1999. 70 percent of respondents gave the current government a rating of 'good' or 'rather good'. President Halonen's popularity rating was higher than ever. A vast majority, 88 percent, of persons of voting age gave Halonen a rating of 'rather good' or 'extremely good'. The biggest opposition party the Center Party was also highly valued. 49 percent of the respondents gave the party´s opposition policy a rating of ´good´ or ´rather good´.
Prime Minister Lipponen, President Halonen, Foreign Minister Tuomioja, Finance Minister Niinistö and European Affairs Minister Sasi took part in the European Council summit in Gothenburg. On the previous day, EU leaders had met US President George W. Bush in Gothenburg. One of the issues of the summit was the location of the European Food Authority. The Finnish delegation had to leave Gothenburg without the agreement they had hoped for, a decision to place the EU body in Finland. Sweden wanted to settle the schedule of eastern enlargement in the summit. On 16 June, the summit set an objective, according to which the most successful candidate countries could end their membership negotiations by the end of 2002 and then take part in the European Parliament elections of 2004. The summit also confirmed the previous declarations, which stated that the Irish referendum had no effect on enlargement. In addition, the summit approved a programme of sustainable development. It agreed to carry out the carbon dioxide emission cuts specified in the Kyoto Protocol. Another recorded objective is to raise the amount of development aid to 0.7 percent of the member states' gross domestic product "as soon as possible". In their press conferences, summit participants complained about the bloody riots in Gothenburg. Prime Minister Lipponen suggested that the EU should be better prepared for such a phenomenon in future summits. He also said that the incidents in Gothenburg were regrettable. He thought that the media emphasised the violent incidents excessively.
In the Finnish Broadcasting Company's radio news, Prime Minister Lipponen admitted he thought that the NATO membership of the Baltic countries would bring stability into the region, which would also benefit Finland. This way the Baltic countries would avoid the situation in which the region's security scene differed from that of the rest of Europe, Lipponen continued.
Foreign Minister Tuomioja presented a report drafted at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs on Finland's relationship with globalisation. The report will be reviewed by the Foreign Affairs Committee and then discussed in the Parliament on the basis of the Committee's statement. Tuomioja noted that Finland is among the prosperous countries and hoped that we could create a world in which all countries would prosper.
The working group preparing the Baltic Sea Protection Programme presented the programme to the Minister of the Environment, Satu Hassi. One of the working group's propositions was that an additional FIM 180 million per year be issued to agriculture for reducing nutrient discharges. The group also proposed that an additional FIM 60 million per year be issued in 2002-2004 for cleaning St. Petersburg's wastewater. The implementation of the programme is expected to improve the state of the Baltic Sea considerably. Especially the Gulf of Finland would benefit from the reduction of pollution.
A survey carried out for Helsingin Sanomat showed that a majority of Finns have a favourable view of the EU's enlargement into countries in Eastern Central Europe. According to the survey, 51 percent of Finns approve the eastern enlargement and 38 percent are against it. 64 percent of Finns opposed the enlargement if it created costs for the current member states. In that case, only 27 percent of respondents favoured the enlargement. Those most opposed to the enlargement are the Centre Party and the Left Alliance. For the Finns, the favourite new EU member is Estonia. Turkey, Romania and Bulgaria received the least support. According to the Finns, the appropriate time for enlargement is in 2005 at the earliest.
In an interview with Helsingin Sanomat, President Halonen stated that she gave NATO full credit for showing caution in its enlargement. She was pleased at the fact that the United States and NATO have considered the enlargement issue from the overall perspective and have proceeded with caution. She thought that the membership situation has clarified and that the organisation will make its decisions at the end of 2002. She also said that we "cannot affect the decisions concerning future members and therefore we should not hasten to take the role of an adviser, even when asked to do so". In the interview, Halonen praised the results of the EU summit. Se felt that decision on EU enlargement was sufficient at this point. She thought that the negotiations would proceed rapidly enough to allow the most successful candidate countries to take part in the European Parliament elections of 2004.
President Halonen spoke about democracy and information technology at a discussion forum arranged in Stockholm by IDEA (International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance). The President noted the diminishing voting activity in many countries. She also wondered how the electronic democracy would affect voting activity. In addition, she questioned why voting activity has shrunk particularly among young people in countries that have long been considered democratic. Halonen noted that young people travel to protest during summits, and asked if this indicated that they believe publicity to be more effective than voting. She also thought that it might simply indicate their desire to share publicity.
The Prime Minister of Iceland, David Oddsson, and his wife visited Finland. During the visit, Prime Minister Oddsson met President Halonen and Prime Minister Lipponen. They discussed the Northern Dimension project, arctic cooperation and the relationship between Iceland and the EU and NATO. Prime Minister Oddsson also took part in the meeting of the Prime Ministers of the Nordic countries, which was held in Imatra on 1 July.
Nordic prime ministers met in Imatra, Finland. They decided to increase their cooperation in the EU by holding meetings before each EU summit, in order to coordinate their national political objectives in the Union. There was some concern over the decline of the Nordic countries’ influence as the EU enlarges eastwards. It was hoped that the meetings would become a regular, if informal, practice. Non-EU countries Norway and Iceland might be participating as well. Prime Minister Lipponen, who in the spring had criticised the formation of blocs in the EU, believed that Nordic cooperation in the EU era is not useless. On the contrary: in his view, Nordic cooperation should be much intensified, as well as collaboration with the Baltic States. Europe’s economic downturn in recent times was a topic of concern at the meeting. The possibility of coordinated economic policies between the Nordic countries was discussed. At Lipponen’s initiative, the 5+3 format of the Nordic-Baltic meetings has been changed to meetings between eight equal participant countries.
Minister for Defence of Sweden Björn von Sydow visited Finland where he was invited by Minister of Defence Jan-Erik Enestam. The ministers agreed on the official-level preparation of the exchange of air surveillance information between Finland and Sweden. They also signed an agreement on the emergency landings of military aircraft and on military aviation training in the neighbour’s territory. Information is already being exchanged in maritime surveillance. Once the preparation work is done, another political-level agreement will still be needed for the exchange of air surveillance information. The defence ministers also discussed a joint Nordic proposal on military capabilities for the EU’s crisis management forces that are being built up. The completion of the proposal is due in November when the EU countries hold their Capabilities Improvement Conference.
Foreign Minister of Belgium Louis Michel visited Finland. He explained to Foreign Minister Tuomioja Belgium’s goals for its EU presidency. Tuomioja said Finland is favourable to the ambitious Belgian agenda. Michel said Belgium wants to resolve quickly the location of the European Food Safety Authority that Finland wishes to host, because the agency is supposed to start functioning in January. Tuomioja expressed his support for the Belgian goal of placing Central Africa among the main focus areas in EU foreign policy. Tuomioja reminded Michel about the Union’s responsibilities in the Balkans.
Part 2 of the sixth Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change was held in Bonn, Germany. The meeting aimed to resolve the technical questions of the UNFCCC and to re-engage the United States in the Kyoto Protocol. Minister of the Environment Satu Hassi led the Finnish delegation. For Finland, the question of carbon sinks was of foremost importance: to what extent can states take into account the carbon dioxide captured by soils and forests? The conference adopted on July 22nd a compromise proposal to reduce emissions by only 1.8 percent. In Kyoto, industrialised countries had committed to reducing their greenhouse gas emissions by 5.2 percent compared to the 1990 levels by the year 2012.
Prime Minister of Russia Mikhail Kasyanov and his spouse visited Finland at the invitation of Prime Minister Lipponen. During a press conference, Kasyanov was asked how Finland had fared in its relations with Russia during its EU membership and President Halonen’s term. According to Kasyanov, Russians have repeatedly affirmed that the relationship between the two countries works well. However, in his view there were many unused resources in the relationship. He specifically wanted to see an increase in trade between the countries. Lipponen announced that two border crossing points would be opened that same year. Lipponen said he would request permission from the Paris Club to convert 350 million Finnish markka of Russia’s debt by allowing Russia to spend the money on its own environmental projects.
Foreign Minister Tuomioja visited the United States and Canada. In Washington, Tuomioja met his counterpart Colin Powell. Tuomioja reminded that the US has in the recent months withdrawn from several international agreements, such as the Kyoto Protocol and arms control agreements. What’s more, the US is not a participant in the International Court of Justice.
A meeting of prominent international figures convened in Geneva by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson to look for solutions to disputes which threatened the UN World Conference against Racism. President Ahtisaari, who took part in the meeting, suggested the creation of a new international discussion forum. Among other things, the North-South Forum, which might be established by the UN, would further work on issues that are examined at the Conference against Racism.
At the Loviisa Peace Forum, Foreign Minister Tuomioja said he was concerned about the Finnish and European discussion on refugees. He said that being a refugee is not a choice. He stressed minority rights as an important focus of Finnish human rights policy. Finland has emphasised the minorities’ own role in decision-making. In Tuomioja’s view, this should be kept in mind when discussing globalisation.
The United States conducted an "Open Skies” observation flight over Finnish territory. Finland flew a similar flight over the U.S. in July. Finland is an observer in the Open Skies Treaty and will join the Treaty when it enters into force. The agreement was signed in Helsinki in 1992.
At the summer celebration of the Swedish-speaking Social Democrats of Ostrobothnia in Nykarleby, Foreign Minister Tuomioja said Sweden had a lot to learn from Finland’s realistic and pragmatic actions. According to him, Finland has avoided being sidelined from the Union’s decision-making. On the other hand, Finland should follow Sweden’s lead in addressing citizens’ concerns. This could be useful in matters pertaining to the development of the EU and which call for a referendum. In addition, Tuomioja considered that EU membership has increased the role of Nordic cooperation. However, he did not find it necessary to create a Nordic bloc within the Union, although improving cooperation and coordination would be beneficial.
Chairman of the EU Military Committee Gustav Hägglund told in an interview with Finnish newspapers that the EU would not send crisis management troops to Macedonia. According to Hägglund, the organising of the EU’s crisis management troops has only begun, and the capability to deploy troops is not yet there. Hägglund also commented that Finland’s international and security situation has not shifted in a way that would warrant changing the Finnish policy of non-alignment. However, he reminded that the situation is in constant flux.
Helsingin Sanomat published a poll revealing that the majority of Finnish MPs are opposed to the idea of a constitution for the European Union. Only among the Swedish People’s Party parliamentarians, a clear majority supported the idea. Social Democrats and Greens were more or less equally divided, whereas in the other parties the majority was against the drafting of a constitution.
Member of the US Senate Foreign Affairs Committee Richard Lugar visited Helsinki for a conference organised by the Aspen Institute, an American think tank. Representatives from the United States and Russia discussed the countries’ bilateral relations. Lugar argued that NATO membership of the Baltic States would improve their own security as well as the security of Russia, Finland and Scandinavia. He considered it quite obvious that the Baltic countries would join NATO. Lugar believed it might be time to start discussing Russia’s potential place in NATO. He reminded that Russian President Vladimir Putin himself has raised the question of Russia possibly joining NATO.
In an interview with Suomen Kuvalehti, Foreign Minister Tuomioja commented the situation in the Middle East. According to him, as long as Israel continues to humiliate and impoverish Palestinians, no peace can be found. He found it hard to understand the actions of Israel, a nation that has faced persecution. "It is quite shocking that some people promote, in relation to the Palestinians, the same kind of policy of which they themselves were the victims in the 1930s”. He said that a tougher line towards Israel is gaining support in the EU. However, he did not yet want the bilateral relations between Finland and Israel to change. The Israeli Ambassador to Finland Miryam Shomat considered the nazi comparison dangerous. She said (Ilta-Sanomat, 28 August) that the Foreign Minister had deviated from the official Finnish position, and was considering an official request for clarification. In Helsingin Sanomat on 29 September, Tuomioja wished to redress the so-called nazi comparison. He said he had meant that one might expect those who have been victims of genocide to show solidarity to peoples in difficult situations. He added that these views, although personal, are in line with the ministers of other EU countries.
NATO membership was among the topics discussed at a seminar organised by the Finnish Institute of International Affairs. Foreign Minister Tuomioja estimated that the Baltic States’ membership "does not necessarily change Finland’s situation”. He said that even if this view were wrong, he doubted that it could be disproved by research. The event continued the next day at the House of the Estates, with an opening speech by President Halonen. This international seminar on the themes of democracy and globalisation was chaired by President Martti Ahtisaari and featured speakers from South Africa, the United States and Russia.
Israel’s Foreign Minister Shimon Peres criticised FM Tuomioja’s statements on Israel. Peres told the news agency AP that Tuomioja’s remarks were utterly uninformed. He found them shocking for all Israelis, Jews and all enlightened people in the world. YLE news reported on 31 August that Tuomioja had sent Peres a letter, writing he was sorry that his comments on Israeli refugee policy had been misinterpreted. Despite criticism in the following days, e.g. from Minister Jaakko Iloniemi and Chairman of the parliamentary group of the National Coalition Party Ben Zyskowicz, President Mauno Koivisto gave cautious support to Tuomioja. According to newspaper Ilkka, Koivisto remarked that Israel will be left with few friends if it responds aggressively to the slightest critique of its policies. Pasi Patokallio, the Finnish ambassador to Israel, discussed the matter at the Israeli embassy, and said that there were no problems between the countries. Prime Minister Lipponen said on 3 September in an interview with Helsingin Sanomat that Finland has an equally critical stance towards both parties in the Israel-Palestine conflict.
The third UN World Conference against Racism was held in Durban, South Africa. The Finnish delegation was led by Minister of Labour Tarja Filatov. Both Finnish authorities and civil society were broadly represented. Controversial issues included the situation in the Middle East and reparations for slavery. During the conference, some NGOs labeled Israel as "racist” and an "apartheid state”. Rauno Merisaari, executive director of the UN Association of Finland, remarked that the Finns are among those who think the final documents should also condemn antisemitism.
According to President Vladimir Putin who was interviewed by Helsingin Sanomat, Russia emphasises Europe in its foreign policy. While he appreciated the Northern Dimension policy promoted by Finland, he wished it involved concrete projects. He felt that NATO enlargement in the Baltics had no basis, because NATO was a response to the Soviet threat that did not exist anymore. Instead, he called for the creation of a European security architecture that would not give rise to new divisions. He believed joint efforts were needed to fight current threats: terrorism, drug trafficking, organised crime and arms trade. Generally accepted European human rights norms must be respected with regard to the Russian minorities in the Baltic States, Putin said. Finland is a good example of the good treatment of national minorities.
Minister of Defence Jan-Erik Enestam visited Ukraine where he and his counterpart Oleksandr Kuzmuk signed an administrative arrangement on defence cooperation. The agreement creates a framework for regular exchange of visitors, peacekeeping cooperation etc.
President of Russia Vladimir Putin and his wife arrived in Finland for the president’s first official state visit here. Putin met President Halonen and Prime Minister Lipponen on 3 September. He laid a wreath at the tombs of war heroes and of Carl Gustaf Mannerheim. Regarding the Baltic States aiming for NATO membership, he told the press it was "their choice” but that he did not see "objective reasons for NATO’s enlargement”. Although not happy about the Baltics joining NATO, Russia will not start what Putin called a "hysteria campaign”. Putin commended Finland’s non-aligned policy. He suggested Finno-Russian relations could serve as a model for Russian-EU relations. As for President Halonen, she considered it only a matter of time before the Baltic countries join NATO. Instead of returning Carelia to Finland, Putin called for cooperation and integration. He proposed a high-speed train service between Helsinki and St Petersburg, perhaps also between Helsinki and Moscow. At a seminar for business executives, Putin advised Finland to more actively promote Northern Dimension projects. On 2 September, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov and FM Tuomioja met in Helsinki. Ivanov said it was for Finland to decide whether to join NATO.
Parliament discussed the Government Report on Security and Defence Policy. Juha Korkeaoja from the opposition’s Centre Party believed Finland should concentrate on the defence of Finnish regions and on smart weapons, instead of primarily focusing on international crisis management. Defence Committee Chairman Ilkka Kanerva of the National Coalition Party found the planned reduction of the wartime strength of the Finnish Defence Forces excessive. Defence Minister Enestam argued that international cooperation benefits national defence, and that the reduction of personnel is small on the European scale. Kanerva opposed the mine-ban treaty. He and Korkeaoja asked how the mines would be substituted. The Greens however were in favour of landmine abolition. The main government party SDP was happy with the report. In Enestam’s view, Baltic NATO membership would have mostly a positive impact, and it would not entail automatically Finland’s membership. Kanerva on the other hand assessed that even Finnish membership would "increase long-term stability in the region”. The Left Alliance was against NATO membership. There were suspicions among the party that the ministers were withholding something. National Coalition’s Jari Vilén demanded that the Prime Minister give an announcement to Parliament about the impact of Baltic NATO membership on Finland, if the membership is confirmed at the NATO foreign ministers’ meeting in May 2002.
In an interview with Aamulehti and Turun Sanomat, Minister for Foreign Trade Kimmo Sasi called for an analysis of the impact of NATO enlargement. As the Baltic States contemplate joining NATO, the previous justification for Finnish non-alliance policy does not exist anymore, he argued. Prime Minister Lipponen disagreed and said the Government would not commission a report. On 6 September, President Halonen said in an interview in MTV3 news that she did not consider a report necessary, as Parliament was handling a new security policy report, and the next one was due in 2004. "Shouldn’t we discuss things as they are. You can advocate for NATO membership all you want, but you don’t need to make a government report for that.” A poll by Taloustutkimus, published in Iltalehti on 5 September, showed that over 60 percent of Finns were still opposed to NATO membership. Only one in five supported it.
While participating in a high-level economic conference in Italy, Prime Minister Lipponen explained Finland’s Middle East policy to Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres. Lipponen regretted that the Finnish position had been misconstrued, and invited Peres for a visit to Finland. Lipponen told that the Finnish government’s policy is based on the EU position of trying to achieve peace through the implementation of the Mitchell Report.
EU foreign ministers gathered in Genval, Belgium for an informal meeting, where they discussed the EU’s future actions in Macedonia after 26 September when Nato has finished collecting weapons from the Albanians. The ministers supported the German proposal that the Nordic countries, Russia and Ukraine would join the peacekeeping mission. However, the operation requires Macedonia’s approval. Tuomioja stressed that Finland would consider providing troops for a NATO-led mission only after a UN or OSCE approval. Finland would prefer sending civilian observers. There were also plans to establish a Convention, a body with the task of discussing the future of the Union.
President of Germany Johannes Rau and his wife visited Finland. He met with the Finnish president, prime minister, speaker of parliament and other political and business leaders, discussing EU enlargement, the future of the Union, and security policy. President Rau considered that Baltic NATO membership would be strategically significant for the region. In his view, Finland should be the one to decide its own NATO stance. He explained his stance on the EU constitution with the need to protect nation-states from gradually losing their power to Brussels. Finnish-German relations were praised by President Halonen, who said the countries held similar views on European integration. During his visit President Rau bemoaned Germany’s scorched-earth policy in Lapland in 1944. His visit was cut short due to the terrorist attacks in the US.
Nearly 3,000 people were killed in the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States. The Finnish government held a crisis meeting, condemning the attacks.
The defence ministers of Sweden, Finland and Norway met at the Arlanda airport in Stockholm. They discussed the procurement of helicopters. Finland and Norway chose the NH90 as their transport helicopter. On 18 September Sweden also decided to purchase 18 NH90 helicopters.
The Cabinet Committee on Foreign and Security Policy decided that Finland would contribute 500 additional troops to the EU’s military crisis management. Previously, 1,500 Finnish soldiers has been authorised to participate in EU operations. The EU is aiming to build a crisis management force of 50 to 60 thousand soldiers by 2003 for peacekeeping missions.
In Helsinki, Russia’s and Finland’s ministers of the interior Boris Gryzlov and Ville Itälä signed a protocol whereby the countries agreed on cooperation in the fight against international and organised crime. The countries will establish a joint coordination group for this purpose.
NATO began a week-long exercise at the National Defence University (then called the National Defence College) in Santahamina, where military officers from NATO countries and Partnership for Peace countries were trained for the new crisis management headquarters.
The European Council held an extraordinary meeting in Brussels to discuss the terrorist attacks against the United States. President Halonen, Prime Minister Lipponen and Foreign Minister Tuomioja all attended the summit. EU leaders declared their strong support for US military actions against the perpetrators of the attacks. They affirmed that the recent UN Security Council resolution makes retaliation by the U.S. legitimate. EU countries also pledged their cooperation in military responses, "each according to its means”. They would be prepared to target their actions against the "States abetting, supporting or harbouring terrorists”. According to Lipponen, "the decision does not mean Finland will be taking military actions. But it cannot be predicted whether we will be asked to provide supportive action”. Lipponen remarked that the EU insists on careful consideration of the appropriate response. He hoped the U.S. would be "reasonable” in using its right to self-defence. President Halonen noted that "the EU need not and cannot give permission to the United States. The right of self-defence is recognised by the UN Charter”.
In an interview with newspaper Kaleva, Minister of the Interior and Chairman of the National Coalition Party Ville Itälä called for a thorough evaluation of the way foreign policy leadership has been handled under the revised constitution. Although Itälä was cautious about commenting on the collaboration of President Halonen and Prime Minister Lipponen, in the long run he supported abolishing the institution of presidency, which he did not find essential for the functioning of a democracy.
Foreign Minister Tuomioja told Helsingin Sanomat that Finland would decide on taking part in U.S. countermeasures on terrorism only when there is a request from the U.S. or the UN. He did not think the U.S. would request assistance from Finland. He also ruled out military action, saying that the Finnish Peacekeeping Act precludes it. The European Council was supportive of eventual U.S. military operations, but Sweden and Finland wanted the protocol to include the caveat that countries would participate "each according to its means”. According to Tuomioja, the Council was pressured by big NATO countries into including the offer of assistance in the conclusions of the meeting. On 26 September, Prime Minister Lipponen vigorously denied the idea that Finland had been pressured into approving the conclusions supporting U.S. anti-terrorist operations. According to Lipponen, the European Council was unanimous with regard to the assistance. In his words, "we are in a common front with the United States in the fight against terrorism”.
The United States inquired about the decision-making process Finland would require in order to grant the U.S. overflight rights for its anti-terrorist operations. After discussing the matter, the Government announced that it would make a policy decision together with the President of the Republic, if the U.S. requests the permission. President Halonen said in a YLE radio programme on 27 September that Finland’s answer to a U.S. request will depend on the purpose of the overflights, namely whether the aircraft are civilian or military.
In a radio programme on the Finnish Broadcasting Company radio channel Ylen Ykkönen, President Halonen assured that if NATO carries out reprisals for the terror attacks against the United States, Finland will have no role in these actions, because Finland is not a NATO member. She affirmed that the U.S. has the same right of self-defence as every other country. What is most important is to bring to justice the perpetrators of the acts of terror, the President said. Halonen believed that Finland’s role in the fight against terrorism is about protecting an open, democratic society, justice and rule of law.
A poll commissioned from Taloustutkimus by YLE TV news showed that support for NATO membership in Finland had waned. Only 17 percent of Finns were in favour of joining NATO, while a poll published by Iltalehti in early September indicated a 21-percent approval. The TV news poll was conducted after the U.S. terror attacks. According to the survey, 67 percent of Finns oppose NATO membership. 16 percent of respondents were undecided.
Deputy Chief of Mission of the U.S. Embassy Carol van Voorst presented evidence for the involvement of Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda in the September 11 attacks. Foreign Minister Tuomioja was present, and later that day he shared the information with the Finnish Government. In their press release, the government and the MFA stated that the information they received is classified. The Finnish Financial Supervision Authority (Rata) published on their website a list of people suspected of connections to terrorism (the list was subsequently removed). The list was distributed to banks and other financial institutions with a view to investigating e.g. whether the people suspected of terrorist links have bank accounts in Finland.
Parliament discussed the topic of human rights in Finnish foreign policy. Foreign Minister Tuomioja warned of the danger of over-emphasising, in the wake of the terrorist attacks, military crisis management at the expense of civilian crisis management. He reminded that ensuring the respect of human rights is part of conflict prevention. According to him the critical role of democracy and human rights is highlighted by the terrorist acts. He also underscored that we must "carefully ensure that the security measures do not lead to human rights violations or racist phenomena”.
President Tarja Halonen and the Cabinet Committee on Foreign and Security Policy approved in principle the idea of "humanitarian”, non-military overflights in the Finnish airspace in the context of counterterrorist operations. The Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee also approved the decision. If Finland receives a request, the Defence Command can quickly grant an overflight permission.
Foreign Minister Tuomioja called for clearer and more transparent guiding principles for international trade and economic cooperation. He believed this would benefit small countries and developing countries. In Tuomioja’s view, in the globalisation debate the WTO has become the target of undue opposition and unrealistic expectations. He did not consider the WTO to be responsible for the shortcomings of free trade, and its efforts to ensure compliance with agreements are valuable.
The main body of the last Finnish peacekeepers serving in Lebanon returned to Finland. Finland’s withdrawal from Lebanon was due to the UN plan to reduce the total number of personnel in the UNIFIL force from 5,700 to about 2,000 by next summer.
The Eurobarometer published by the European Commission revealed that a growing number of Finns think that their country’s EU membership is a bad thing. The survey, conducted in April-May, shows that 23 percent of Finnish citizens, a larger segment than the previous year, have a purely negative view of the EU membership. Thirty-six percent of those surveyed still support membership of the Union, which is three percentage points down from the previous survey. Slightly over one third of Finns have a neutral position regarding Finland’s membership. Trust in the European Union is also weak: half of the Finnish people lack trust in the EU. Only one third of Finns trust the Union. However, trust in their own national institutions was one of the strongest in the EU: 43 percent of Finns expressed trust in them.
Helsingin Sanomat published the results of a survey conducted by Taloustutkimus, which indicated that Finnish citizens’ support for Finland’s NATO membership has clearly diminished during September and October. Support was at 16 percent, 74 percent of the population was opposed, and 10 percent were unsure of their position. Across party lines, Finns are clearly against joining the military alliance. Opposition to NATO membership has increased after the September 11 terror attacks and the countermeasures that followed them.
Defence Minister Jan-Erik Enestam spoke at the opening session of the National Defence Course. He said the fight against terrorism is bringing the EU and NATO closer to each other. According to Enestam, in the future NATO and EU members will be more and more the same countries, since almost all the countries applying for EU membership are NATO members or have applied for membership in the military alliance. Furthermore, a close connection between the EU and NATO is vital for EU military crisis management.
Chief of Defence, Admiral Juhani Kaskeala took part in a meeting of the EU Military Committee in Brussels. After the meeting, he estimated that the EU will not achieve the planned military capabilities by 2003. There are problems with the command and control capabilities, strategic intelligence, as well as air and naval materiel. The crisis management forces consisting of up to 60,000 persons have already been formed. According to Kaskeala, the command and control structure of one of the EU member states will probably be used. The adoption of NATO capabilities is hindered by the objections of EU applicant Turkey.
Addressing the United Nations General Assembly, U.S. President George W. Bush enjoined his country’s allies to take action in the war against terrorism. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, by contrast, stressed the need to focus on the root causes of terrorism, namely poverty and inequality. Finland’s statement was presented by Foreign Minister Tuomioja on November 11th. He stated that the UN is the main forum for cooperation for preventing terrorism. However, he was concerned about the stagnation of the process of improving the UN and implementing the agenda it has adopted. He called for united efforts to implement the agenda adopted one year ago at the Millennium Summit, and to uphold multilateralism.
On his visit to Stockholm, Prime Minister Lipponen discussed the possibility of a peacekeeping operation in Afghanistan. Lipponen found it too early to speculate whether Finland would participate in the operation if it happens. He stressed that Finland will act only based on the initative of the UN. Lipponen said Finland is prepared to increase humanitarian aid to Afghanistan and to provide expertise. He viewed with optimism the plans of forming a new Afghan administration. He emphasised that Finland acts within the framework of the EU and the UN in these matters.
During question time Foreign Minister Tuomioja told the Finnish Parliament that Finland is prepared to assist in UN-led humanitarian missions in Afghanistan. The exact nature of the operations has not yet been confirmed. Minister of Development Satu Hassi told that Finland’s assistance to Afghanistan could amount to 40 million Finnish markka.
In Ottawa, the International Monetary and Financial Committee (IMFC) called for all countries to create intelligence units to combat money laundering and the financing of terrorism. The UN goal of raising the level of official development assistance by rich countries to 0.7 percent of their GNI was also discussed. Minister of Finance Sauli Niinistö represented the Nordic and Baltic countries in the meeting. He said Finland does not need a special unit to monitor the financing of terrorism. He also stated that reaching the development assistance goal would mean an additional three billion Finnish markka. He did not consider the idea to be feasible in Finland.
According to Helsingin Sanomat, there was discontent within the Defence Committee of the Finnish Parliament, because it had not received from the Ministry of Defence the original documents regarding Finland’s goals for the Partnership for Peace programme. There are 64 partnership goals at the moment, and new ones have been planned. The Defence Committee’s irritation was fueled by a rumour that in Sweden MPs have had the chance to examine the documents containing their goals. The fact that the Committee cannot access the information is due to an agreement made in 1994 between Finland and NATO on the handling of classified NATO documents in Finland. The Foreign Ministry and the Ministry of Defence agreed on 22 November that the Parliament Defence Committee would obtain summaries of classified NATO documents when the Committee is drafting their report in response to the Government Report on Defence Policy. According to Markus Lyra, Director-General of the Political Department at the Foreign Ministry, the summaries in Finnish contain all the relevant information. He believed this was how the issue had been resolved in Sweden, too. Chair of the Defence Committee Ilkka Kanerva was satisfied with the solution.
Prime Minister Lipponen criticised the Danish election result. He deplored the fact that among the winners of the election is "a party that openly and shamelessly displays xenophobia”. Lipponen had congratulated Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the chair of the liberal Venstre party that won the election. He had also thanked the social democrat Prime Minister Poul Nyrup Rasmussen for a good collaboration. Lipponen believed that the good cooperation between Finland and Denmark would continue.
In Helsinki, Foreign Minister Tuomioja remarked that humanitarian disaster in Afghanistan will probably be thwarted, although the situation is still serious. The meeting of the warring parties that was to begin in Germany was in his view a positive sign. Tuomioja told that the EU would appoint a special representative for Afghanistan to assist the Union’s High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana. The special representative will be tasked with supporting the UN it its mission. Foreign Minister Tuomioja stressed that the objective conditions of EU enlargement must be strictly upheld. He opposed the French model where all 12 countries applying for EU membership would be accepted as members simultaneously. He argued it would be fatal to take in all the candidates regardless of how well-prepared they are.
In an interview with Swedish-language daily Hufvudstadsbladet, the chairman of the EU Military Committee Gustav Hägglund said that Russia is becoming part of the Western security system. The terrorist attacks against the United States have affected global security in a fundamental way, he argued. The United States, Europe and Russia will develop their cooperation. For Finland this means that it is no longer on the border between power blocs. Hägglund believed we should be part of Western security cooperation, but this does not necessarily entail joining NATO.
At the NGO forum convened by the Finnish government at the House of the Estates, Prime Minister Lipponen said he thought the countries that have applied for EU membership should be included in the Convention on the future of Europe. He also hoped the Convention’s work would be carried out with openness.
The Grand Committee of the Finnish Parliament was displeased because its reservation statements on some of the EU’s decisions were overlooked in negotiations in Brussels. The Committee summoned Prime Minister Lipponen on 12 December to explain the issue. The Committee also chided Minister of Justice Johannes Koskinen for the anti-terrorism package formulated in Brussels. The Committee approved two resolutions concerning terrorism and expected the Government to convey the resolutions to the Council of the EU.
The Advisory Board for Defence Information published an opinion poll revealing increased support for military non-alliance in Finland. 79 percent (compared to 68 percent in June 2001) of Finns think Finland should not join a military alliance. 16 percent (21 percent in June 2001) of Finns were in favour of an alliance. Even the possibility that the three Baltic States would join NATO does not seem to change public opinion on whether Finland should seek NATO membership. 71 percent thought Finland should not apply for membership even if the Baltic countries were accepted as members. 24 percent of the respondents felt Finland should follow the example of the Baltics. Supporters of the Left Alliance (96 %) and Social Democrats (87 %) as well as people over 50 years of age (83 %) were clearly more in favour of non-alliance than others. The prospect of joining a military alliance was most favourably viewed by supporters of the Swedish People’s Party (28 %) and the National Coalition Party (23 %), as well as those under 24 years of age (22 %).
The Swedish, Finnish and Danish prime ministers met in Stockholm ahead of the summit in Laeken, Belgium, in order to take stock of their common goals. Both Göran Persson and Anders Fogh Rasmussen gave their support to Finland’s bid to host the EU’s food safety authority. The Convention to prepare EU reforms was to be founded in Laeken, which all three premiers considered important.
The Israeli government announced it would cut off ties with the Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. The Finnish Foreign Minister Tuomioja stated in an interview with STT that Israel’s actions against the Palestinian Authority inevitably lead to continued violence. According to Tuomioja, the tightening of the situation was to be expected. Israel had long planned the elimination of Arafat at least politically, he argued. He also reminded that the Palestinian Authority was democratically elected. On 15 December, the Israeli Ambassador to Finland Miryam Shomrat said Tuomioja’s statements diverged from the general EU line, and that she would request clarification from the foreign minister. The next day, Prime Minister Lipponen assured that the foreign minister was in line with the Middle East policy of the Finnish Government and the EU: that there are two sides to the conflict, that both are approached critically, "according to how they act”. He pointed out that the Israeli Ambassador did not have to raise the issue in public, since she could have come to the Foreign Ministry to discuss Tuomioja’s comments.
The Parliament Defence Committee expressed its position on the government report on security and defence policy released in June. According to the Committee, the likely NATO membership of the Baltic States will not give grounds for Finland to join the military alliance. Baltic NATO accession must be carried out without weakening the security situation of the Baltic Sea. The chairman of the Defence Committee, Ilkka Kanerva, said this means that the membership must not bring nuclear weapons to the countries. According to the information available to the Committee, the membership would not mean the arrival of nuclear arms or foreign troops. The Committee held that partnership with NATO should be implemented within the framework of military non-alliance. It believed that NATO would be increasingly focused on the global prevention of terrorism, leaving more responsibility to Europe to build its regional defence. For the Committee, terrorism has not surpassed national and regional problems in importance. The Committee does not oppose the downsizing and streamlining of the Finnish armed forces, but regional defence and conscription must be maintained. The Committee did not reach unanimity on the abolishment of anti-personnel mines. However, it considered the transition period until 2010 to be short, and noted that the cost of replacing the mines with other weapons is not part of the government report’s financial plan. The government is asked to clarify this point in the 2004 report. The Defence Committee’s position is that Parliament, NGOs and research institutes should be included in the preparation of the new report.
President Halonen, Prime Minister Lipponen, Foreign Minister Tuomioja and Finance Minister Niinistö attended the European Council meeting in Laeken, Belgium. The summit decided on a peacekeeping mission in Afghanistan. The mission would have a UN mandate, if the UN decides to send the troops. Finland would also take part in the efforts to stabilise Afghanistan. President Halonen stressed the will and ability of Finland to assist in the rebuilding of the country also by other means than military presence. The summit also declared the EU’s crisis management forces operational. However, Greece was unwilling to approve an agreement between Turkey and the EU to place NATO resources at the disposal of the EU forces. It was also decided that the Union would open its doors to 10 new member states in 2004. Finland’s bid to host the EU’s food safety authority in Helsinki was thwarted, due to a disagreement between Finland and Italy. The agency would start operating temporarily in Brussels in January. Former French President Valéry Giscard d’Estaing was appointed Chairman of the European Convention that would start its work in March. The European Council demanded that the parties to the Middle East conflict stop the violence.
Visit of French Foreign Minister Védrine in Helsinki. Védrine met President Halonen, Prime Minister Lipponen and Foreign Minister Tuomioja. Védrine said the deferment of the decision to locate the food safety authority was disappointing for Finland, but it is not a sign of EU inefficiency. He said decision-making is slow because all the countries must be heard. Foreign Minister Tuomioja hoped that qualified majority voting would become more prevalent especially as the EU enlarges. Védrine found Finnish and French views on the Middle East to be along the same lines.
Parliament began a follow-up debate on the government report on defence policy. The Social Democrats’ parliamentary group Chairman Antti Kalliomäki argued that whether Finland is allied or not allied is no longer an "earth-shattering, fatal decision”, because the security environment has changed. Kalliomäki did not however push for joining NATO. Non-alliance is a carefully weighed policy, he felt. A pro-NATO stance was adopted by Juha Karpio from the National Coalition Party and by the Swedish People’s Party’s Klaus Bremer. The opposite side was represented by the Finns Party’s Raimo Vistbacka and Left Alliance MP Jaakko Laakso. Laakso estimated that the Partnership for Peace has taken Finland into an "amazingly close cooperation with NATO”. He questioned whether the partnership goals that Finland has approved are still consistent with the principle of non-alliance.
According to the Cabinet Committee on Foreign and Security Policy, the ISAF troops in Afghanistan will probably be following similar rules of engagement as in Kosovo: use of force is not reserved for just self-defence. For Finland to participate in the operation, Parliament approval is needed. The Finnish Government will submit a report to Parliament on January 4th. Parliament will begin a preliminary debate on the report on January 9th. After the Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee has prepared its report, the matter will be decided in a session on January 10th. The Finnish peacekeeping force of around 50 soldiers is expected to leave for Afghanistan at the end of January. Finland will send a civil-military cooperation (CIMIC) detachment of 40 persons which was requested by the UK. In addition, Finland will provide 5-10 liaison officers to act as coordinators at the various headquarters of the British-led operation and to gather information for Finland. A few officers will soon leave Finland to participate in the planning of the multinational operation. In addition, the UN has requested from Finland a high-ranking military adviser to assist in the preparation of its civilian crisis management operation. Finland has appointed Brigadier General Olli-Matti Multamäki for this task.
In an interview with the newspaper Uutispäivä Demari, Foreign Minister Tuomioja criticised the enthusiasm for NATO on the part of certain Finnish political leaders and media, when studies indicate that the clear majority of Finns does not want to join NATO. Tuomioja felt that if the question of joining NATO becomes more pressing at a later date, a referendum should be held. However, he did not think anything would in the foreseeable future make the question more topical, and estimated that the significance of NATO had diminished.
The President of the Republic and the Cabinet Committee on Foreign and Security Policy discussed Finland’s participation in the Treaty on Open Skies, an agreement on observation flights. Finland has so far participated in the Open Skies regime as an observer. On 28 December, it was decided that Finland would submit an application for accessing the Treaty before the end of the year. Accession requires approval by the Parliament. The Open Skies Treaty was signed in Helsinki in 1992. It will enter into force on January 1st, 2002 and it is part of the OSCE Framework for Arms Control. The agreement gives the parties the right to conduct observation flights over the territories of the other state parties.
The Ministry for Foreign Affairs announced its decision to grant three million markka to a fund that was just set up by the UN to support the Afghan interim administration which assumed power on 22 December. The funds will be used to launch the work of the interim authority during the first six months of its operation. For Finland, it is important that attention be paid to women’s issues from the beginning of the political process, as well as in the reconstruction effort. A representative of the Finnish embassy in Pakistan will attend the inauguration of the interim government in Kabul on 22 December and give a letter from Prime Minister Lipponen to the prime minister of the interim administration.
Russian President Vladimir Putin officially opened the Primorsk oil terminal on the Karelian Isthmus. Next year, about 12 million tonnes will be transported via Primorsk, which equals about 240,000 barrels a day. The large amount of oil has raised concerns for instance among Finnish environmental organisations.
In the new year’s greeting he gave to news agency STT, Prime Minister Lipponen called for more cooperation, as no country is completely safe from terrorism. He believed cooperation between the EU, the US and Russia was increasingly important in countering terrorism. He also considered that the UN has a growing role in maintaining global security. Lipponen was concerned about the situation in the Middle East, with the cycle of violence and lack of trust as the main problems. He said Finland as an EU member has emphasised an even-handed approach to the conflicting parties. According to Lipponen, Finland’s relations to its neighbours Russia and the Nordic and Baltic countries have been more active in the past year. The coming year is significant in terms of EU enlargement. Lipponen believed the Union’s enlargement towards Central and Eastern Europe would strengthen justice and human rights on the European continent, and create conditions for improving the well-being of all Europeans. He also said the northern dimension of the EU had been strengthened during 2001, because the European Commission and international financial institutions were more committed to implementing concrete projects.
According to a poll published by the newspaper supplement Sunnuntaisuomalainen, the Finnish people have given a "school grade” of 7.6 to Tarja Halonen for her second year as President, which is very close to the grade given in January. Halonen was given most credit for foreign policy leadership and in the advancement of gender equality.
President Halonen and Russian President Vladimir Putin had a telephone conversation on New Year’s Eve. They both thought the two countries have an excellent relationship. Halonen restated that she supports Russia’s efforts to develop its relations with Europe, and stressed the importance of Russia as a partner for the EU. The presidents wished each other a successful new year. Putin’s predecessor Boris Yeltsin, who followed the conversation, concurred with his successor’s message.