The equal union
Prime Minister Paavo Lipponen said that the European Union should be developed equally. Lipponen supports the Benelux nations, which wish to strengthen the European Commission to protect the interests of the small nations of the EU. He would like to restrain the growing self-interest of the bigger EU countries. According to Lipponen, acting out of self-interest should not be accepted, and maintaining a balance between the smaller and bigger member states is essential for a coherent EU. Lipponen also said that he is concerned about the aspirations of some to establish new EU institutions that will benefit only the stronger countries.
A new composition for the European Commission, the weighting of votes in the European Council and rules for deepening co-operation will be on the agenda of the Nice European Council Summit in December. Finnish policy has so far been for a deepening of integration to take place within the Union's institutional frameworks and not outside them. Lipponen said that all member states will retain their commissioners and that the voting right of the larger states in the European Council will be increased by a reasonable proportion.
According to Lipponen, the Nice Treaty aims also to open the way for enlargement. However, he doubts that the EU will set any date for enlargement at the summit. According to Lipponen, the main target in Nice is to produce results that allow the process to continue. He also predicted that the negotiations will continue with candidate countries, and they must continue their efforts to meet EU criteria that they have failed to meet as of yet. Lipponen expects some progress in membership talks next year, during the Swedish tenure as president of the EU. Concerning membership applications from the Baltic countries, Lipponen called for a decision before NATO decides on its own further enlargement in 2002.
Advance voting for the municipal elections opened on Wednesday. The advance voting is done at polling stations set up at post offices and other public places. The official polling day is Sunday 22 October. A survey shows that 52 per cent of the respondents from Helsinki, 50 per cent from the nearby town Espoo and 49 per cent from another nearby town, Vantaa, would like their local decision-makers to hold referenda. Those most in favour of referenda were students and working people.
There have never been local referenda in Helsinki, though the law on municipalities would allow them. The city council is to decide in the coming months whether a referendum should be held on the preservation of state railway warehouse buildings in downtown Helsinki.
Oiling the harbour
The EU supports Finland's demand for an international evaluation of the environmental effects from the Primorsk oil harbour in Russia. The EU Council of Environment Ministers and the European Commission has given its support to the Finnish demand. Finnish Environment Minister Satu Hassi said the matter will be discussed at the meeting of the Co-operation Committee of Finland and Russia on Wednesday. The Primorsk oil harbour is situated on the Gulf of Finland, and tens of millions of tons of oil would be transported through it to the world market.
Dealing with Libya
Finland is beginning business negotiations with Libya after years of silence. A Finnish trade delegation travelled to Tripoli on Sunday. Many other EU states have already started high-level reciprocal visits with Libya. Trade opportunities are expected to be found, for instance, in the oil and the hydraulic engineering branches. The EU lifted sanctions against Libya last year. Only the exporting of arms is still banned.
The Danish police arrested a Finnish couple at the port of Rødby in Denmark last Sunday. They have been charged with smuggling people. Three families from Serbia were found in the trailer rented by the couple, when they arrived in Denmark from Germany via ferry. The couple, however, denies everything. The man said in court that he knew nothing about the 14 people in the trailer and the woman, in turn, said that she had only given a lift to these Serbs because their vehicle had broken down.
English Hooligans: 0
Eighteen English soccer fans were turned back at the border, before Finland and England met in a World Cup qualifying match on Wednesday. They were persons known by Finnish and British authorities, who were in co-operation, to have criminal records. Altogether, there were some 3000 English spectators at Olympic Stadium in Helsinki. There were hundreds of policemen in and around the stadium, but everything went smoothly, despite fears of English hooliganism. The sold out match ended in a 0-0 tie.
And in other news...
- Former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari is one of the finalists for the Nobel Peace Prize. His name was among the candidates primarily because of his efforts in clearing up the Kosovo crisis in 1999. A strong career in the UN and in the Namibian independence process is also in his favour. The winner will be announced Friday.
- Serbian police expelled Finnish reporter Marita Vihervuori from Yugoslavia. She was also fined for moving around without a visa. Vihervuori was arrested late on Sunday, while trying to get to Serbia from Kosovo at the Kurušumlija border station. She was released on Monday.
- An EU report on the use of drugs reveals that the use of narcotics is increasing faster in Finland than in the rest of Europe. According to the report, there are about 1.5 million drug users in the EU area, and every fifth European has used cannabis.
- René Nyberg, 54, a policy director at the political affairs department of the Foreign Ministry, is likely to be appointed as ambassador to Moscow. He is said to be the most competent for the post, among the six applicants. It is likely the appointment will be made in November at the latest, when preparations associated with the appointment have been completed.
- Antti Mattila, 74, experienced a day that few blind people experience. His torn retina was repaired by operation. The restoration of sight after a long blindness is very unusual.
- The beginning of October has been the warmest such period in Finland for 40 years. It is highly exceptional that the warm wave, which began in September, has lasted for almost two weeks now.
- The last part of the Helsinki-Tampere highway opened on Thursday. Now it is the longest highway in Finland. The highway is 160 kilometers long, and it took nearly four decades to be completed.
Aleksi Vakkuri, 13 October 2000
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Yle Ykkönen, Radio Suomi