Warfare or crisis management?
Finnish President Tarja Halonen wants a clear distinction to be made between crisis control and warfare. Crisis control is not warfare, Halonen said during a visit to Norway. The use of force is exceptional and restricted in crisis management and is used only in situations of emergency, she remarked. Halonen noted that, for example, the NATO bombings in Yugoslavia last year, although perhaps unavoidable and justified, were in her opinion not crisis control actions but actions of war. But according to Halonen the IFOR operations are clearly crisis management. Halonen also wants to detach herself from the talk about EU common defence and sees current activities as being specifically the developing of crisis-handling capability.
Russia, Finland and the EU
Finnish Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja says he thinks the future enlargement of the European Union will have a positive effect on relations between the EU and Russia. Tuomioja does not agree with criticism that Finland is much too keen to emphasise the EU's common policy in Finnish relations with Russia in lieu of Finland's own position. Finland's policy in the framework of the EU and in bilateral relations with Russia is complementary, Tuomioja stresses. He adds that owing to its knowledge of Russia, Finland has been able to influence EU policy towards Russia on such aspects as the northern dimension and the development of the cross-border assistance program TACIS.
Reference group for Finland?
According to Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja, Finland does not automatically have to join the EU front in all decisions. The natural reference group for Finland in many cases is the Nordic community and sometimes it can be the non-allied countries as well. Tuomioja's comments were motivated by the recent vote in the UN, in which Finland condemned the Israeli actions against the Palestinians, while other Nordic countries refrained from voting. The EU tries usually to present a united front in the UN, but last week this did not occur. The UN vote raised discussion in Finland also because Marjatta Rasi, the Finnish ambassador to the UN, decided the matter by herself without discussing the decision beforehand with the country's foreign policy leaders. Minister Tuomioja, however, said that Finland would have voted for the UN resolution to censure Israel anyway.
EU defence or NATO
Minister of Defence Jan-Erik Enestam says that it is more likely that Finland will join a common EU defence than NATO. He also dismisses the notion that he has called for accession to NATO. Enestam does not agree with the opinion that the country's national defence would suffer from the creation of standby troops for peacekeeping operations. Participation in peacekeeping operations would be the best possible training for the reserve and would directly serve national defence aims, Enestam says.
Pekkarinen says watch out for the euro
According to Mauri Pekkarinen of the Centre Party (Keskusta), the dangers of a weak euro should not be underestimated, as underrating of the currency's decline will become expensive. Pekkarinen says that the collapsing common currency is going to prove to be a stiff challenge for the Finnish economy. He wonders how the attitude towards the euro losing a quarter of its exchange value can be so nonchalant in Finland. Pekkarinen compared the situation to the end of the 1980s and reminded that even though the economic problems are totally different now, underestimating the problems at sight is reminiscent of the attitude a decade ago. A thorough debate about the economic, social and political consequences of the weak euro is needed, said Pekkarinen, and added that Prime Minister Paavo Lipponen's assurances that there is no cause for concern are not convincing.
The latest Eurobarometer shows that the EU's administration remains unfamiliar to most of the citizens in EU member states. This phenomenon is common throughout Europe. Up to 70 per cent of all EU information is received from the TV; however, only 46 per cent of Finns rank TV as the best source of EU information. Finns are also satisfied with the present amount of EU news. Finns in general know more about the ECB and the EU presidency than do other EU citizens. The most vigorous supporters of the Union's eastern expansion are the Norwegians and Swiss, but among member states, Sweden is the most supportive towards the expansion.
And in other news...
- President Halonen says that ethnic conflicts covered in the media recently are just the tip of the iceberg. Every act of criminal violence is one too many and merely produces a vicious circle, Halonen says. This is in response to recent incidents of ethnic violence in some Finnish urban areas.
- The European Commission does not like the idea of not introducing one- and two-cent euro coins in Finland. The internal credibility of the EU would suffer if the smallest coins would not be valid in all parts of the Union, the Commission argued. Consumer authorities in Finland have also pointed out that rounding up to the nearest five cents would raise some prices excessively.
- Apparently a new strain of HIV is spreading in Finland. In the past two years 150 drug addicts have contracted the new type of HIV.
- The Finnish Association of Reindeer Herding Co-operatives is against importing reindeer meat from Russia, as it threatens the future of reindeer management in Finland. According to them, the origin of Russian reindeer meat is not properly controlled. They also point out that the Sami, the indigenous people of Lapland, produce one third of Finland's reindeer meat.
- Domestic flights of the national air carrier, Finnair, stopped for part of Wednesday, and international flights were disrupted by a six-hour strike that began at noon local time.
- The atmospheric temperature in Finland is predicted to rise by more than five degrees centigrade in winter and by about three degrees in summer during the next 50 to 100 years. Because of the warming, there will be less snow and ice. In the future, the whole of the Baltic Sea may remain free of ice throughout the year.
- The Finnish winter traffic season began on Wednesday. Winter tyres may now be used on vehicles throughout the country. Use of the tyres becomes compulsory in December. Lower winter speed limits also come into effect this week.
- A big wolf, which was shot at the weekend at Näränkävaara, is being examined at the centre for radiation protection, Säteilyturvakeskus. The cat-like soft shape of the head of the wolf raised suspicions that it had absorbed nuclear waste into its bones and organs.
Aleksi Vakkuri, 3 November 2000
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Yle Ykkönen, Radio Suomi