Russia wants Finland to stay neutral
According to a report by Russia's council on foreign and defence policy, the main goal of Russian diplomacy with Finland is the maintenance of Finland's non-aligned status. The report dealt with Russia's relations with the Nordic countries and was designed for use by the Russian leadership when planning defence and foreign policy.
The report states that, in general, relations between Russia and the Nordic countries are good. The only threat in the near future is NATO expansion into the Baltic countries. According to the report, NATO membership would mean that Russia would have to take measures that will have political and military implications for Northwestern Russia.
In the report, it says that in recent years, especially in Finland, the USA and NATO-oriented powers have pressured the Finnish leadership to give up on its neutrality. There is fear that this pressure will increase. The report calls on Russian diplomats to appeal to those forces in the Nordic countries that reportedly understand the dangers of NATO expansion. It also calls on Russia to take all possible benefit from the EU enlargement to the area around Kaliningrad.
EU and Greenpeace discuss Finnish nuclear power
The European Union's energy commissioner, Loyola de Palacio, visited Finland recently. She supports plans to build a fifth nuclear reactor in Finland. According to de Palacio, nuclear power is needed in order to meet the goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, which are set in the Kyoto agreement. The agreement requires Europe to cut 1990 emissions levels by eight percent by 2010.
De Palacio says she is in favour of renewable sources of energy, but there is a limit as to how much energy these could supply. She added, however, that the use of, or decision against, nuclear power remains a question for national governments to decide.
On the other hand, Greenpeace has urged Finland not to go ahead with a proposal to build a permanent deep underground nuclear waste dump, which would be the first in Western Europe. Greenpeace stated that it is too early to say whether burial is the best way to dispose of nuclear waste. The environmental organization wants Finland to wait until more information becomes available. The Finnish government decided in December to support, in principle, plans to build the underground research facilities.
European language skills
A report by the European Commission shows that nearly half of EU citizens can speak only their mother tongue. The language proficiency of Finns is above average; 68 per cent of Finns claim that they can speak at least one other language in addition to Finnish. Among all EU citizens, 53 per cent know one foreign language. 26 per cent of Europeans can speak two other languages in addition to their mother tongue, and eight per cent can speak three languages.
The share of people who speak only one language is, by far, the highest in Great Britain. The most commonly spoken language in Europe is English—over half of Europeans speak it as either their native tongue or first foreign language. Not surprisingly, Finnish is not too popular; even Irish Gaelic is a more common foreign language than Finnish.
Former spy speaks about Russian espionage
Stig Bergling, a Swedish man who was sentenced in 1979 for spying for the Soviet Union, says that the Cold War and the information war is going on full blast. Berling referred to the current case of the suspected spy for Russia at the ABB Engineering Group in Sweden, saying that he is not a bit surprised, as everything is the way it used to be. He thinks that espionage is still an important source of information for Russia, not least because Russia has reduced its defence forces.
Berling told of his opinions in an interview in the daily Hufvudstadsbladet. Furthermore, he thinks that the ABB affair will expand because the company also has links to the defence industry. However, the suspected spy was released on Wednesday, because there was not enough evidence against him, though the Swedish police are continuing their investigation.
And in other news...
- According to an opinion poll, Minister of Finance and head of the Conservatives Sauli Niinistö and opposition Centre Party's acting leader Anneli Jäätteenmäki are the most popular candidates for the post of prime minister for the next government.
- According to Statistics Finland, internal migration in Finland is increasing. Migration from one community to another has approached the levels of the mass migrations of the 1970s. Furthermore, there seems to be no end to the trend of growth centres draining populations from rural areas. The most eager to move are young people ages 15 to 34.
- Finland, which fought alongside Germany for part of the Second World War, announced that, next year, it would begin observing an annual Memorial Day on 27 January to honour victims of the Nazi Holocaust. Holocaust Memorial Day has been adopted by several European nations, including Germany, Britain, Italy, Sweden and Denmark. The chosen date is the anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland.
- According to the European Commission, Finland has more public Internet terminals than other European countries. There are over two thousand public Internet terminals in Finland, or 0.46 terminals per thousand habitants.
- The European School Survey Project on Alcohol and Other Drugs shows that Finnish teenagers still lead the rest of Europe in drinking with the intention of getting intoxicated. Also, the number of Finnish young people who tried illegal drugs doubled in the years 1995 to1999. However, alcohol remains the predominant intoxicant for Finnish students.
- According to initial figures by Statistics Finland, Swedes continued to be the most eager visitors to Finland; Germans came in second and Russians third. Travellers from Britain were the next largest group. The greatest growth in overnight stays was by Asian tourists.
Aleksi Vakkuri, 26 February 2001
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