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Vol 2, No 29
4 September 2000
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News From Finland All the important news from Finland since 25 August 2000
Aleksi Vakkuri


President Halonen on security

Finnish President Tarja Halonen says that the development of the EU's common security policy is in accordance with Finnish interests. She said that it will not, however, replace NATO because the EU cannot develop into a defense alliance. She believes that NATO, while expanding, will also take into account Finnish viewpoints. Halonen denies notions that Finland's own policies on Russia have been overshadowed by the EU. According to Halonen, Finland has managed to get wide acceptance from the rest of Europe for Finnish aspirations to support Russia's progress towards a state that respects European values. Halonen challenged criticism that says Finland's policy on Russia is too passive.


Kekkonen raises controversy

Another Finnish president has also been the target of press interest during the week. Urho Kaleva Kekkonen (1900-1986) served as the president for almost 25 years (1956-1981). His life and career are spawning lively discussions now, upon the 100th anniversary of his birth, as many books and papers have been published. The two leading Kekkonen researchers — Professor Juhani Suomi and Professor Hannu Rautkallio — are almost in open warfare. Suomi says that Rautkallio has no place among historians, because his methods are so controversial. On the other hand, Rautkallio is now considering legal actions against Suomi. To cut a long story short, it can be said that Finns are divided into three categories when talking about President Kekkonen. The first category thinks that he was a remarkable leader, who managed to keep Finland out of the Eastern Bloc. The second category thinks that Kekkonen was an egocentric and selfish figure, who pandered to Russians for his own good. And the third category asks: "Who is Kekkonen?"


Presidential wedding

President Halonen had time last week to do something else—she and her long-time companion, Pentti Arajärvi, were married last Saturday. Nobody was expecting the wedding to take place at this moment, and the media was also caught by surprise; also surprised were the couple's friends and staff members, many of whom heard about it on the evening television news. There will, however, be no immediate honeymoon and Halonen will continue her duties without interruption. It should also be mentioned that she did not take her husband’s surname, thus Finland still has President Halonen.


Climate changes threaten Finland

A report from the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) estimates that Finland belongs to the area that will suffer the most from climatic changes in the next 100 years. According to experts, the climate in Finland in the year 2100 will be like the present climate in Denmark, due to global warming. According to the WWF report, over half of the present natural varieties of flora and fauna in Finland, Iceland, Estonia, Latvia and Russia are in danger.


Shortage of Russian language students

As much as 30 percent of new students of the Russian language at Finnish universities speak it as their mother tongue. The share of native Russian speakers has grown, since there are not enough Finnish students who want to study Russian. An international group led by the Finnish academy examining the problem says that the teaching of Russian and Baltic languages should be strengthened, because the likelihood of these countries joining the EU increases the need for people who have a command of their languages. In addition, Polish, Czech, Slovak, Bulgarian, Latvian and Lithuanian are studied more as secondary rather than major studies. That is problematic for universities, because financing is based on the examinations completed.


Interior Minister pleased

Interior Minister Kari Häkämies says he is satisfied with the changes in the law on foreigners. The reform provided will provide for the quicker handling of asylum petitions, especially for refugees from the so-called "safe countries." Quicker handling will be provided to, for instance, asylum-seekers from Poland, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Bulgaria. These countries have been classified as "safe."


Nordic and Baltic Prime Ministers meet

Prime Ministers of the Baltic region countries met in Pärnu, Estonia. Finnish Prime Minister Paavo Lipponen says he is satisfied with the progress of the Baltic countries' EU membership negotiations. He said that he thinks negotiations have progressed a lot during the current French EU presidency. Ministers discussed, among other issues, EU enlargement and co-operation in the Baltic region. Also, the EU's Northern Dimension will be developed further, and a conference on this will take place later this year.


Finnish EU Ambassador speaks out

Finnish Ambassador to the EU Antti Satuli says that EU ombudsman Jacob Söderman overstepped his responsibilities when he criticized the naming of Javier Solana as the secretary-general of the EU Council of Ministers. Söderman had commented on the nomination a couple of weeks ago, and Satuli said on Tuesday in Helsinki that he should have read the Council's decision before presenting his own views. Later Söderman regretted the comments he had made, and added that he has complete respect for Solana’s broad and impressive range of political experience.


Elisabet Rehn bit by viper

Elisabet Rehn, who became known to the rest of Europe as a UN Special Representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina, was bitten by a viper in her backyard. She was rushed to a hospital, where she received medical treatment and is now recovering. This means, however, that Rehn is unable to fly to New York to chair a United Nations and NGO panel on civilian intervention.


All the rest...

In July, 46 people were killed and 883 injured in road accidents. The total amount of accidents was 658. Between January and July, 208 persons have been killed on Finland's roads.

From the beginning of September, it will become compulsory to have a fire detector in every apartment in Finland. The new law also concerns summer cottages.

The urban free-of-charge magazine City conducted a survey on fashion and celebrities. Some 5000 readers named President Halonen to as having the second worst taste in clothing. The personality with the worst taste was former ski jumper Matti Nykänen. According to the survey, Erja Häkkinen—wife of Formula-1 champion driver Mika Häkkinen—has the best taste in clothing.

Finnish scientists have found a gene which predisposes people to drink too much alcohol. This new excuse for drinking is officially called protein neuropeptide Y, or NPY.

Aleksi Vakkuri, 4 September 2000

Moving on:


TV1, TV2

Yle Ykkönen, Radio Suomi
Radio Nova
Kiss FM

Helsingin Sanomat


Charles Ingrao
Handling Milošević

Jens Boysen
Germany's Radical Right

Brian J Požun
Slovenian Political Heat

Wojtek Kość
Polish Presidential Election

Mel Huang
Estonian Military Confusion

Delia Dumitrica
Romanian Return to the Old Days?

Jan Čulík
Czech Media Privitisation

Sam Vaknin
Feudalism and Communism

Pál Závada,
the best-selling Hungarian author

Gusztáv Kosztolányi
Hungarian Corruption

Andrew James Horton
Yugoslav Film

Delia Dumitrica
Hungarians in Romania

Andrew Stroehlein
Czechs and Germans

Sam Vaknin
Post-Communist Disappointment

Culture Calendar:


Press Reviews:

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