Finland's take on progress
Foreign Trade Minister Kimmo Sasi stated that Finland is satisfied that, in general, the candidate countries have made good progress since last year's European Commission progress reports. Regarding political criteria, the achievements are encouraging and most candidate countries have also taken important steps to meet the economic criteria.
Sasi said that reinforced efforts are needed, in order for candidate countries to put EU legislation into practice and to keep up the momentum in the negotiation process. According to Sasi, Finland shares the view that it is still too early to fix concrete dates, since it could deviate attention from the negotiations proper.
It is crucial that each candidate country be examined according to objective criteria and according to their own level of preparedness, he added. Finally, Sasi noted that Sweden, which is scheduled to hold the next presidency of the EU, has chosen enlargement as a priority, and Finland fully supports Sweden in its efforts to carry on the negotiations in an efficient way.
According to the daily Helsingin Sanomat, it is possible to roughly conclude that Malta and Cyprus are the forerunners, with Hungary, Estonia and Poland in a second group close behind. The third group includes the Czech Republic and Slovenia.
The rest of the candidate countries have fallen behind these groups. Helsingin Sanomat stressed that the hardest part of the negotiations is still ahead. It also pointed out that the member countries of the Union have yet to persuade their citizens to back the enlargement.
Nordic countries, unite!
Prime Minister Paavo Lipponen expressed his wish that all Nordic countries would become members of the European Union, which would enhance Nordic co-operation.
Currently, Iceland and Norway are not members of the EU. Lipponen also expressed his support for initiatives aimed at fostering closer co-operation among Baltic and Nordic countries. He said that there are plans for meetings to be held by the prime ministers of the eight countries, in which the prime ministers of three Baltic states would participate as equal partners. Lipponen spoke in Reykjavik, where he participated in a Nordic Council meeting.
Apologising for the past
Prime Minister Paavo Lipponen apologised to the Jewish community for the extradition of eight Jews to Nazi Germany during the Second World War. Eight non-Finnish Jews from Central Europe were arrested and handed over to the Gestapo in Helsinki in 1942.
Lipponen said that the government had decided in favour of the extradition and that it was a shameful moment in Finnish history. It cannot be undone, nor can it be explained away as the result of a particular situation, Lipponen said. Only one of those extradited survived the extermination camps.
At the same time, a new memorial, a stone block in honour of the extradited, was unveiled in Helsinki. Also, the general assembly of the Finnish Lutheran Church discussed the relations of the church with the Jewish community, saying it was wrong to extradite Jews and apologised for its own silence on the matter. Today, there are some 1500 Jews living in Finland.
Defence Minister Jan-Erik Enestam suggested that it is possible for the Nordic countries and Russia to arrange joint military manoeuvres in the future.
At the Nordic Council meeting in Reykjavik, Enestam said that, even in military issues, the Nordic countries are ready to work in close association with Russia. He said that co-operation could start, for example, in the framework of rescue operations. Development of such co-operation is a possibility now that Russia no longer perceives the United States and other Western countries as their biggest threat.
Ambivalence on defence
Defence Minister Enestam said that the Baltic states' drive towards integration into the Euro-Atlantic structure has increased stability and security in the region. Both EU and NATO memberships would further stabilise security, Enestam said.
Finnish President Tarja Halonen, on the other hand, has not been too clear about her opinions concerning the consequences of the Baltic states' membership in NATO.
President Tarja Halonen said that, from the viewpoint of Europe, Al Gore would be the better option as President of the United States. Halonen believes that the election of Gore would have a positive effect on the co-operation between the United States and Europe.
Halonen said that Gore would continue with the current presidential corps of aides, a well-oiled machine already familiar in Europe. Halonen spoke in the town of Jyväskylä, while touring the provinces.
Location is the key
The competition for the location of the European Food Authority is getting more intense. Germany is going to present both Bonn and Frankfurt as possible locations for the Authority; so far, candidate cities have been Helsinki, Parma, Barcelona and Lille.
European Consumer Affairs Commissioner David Byrne still opposes the Helsinki bid. According to Byrne, Helsinki is too far away. The European Food Authority will be larger than planned, with estimations that the it would employ over 300 persons. The full Commission is yet to take a stand on the possible location of the Authority.
Environment Minister Satu Hassi believes that completing the nature conservation areas of Natura will succeed without any major complaints. The hearings concerning the proposed sites began as the proposition was made to Finnish municipalities.
The EU Commission has demanded that Finland include more areas in the Finnish Natura sites. The most important addition to the Finnish Natura programme is the water system around the rivers Tornionjoki and Muonionjoki in Lapland. In total, there are over 300 new areas to be included.
And in other news...
- No real progress has been made on any of the major issues in talks between representatives of unions and employers about a new collective agreement on wage and other benefits in the Finnish labour market.
- Finland's Metsä-Serla announced on Wednesday that it is going to buy a majority stake in German fine-paper maker Zanders Feinpapiere AG for EUR 86 million.
- According to a new study, energy company Imatran Voima (Imatra Power) wanted Finland's first nuclear reactor to be ordered from a Western supplier. After a hard and complicated political struggle, the first reactor was ordered in 1969 from the USSR.
- Finland's Ambassador to the EU, Antti Satuli, says that there is no minor military alliance evolving within the EU. If some day a European defence system is to be born, those negotiations will be held within the EU.
Aleksi Vakkuri, 10 November 2000
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Yle Ykkönen, Radio Suomi