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Vol 3, No 3
22 January 2001
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News from Finland News from

All the important news
since 12 January 2001

Aleksi Vakkuri


Internet under surveillance

According to a recent survey on behalf of the Ministry of Transport and Communications, employers regularly monitor their employees' use of e-mail and the Internet. This monitoring has also been extended to individual workers rather than a general sweep of the entire network. Every third company or organisation monitored individual employees, according to the report.

Companies that took part in the survey say that e-mail messages are not read as such, but monitored from logs, which indicate both the receiver and the sender. In addition, all the sites visited on the World Wide Web can be read in the logs. The survey indicated that many companies and organisations are eager to get hard and fast rules on what an employer can and cannot do in this sphere.

In 1999, the Personal Data Act came into effect. It states that an employer is obliged to notify staff of any surveillance. Organisations themselves seem to think that they have a right to their own data systems and, thereby, a right to keep an eye on how their are being used.


Finnish-Russian pact under consideration

Finland must state in the first half of this year its position as to whether the 1992 political pact with Russia should remain in force. The pact, which is valid for ten years, will be extended by five years unless annulled. The Foreign Ministry does not wish to annul the pact, and it is likely that it will remain in force until 2007. The pact was signed nine years ago under confusing circumstances.

In November 1991, Finland and the Soviet Union worked out a friendship treaty, but the Soviet Union collapsed before its acceptance and a pact was signed with Russia instead. At that same time, the 1948 Treaty of Friendship, Co-operation and Mutual Assistance expired. The current pact cannot, however, be compared to the Friendship Treaty. After joining the European Union in 1995, Finland has also placed emphasis on the EU's role in its relations with Russia.


Accepting Nice

The Finnish Cabinet Committee on European Union Affairs has given its approval to the Treaty of Nice, and also to the specifications made by EU ambassadors. The changes agreed upon at Nice will still have to be formally approved by the Finnish Parliament. The government is expected to introduce the matter for debate during the spring, and Parliament should take a stand on the Treaty in autumn. EU officials are currently finalising the Nice Treaty so that it can be signed.

Finland postponed acceptance, because there was uncertainty about qualified majority decisions and the text contained the idea of moving EU summit meetings to Brussels. As Finland sees it, the country holding the Presidency should be allowed to hold less official meetings on its own territory. These meetings would not be called European Councils, however. The Cabinet Committee wants the issues of the decision-making system and the impartial treatment of the member states to be reconsidered in connection with preparations for the Inter-Governmental Conference (IGC) of 2004.


The Stasi MP

It has been discovered that Finnish MP Pentti Tiusanen (Left Alliance) was an informer for the German Democratic Republic (GDR) security authority, Stasi, when he was a student. Documents show that Tiusanen acquired information for the Stasi about foreign students when he was studying in the GDR in the 1970s. Tiusanen himself denies that he had been a Stasi agent but acknowledged that he had been in contact on a number of occasions with an official of the organisation.

Tiusanen belonged to a generation of Finnish radical students who, in the 1970s, supported hardline Stalinism and, thus, the Moscow-leaning wing of the Finnish Communist Party. The secretary of the Left Alliance, Ralf Sund, has chided Tiusanen's links with Stasi, calling it distasteful and condemnable. On the other hand, Matti Huutola, vice-chair of the Left Alliance's parliamentary group, says that he has not lost confidence in Tiusanen.

The Suojelupoliisi (Secret Police) would not comment on the case. Pentti Tiusanen says he will be a candidate also in the next parliamentary election. After all, it is no secret that there were politicians and students in Finland who entered into close collaboration with countries of the former Eastern Bloc.


DU fallout

Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja supports the German proposal to issue a temporary ban on munitions containing depleted uranium (DU). The use of DU munitions is believed to pose a health risk to peacekeepers who served, and are serving, in the Balkans.

Several countries, including Finland, plan to examine the health of their troops in the region. Finns currently working in Kosovo have also been advised to undergo physical examinations. The Ministry will provide further information on additional medical check-ups, if necessary, after the completion of a report on health risks in Kosovo.


In support of Hungary

Foreign Trade Minister Kimmo Sasi met Hungarian Foreign Minister János Martonyi in Budapest. Sasi says that Finland sincerely supports Hungarian EU membership. He pointed out that Hungary has economic potential and some major Finnish companies, such as Nokia and Elcoteq, have invested over FIM (Finnish markka) three billion (USD 471,758,556) in Hungary. Furthermore, Sasi believes that the first candidate countries could join the EU as early as 2003.


And in other news...

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin will make his first state visit to Finland this July or August. President Tarja Halonen invited Putin during her visit to Russia last June. Putin visited Finland when he was prime minister to unofficially attending a meeting of EU leaders during the Helsinki EU summit in December 1999.
  • Minister of Finance Sauli Niinistö was re-elected for another two-year term as chairman of the European Democrat Union (EDU), a co-operative organisation of European Conservative, Christian Democrat and "other non-collectivist" parties. The EDU has 34 member parties from different parts of Europe.
  • Slovak Foreign Minister Eduard Kukan visited Helsinki on 15 and 16 January. He met Finnish Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja to discuss European integration and bilateral relations between Finland and Slovakia.
  • According to Statistics Finland, crime, and especially drug-related crime, is on the increase in Finland. Last year the police recorded some 770,000 crimes in Finland, approximately 18,800 more than in 1999. Some 13,900 narcotics crimes were reported—1900 more than in the previous year. On Monday, an intoxicated driver with a stolen vehicle killed a young couple in Helsinki while trying to escape from the police.

Aleksi Vakkuri, 19 January 2001

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