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Vol 3, No 7
19 February 2001
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News from Finland News from

All the important news
since 9 February 2001

Aleksi Vakkuri


Prime Minister's interview hour

The leader of the Social Democratic Party, Prime Minister Paavo Lipponen, said during the regular Prime Minister's interview hour on Radio Suomi (Radio Finland) that the community must see to it that people have the money to feed themselves. He said that income security needs to be strengthened and more forceful efforts should be made against the problem of poverty.

Lipponen noted that within a month, when the framework for next year's budget is prepared, the government will decide on various measures to fight the problem. According to Lipponen, a study should be done on what kind of families are most in need of help and financial support.

He said it will take more than money to solve the poverty problem; for instance, more services, employment incentives and backups for basic income. Lipponen has criticised the media for their lack of input in the public debate on poverty. In his opinion, defence spending and social spending have, at times, been pitted against each other in public debate.

However, if Finland practises a policy of non-alignment, an independent defence is needed. What this independent defence requires must be evaluated accurately, and the timing of various acquisitions needs to be considered, Lipponen stated. The acquisitions will not be used for preparations for joining NATO, Lipponen added.


Russia's unrealistic nuclear plan

Finnish experts doubt Russia's plans to rapidly expand its nuclear energy generation. The chief of the Finnish Radiation Safety Centre, Jukka Laaksonen, says that Russia has unrealistic ambitions for nuclear power, noting that the country does not have the money for even one new reactor.

The Russians have expressed a wish for some financing from the West, as well as plans to sell uranium and nuclear waste disposal services to countries abroad. According to Laaksonen, a more suitable goal for Russia would be to keep the existing reactors in good shape. Russia is planning to build 40 new reactors in the next 20 years, adding to the capacity of the current 29 reactors in service. Even if new projects are uncertain, three reactors will soon be ready in Russia, in Rostov, Kalinin and Kursk.


Walkout at YLE

The two television channels of the Finnish Broadcasting Company, YLE, were forced off the air Tuesday due to a staff walkout that occurred at 14:00. The staff protested current negotiations about layoffs and workforce cuts. The layoff discussions are said to affect some 300 persons in administrative and support positions.

The company has justified the restructuring by stating that their will be changes made in working methods when the changeover to digital broadcasting takes effect. Broadcasting returned to normal on Wednesday morning, and YLE radio programmes were aired as usual.


A delicate balance

Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja suggested that EU foreign ministers should discuss US plans for a national missile defence system in their coming meeting, although the matter does not directly involve the EU. Tuomioja's Swedish counterpart, Foreign Minister Anna Lindh, criticised the US project sharply last week and warned of a possible new arms race.

Tuomioja said that he shares her concern, even though Finland and Sweden may have slightly differing ways of presenting matters. According to Tuomioja, Finland's intention is to maintain good co-operation between European countries and Russia, as well as between European countries and the United States. In Tuomioja's opinion, NATO and Euro-Atlantic co-operation has not been questioned for many reasons, noting that one important factor is that it provides European countries with the potential to affect US policies. Tuomioja spoke about this topic in an interview with the Swedish-language radio news of Finnish Broadcasting Company YLE on Monday.


Joint voyage control in Gulf of Finland

The Ministry of Transport and Communication wants to speed up the introduction of the Finnish-Russian-Estonian voyage control system for vessels in the Gulf of Finland. The system, similar to airports' air traffic control covering the entire Gulf, is needed for the security of shipping and the protection of the environment.

Last year, six million passengers sailed the rapid passenger services between Helsinki and Tallinn. Additionally, oil transport is expected to double to 80 million tonnes by the year 2005. The new Russian oil terminal under construction at Primorsk, at the far end of the Gulf of Finland, will bring more large oil tankers to the Gulf of Finland.

The new control system would require the authorisation of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO). Finland, Estonia and Russia are expected to submit a joint application to the IMO in 2003, and the system could start operations in 2004. Furthermore, Finland is supporting the IMO's plans to expedite a planned ban on single-hull oil tankers. Currently, about one-third of all tankers sailing the Gulf of Finland are single-hulled.

And in other news...

  • Former Justice Minister Kari Häkämies supports a proposal to give gay couples the right to register their relationships. Häkämies, who during his term was against registration rights, no longer has a say in the matter, but his view is symbolically important. The Parliament discussed the issue on Tuesday.
  • Finland backed a European Commission proposal to reprimand Ireland for not keeping a sufficiently tight grip on its fiscal policy. Finnish Finance Minister Sauli Niinistö emphasised that the EU's general guidelines must be a central instrument for keeping the EU countries' economies under control.
  • Labour Minister Tarja Filatov estimates that unemployment will be cut in half in 2003, which would mean that the targets set in 1995 would be reached. In December, there were 320,000 Finns unemployed, and by 2003 the desired number would be 230,000.
  • The Foreign Minister has established strict rules on the public conduct of its officials. The rules state that a clear distinction should always be made between whether an official is going public as a representative of the Ministry or as a private person. There has recently been discussion between the Ministry and special researcher Ilmari Susiluoto, an expert on Russia, about limitations on what an official can express publicly. However, this disagreement has been settled.

Aleksi Vakkuri, 15 February 2001

Moving on:


TV1, TV2
Helsingin Sanomat


Brian J Požun
Slovene Art

Sam Vaknin
Macedonia's Unemployed

Jessica Houghton and Balázs Jarábik
Slovaks Must Learn

Catherine Lovatt
The End of Kuchma?

Gusztáv Kosztolányi
Joint Efforts

Tiffany G Petros
High Times

Martin Šulík

Andrew James Horton
Šulík Abroad

Christina Manetti

Christina Manetti
Šulík Interviewed


Andrew Roberts
Post-Communist Party Systems

Štěpán Kotrba
Sow and Reap

Brian J Požun
Shedding the Balkan Skin

Martin D Brown
Czech Historical Amnesia

Dejan Anastasijević (ed)
Out of Time

Gusztáv Kosztolányi
Hungarian Oil Scandal

Sam Vaknin
After the Rain

Press Reviews:
Oliver Craske
Caught on Tape


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