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PRESS CONFERENCE BY PRESIDENT OF FINLAND

Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York

17 May 2007

Speaking to the press following her meeting with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon this afternoon, the President of Finland, Tarja Halonen, said that the subjects addressed during their “good discussion” -- which had taken almost twice as long as scheduled -- included United Nations reform; its new structures, such as the Human Rights Council; the Middle East peace process; Kosovo; and Darfur.

She said that the Secretary-General had her country’s strong support as the head of the United Nations -- an organization that played a central role in international politics. Her country had high expectations for the reform process, and she hoped that the institutional work would continue.

Among the broad thematic issues that had been touched upon during the meeting, she mentioned climate change and globalization, saying that her country and the European Union had been very supportive of the efforts to strengthen environmental processes on the international level. She hoped for a successful outcome of the meeting on climate change at the end of the year.

Responding to a question about “a Scandinavian viewpoint” on the means of solving some of the intractable problems of the Middle East, she emphasized the importance of patience and good will. “A certain northern dimension” was to be cool-headed, even in a very difficult situation, and such an approach could help both sides. It was also very important to keep the peace process going. She hoped that all the parties concerned could see the possibilities for dialogue. Everybody welcomed -- if not all the details, then at least the idea -- that the League of Arab States had come up with a Peace Initiative that contained proposals for further discussions. The European Union also attached great importance to the Quartet process, as well as many other issues.

However, she did not have “a secret key” to resolve the issue, she continued. The international community had devoted a lot of time, had come close at times, but had then found it had not been patient or realistic enough. She hoped that the Secretary-General would continue his efforts, despite the sad news coming from the region.

It was also necessary to see the positive potential of fruitful cooperation for the whole region, she said. From the European Union’s perspective, she stressed the importance of the Barcelona process -- an ambitious initiative that had laid the foundations of a new regional relationship in the Mediterranean -- saying that all the countries of the Mediterranean could benefit if the situation in the Eastern Mediterranean improved. That might be one of the aspects that had not been emphasized enough.

To a question about her country’s position on Cuba, in view of a forthcoming European Union meeting at the end of June to elaborate a common policy towards that country, she said that it was not Finland, but Germany, that held the Union presidency at the moment. However, on the basis of her activities in the Union, she could say that the Union had always tried to be very cooperative, but that, sometimes, patience was needed. She hoped that “good cooperation activities”, as shown by the European Union side, could be seen as attractive. Real dialogue and cooperation would be the best route for both sides.

Asked about Turkey’s membership in the European Union, she said: “You know we are not your headache. We have been your supporters.” For years now, Turkey had been the member of the Council of Europe and was active in the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). The country was also interested in further integration with the European Union. Where some were pessimistic or suspicious, she was “pretty optimistic” that Turkey could be successful in that regard, once it had met the criteria in the areas of democracy, human rights and the rule of law. Finland would keep its promise that, once those criteria were met, Turkey could become a member. However, the process could be a rocky one and could take a long time. She hoped that Turkey could keep the momentum going and continue its efforts to become a full-fledged member of the European community.

To a query about reports on massive cyber attacks against Estonia, a country in close proximity to Finland, she stressed the importance of cyber security for every single country. She hoped for a stronger cooperation within the international community in that regard. That was one of the big challenges of the information society.

Responding to a question about her call for a media study of the relationship between the Russian Federation and Estonia, she said that it was important to know how opinions were formed in free society. She would be very interested to know how societies saw each other. It would also be interesting to see what challenges were ahead. At least three universities in Finland had good media research systems. Sometimes, views could become very polarized -- for instance as they currently were in the Russian Federation. The same could happen in the Netherlands, France or Finland.

Asked what Finland would bring to the table if it became a non-permanent member of the Security Council in the future, she said that her country was a good example of a small country that was quite transparent and competitive. It had little corruption, one of the best education systems, free media and a great gender agenda. For example, 12 out of 20 members of the current Government in Finland, which was only a couple of months old, were women. One could ask if that was because of the quotas and, indeed, Finland had aimed for a 50-50 gender balance. However, she was quite sure that all eight men in the Government were quite capable, even without quotas.

“So this is the country that is trying to become a member of the Security Council,” she said, before going to questions in Finnish. As a matter of fact, the Nordic countries -- with their background of democracy, human rights and the rule of law -- could be very effective on the Council. They could also be very tough, when needed, like the United Nations.

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For information media • not an official record



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