Foreign Affairs

‘We have always wanted to be good in quality not quantity’: Finnish Prez

Tarja Halonen, President of Finland
Tarja Halonen, President of Finland

Finland has been a successful story in the field of globalization and gender equality. Stuck between two large neighbours – Sweden and Russia, the country has evolved a pragmatic foreign policy. Tarja Halonen, President of Finland, spoke to the participants of the 17th Foreign Correspondents’ Programme on wide range topics concerning the country.

Education and Trade

We are one of the biggest domestic markets in European Union (EU), which makes us more balanced when taking in consideration the competition with big markets such as the US and China. EU has been a very strong supporter for the global markets. I’ll say that’s one of the major reasons why we became a part in the big ship.

Finland has always wanted to be good in quality not quantity. We try to be as good as possible. That’s why we always focus on education. We also try to be innovative in universities, research institutes and arts. Ours is a democratic system with transparent society and no corruption.

Causes for sustainable development

We are well prepared for the difficulties for the international trade and globalisation. Globalisation is part of the national and international trade and economy. But money is just a resource. Our country has democracy, human law, rights, good governance and no corruption. We are a good example to the other countries around the world. We try to combine two things – one is good development and the other one is the trade market.

But it is not only globalisation that the world is discussing now it is also the climate change. These two are a part of the sustainable development. We cannot teach anything on the sustainable development if we do not think about man and the nature together. Fair globalisation is needed to meet sustainable development.

Both globalisation and ecological changes are happening even if we agree or not. Some of the people might suffer more if we don’t find a solution to climate change. There have been energy and food crises. Russia can be very important economically and politically in globalisation as well as sustainable development. Other countries are America, Brazil and Chine. We are ready to work together.

NATO and Finland

We are not planning to be a member of NATO but we are keeping this as an option. Finland, Sweden, Austria and Ireland are good friends with NATO. We are working close with NATO in international operations.

We had difficult historical experiences. We had wars with Sweden and Russia in the history. We were like a forest between Russia and Sweden. We know the good side and the bad side of the military system. Finland has never been the country who has been helped with the war. We have learnt how to struggle with difficulties and looked after ourselves. All this things made us a little bit descriptive; we don’t want to get involved in others businesses. But we know we have to work together, Baltic States now know that they need both the east and the west.

Gender equality and politics

The Nordic countries are very good at gender equality. We are open to woman domination even in the families. Everyone has to work hard. But lately women have gained more power all around the world. In the globalised world, you have to be strong, smart and you should have experience.

When you start accepting that you are just a human being, not a man or women. Then the media surprises you. You read many things in the news about yourself. They write more about how the woman looks and more about how the man speaks. In that way it is a little bit more difficult. After the elections I received a lot of letters from women and even little girls. It is nice to know that you are encouraging women. But women also face stereotypes. For example we believe that rights are equal but now we are encouraging men to look after their babies as well, we give one more extra month off work after the baby is born. We now have more women in our parliament just like Spain.

Georgian crises

If I had known how to solve the conflicts I would have got a Nobel Peace Prize by now.

Finland is a member of Organisation for European Economic Cooperation (OECE). The Foreign Ministers are there to resolve the problems and I consider us as a luck country to have Alexander Stubb (Finnish foreign minister). Our biggest demand from Russia was to stop shooting people. The other issue is that there are a lot of humanitarian difficulties in the region. International communities can certainly help the people.

(Kunal Majumder was representing India at the Foreign Correspondents’ Programme 2008 in Finland)

Pix: Marcin Łapczyński

This interview was published by MCRC ON THE RECORD


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