Foreign Minister meets Russian colleague Sergei Lavrov in Helsinki
Erkki Tuomioja, Helsingin Sanomat
Developments in Russia include "features that are a cause for concern", said Finnish Minister for Foreign Affairs Erkki Tuomioja (SDP) on Monday. In his view, positive development, which is also important for Finland, depends on "internal development in Russia and Russia's choices".
Tuomioja made his critical observations as he opened the annual gathering of Finnish ambassadors in Helsinki on Monday morning. Only a few hours after the meeting he met with visiting Russian Foreign minister Sergei Lavrov who is scheduled to speak to the ambassadors in the afternoon.
Tuomioja made no direct reference in his speech to the two-year prison sentence for hooliganism handed down by a Moscow court to the punk performance group Pussy Riot.
However, he did say that Russia’s problems include "the vagueness and impossibility to anticipate changes in legislation, and suspicion about the activities of the civic society, the concentration of decision-making, and selective administration of justice". Earlier, Tuomioja made known his intention to discuss the Pussy Riot case with Foreign Minister Lavrov.
Tuomioja described interaction between Finland and Russia as "extensive and multidimensional, but with potential for more".
In his assessment of the international situation Tuomioja said that efforts that have been taken so far to establish peace in Syria "have not received all of the support they deserve". However, he did not specifically mention Russia, which has repeatedly prevented the UN Security Council from taking a stronger stand on Syrian violence.
Tuomioja says that the EU is not suffering only from the euro crisis. He also sees a "crisis in democracy that undermines the union’s legitimacy". In his view Europe needs "thorough and honest debate focusing on real issues".
Tuomioja said that Nordic cooperation in the monitoring of Iceland’s airspace will be implemented in "occasional short turns, and clearly as a peacetime task".
In addition to Lavrov, the Finnish ambassadors will also hear speeches on Monday from Minister for European Affairs and Foreign Trade Alexander Stubb (Nat. Coalition Party) and Minister of International Development Heidi Hautala (Green). On Tuesday morning they will hear from President Sauli Niinistö, who will use the occasion to deliver a speech on foreign policy.
Tuomioja sees “cause for concern” in developments in Russia