Is Finland a gullible fool who has sacrificed national interests to the altar of a common EU policy towards Russia and let relations with the Eastern neighbour wither? The question is put by Hiski Haukkala, a researcher at the Finnish Institute of International Affairs.
Writing in Helsingin Sanomat (7 July 2001), Haukkala says that the problem with the EU Russian policy is a lack of real strategy. Instead, it tends to react in a confused way to various Russian situations. The instruments to implement the policy do not form a credible whole and lack a sufficient economic basis, Haukkala claims.
"The problems are caused by member countries' rival aspirations as they target the scarce EU resources. Whilst they are safeguarding their own interests, they have not been able to agree on a more precise content of a common policy towards Russia.
"Often it happens that behind the common Russian policy, the large EU member countries especially pursue their bilateral relations without outside interference. During the events in Chechnya a year ago particularly, the condemning attitude of the EU was in stark contrast to the warm bilateral summit diplomacy conducted by Germany and Britain."
So, is Finland a gullible fool in this game then? Haukkala answers in the negative.
"Never in the history of independent Finland have the relations with Russia been as good as now.
"In addition, of the EU countries, Finland together with Sweden is probably the country with most everyday co-operation with Russia. Whereas many EU countries meet Russians mainly in a few top-level meetings, the Finns are in touch with the Russians, and co-operate with them, on a daily basis."
Haukkala mentions the Finnish programme of co-operation with adjacent areas. It talks about "integrating Russia into a European intercourse which supports democracy, justice state, civil society and market economy and establishes a functioning governance in areas around Finland". According to Haukkala, this co-operation is not without its problems but it has encouraged the activity of citizens' organisations towards Russia. In addition, the top state-level contacts are frequent, Haukkala writes.
"The constant contacts tell a tale of well-functioning and normal bilateral relations between Finland and Russia. No, they are not special relations, but the Finns probably had enough of these during the Cold War."
12 March 2001
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