Paavo Lipponen envisions a task force for future Estonian-Finnish relations

11.09.2002 | 00:00

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Tallinn, Stenbock HouseAugust 29, 2002On Thursday morning, Estonian Prime Minister Siim Kallas met with Finnish Prime Minister Paavo Lipponen in Tallinn at Stenbock House where they discussed in-depth the future of Estonian-Finnish relations for over an hour. Lipponen proposed to Kallas creating a task force of experts from both countries to analyze the opportunities for cooperation between the two countries in the European Union. According to Lipponen, in the setting of traditionally good Estonian-Finnish relations, it could be possible to find additional options for cooperation in an altering environment where Estonia has the great likelihood of becoming a member of the European Union and NATO. Kallas stated that Estonia is interested in creating the task force. He mentioned that Estonia and Finland should also analyze the changing economic conditions in the Baltic Sea region, particularly the recent ongoing growth of trade traffic. As he predicts, it would enable cooperation that benefits both countries. At their meeting, Kallas and Lipponen also discussed the fears Finnish trade unions have expressed regarding the free movement of labor from Estonia to Finland. The prime ministers understand such fears, but they see them as unreasonable. "I believe that the majority of Estonians who are capable of working in Finland have already done so, and in the future there will not be a great influx of Estonians to Finland," added Kallas, also admitting at the same time that it would not be a considerably great labor volume for the Finnish labor market. Kallas also emphasized the strong and mutually beneficial ties between the Estonian and Finnish economies. "One-third of Estonian foreign investments originate from Finland, also one-third of export, clearly indicating the considerable profit the Finnish economy has from its cooperation with Estonia," said Kallas. Kallas gave Lipponen an overview of the Estonian energy market strategies and added that Estonia is interested in quick integration with the Nordic energy networks, which has not actually occurred because of a lack of connections. According to Kallas, even now 10 percent of the Estonian energy market could belong to Finnish companies, but this has not been achieved due to the high cost of installing power lines connecting the two countries. Kallas noted, Estonia is willing to discuss actual cooperation, but in the bigger picture it would not be very believable that earlier liberalisation of the Estonian energy market could actually open the market up. "Competing companies do not have real access to our market and the creation thereof is costly," said Kallas in summarizing his views. The prime ministers expressed great concern about the increasingly growing narcotics trade in the Baltic Sea region. "We are very disturbed that narcotics production worldwide, particularly in Afghanistan, is expanding again and that its traffic crosses our borders," said Lipponen. The prime ministers realized that everyday practical cooperation in combating criminal activities has to continue at an increasing pace. This afternoon, the prime ministers will tour Southeastern Estonia. Among other things, the prime ministers will also visit the Palamuse School Museum, the Kuperjanov Battalion and ceramist Meelis Krigul´s pottery, see the sandstone caves in Piusa and castle ruins in Vastseliina. With a purpose for learning about the Setu culture, a longer stay is planned in Värska to visit the Setu Museum and several other sightseeing tours. The prime ministers will also participate in the opening of the "Finland-boys" exhibition in Äksi. Daniel Vaarik

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