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2006-06-02 12:24:00
Embassy Helsinki
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DE RUEHHE #0505/01 1531224
R 021224Z JUN 06
						UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 04 HELSINKI 000505 



E.O. 12958: N/A

Summary and Introduction



E.O. 12958: N/A

Summary and Introduction

1. (SBU) During its EU Presidency, Finland will generally
be a cooperative partner for the US, keen to facilitate
US-EU cooperation and improve overall trans-Atlantic
relations. We should expect no GOF-generated surprises;
the Finns view their Presidency as a continuation of
ongoing processes and will avoid introducing national
political priorities into the EU agenda. They will focus
on fostering improved EU dialogue with Russia and on
democracy promotion in Europe's "new neighborhood,"
although almost exclusively through multilateral
mechanisms rather than via bold statements or risky
initiatives. They will work hard to help forge shared
US-EU positions on energy security, but will challenge
the US to re-engage in a climate change dialogue.
Because the GOF's positions on JHA issues, EU
enlargement, Iran, and many EU economic initiatives
closely mirror our own, the EU Presidency offers genuine
opportunities for cooperation in these areas. END

2. (SBU) Finland assumes the EU Presidency on July 1.
Just one year ago, the Finns hoped their second semester
2006 Presidency would focus on final ratification and
implementation of the new EU Constitutional Treaty. The
French and Dutch referenda results quashed that
possibility and temporarily dimmed Finnish hopes for a
monumental, last-of-its-kind Presidency. The sharp
disappointment that the referenda engendered passed
quickly, however. With typical Finnish pragmatism and
foresight, the GOF has worked proactively with the
Commission and the Troika (and, in the Finnish view, with
Washington) to settle on a solid agenda aimed at
achieving realistic, substantive goals in several areas.
There will be no GOF-generated surprises; the Finns are
at pains to emphasize that they view their Presidency as
a continuation of an ongoing process as opposed to a
"separate module or era," and will discourage whenever
possible the introduction of national political agendas
or priorities into the EU agenda. The Finns will also
work toward maintaining the momentum for and process of
ntinued EU integration despite last year's setbacks on
the Constitution. The GOF has indicated that the
following areas will be priorities during its Presidency.

Trans-Atlantic Relations

3. (SBU) In general terms, the US will find Finland to be a
willing and competent partner with which to facilitate US-
EU cooperation -- a role the GOF welcomes. In the run up
to the Presidency, the GOF sent an array of top diplomats
to Washington to ascertain US priorities, identify areas
for cooperation, and avoid misunderstandings. Prime
Minister Vanhanen is a committed trans-Atlanticist. Since
Finland began its Presidency preparations, he has
repeatedly emphasized the priority Finland attaches to
strengthening trans-Atlantic ties. Vanhanen has told us
frequently that he wants Finland to help the EU take the
"last step" beyond the rancor over Iraq and focus fully on
a wide range of issues of shared concern such as security
cooperation, energy security, the environment, and the
Middle-east. He reiterated this view during his initial
meeting with Ambassador Ware earlier this year. This said,
the Finns will, on the one hand, at times look for US
guidance on concrete projects or initiatives. On the
other, they will not embrace US initiatives that put them
on a collision course with counterpart EU governments or
the Brussels bureaucracy. Rather, Finland can be counted
on to help seek common ground when Washington and Brussels
diverge on their approaches to common goals.

Democracy and the Near Neighborhood

4. (SBU) Promoting democracy and good governance in
Finland's "near neighborhood" is a top GOF Presidency
priority. The Finns have quietly but steadily increased
their bilateral commitments in the region, from opening a
bilateral development assistance office in Minsk; to
financing tertiary education for Belarussian exiles; to
funding Kiev-based NGOs combating Trafficking in persons
(TIP). Finland will work to get the EU to the same place
and lay the groundwork for a proactive EU institutional
and structural approach. The Finns will also likely put
emphasis on Ukraine. Beyond the Near Neighborhood,
Georgia and the Caucasus will be priorities. Working
quietly within existing EU mechanisms that seek to co-opt
-- rather than to alienate or isolate -- the GOF will
push for renewed EU engagement in south Ossetia and the
jump-starting of the moribund Abkhazia settlement

HELSINKI 00000505 002 OF 004

process. Further afield, the GOF shares the US view
that, ultimately, democracy in the Middle East offers the
best hope for peace and security. The GOF support EU
funding for democracy promotion throughout the region,
and will urge united European stances toward Hamas and
the Iranian regime. Although some Finnish leaders, in
the past, spoke out strongly about the US invasion of
Iraq, all are fully committed to supporting the new Iraqi
government and the GOF will fully encourage all EU
efforts to build democracy and stability there.


5. (SBU) No bilateral relationship or aspect of foreign
policy is more important to Finland than Russia, the
country with which it shares a 900-mile border (the EU's
longest external border); a history marked by Russian
colonial dominance and war; and a critical present-day
trade and energy relationship. The Finns share our
concerns about recent negative trends in Russia and the
perception of a backwards drift on democracy. Given our
shared concerns and the shared priority we place on
Russia, there will be opportunities for the US to work
with Finland to influence these processes; however, the
Finns will emphasize a "soft approach" to Russia and
eschew particularly aggressive advocacy that would --
from their perspective -- overly antagonize the bear to
the east. Finland hopes to reinvigorate institutional EU
structures to engage Russia on several broad fronts. In
particular, the GOF wants to use the Presidency to
renegotiate the Russia-EU Partnership and Cooperation
Agreement (PCA) and revive the EU's "Four Common Spaces"
initiative. The Finns will also address democracy and
other issues where Russia may be "backsliding" through
the EU-Russia Human Rights consultation process and by
attempting to establish substantive dialogue with Moscow
on energy security.

6. (SBU) Concerns about Russia are often linked to energy
security, and in this area Finland will be an excellent
partner as the US seeks to forge shared positions with
the EU. In general terms, there is little daylight
between the US, the EU and Finland on desired end states
and the means to get there. All agree that market-based
pricing, adequate investment in infrastructure, diversity
of supply and new technologies are key. If anything,
Finland's national positions are closer to those of the
US, given the GOF's pro-nuclear power policies and
Finland's acknowledged leadership in areas such as
nuclear safety and storage, biofuels and biomass. In all
these areas, the Finns tend to accept the logic of US
positions and will offer voices of reason during EU
deliberations. On Russia and in discussions with large
EU member states, however, Finland will not look to out-
shout anyone. For example, the GOF embraces nuclear
power as part of a solution to its energy diversity
problems, but will not press other EU countries with
strong anti-nuclear views to change those. As for
Russia, the GOF will be a steadfast ally in working
through existing mechanisms (EU, G-8 and other dialogue
fora; traditional diplomacy; eventually perhaps the WTO)
to bring Moscow around to the idea that being a reliable
supplier and a good citizen of the free market is
beneficial to all.

EU Enlargement and the Western Balkans

7. (SBU) Finland supports the Commission's decision to
call off negotiations with Serbia (Enlargement
Commissioner Ollie Rehn is a Finn) over the Mladic
situation. Finland will encourage continued EU pressure
on Belgrade to arrest Mladic, with the carrot of a quick
resumption of negotiations during the Finnish Presidency
if they do so. The Finns also strongly support Special
Envoy Marti Ahtisari's mission (another Finn) and will
work actively within the EU to assist him. A final
status arrangement will remain a top Presidency priority
for the GOF.

8. (SBU) The GOF will remain one of the most vocal
proponents of EU enlargement. Finland will use its
Presidency to urge candidate states to maintain progress
on fulfilling standard criteria as well as to thwart the
efforts of some EU members to promote "special status" or
"additional conditionalities" for some who seek
membership (Turkey, in particular). The GOF's stance on
enlargement -- based on its commitment to equal treatment
for all candidates -- is often unpopular, both within the
EU and among Finnish domestic public opinion. The GOF
will stand fast in the face of anti-EU and/or anti-

HELSINKI 00000505 003 OF 004

enlargement rhetoric. However, it could become
problematic during the Finnish Presidency if Turkish
progress stalls or if others in the EU allege that
progress has stalled. In either of those cases, the GOF
is likely to consult actively with the US regarding the
best means of keeping Turkey on track.


9. (SBU) Unlike many EU member states, the GOF accepts
the logic of addressing environmental concerns through
the nexus of energy security and technology. However,
Finland means much more when it talks about the
environment. In that regard, climate change and global
environmental degradation will be high on the Finnish EU
Presidency agenda, and while it is willing to address its
dialogue with the US outside of a Kyoto or Kyoto II
framework, it will not shy away from (and indeed will
push for) discussion of solutions based in part on
emissions reduction, trading and conservation. Like most
EU countries, the GOF increasingly rejects the US
position that these areas are off the agenda and that new
technologies will render such considerations moot in the
near future. They are keen on finding ways, in
cooperation with the U.S., to find clean energy solutions
for China. They also call for closer attention to energy
efficiency, and in that vein intend to launch a voluntary
forum for exchanging best practices called the World
Audit Program at a conference to be held September 11-12
(Audit 06). (The GOF has repeatedly asked for, and
Embassy supports, substantive USG participation in this

Justice and Home Affairs

10. (SBU) The stalled Constitutional process has
influenced Finland's JHA plans. In the absence of a new
Constitution, the GOF will push to move "third pillar"
police and criminal cooperation issues (that would have
been harmonized under the Constitution) to the "first
pillar," where they will be handled in the Commission.
Despite the reluctance of some EU countries to take this
step (including heavyweights like Germany), the Finns
believe a basic agreement on the issue is possible by
December. Finland also hopes to reach agreement with the
US on the pending Eurojust agreement and to encourage
greater counterterrorism cooperation within the EU.
Finland's Interior Minister is a vocal proponent of
strengthening anti-trafficking measures, and the GOF
plans to organize two major anti-trafficking events
during the Presidency. The first will be in Helsinki and
focus on identification, repatriation, and assistance to
minors; the second is TBD, but will definitely be outside

Economic Goals

11. (SBU) Finland will continue to emphasize the goals of
the Lisbon Strategy during its EU Presidency. In
particular, Finland will emphasize improving productivity
(pressed, in part, by some of its own demographic
challenges in the face of an aging population) through
investing in human capital and technology development.
It will continue to press for a strong and broad
innovation policy, regulatory harmonization and the
opening up of the EU's internal market. Finland intends
to introduce a transport policy focus to the agenda, in
the understanding that a strong logistical capacity is a
key factor in European economic growth, competitiveness
and employment. Finland will also seek to promote data
security in European information society policy. It
will also work towards creating a European information
society strategy.

The Wild Cards

12. (SBU) Again, both we and the Finns expect their
Presidency to offer few if any major surprises. However,
there are three possible issues that could emerge as wild
cards. While we consider all three unlikely -- and, as
wild cards, difficult to predict -- they merit brief

-- A Crisis in Iran: In the event of an acute Iran
crisis, such as smoking gun revelations of nuclear
weapons work or serious threats to Israel, it should be
possible to work with the GOF to craft a strong, unified
trans-Atlantic response, up to and including possible
support for UN sanctions. The Finns have stated many
times that they oppose military action, but short of

HELSINKI 00000505 004 OF 004

that, will consider almost any other US initiatives if a
crisis emerges.

-- Terrorist Response: Finnish authorities and the
general public believe their country faces little or no
major terrorist threat. This at times results in the
GOF's adopting a somewhat relaxed domestic response.
However, on the EU level, the GOF can be expected to
encourage improved enforcement and to push for
institutional and procedural changes to facilitate
intelligence gathering and sharing within the EU.

-- China Arms: Beijing once viewed the Sept. 2006 EU-
China Summit in Helsinki as a possible window of
opportunity to press for lifting the Embargo. However,
the GOF has made it very clear that it has no/no interest
in touching the issue of the embargo during its
Presidency. Apparently China has also received that
message and has scaled back what was once an aggressive
lobbying campaign. The only chance for the embargo to
re-surface during the Presidency is if an EU heavyweight
were to make an unexpected and all-out push to resume
discussions. And even then, Finland will likely seek to
kick this issue to Germany in 2007.