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Finland ’s foreign policy in the process of radicalization?

9 April, 2012

Finland ’s foreign policy in the process of radicalization?

Tomas Sandell * 

Finland ’s foreign policy has traditionally been characterized by caution and realism. Whereas for a long time our political leaders had to pursue a policy of appeasement, after joining the EU Finland has tried to find a more independent line.

After a number of statements and decisions that drew attention in recent weeks, however, there arises a question: is Finland ’s pragmatic foreign policy being radicalized under the Social Democrats’ leadership?

Last week the country’s former president Martti Ahtisaari urged that the EU-labeled terrorist organization, Hamas, to be included as a full negotiating partner for Israel.  Hamas agenda picks up where Mein Kampf leaves off – namely, a total annihilation of the Jewish state.

The organization’s clear goal has made the international community – including the European Union – to sideline it diplomatically.

It is hardly in Finland’s interest to legitimize terrorism.

His party colleague, Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja, goes a step further. When he wants to profile Finnish foreign policy in the Middle East, he has no objections against the Syrian regime, which in recent months executed about 3000 people who peacefully fought for their human rights. No, the problem in the Middle East is still the Jewish state, which during his previous term as foreign minister he compared with the Nazi regime. (By OSCE definition a statement like this would be classified as pure anti-Semitism) Now he is content with just insinuating that Israel is about to evolve into an “apartheid state.” It can hardly have escaped Tuomioja that a UN envoy for the Palestinian State just a few weeks ago announced that it will not allow any Jews to settle in a future Palestinian state. In Israel twenty percent of the population are Arabs, who have the same rights as other citizens. It should not be too much to ask of our Foreign Minister to determine which party would carry on apartheid.

The world’s totalitarian states may criticize Israel to divert attention from their own problems but it has not been part of Finnish brand to call survivors of the Holocaust Nazis or racists.

The statements made by our foreign policy leadership during the last few weeks have attracted attention around the world. In the UN General Assembly in New York , President Tarja Halonen, joined with the countries that advocate a unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state – without any negotiations. The campaign was led by the Security Council presidency, Hezbollah-controlled Lebanon .

Last weekend the Finnish government continued on that path by being the only Nordic EU member state to vote for the Palestinian Authority to be admitted as a full member of UNESCO, although they are not members of the UN General Assembly. The EU’s official line was to avert membership, but the Finnish government chose thus to defy Brussels and instead follow the Arab League.

Finland ’s indirect support for organizations such as Hamas and Hezbollah, which are run by a totalitarian ideology that would destroy Israel is at odds with our nation’s effort to position ourselves as peacekeepers and conflict solvers. There is also concern that Finland as a small EU country actively engaged in the respect for international law is undermined by supporting unilateral one-sided declarations instead of direct peace negotiations.

Finland in the global community should reasonably be among the countries that advocate freedom and democracy, not hate and destruction.

 * Tomas Sandell , Helsinki , Finland  -  originally published in Hufvudstadsbladet on 4 November 2011

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