One of my favourite things when in Finland is to take a pile of political weeklies and see what this country has been talking about. While living in the Netherlands, my knowledge of the Finnish debate is usually limited to a few magazines I subscribe and the news bulletins of Helsingin Sanomat.
Cannot help this feeling over and over again: the Finnish foreign policy discussion is like the mailing list of of social science students during my university years. It starts with a provocative statement (in this case Minister of Defense mentioning Russia as the main security risk of Finland), it continues with the big players reacting to it and condemning the nature of the message (President, Prime Minister and of course the opposition criticising the wording), old school activists saying how things have always been done (academics and former politicians) and in the end several people questioning whether we could actually have more important issues to discuss (several headlines saying that this discussion is bloated compared to the importance of the statement).
However, the student mailing list lacks the most entertaining part in the political debate: Paavo Lipponen, Social Democrat former Speaker of the Parliament and former Prime Minister. Over the last years Lipponen's trouble with letting go has been obvious. His columns and interviews have always the same message: this is not the way things have been and should be done.
In Suomen Kuvalehti 39/2007 Lipponen attacks the National Coalition Party for their provocation on foreign politics. "It's time to get back in order", the pensioner advices."What's the reason for celebrating new debating culture if the debaters have nothing to propose", says Lipponen and goes on and on about the manner, not the message. "One should not underestimate the Finnish public", writes the man who did not want to take the euro decision or the Constitutional Treaty into a referendum.
Just a while ago the Ministry of Justice founded a democracy unit. I think it is needed if leading politicians define democracy as follows:"By provoking others the National Coalition threatens the strive for joint understanding and consensus, which is necessary if one wishes to make decisions on difficult issues."
A while ago the Financial Times published a supplement on Finland commenting harshly the self-congratulatory nature of the political climate in a country with mass unemployment and a lot of innovation but no skills to capitalise them. Lipponen's main message seems to be resistance to debate and change. There is absolutely no urgency in his message. "Handling the past is a problem completely somewhere else, especially in those Western countries that did not seriously fight against totalitarianism and left small countries like Finland to survive on their own", the political veteran states. I must say that I have also read other descriptions of Finland's role in totalitarianism.
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