Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Refreshing Honesty

After two days in Helsinki, I am getting back to my news junkie routine. I have by now glanced through the latest issues of the biggest daily and the major weeklies. My favourite piece of news comes from our refreshingly different Minister for Foreign Affairs, Alexander Stubb. I cannot help but like him.

With a strong academic background, fluency in several European languages, marriage to a non-Finn, openly liberal agenda in both economics and values as well as a background in the European Commission and Parliament, he must be the most European politician Finland has to offer. He manages to surprise people by daring to enter policy areas such as rights for sexual minorities which are usually considered minefields within his (still rather conservative) party. During his time in the European Parliament he took strong stands on LGBT issues as according to Stubb, human rights are where the European Union is tested. It shows boldness to step outside the comfort zone.

This civil servant-turned-politician is immensely popular within his own party as well as outside although he gets a decent amount of mockery for his athletic hobbies, big and white teeth and the un-Finnish strong tan. He is to some extent a dandy combined with substance. My favourite part of Stubb, however, is his frankness in language and action.

It seems Stubb has no need to prove things to anyone. First of all, he seems to avoid official and formal language and prefers spoken language even when talking about policy issues. He dares to say things like they are and blogs daily which has raised some eye brows within civil service. Some people think that Foreign Minister should not open his personal life and daily activities to the people in such extent. I disagree.

Last weekend Stubb pushed his head into a beehive rather delicate for small nations like ours. We Finns tend to love every time a foreign politician mentions us and we tend to exaggerate our role in global politics. Finns like to maintain the cold war reputation of being a key mediator between East and West. As a Chair of the OSCE, Finland and Stubb have been involved in the Georgia-Russia negotiations which was covered in Finnish media as Finland´s neutrality being a key asset in the negotiations. Stubb responded with great irritation saying that he thinks this kind of nonsense is not needed in this century. He said bluntly that Finland´s neutrality was not the key, it was France´s role as a nuclear power and as a permanent member of the UN security council.

I admire Stubb for this. It shows an attitude which encourages also others towards honesty and sincerity. I admire his boldness to be openly who he is and allowing himself to break stereotypes of what men in expensive suits should be interested in. In a way it is the same uncommon combination as the Kennedys who never hid their privileged background but never allowed that to stand in the way of taking bold stands and getting passionately involved.


Jaakko H. said...


I totally agree with you on this (too). As commented to Stubb's blog (sorry, in Finnish http://www.alexstubb.com/fi/index.php?trg=diary&id=1166) I think that his example --the walk, not just the talk-- is precisely what I think politics needs in Finland, in EU, and globally.

And this applies to both his example in blogging as well as talking about things as they really are, such as commenting that "Finland is not a neutral country. I repeat: Finland .. is _not_ .. a neutral country" (at Carnegie Endowment in Washington), which is so very true taking in consideration all the Finnish military co-operation, etc. programs.

.. Glad to hear that this principle has echoed so clearly also in Georgia issues.

BTW. Thanks for an excellent blog. I realize that I've been lazy commenting.. But have enjoyed your insightful posts tremendously.

Kati said...

Couldn't have said it better.

Let's start a rescue campaign for poor Johanna Tukiainen, who apparently did us all a huge favour... and is now well on her way to becoming the female version of Matti Nykänen.