Finnish presidency of the EU to influence Latvia

  • 1999-07-08
  • Diana Kudayarova
RIGA - The Finnish Embassy in Latvia is organizing a debate about the Latvian language bill, inviting the ambassadors of other EU countries and representatives of the main Latvian political parties.

Although For Fatherland and Freedom/LNNK representative Andrejs Pozarnovs said that opinions from abroad are unlikely to change the way Latvian MPs vote, this is the first case in at least four years that a debate about a country's law has been organized by foreigners, the Baltic News Service reported.

But now that Finland has taken its turn as a nation president of the European Union, Latvia's burning hopes have turned north and settled firmly beyond the Arctic Circle. Membership aspirations have became closely connected with Finland, and its authority has soared - but how warranted is it?

It is clear that Finland, while holding the EU presidency, will support primarily its own and the region's interests, which include Baltic membership in the EU, as much as it can. The question is, how much is that? In today's Europe, where Yugoslavia has just been all but completely destroyed by bombs, huge numbers of people are displaced, and many European countries, including those in the EU, are still burdened with refugees, the answer is, not too much.

"Instead of Europe's northern dimension, we'll spend our presidency dealing with its southeastern one," complained one Finnish diplomat, according to The Economist. And while the moan was uttered before the war was officially over, the situation doesn't seem to be very much different now. Southeastern Europe still demands constant attention.

Finland still sounds optimistic. "Europe has a chance to perform as one of the most dynamic areas of growth in the world, and the Baltic Sea region is one of the most promising subregions in Europe," Peter Stenlund, a Finnish ambassador, said in his talk in Rovaniemi on June 18. What can bring about such blissful prosperity is the much mentioned northern dimension of European politics, with "the first postulate" being "the future Union membership of all three Baltic states and Poland."

These words are sweet music to Baltic ears, already tired of waiting, but as a Russian proverb says, one cannot sustain a nightingale on fables-even if the poor bird enjoys them very much.

But so far the light at the end of the tunnel has been a good enough incentive for the Baltic states to carry out reforms in their struggle towards acceptance. As the Finnish director general for political affairs, Mr Pretti Torstila said, "It may well be that the strongest foreign policy... is the mere promise of membership."

The coming debate is a good confirmation that he might be right.