5. August 2005

Halonen defends NGOs and Baltic Countries

Halonen defends Baltic Countries at press conference with Putin

source: HELSINGIN SANOMAT, Friday 5.8.2005

President Tarja Halonen gave an exceptionally strong defence of Estonia and Latvia during an outdoor press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Finnish President’s summer residence Kultaranta in Naantali.
Putin had lamented what he saw as the poor treatment of Russian-speaking minorities in the Baltic Countries. Halonen said that the legislation of Estonia and Latvia are acceptable, and that she would have hoped that Russia would have ratified the border treaties Estonia and Latvia.

There was also some disagreement on the roles of non-governmental organisations. A few weeks ago Putin hinted that various Russian environmental organisations had received funding from Finland to prevent Russia from building oil terminals on the Gulf of Finland.
At a press conference late Tuesday morning, Putin said that he takes a positive view of cross-border cooperation of NGOs - with certain reservations.
"I oppose the financing of political activities... I oppose the use of environmental protection as a means of competition", Putin said.
President Halonen saw the new sewage treatment plant in St. Petersburg, and the Vuosaari Harbour in Helsinki as good examples of what can be achieved by cooperation between states and among NGOs.
"Naturally it is not possible to co-opt the NGOs, nor is it a good idea to try to do so, but friendly support, also on the side of government, for the activities of such organisations is part of today’s Europe", Halonen said.

Putin said that he hoped that Halonen could attend the opening of the new sewage treatment plant in St. Petersburg in September. Halonen said that she probably would attend.

In spite of their disagreement on certain issues, both presidents insisted that relations between Finland and Russia are in good shape.
"A desire to cooperate was the clear message", Halonen said, summing up the significance of the visit, after seeing her guest off to Turku Airport on Tuesday evening.

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