Finnish and Estonian presidents discuss labour mobility issues
Halonen: Those who move to Finland must adhere to the rules
The heads of state of Estonia and Finland have diverging viewpoints on the influx of Estonians to Finland for work. This became apparent when Finnish President Tarja Halonen began a two-day state visit to Estonia on Tuesday.
In her discussions with Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves, Halonen stressed the importance of following regulations and laws, while Ilves emphasised the right of free movement of labour within the European Union.
Halonen feels that it is not racism when Finnish Social Democratic and labour leaders express concern about problems emerging with companies that use foreign labour.
“The rules of the internal market require that we operate openly and legally”, Halonen said.
“Finns have also moved abroad, but rules need to be adhered to.”
Halonen noted that the Nordic Countries have spoken on behalf of the social dimension in the EU.
According to President Ilves, it is not a problem for Estonia if Estonians go to work in Finland. He noted that free movement of labour is a fundamental freedom.
“Estonia’s problem involves people who go to countries such as the United States, Britain, and Australia. Those who go to Finland usually come back to Estonia after a certain amount of time, but coming back from further away is more complicated.”
Problems involving some companies who hire foreign employees in Finland, such as allegations of widespread tax evasion, were new information for the Estonian President.
“If this is true, I have faith in the efficient cooperation of the Finnish and Estonian tax authorities."
The two found solid common ground on Estonia’s hopes to introduce the euro next year.
The leaders emphasised that the problems currently being experienced by Greece must not affect Estonia’s entry into the eurozone.
“I fully expect that Finland will get its first neighbouring country that uses the euro”, Halonen said.
She also expressed Finnish support for the neighbours' hopes to get the proposed EU agency for the operational management of large-scale IT systems to Estonia.
Halonen appeared a bit flustered after seeing that her name had been put forward as a possible head of the planned UN women’s organisation (see Tuesday article).
“I was quite surprised myself to read about it in Helsingin Sanomat. It is certainly good for a person’s name to be put forward”, Halonen said.
President Halonen has emphasised gender equality in various international connections ever since the Copenhagen climate summit last year.
Halonen said that she had worked hard on behalf of having women in the inner circle of the UN Secretary-General.
“I have been busy promoting women, with the permission of the Finnish government, but not on my own behalf.”
On Tuesday Halonen and her husband Pentti Arajärvi visited defence tunnels that were built in Tallinn during the period of Swedish rule.
On Wednesday she will address the Estonian Parliament and will preside over the opening of an exhibition in the Viinistu Art Museum.
Halonen is certainly no stranger to visiting Estonia.
This is is her third state visit as President and all told she has probably visited the country a couple of dozen times.
Her cordial relationship with her opposite number Toomas Hendrik Ilves goes back to the 1990s, when both were their respective country's foreign ministers and Halonen lobbied actively - as one of the few EU foreign ministers to do so - on behalf of Estonian membership in the Union.
Around eighteen months ago, relations cooled a fraction over the response to the crisis between Georgia and Russia, with Halonen suggesting that Estonian statements reflected a kind of post-traumatic stress reaction following years of Soviet occupation, but none of this was in evidence on Tuesday, despite the less than springlike weather Halonen encountered in Tallinn.
Previously in HS International Edition:
SDP´s Heinäluoma criticised over comments on work-based immigration (26.4.2010)
Estonian President reacts to Halonen statement (11.9.2008)
President Halonen seen as possible head of new UN women´s organisation (4.5.2010)
President of Finland
President of Estonia