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Halonen criticised as global do-gooder; PM Vanhanen comes to President’s defence

Halonen criticised as global do-gooder; PM Vanhanen comes to President’s defence Tarja Halonen
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Risto E.J. Penttilä, director of the Finnish Business and Policy Forum EVA, has called on President Tarja Halonen to make up her mind whether if she wants to be an international do-gooder or the leader of Finland’s foreign and security policy and commander-in-chief of the Defence Forces.
      In an article in the Sunday Debate pages of Helsingin Sanomat, Penttilä concedes that the causes that Halonen promotes are good as such, but suggests that her idealistic agenda in a number of international issues is incompatible with her role as President, and threatens Finland’s important interests. He also feels that her activities have harmed Finnish relations with Washington and Moscow.
Penttilä was also critical of Halonen’s stand according to which Finland should give up its infantry land mines - for global reasons. In Penttilä’s view, this stand is appropriate for Halonen’s role as chairwoman of the Global Commission set up by the ILO on the social dimension of globalisation. However, he feels that it is inappropriate for the commander-in-chief of the Finnish Defence Forces.
      "The situation is made worse by the fact that the Foreign Minister, who should deal with the nuts and bolts of security policy, is also focused on global questions. Promotion of Finnish interests has been left to the inexperienced Prime Minister", Penttilä wrote.
One option put forward  by Penttilä is for the President to voluntarily relinquish her power in foreign affairs. He notes that German President Johannes Rau (who is largely a figurehead in day-to-day German politics) has done much good in promoting the development of relations between the Western world and the Islamic countries.
      Another option would be for Halonen not to seek a second term. He observes that former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari and former Irish President Mary Robinson have done much to promote international security and justice after leaving office.
Penttilä’s comments brought somewhat negative reactions from a number of Finnish politicians, including Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen (Centre).
      Vanhanen said that he does not agree with Penttilä’s main argument. In the Prime Minister’s view, President Halonen’s international activities have promoted Finnish foreign policy, as well as Finland’s reputation around the world.
      Vanhanen noted that under the constitution, the Finnish President heads Finnish foreign policy in cooperation with the Council of State (government), and that involvement in various international humanitarian and human rights activities is in Finland’s interests, and strengthens Finland’s international position.

  Tarja Halonen
  TARJA KAARINA HALONEN, President of the Republic of Finland
  T a r j a H a l o n e n, Finland's first woman president

Helsingin Sanomat

  26.4.2004 - TODAY
 Halonen criticised as global do-gooder; PM Vanhanen comes to President’s defence

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