Halonen to Bloomberg: nuclear energy is "no miracle key" for Finland
President also comments on two-track eurozone woes
President Tarja Halonen
President Tarja Halonen, currently in New York to report on the work of a High-level Panel on Global Sustainability to the UN General Assembly, spoke with the Bloomberg news agency on Tuesday about Finland's use of nuclear power in the wake of events in Japan, and on the current state of play within the eurozone.
Halonen stressed that though Finland had been a relatively enthusiastic adopter of nuclear power - the country is building a fifth reactor at present and two others have been granted permits - nuclear energy is "no miracle key" and should be seen as an interim stage on the path to green technology.
The interviewer for Bloomberg Television's "The Last Word" asked Halonen what the feeling was in Finland towards nuclear power in the light of worries over a meltdown at the Fukushima facility in Japan after the earthquake and tsunami of last week.
Finland, a major consumer of electricity for heating and for the country's energy-intensive industries, derives something like 25-30% of its energy needs from nuclear power, but Halonen was at pains to point out that nuclear energy is not a miracle key for the future, even if it does provide a means of weaning the country away from fossil fuels in line with the requirements of the Kyoto Protocol. Halonen naturally also noted that comparisons with Japan were not overly helpful, given the difference in the geological conditions in the two countries - Finnish nuclear power stations do not have the same concerns in terms of earthquakes, for instance, as the country's bedrock is remarkably stable.
She did nevertheless point to the need to explore renewable energy sources and to improve energy efficiency in the longer time, seeing nuclear as not more than an interim solution to the issue of reducing global warming and staying within Kyoto parameters.
Questioned on whether the recent events would have an impact on future building plans, Halonen stressed that decisions were always a Parliamentary rather than a governmental matter, but she said she did not believe it would become a significant election issue in April.
Turning to the eurozone, the interviewer noted that the common currency was increasingly becoming a two-tier system, with triple-A countries - states enjoying good credit ratings and with burgeoning exports and relatively low debt levels - contrasted with other members that are really struggling, such as Greece, Portugal, and Ireland.
Asked whether she believed these two extremes still fitted into a one-currency package, Halonen stressed the need to unite European forces in order to be competitive in the cross-currents of globalisation, and said she preferred the concept of defending the euro rather than one of dismantling it and trying to establish something new.
She did note that there would have to be greater transparency and a greater sense of confidence in the respective players and their willingness to follow the rules and respect fiscal discipline.
Recent debates in the Finnish Parliament, and in part also the rise of the populist and euro-sceptic True Finns in the run-up to elections next month, have shown that patience is not unlimited: Halonen noted that what she described as "the good girls" of the eurozone such as Finland and Germany are reluctant to be payers in perpetuity.
"European citizens expect that there will be also a fair system inside the European Union and in the euro, and that's why we have to have quite hard discipline", said Halonen.
Finland is one of only six members of the eurozone to enjoy an AAA rating, and clearly developments in recent days and weeks have shown a rise in sentiment that the country should not meekly or indefinitely be bailing out governments that have been profligate in their spending.
The full video interview is shown in the links below.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Political leaders discuss taxes, financial discipline, and Berlusconi in election debate (11.3.2011)
Opposition takes offence at being called “unpatriotic” by Prime Minister (10.3.2011)
Bloomberg: Finland´s Halonen Says Japan Crisis Shows Nuclear Power Is an Interim Fix
Bloomberg: Europe´s AAA-Rated Economies Can’t Keep Financing Debt Bill, Halonen Says
Video: President Tarja Halonen interviewed for Bloomberg Television.