Kanerva apologises over SMS uproar
Prime Minister Vanhanen: No impact on government
Finland's Minister for Foreign Affairs Ilkka Kanerva (Nat. Coalition Party) made a public apology early on Friday morning for the public uproar that emerged from reports of SMS messages that he sent to dancer Johanna Tukiainen.
Speaking at a press conference in Brussels in connection with the European Union summit, Kanerva said that he knew that he had behaved tactlessly.
"I know that it has caused consternation among people. I publicly apologise to my party, my group, and all those Finns who feel that my work is important."
He also insisted that he has nothing to hide that "would cause palpations".
"I am an open person. I make mistakes", he said.
According to the Foreign Minister, this week has been quite a running of the gauntlet for him.
National Coalition Party Chairman and Minister of Finance Jyrki Katainen criticised Kanerva rather severely at the press conference. "I hope that Minister Kanerva would spare himself and those close to him from the twists and turns of his private life. It would be easier for everybody."
Katainen said that he has received plenty of feedback over Kanerva's behaviour. He emphasised that the National Coalition Party is not taking the matter lightly.
"It has been said that the National Coalition Party takes a ‘boys will be boys' attitude. This is not true. We take the matter very seriously."
According to Katainen, political credibility needs to be nurtured, and for that reason, it is not possible for the National Coalition Party to take a humorous view of the text message furore.
Suspicions have also been raised that Kanerva might have misused his high position by promising jobs to several young women in connection with sports events.
"It is not acceptable for any minister, or any person in a leading position, whether a politician or someone else, to misuse the position by giving someone an undeserved benefit", Katainen said.
Katainen said that Kanerva has clarified the matter with him thoroughly, and that there is no evidence of anything that would require further measures.
"We cannot act on the basis of mere rumours and newspaper articles", Katainen said in Brussels.
Looking grim, and nearly furious, Katainen nevertheless noted that Kanerva continues to have his full confidence in the post of Minister for Foreign Affairs.
At the end of the press conference he nevertheless expressed the hope that Kanerva would spare himself these kinds of situations.
Kanerva also responded to claims that he had made moves on a certain artist in the mid-1990s. "I cannot, with my best efforts, call to mind this kind of matter and this person", Kanerva said.
He added that he cannot remember all events from decades ago. "But if I have caused pain or hurt feelings for this artist, then I am naturally ready to apologise personally."
Earlier on Thursday Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen (Centre) gave assurances that the uproar over Foreign Minister Kanerva has not hurt the operations of the government.
"The government functions very well. This week in the budget framework talks, decisions were made about big transport packages, the productivity programme was approved, and university reform was put in a package. That shows that things function smoothly. Foreign policy is also being taken care of well", Vanhanen said on Thursday in Brussels shortly before the summit meeting.
Vanhanen would not comment specifically on Kanerva's behaviour.
"The Foreign Minister handles his job well. As Prime Minister I support the ministers who have been put in their posts by the government parties, and this week, most recently, the National Coalition Party has given its full support to its foreign minister. This is the setup from which the Prime Minister examines this question", Vanhanen said.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Kanerva insists in magazine interview that he will not resign (13.3.2008)
National Coalition Party and government back Kanerva (12.3.2008)
Foreign Minister admits to sending text messages to dancer (11.3.2008)
National Coalition Party leader perplexed by Kanerva SMS message uproar (10.3.2008)