President Halonen concludes visit to Nicaragua
Brief stop in Guatemala before return home
Finnish President Tarja Halonen concluded her official three-day visit to Nicaragua with a poolside reception at her hotel in the capital Managua.
"The Finnish government and Parliament have decided that Nicaragua is one of the main targets of Finnish development aid. However, the visit has shown that Finland is not only giving money - it is also interested in what is happening here", the President said.
She also noted that the visit taught the hosts that "certain homework has to be done to join the international community as a full-fledged member".
By "homework" Halonen was referring to the fight against corruption, as well as to economic development and the social dimension - education and environmental issues.
President Halonen also felt that interest in development cooperation in Finland is enhanced when people see that aid reaches its targets.
Cooperation with Nicaragua began on the NGO level; about 20 years ago, when she was a Member of Parliament, Tarja Halonen helped establish the Finland-Nicaragua Society.
"In 10 to 20 years the situation here could be like it is in Chile now. Chile is currently a model country in Latin America. I visited Chile a short time ago, and people there said that Finns were their old friends", Halonen said.
The President said that the role of state visits in the changing world is different from what it used to be, with heads of state often holding multilateral meetings. Nevertheless, she still feels that bilateral visits remain an important part of international diplomacy.
During the visit Finland and Nicaragua signed an agreement on two million euros in additional aid, which is to be used for the purpose of easing poverty.
Halonen’s host, President Enrique Bolanos, assured the Finnish president that the money would be used for this purpose, and that it would not go to corruption, which eats up an unreasonable amount of the aid provided to all poor countries.
"Nicaragua is the first country in the world to put all information on international development cooperation onto the Internet. There it is possible to find information on the funding, how it is used, and what the results are. Everyone in the world can serve as auditors - the best ones possible", Bolanos said.
From Nicaragua Halonen moved on to Guatemala for a brief visit before returning to Helsinki on Thursday.
Previously in HS International Edition:
President Halonen in Nicaragua (1.6.2004)
Nicaraguan government web site (in Spanish)