Prime Minister Vanhanen sees Finnish-Russian ties as closer than ever
Finnish and Russian PMs agree on further discussion investment protection
Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen (Centre) said that contacts between Finland and Russia are "perhaps closer than ever" after he met with the visiting Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov on Tuesday. The prime ministers agreed during Fradkov's one-day visit to Helsinki to continue discussions on a proposed treaty on investment protection.
Vanhanen insisted on Tuesday evening that the public discussion on possible worsening relations between Finland and Russia did not come up.
"On the contrary, if this meeting and the topics that were discussed are reflected against the debate that has taken place in recent weeks, then they are from completely different worlds. It is a fact that contacts between Finland and Russia are perhaps closer than ever", Vanhanen said.
The proposed investment protection treaty between Finland and Russia was to have been signed already in May 2002, but the issue remains unresolved over questions such as equitable treatment and the repatriation of profits.
"We had a short discussion on the investment protection treaty. In this issue we are not negotiating partners, but we urged the administrative level to continue negotiations", Vanhanen said at a press conference on Tuesday.
Fradkov made no direct comment, but he said that it was his impression that "Finnish business circles plan seriously to increase activities in Russia".
"To this end we must develop a legislative base, but we also need capital investments and administrative reforms", the Russian Prime Minister added.
Trade between Finland and Russia has grown by about 20% this year. At this rate Russia will be Finland’s largest single trading partner in 2010.
The prime ministers looked ahead to the latter half of 2006, when Finland will hold the EU Presidency.
Vanhanen noted that during that period the partnership agreement between Russia and the EU will be up for renewal, and so will the EU's Northern Dimension programme.
Fradkov said that Russia welcomed Finland’s decision to shut down a web site operating from a Finnish server, run by Chechen separatists.
Vanhanen rushed to point out that the site was shut down by the service provider which owns the server, and not by Finnish authorities.
Also during the visit the two prime ministers were present at a ceremony to inaugurate the Gulf of Finland Reporting System (GOFREP) - a maritime traffic control system aimed at reducing the risk of maritime collisions in the narrow and ecologically vulnerable Gulf of Finland.
Better maritime traffic control is seen as vital, because of the increase in oil transport to and from two new Russian oil terminals in the eastern part of the Gulf of Finland, and the heavy passenger traffic between Finland and Estonia.
Also attending the ceremony were the Finnish and Russian ministers of transport, Leena Luhtanen and Igor Levitin, as well as Estonia’s Minister of Economic Affairs and Communications, Andrus Ansip.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Russian Prime Minister visits Finland (26.10.2004)
Sharp increase in oil transport in Gulf of Finland (30.9.2004)