Professor says allegations of President Halonen’s GDR activism are untrue
Professor Seppo Hentilä, Senior Researcher at the Academy of Finland, rejects all allegations that President Tarja Halonen was campaigning for the GDR at the beginning of the 1970s more vigorously than has hitherto been believed.
"The Finnish public is now being given the impression that the incumbent president has acted in a reprehensible way, as she was an activist in a non-governmental organisation more than 30 years ago", commented political historian Hentilä to Helsingin Sanomat on Wednesday.
"In my view the impression is harmful and misleading, as it does not concur with the historical facts. The news gives an entirely crooked picture of her actions", noted Hentilä.
The Finnish daily Aamulehti and business newspaper Kauppalehti, among others, reported yesterday that Halonen was more active in the GDR recognition committee than previously presumed.
Hentilä argues that in terms of foreign policy, the GDR recognition committee was a disturbance factor, which nevertheless reflected a widely-shared public opinion in Finland.
"The real significance of the committee was zero, as President Urho Kekkonen flatly turned down its proposals", said Hentilä.
In contrast to other countries, Finland’s GDR recognition committee was very broadly-based, involving members from all political parties - from the moderate conservatives of the National Coalition Party to the Communist Party of Finland.
According to Hentilä, Halonen did not join the committee on her own initiative, but was ordered to do so by her superior Niilo Hämäläinen, the then President of the Central Organisation of Finnish Trade Unions, SAK.
Tarja Halonen worked as a lawyer with the Central Organisation of Finnish Trade Unions from 1970 to 1974.
"Certainly Halonen herself did not oppose the idea, either. I suppose that like other leftists at that time that she was in favour of the recognition of the GDR", Hentilä concludes.
One former board member of the recognition committee, Ilkka-Christian Björklund, recalls that the work of the committee was ”very far from being dramatic”.
Björklund does not remember that the committee had ever even done anything that ran against the country's official foreign policy line.
Moreover, talks about Halonen’s excessive activity vis-à-vis the GDR are simply comical, Björklund argues.
”Based on my impressions at the time, the accusations of Halonen having been a red-hot messenger-girl of Walter Ulbricht or Erich Honecker are absolute garbage”, Björklund snorts.
President Halonen herself did not wish to comment to Helsingin Sanomat on her activity in the GDR recognition committee.
Finland’s GDR recognition committee operated from 1970 to 1973, with an aim to be the first capitalist country to recognise the GDR. The operation came to an end when Finland established full diplomatic relations with both German states simultaneously in 1973. As many as 1.5 million people could be said to have belonged through the more than 40 associations that took part in the work of the committee. SAK was the largest of these.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Security Police will not release Stasi list (7.9.2007)
Prof. Seppo Hentilä
The President of the Republic of Finland