Stubb called back to Finland already on Sunday
Finland’s upcoming Foreign Minister, member of the European Parliament Alexander Stubb (Nat. Coalition Party) says that he plans to continue “the new active time of international politics” when President Tarja Halonen officially appoints him to his ministerial post on Friday.
Stubb will replace Minister for Foreign Affairs Ilkka Kanerva (Nat. Coalition Party). Stubb had praise for his predecessor.
“Ilkka Kanerva has led the policy line toward the United States, the EU, and Russia very well. I hope to be able to continue on this line”, Stubb said.
"I have admired Ilkka Kanerva's performance and I will continue on the same, very active line”, he added.
Stubb sees his task as Foreign Minister to be that of “bringing Finland forward in one way or another, and to negotiate in situations in which Finland’s interest is promoted.”
Stubb, who celebrated his 40th birthday on Tuesday, was asked by National Coalition Party Chairman Jyrki Katainen to book a flight to Finland for Monday.
Stubb admits that he had an inkling already then of what might be coming, although Katainen did not reveal the reason for his request until Monday evening.
On Tuesday at noon Stubb appeared at a press conference where Katainen introduced him as the new Foreign Minister after telling reporters of the departure of Kanerva - “with a heavy heart”.
Katainen and Stubb rejected the notion that the new foreign minister would bring Finland closer to NATO. Stubb is known as one of the most outspokenly pro-NATO figures in Finland.
Last autumn he declared that non-alignment, military, or otherwise, “doesn’t work”. Then he anticipated “an historic change” in Finnish foreign policy.
This is seen to mean that the present level of armament, aimed at defending the whole territory of Finland, should be given up.
In addition, Stubb also called for the “parliamentarising” of the relationship with NATO, which would amount to depriving the President of decision-making power concerning matters related to the alliance.
On Tuesday Stubb committed himself powerfully to the government’s line and noted that the President leads foreign policy along with the government.
“I do not believe that it will be difficult”, Stubb said on the question of whether or not the official line would be implemented.
He said that he expected that cooperation with President Tarja Halonen would be without problems.
“We have always got along very well, and I do not believe that there will be any changes in this. In a way, I am returning to being her subordinate”, says Stubb, a former civil servant at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs.
President Halonen commented on the situation briefly in a radio interview with the Swedish language news of the Finnish Broadcasting Company (YLE).
"Cooperation has been quite good with Ilkka Kanerva, and also with Erkki Tuomioja before him, so I do not believe that there will be problems", the President said.
Stubb's outspoken style could be modified somewhat.
As a Member of the European Parliament he says that he has acted to “awaken debate”, while the Foreign Minister “ponders in a team” what the policy line should be.
Katainen noted that the National Coalition Party’s NATO line is clear. In the view of the party, NATO membership would strengthen Finland’s position, and that a referendum could be held, if necessary, on whether or not Finland should join the alliance.
Stubb and his family live near Brussels now. He has a British wife who is a lawyer, as well as two children. Stubb says that his family will move to Finland during the summer.
"When your country calls, the answer is unequivocally yes", Stubb said. He added that he would begin his new job “with humility”, and admitted that he was quite excited.
Previously in HS International Edition:
PROFILE: Alex Stubb is too smart to make trouble (2.4.2008)
MEP Alexander Stubb to replace Ilkka Kanerva as Foreign Minister (1.4.2008)