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But how do I get to this place Lahti?
Civil servants market Finland's logo and image in Brussels
By Heikki Aittokoski in Brussels
Spanish journalist Enrique Lopez Soriano has one wish: he would like to see Santa Claus during the Finnish EU Presidency
Soriano, who works for the television channel TeleMadrid, made this request in the cellar of the notoriously bleak-looking Justis Lipsius building in Brussels, where young civil servants of the Finnish government had set up a table to market the Finnish EU Presidency, which begins on July 1st.
Conspicuously on display were the rock band Apolcalyptica (Concert July 1st on the Grand Place in Brussels) as well as the logo of the Finnish Presidency, which has no name, but which resembles a whale moving fast.
However, a Euro-whale does not necessarily depict the dynamics of the Finnish presidency - at least not in Soriano's opinion.
"It will be a quiet period. Things will not start to move until the German EU Presidency."
Germany will take over the Presidency at the beginning of January.
The marketing effort paid off in the case of Soriano and his colleague from Barcelona, Laia Fores, a correspondent for the newspaper Avui.
Neither of the two have ever been to Finland, nor were they sure that they would take part in any of the meetings to be arranged there.
"It depends on how weighty the issues are", Fores said.
Pampering journalists is just one part of the arrangements of the Presidency - but a fairly significant one.
The EU Presidency costs Finland EUR 68 million, and things were put in motion about three years ago.
Since then, perhaps hundreds of officials have been attending meetings of various kinds to see how other countries have handled things.
The EU Presidency employs hundreds of Finns directly; indirectly, the number could be in the thousands - including hotel and restaurant employees.
Large numbers of civil servants are being kept busy in the preparations, because success is seen to be important on the national level. The attitude actually appears more peaceful than in the previous Finnish EU Presidency in 1999, when one high-ranking civil servant compared the period to the Winter War.
One example of the input is that the number of staff at the Finnish Representation to the EU was raised from 100 to about 150 people. This is in line with what Austria, Sweden, and Germany have done during their own turns at the Presidency. Germany is increasing its personnel to 220 (normally 180), while Sweden most recently increased its number to 160 (normally 110).
There was no lack of interest in the Finnish period in the cellar in Brussels.
There was a steady flow of foreign journalists who were coming for accreditation, for instance. Applying for permission to cover the events is meticulous work, and the information passes through the Finnish Security Police.
There are also practical questions: "How can I get to Lahti?" asked one journalist. Lahti is the venue of the unofficial summit in October.
Nordic journalists, for their part, asked to what extent the monster-rock band and Eurovision victors Lordi will be visible during the EU Presidency.
Not much, apparently.
Helsingin Sanomat / First published in print 16.6.2006
HEIKKI AITTOKOSKI / Helsingin Sanomat