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A Delicate Shade of Pink - Erkki Tuomioja’s blood legacy
By Unto Hämäläinen
It used to be said in the Social Democratic Party that " Erkki Tuomioja will never learn to win", or that "Tuomioja went out to lose again".
There is a certain truth to both statements. After a promising start, Tuomioja’s political career took a downward turn in the late 1970s, and he left day-to-day politics in 1979 to take up the post of one of Helsinki’s deputy mayors. Tuomioja had no chances in an SDP led by Kalevi Sorsa.
Tuomioja never became Mayor of Helsinki, even though the SDP put him forward for the post. Tuomioja returned to Parliament in the elections of 1991 to what was not exactly an easy ride. First, the SDP was in opposition for four years.
Tuomioja was the last of the visible SDP politicians to come out in favour of EU membership. Even as he went to vote in the referendum, 40 per cent of Tuomioja was against membership.
In the spring of 1995 Paavo Lipponen picked Tarja Halonen as Foreign Minister, even though Erkki Tuomioja would have been much more competent at the time.
Tuomioja made no public protest, unless one sees as a protest that he concentrated for a year on putting the finishing touches on his doctoral dissertation on the social policy views of his kindred spirit Pekka Kuusi.
It was not until the spring of 1999 that Erkki Tuomioja made it into the government as the Minister of Trade and Industry. He was 52 years old at the time, with a doctorate in political science, and a political and administrative career of more than 30 years behind him. Hardly ever has the SDP named such an experienced politician as minister for the first time.
In the following year, Tuomioja followed Tarja Halonen to the post of Foreign Minister.
But Tuomioja would not be Tuomioja if he had contented himself with handling the duties of Foreign Minister, which was quite a pleasant and appropriate post for him.
Tuomioja tried twice to become the chairman of the SDP. First he challenged Paavo Lipponen, and after Lipponen stepped down from the post, Tuomioja tried again. Naturally, he lost to Eero Heinäluoma.
Both times Tuomioja was the redder choice.
The past year has been exceptional in Tuomioja’s career. He has not lost a single competition.
On the contrary, he has finally learned how to win.
A year ago he became the most experienced foreign minister in the European Union after Joschka Fischer had to leave the post of Foreign Minister of Germany.
In early July Tuomioja turned sixty, and he became the chair of the General Affairs Council of the European Union, which is responsible for the EU’s external relations.
In early August Tuomioja faced the most difficult challenge in his life, negotiating peace for Lebanon. This was so successful, that Tuomioja has been showered with praise for his handling of the Finnish EU Presidency.
And this week he received the Tieto Finlandia prize for his book A Delicate Shade of Pink.
In the introduction to the book, Tuomioja concedes that he has brazenly taken advantage of his position as Foreign Minister in the writing of the book. The British and Russian foreign ministers could not turn down the requests of their colleague for access to archives.
Information was gleaned about Hella Wuolijoki and her sister Salme Pekkala that nobody else would have been likely to get. The most sensitive archives did not open even to Tuomioja.
Erkki Tuomioja’s book is a fabric of the recent history of Finland, Estonia, Russia, and Britain. Wuolijoki and Pekkala were strange leftist radicals who messed up their affairs many times. They had to pay a high price for this.
Pekkala was unyielding in her faith. Wuolijoki was not quite as rigid: she allowed herself to change her mind, sniffed the winds, and also knew how to make money. And all the time she wrote: books, plays, and letters.
Tuomioja is a very even-tempered person. People who have known him for decades say that they do not really know Tuomioja.
Journalists lament that Tuomioja will not allow them into his home to write family articles, or to photograph the furniture inside the villa that he inherited from his grandmother, or the exteriors of the property on Lake Tuusulanjärvi.
Tuomioja has answered the complaints in his sarcastic style: a journalist already lives there. Mrs. Marja-Helena Tuomioja is a journalist. A Delicate Shade of Pink is Tuomioja’s blood legacy.
Helsingin Sanomat / First published in print 15.12.2006
UNTO HÄMÄLÄINEN / Helsingin Sanomat