Category Archives: EU

Finnish foreign policy and Russia (shortly)

Last November, I wrote this:

I suppose that if significant amounts of people start turning up at the border with Russia, Finland may have to adapt its policy regarding Russia, since given the policy of keeping asylum seekers out it would need co-operation on the Russian side.

In today’s Helsingin Sanomat, there is an article about how the new border agreement between Finland and Russia came about. The core seems to be that no citizens from other EU-countries can pass the border in Salla or Raja-Jooseppi anymore into Russia (temporary measure though, 180 days). The article notes (my translation):

From the end of last year to the beginning of this year around 1760 asylum seekers arrived into Finland across the Russian border. The flow of asylum seekers suprised Finland, because earlier Russia prevented access to the border for those migrants that had moved without proper papers.

Finland tried to negotiate about this issue for months through civil servants, ministers and the President. Both Finland and Russia emphasised all the time that it would be a bilateral solution, not at the EU-level – regardless of the fact that Finland’s border is the outer border of the EU and the Schengen-area.

The article says that it is unclear whether there will be any resistance to this agreement from the EU, but that is because the EU is so focused on the situation in Greece.

All in all, my hunch from November was not quite unrealistic. Finland does need the co-operation of Russia on this issue and if somehow deviating from agreed EU-policy is the price to pay, then it appears that Finland has done so.  Thus, I feel I was correct in predicting a change in Finnish foreign policy regarding Russia.

Maybe I should pick up my original Masters’ studies subject again (EU and Foreign Policy).

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[päivitetty] Suomen Itärajasta (taas)

Äsken tuli YLEn sivuille tämän uutisen, Puolustusministeri Jussi Niinistö: Turvapaikanhakijoiden tulo itärajalta on Suomen vakavin haaste.

Varmaan näin on, monista syistä, mutta kuten jo aiemmin kirjoitin, suurin haaste liittyy just ulkopolitiikkaan ja miten EUn/NATOn suhtautuminen Venäjään vaikeuttaa Suomen ja Venäjän keskenäistä aiheen käsittelemistä.

Suurin kysymykseni on edelleen: miten tämä muuttuu Suomen Venäjä-politiikkaa ja mihin suuntaan? Ovatko puolustusministeri ja ulkoministeri asialla?

Lisäyksenä: edelleen paheksun fraasin “laiton maahanmuutto”. Sen lisäksi, luvut voivat hyvin olla liioteltuja. Sen lisäksi, pelkkä Venäjä-politiikka ei riittää, sillä turvanpaikkahakijat tulevat varmaan suurin osin Turkin kautta. Suomen ulkoministeri voi miettiä, oliko oikeasti niin viisasta ilman kritiikkiä antaa Turkille paljon rahaa. [en tunne Suomen Turkki-politiikkaa].

Päivitys: kuin käskystä, YLEn uutisiin ilmestyi tämä artikkkeli, Turkki uhkaa lähettää pakolaisia EU-maihin. Tätä siis saa kun EUn “pakolaispolitiikka” perustuu wishful thinkingiin.

Lyhyesti Lapin rajasta taas: I told you so!

Tänään YLE julkaisi tämä uutisen. Vaikka jotkut eivät pitäneet tätä mitenkään realistisenä ilmiönä, EU:n turvapaikka-asioiden taho kyllä ennusti tämän (myös tässä ja tässä kirjoitin siitä) Tässä näkyy, miten tärkeää on käyttää sitä tietoa mitä on muualla saatavana.

Presidentti kertoo muuttoliikkeestä

Presidentti Sauli Niinistö kertoi äsken, että pitää varautua mittavaaan muuttoliikkeen Itä-rajan kautta. Mitä mä taas rapportoin siitä?

 

Hyvä, että tästä avoimesti puhutaan.

 

 

Poverty, inequality, social exclusion and asylum seekers

I am veering off the normal topics of this blog lately, but since the issues relating to violent radicalism quite likely have to do with working life in many ways, I think I am excused for posting some thoughts on the topics in the title. It is nearly a random collection of thoughts and I do not claim any coherence. I am only presenting some issues I am thinking about – I am not presenting the perfect explanation for radicalisation or such issues. A background is that as a Dutch person living in Finland I am appalled at the sudden level of hatred against “others”. Of course not everybody (fortunately) condones this kind of thinking. Another background for this post is this essay that I read in the weekend as it became clear what happened in Paris. Probably there are many things that can be argued with, but I think many points are quite valid.

So, here are some thoughts:

  • Poverty is shown to be quite hereditery, although this also depends on the effects of the welfare state. One stylized fact in the social sciences and I think also in economics is that poverty is very costly for society. Poverty relief is a complicated issue, and also in rich countries like Finland there are increasing numbers of (materially) poor people, with all the consequences for health etc. So, why is there no stronger effort to deal with poverty?
  • Idea for an answer: politicians, civil servants and research instutes are so obsessed with labour costs, because they are trapped in economic models (which give “exact” answers) which treat labour/people as a resource, i.e. as a supply side variable, that unemployment/poverty is a positive phenomenon in terms of overall labour cost levels. This is a very cynical idea, but the view of humans in economic models is well known to be extremely simplistic.

 

  • Inequality and social exclusion. These two are of course very much related with poverty and poverty is often a result of these. In the light of the article by Enzenberger, I am just wondering – why aren’t Finnish people not more afraid of the young, frustrated men that have trouble getting a foothold in the labour market (or society), especially in rural areas? It appears that the school shooters in Jokela and Kauhajoki a few years back exhibit very similar traits to what Enzenberger describes in his essay. I am not qualified to analyze the personal situations of these shooters in psychological terms or relating to social exclusion, but at least on the face of it there seems to be more in common between these young men and those Enzenberger describes than many would like to admit.

 

  • In relation to that – if Finnish people are so afraid (gross generalization) of terrorists among asylum seekers, shouldn’t we do everything we can to make sure asylum seekers don’t become men (and women) who experience the things Enzenberger describes (broadly social exclusion) instead of reinforcing the Us vs. Them thematic? Finland still has a welfare state that is geared towards minimizing inequality (although it is clearly not perfect), shouldn’t we use this opportunity to reform the welfare state in such a way that the newcomers/asylumseekers don’t fall in the same kind of income traps that many Finns find themselves in?

These are some thoughts that are in my head. I understand the Finns’ Parties statements about “people are afraid” but perhaps in a slightly different way – maybe the arrival of asylum seekers opens the eyes of many who suddenly see the pitfalls of the Finnish welfare state. These are a fact and there are alternatives. In any case, thinking of human needs and humanitarian aid, I think we should not actively make policies or strengthen social tendencies that actually would make asylum seekers more likely to radicalize.

 

Asylum seekers ARE coming through Russia to Finland. Now we see the failure of individual countries closing borders.

This link. Unfortunately I don’t have the access rights to the whole article, but the title of the article says enough: “The pressure at the Eastern Border grows – More and more asylum seekers arrive in Finland through Raja-Jooseppi.” Ok, the numbers are small (67 this year, until 3.11.2015) but still.

This article from Maaseudun Tulevaisuus Newspaper mentions that in one week 50 asylum seekers crossed the border. The article was also from 3.11.

In this article I mentioned the interview with Robert Visser who predicted this (growing) flow. We should urgently make sure (given the Finnish winter!) that there are sufficient resources to receive and process these asylum seekers. Furthermore, now one can very concretely see what awesome failure Europe’s countries’ reaction to the flow of refugees is.

 

 

Is Finnish foreign policy on Russia in for a change?

Yesterday I wrote a short blog on asylum seeker routes. The thing that piqued my interest was the statement by EASO director Robert Visser, who stated in Dutch newspaper Trouw, that “Since a few weeks, Finland gets remarkable amounts of asylum seekers [through Russia]”.

In Finland, reports are focused on Tornio, which is situated between Sweden and Finland at the end of the Gulf of Bothnia. So far, I have heard little about border crossings at the Salla or Raja-Jooseppi stations. This article states that this year, so far, only 12 asylum seekers have crossed the border in Raja-Jooseppi (in Northern Lapland) although the authors are wondering whether the situation would develop like in Norway (Storskog).

So this means that EASO has more information, or that they are simply wrong.

But suppose the informed estimate is correct and asylum seekers are travelling through Russia to Finland (or Norway), what questions does that raise for Finnish foreign policy? (I leave aside the question of probably extremely harsh winter circumstances in Russia).

Given that apparently the Finnish foreign ministry has a campaign in the near Middle East trying to discourage people from coming to Finland, I would think that the Finnish government would not be very happy if large groups of people start arriving in Northern Finland. The question then is: what kind of co-operation is there between Finland and Russia on information sharing regarding asylum seeker movements?

Personally I think current Finnish policy regarding asylum seekers is counter-productive and not just, but that is not relevant for now. Since my guess is that asylum seeker flows will seek the route of least resistance, I suppose that if significant amounts of people start turning up at the border with Russia, Finland may have to adapt its policy regarding Russia, since given the policy of keeping asylum seekers out it would need co-operation on the Russian side.

This would have quite big implications for the EU also. Finland’s economy was kind of sacrificed with the sanctions on Russia, and the conflict between the EU and Russia about Ukraine may have implications for this Syria asylum seeker issue as well. It is not written in stone that Russia will help in this (i.e. trying to stem the flow) unless it can get some kind of lessening of the sanctions.

Although I obviously have no data to back this scenario up, I am sketching a possibility. It may or may not come true, or in another way, but increasingly the crises that the EU faces become interconnected. And as in the past, Finland is again between Russia and the West. I hope and trust that the Foreign Minister and his civil servants have the knowledge and skills to successfully navigate this crisis.