Finnish prime ministers traditionally make their first official foreign visit across the Gulf of Bothnia to Sweden, but new PM Alexander Stubb broke with tradition this week. After attending an EU summit in Brussels, he went to Estonia first for meetings with the country’s senior politicians before arriving in Sweden on Friday.
The decision was down to scheduling issues, but speaking after their meeting Swedish premier Fredrik Reinfeldt was unaware that Stubb had been to NATO member country Estonia before heading to Stockholm.
“Sure I like Sweden, even though Sweden isn’t a NATO country,” quipped Stubb, who recently came out in support of Finnish membership of the transatlantic alliance.
Stubb said that the NATO question was not on the agenda during this government’s term in office, but that Finland’s defence had to be based on a credible deterrent.
“And in addition, our defence has to be up-to-date,” said Stubb. “It’s really important that we co-operate with Sweden.”
Over the lunch meeting, Stubb also discussed the need for economic growth policies in Europe and the crisis in Ukraine. Possible sanctions on Russia were one topic, but Stubb emphasised Finland’s and other countries’ economic dependence on Russia. He says that if Russian GDP falls by three percent, that in turn knocks 0.3 percent off Finnish output.
“We have to consider other measures that could compensate for that,” said Stubb. “We have to hope that the situation doesn’t go that far, but we are also ready to discuss sanctions that could stabilise the situation in Ukraine.”