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At Davos, Finnish pols ponder decision-making mechanisms

President Sauli Niinistö says he is worried by world leaders’ indecisiveness. Interviewed by Yle at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland on Thursday, the Finnish head of state said that the general public wonders why nothing seems to be accomplished at international summit conferences.

Paneelikeskustelijoita lavalla ja yleisöä talousfoorumissa.
The WEF attracts A-list business and political leaders. Image: Jean-Christophe Bott / EPA

Speaking at the secretive World Economic Forum (WEF) meeting in Davos, Switzerland, Finnish President Sauli Niinistö has called for more efficient leadership at the world level.

“I’d like to first raise the issue of global decision-making,” he said. “It needs more credibility. We have many issues on which we’ve had conference after conference. And the results are often such that regular people probably wonder whether things have actually progressed at all,” Niinistö mused.

The Davos meeting is explicitly not a global decision-making forum – though most of what goes on there is never made public. The gathering began in the ski resort of Davos-Klosters on Wednesday and runs through Saturday. This year’s Forum has attracted more than 2,500 participants, among them more than 40 heads of state or government.

Rehn only Finnish speaker

Other Finns attending this year include Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen, Minister for European Affairs and Foreign Trade Alexander Stubb and European Economic Commissioner Olli Rehn. The latter is the only one scheduled to address an open session at the WEF. The others are participating in closed-door seminars and holding one-on-one meetings.

Niinistö’s office says he is “contribut[ing] in sessions concerning competitiveness and innovation, global imperatives for 2014, and health and economic growth”.

PM: Why so few Finns?

Katainen wondered aloud why there are so few Finns at the invitation-only event, adding that such gatherings are important for a small country.

“I would hope that in future years the Finnish media and business community will be more actively involved in Davos. It can’t be so that we Finns are the only ones who don’t learn from others. At the moment there are something like seven Finns here and 35 Swedes. This alone indicates that we have to make more of an effort,” Katainen told Yle.

According to a report in the New York Times on Wednesday, the cost of WEF membership and attending the meeting exceeds 70,000 dollars per person.

Katainen also commented on Finance Minister Jutta Urpilainen's announcement that the government may have to seek an additional spending cuts of up to three billion euros. The premier said that everyone understands that three billion on top of the five billion euros' worth of cuts that have already been made is a huge amount.

"We'll have to make spending cuts and tax hikes," he added.

Stubb forecasts EP vote

Stubb, meanwhile, spoke to the Reuters news agency in Davos, commenting on the upcoming European Parliament elections, in which he will be a candidate.

The former MEP predicted that Eurosceptical far-right and hard left groups would win from 10 to 20 percent of seats in the EU assembly, compared with 12 percent in the outgoing parliament.

"It will be less than many commentators would expect, but more than they had in the last parliament," said Stubb.

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