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Finnish President tells tabloid: EU not strong enough in international politics

Finnish President Sauli Niinistö is worried about increasing personification and polarization in world politics, but is nevertheless optimistic about the upcoming Helsinki Summit.

Tasavallan presidentti Sauli Niinistö.
Finnish President Sauli Niinistö in Pori on 6 July 2018. Image: Timo Jaakonaho / Lehtikuva

Sauli Niinistö, President of Finland, says he feels the European Union is not sufficiently united or strong when it comes to international politics. In a lengthy interview published on Saturday in the Finnish tabloid Ilta-Sanomat, Niinistö said this lack of solidarity and resolve creates an opportunity for the US and Russia to negotiate European issues without Europe's involvement.

"It is necessary that the US and Russia engage in bilateral talks, but they can't bypass Europe and intervene in European affairs. This risk of this happening has increased because the EU is not united and is not a strong enough actor in international politics," he told IS.

His comments refer to the upcoming summit between US President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin, who are scheduled to meet in Helsinki on July 16.

Niinistö said he is optimistic about the Helsinki Summit, adding that he would like to see the two leaders discuss disarmament, for example, as part of their agenda.

The Finnish President told IS that while it is promising that the superpowers are meeting, he is still worried about increasing polarization and the personification of politics around individuals in world politics.

Success of NATO meeting will be huge indicator

Niinistö told IS that the NATO summit starting on July 11 will reveal a great deal about the current functionality of the European-US relationship. Trump has repeatedly complained about NATO allies not shouldering enough financial responsibility for the alliance, and in a June meeting of the G7, Trump arrived late and left early.

Niinistö says the current climate makes what happens in Brussels next week very important.

"The transatlantic connection is extremely important for Europe, and not just for the countries that are in NATO," he said.

Jury out on participation in rapid deployment force

Niinistö also told the tabloid that Finland is seriously considering whether it will participate in French President Emmanuel Macron's call for a new military intervention force in Europe.

Ministers from France, Germany, Belgium, Britain, Denmark, the Netherlands, Estonia, Spain and Portugal signed a letter of intent in Luxembourg in late June to establish a cross-border military outfit for rapid deployment in times of a crisis.

The Finnish President wouldn't reveal his personal stance on the issue in the IS interview, but said that a decision will be announced on Finland's participation in the joint initiative yet this summer.

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