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Government Approves Sipoo Annex

The government has given its approval to the controversial annexation of a small slice of Sipoo by the City of Helsinki. Ministers are divided on the decision and the municipality of Sipoo plans to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court.

The cabinet voted by 8 to 4 in favour of the proposal. Those voting against the motion were government ministers Stefan Wallin, Astrid Thors, Paavo Väyrynen and Mauri Pekkarinen.

Trade and Industry Minister Mauri Pekkarinen came out in strong opposition to a proposal by Helsinki to annex land in the neighbouring municipality of Sipoo for housing development.

The Minister told YLE News that the land could be developed as part of Sipoo. There has been a lot of opposition to the proposal, which has also divided opinions in the political arena. Helsinki says it needs the land to develop housing for its residents.

However, speaking in a YLE News interview, Trade and Industry Minister Mauri Pekkarinen said the proposed annexation does not fulfill any of the criteria for a forced union.

"The people of Sipoo in a referendum have been unanimous - 93 percent voted against it. And the Council of the Municipality was also totally unanimous," he explained. The Minister conceded that development of the earmarked land is very important, but said annexation is not the only option.

Housing Minister Delighted by Vote The Minister of Housing Jan Vapaavuori said he was delighted by the government's decision describing it as "a marvellous start to its metropolitan policy."

Vapaavuori said the decision showed the administration was able to take difficult decisions relating to the development of the region. In his view, the decision was one of the most significant in the development of the Helsinki metropolitan area's housing policy.

Despite voting in favour of the annexation, Minister of Labour Tarja Cronberg said it was essential that the Sipoonkorpi area be preserved and developed for recreational use and for reasons of nature protection.

The annexation is expected to be implemented at the beginning of 2009. The municipality of Sipoo says it will appeal the decision to Finland's Supreme Court.

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