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Russia Expert: Finland in Weak Position in Wood Tariff Issue

A leading Finnish Russia expert says that the dispute between Finland and Russia over Russia's tariffs on wood exports is a reflection of difficulties that the EU is experiencing in dealing with Russia's growing economic strength.

Interviewed on a YLE radio programme on Wednesday morning, Markku Kivinen, director of the Aleksanteri Institute at the University of Helsinki notes that the dispute over wood tariffs is not a particularly big issue on the EU scale. He also feels that the export tax imposed on a raw material cannot be seen as unfounded either from the point of view of relations between the EU, or with respect to the World Trade Organisation.

Kivinen feels that Finland is in a weak position in the dispute, but he gives credit to Foreign Trade and Development Minister Paavo Väyrynen, who is in Moscow on Wednesday for discussions on wood tariffs and other issues, for threatening to impose highway tolls on Russian lorries passing through Finland as a way to offset the expenses incurred by the Finnish paper industry.

"In this negotiating situation it is rather futile to imagine that goodwill would be involved at the negotiating table. If Finns make reference only to the fact that it is a big issue for us if 15,000 to 25,000 people are left jobless, it will not carry much weight at the negotiating table with the Russians. Minister Väyrynen deserves a feather in his cap for understanding that in this negotiating situation, there have to be some kinds of sanctions from the Finnish side", Kivinen said in the interview.