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Cablegate: Ambassador's Conversation with New Eu Rep Kemppinen

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 HELSINKI 000300

SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR EUR/ERA AND EUR/NB

E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/09/2015
TAGS: PREL XF RS FI EUN
SUBJECT: AMBASSADOR'S CONVERSATION WITH NEW EU REP KEMPPINEN


Classified By: Ambassador Earle I. Mack, for Reasons 1.4(B) and (D)

Summary and Comment
-------------------

1. (C) Reijo Kemppinen, who until recently was European
Commission spokesman, has been appointed the Commission's new
Head of Representation in Finland. In his introductory
conversation with the Ambassador, discussion covered a wide
range of topics, from the President's and Secretary's
February 22 meetings in Brussels, to next steps in the Middle
East, to the EU's relations with Russia, to Kemppinen's
assessment of Barroso's leadership and priorities.

2. (C) Over the past two years, the Commission's office in
Finland has kept a rather low profile. For much of that
time, Timo Pesonen -- who moved from then-PM Lipponen's staff
to be Deputy Head of the Representation in early 2003 -- was
acting Head as well. (Pesonen is now cabinet chief for
Finnish EU Commissioner Rehn, in Brussels.) With the arrival
of Kemppinen and new Deputy Head Paavo Makinen, the
Representation's front office is now fully staffed.
Kemppinen indicated clearly that he intends to make his staff
a more active participant in Finland's official relationship
with the EU than has been the case in the recent past. End
Summary and Comment.

The February 22 Meetings and the Middle East
--------------------------------------------

3. (SBU) Reijo Kemppinen and Paavo Makinen, new Head and
Deputy Head of the European Commission's Representation in
Finland respectively, paid an introductory call on the
Ambassador on March 2. ECON and POL chiefs sat in as well.
The conversation began with a discussion of the President's
and Secretary's February 22 meetings with European Union
leaders in Brussels. Kemppinen said that the visit had
special symbolic significance in that President Bush was the
first U.S. President to visit European institutions such as
the Commission. There was also real substantive value to the
visit, in bridging trans-Atlantic gaps. The Europeans
particularly valued the opportunity to consult on next steps
in the Middle East.

4. (C) The Ambassador said the U.S. strongly agrees on the
importance of moving ahead in the Middle East Peace Process,
and we are happy to see that the approach of spring has
brought some very good signs in the region as a whole,
including Iraq, Lebanon, and Egypt. We believe that the U.S.
and European Union can cooperate on every level to help
realize the President's vision of an Israeli state and a
Palestinian state living side by side in harmony. We also
hope the EU will look to other areas of the Middle East where
people have risked their lives to advance the cause of
democracy.

5. (C) Kemppinen said he hopes America understands the
complexity of European foreign policymaking, and the reasons
for that complexity. "The system often prevents us from
deciding things clearly," he remarked, and member nations
have long memories of their individual ties to the Middle
East, which further complicate the process. The Ambassador
replied that he understood, but that we should put the past
behind us and look forward.

The European Union as a Work in Progress
----------------------------------------

6. (SBU) In discussing the EU and his own mission in Finland,
Kemppinen said that the European Union continues to be a
"project." The main building blocks -- the internal market,
the euro, the free movement of persons -- are in place, but
the EU has yet to become a genuine political union. European
integration will continue to deepen in the years to come, but
to do so the EU needs the competence that only the
governments of member nations can grant. This the
governments can do only if there is public acceptance. He
therefore believes that an important part of the job of a
Commission representative in a national capital is to
generate more visibility for, and public trust in, the EU.
The European Union is more sensitive to public opinion than
ever before -- and publics see Union structures as
complicated, far away from the people, and managed by
bureaucrats and politicians unknown outside their own
borders.

7. (SBU) Kemppinen went on to say that in Finland he will
seek to combat this perception in partnership with the GoF
and with EU embassies, through networking, and by building
different forms of cooperation. He wants, inter alia, to
organize discussions of broad issues of Finland's
relationship to the European Union, bringing together GoF
officials, business figures, NGOs, and others.
Barroso a Pragmatic Leader Who Will Concentrate on
--------------------------------------------- -----
Economic Issues
---------------

8. (C) The Ambassador asked Kemppinen and Makinen for their
assessment of the Barroso leadership. Kemppinen said that
the Commission's new President has a very pragmatic style,
and it is a promising sign that he was able to define his
core objectives so rapidly. Barroso's main priorities will
be economic stability, growth, and employment. "The other
factors are window dressing." The path will not be easy,
however. Many within the Union believe that a common
currency and monetary policy won't be enough -- but the
difference between what should be done and what can be done
is formidable. For example, corporate taxation policy needs
to be harmonized, but the British find the word "taxation"
anathema, and instinctively believe that any sentence that
combines that word with "harmonization" must be negative.

9. (C) The Ambassador noted that competitiveness is a major
trans-Atlantic issue, and requires transparency and a level
playing field. Kemppinen agreed but said that the same is
true within the EU itself. Germany and France have been less
than happy with the Commission in recent years, "and it all
had to do with state subsidies." For that matter, the Finns
have their own reason to feel aggrieved: the GoF scrapped
subsidies to the shipbuilding industry on the understanding
that, via multilateral agreements, other nations around the
globe would follow suit -- but this never happened.

Finland's EU Presidency
-----------------------

10. (C) The Ambassador remarked that the Finns are already
well into preparing for their July-December 2006 European
Union presidency, and asked whether this will impact
Luxembourg. Kemppinen said it seems that over the years the
small nations have been successful in their presidencies, and
the large ones not. For the Finns, much will depend on
whether and how well Luxembourg succeeds, especially whether
agreement is achieved by June 30 on financing for 2007-2013.
If it is not, then the realities of national elections
probably mean that the question will be postponed for a full
year, and wind up on the Finns' plate.

11. (C) The Ambassador, noting that the Constitution Treaty
is due to take effect during the Finnish presidency, asked
how European Union foreign policy will change under the new
structure. Kemppinen said there will be no "EU embassies" as
such, but he expects a more unified foreign policy line. In
most areas of foreign policy member nations will retain their
national rights, and the consensus rule will remain. The new
EU foreign minister's chief advantage will be the permanency
of the office, coupled with his/her own powers of persuasion.

Finland, the EU, and Russia
---------------------------

12. (C) The Ambassador noted that Russian FM Lavrov had met
with the EU Troika, and asked for Kemppinen's thoughts on the
Russia-EU relationship. Kemppinen said there is no denying
there has been a deterioration in relations in recent years,
partly because of Putin's "regressive policies" and partly
because of the difficulty over building the common spaces.

13. (C) Asked about Finland's own role in the European
Union's relationship with Russia, Makinen remarked that the
May 2004 enlargement brought in a number of new members "who
know Russia much better than we do." Kemppinen added that
these nations had "very acrimonious past relations" with
Russia, leaving feelings that will not go away soon. On the
other hand, there are new members who have had little or no
relationship with Russia, either historic or commercial.
Finland lies in the middle, and might serve as a model of how
to live with this big neighbor. In the next decade, the
European Union could expend to include the Balkans, Turkey,
and even Ukraine, which will transform the relationship
again.

14. (C) Kemppinen said, "I'm not convinced Finns ever were
experts on Russian culture -- on the Soviet system of
government, maybe, but not Russian culture." Makinen
lamented that although the Finns have business ties with
Russia, they are doing too little to build up the
relationship in other areas, such as education. For example,
the lack of Russian language instruction in Finnish schools
ultimately will be a handicap for Finland, he said.

Bio note
--------
15. (U) Kemppinen, 47, is a journalist by profession, and has
worked in Finland's print and electronic media, and as a
director of television documentaries and commercials. Before
joining the Finnish Foreign Ministry in 1992, he was EC
correspondent for the "Uusi Suomi" newspaper. While at MFA
he was spokesman for the Finnish EU presidency in 1999. He
joined the European Commission in 2000, and served as deputy
spokesman (2002-2003), then spokesman (2003-2004), for the
Commission.
MACK

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