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Archive for Finland

Newsline: China’s panda diplomacy hits snag in Finland

A cash-strapped Finnish zoo said it was preparing to return two giant pandas on loan from China as it could no longer afford their upkeep. The pandas, named Lumi and Pyry, were brought to Finland in January 2018, nine months after Chinese President Xi Jinping visited the Nordic country and signed a joint agreement on protecting the animals. Ahtari Zoo, a private company which had hoped the pandas would bring visitors to the central Finland location, said it had instead accumulated mounting debts as the pandemic curbed travel. Finland’s government, which gave one-off support of 200,000 euros in 2021, declined an application for a 5 million euro ($5.4 million) grant. The foreign ministry said it had established a working group to seek a solution, but added there was no certainty one would be found. “If the pandas were returned, we believe that China would understand it would be a business decision of a private company in a difficult financial situation,” a ministry spokesperson said. “We do not believe that this would have wider effects on the relations between Finland and China.” (https://neuters.de/world/europe/cash-strapped-finnish-zoo-may-have-return-giant-pandas-china-2023-01-27/) A final decision on whether to return the pandas will be made on Feb. 28, the zoo said. China’s modern panda diplomacy dates back to at least 1972 when it donated two giant pandas to the United States.

Newsline: Finland tells Russia to ensure safety of Moscow embassy

Finland’s Moscow embassy has asked Russia to guarantee the diplomatic mission’s safety following an incident this week in which people wearing masks threw sledgehammers into the embassy yard. The incident caused no injures or damage to the building, the Finnish foreign ministry said on Friday. But Finland’s deputy head of mission had “asked Russia to guarantee the security of staff and of the building, in keeping with the Geneva convention on diplomatic relations,” a ministry spokesperson said. (https://neuters.de/world/europe/finland-asks-russia-guarantee-safety-moscow-embassy-2022-12-23/) A video posted on the Telegram app appeared to show a group of around 10 people running towards the building and throwing several sledgehammers over the fence. Reuters could not immediately verify the timing or location of the video.

Newsline: Malta diplomat in Finland quits after comparing Merkel and Hitler

Malta’s ambassador to Finland resigned on Sunday after he came under fire for comparing German Chancellor Angela Merkel to Adolf Hitler, Malta’s Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs said in an emailed statement. “When accepting the ambassador’s resignation with immediate effect, Minister Evarist Bartolo stressed that the ambassador’s comments on German Chancellor Angela Merkel were not representative of the friendship and mutual respect between Malta and Germany,” the statement said. Michael Zammit Tabona wrote in a Facebook post on Friday, the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe, that “75 years ago we stopped Hitler. Who will stop Angela Merkel? She has fulfilled Hitler’s dream! To control Europe”. (https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/05/malta-diplomat-finland-quits-comparing-merkel-hitler-200511084324160.html) Zammit Tabona, a businessman and political appointee who was appointed in 2014, could not be contacted for comment. Foreign Affairs Minister Evarist Bartolo told the Times of Malta that an apology would be sent to the German embassy. Zammit Tabona’s Facebook post has since been deleted; he has not commented on the issue.

Newsline: Finland reopens Iraq embassy after hiatus of nearly 30yrs

Finland says it is reopening its embassy in Iraq and sending an ambassador to Baghdad after a hiatus of nearly 30 years to re-establish bilateral ties, help in the country’s reconstruction and boost trade. Repatriating thousands of Iraqis who are staying illegally in Finland after rejection of their asylum applications remains a thorny issue between the countries. Some 20,000 Iraqi migrants arrived in Finland in 2015. Finnish Ambassador Vesa Hakkinen told The Associated Press on Thursday, a day before taking up his new post, that the Nordic country and EU member ceased its diplomatic presence in Iraq in the wake of the Gulf War in January 1991. (https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle_east/finland-reopens-iraq-embassy-after-hiatus-of-nearly-30yrs/2019/11/14/46808c2a-06d1-11ea-9118-25d6bd37dfb1_story.html) Finland’s embassy will have an initial staff of four and be located in a Baghdad building that also houses the Swedish embassy.

Newsline: Finnish authorities suspect illegal visas issued at embassy in Turkey

The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and the Finnish Border Guard suspect three employees of the Finnish Embassy in Ankara, Turkey of issuing illegal visas, paving the way for hundreds illegal entries into the country. The three employees under investigation were all hired in Turkey, and they are accused of issuing Schengen Area visas under false pretences. They face potential charges of aggravated facilitation of illegal entry and aggravated abuse of public office. “The suspicion is that false information was provided for visa applications, leading to wrongly-issued visas. The investigation is focused on hundreds of visas, but the actual number will only become clear in the preliminary investigation,” said Antti Leskelä, the Finnish Border Guard’s officer in charge of criminal investigation. Leskelä told the Oulu daily Kaleva that the suspects were both Finnish and Turkish citizens.


Newsline: What does the US embassy in Baghdad export to Finland and dozens of other countries?

More than a million kilograms of cargo were shipped from Baghdad to different parts of the world, reveals US embassies procurement documents. Mysterious cargo shipments from the US Embassy in Baghdad to other American embassies and consulates around the world have been revealed on a Wikileaks’ database. Procurement orders of US embassies are public documents, but Wikileaks put them in a searchable database making it easier to analyse. Though military freight might be expected between the US and Iraq, records show that embassies across Europe, Asia, the Middle East, the Americas and Africa are all receiving deliveries from Baghdad too. According to Wikileaks’ database, orders to ship more than 540 tonnes of cargo to the US were made in May 2018. The same document shows other main delivery destinations included 120 tonnes of freight to Europe, and 24 tonnes to South Africa, South America and Central Africa respectively. In comparison, only two and a half tonnes of freight were moved within Iraq between Baghdad, Basra and Erbil International Airports. So, the export of items from Iraq appears to be the primary activity. The lack of disclosed orders moving cargo and services into Iraq highlights that the movement of diplomats and their families into such a dangerous region on a large scale is unlikely. Transfers of military personnel back and forth would normally go through the US airbases in Iraq and not via the Embassy administration. So discounting the movement of more than a thousand staff members out of Iraq to countries around the world means that the content and purpose of the shipments remains a mystery.


Newsline: Russian ambassador to Finland summoned over GPS disruption

Russia’s Ambassador to Finland Pavel Kuznetsov has been summoned to a meeting on Monday with Finnish state secretary Matti Anttonen over the disruption of Finland’s global positioning system (GPS) signal during recent NATO war games. “We don’t have anything to hide here. Disruption is a serious matter which disturbs civil aviation. We will act toward Russia, we will discuss this and we expect answers,” Finnish Foreign Minister Timo Soini said in a statement to public broadcaster Yle while on a state visit to the United States. The Finnish foreign ministry said on Thursday that the disruption of Finland’s GPS signal during recent NATO war games came from Russian territory.


Newsline: Angry Protestors Attack Iranian Embassy in Finland

Police in Helsinki, Finland, has arrested four demonstrators during a protest gathering in front of the Iranian embassy. “According to the local media and the police, the protestors snatched an Iranian flag from the embassy premises and set it on fire. They also pelted stones at police on duty at the spot and at a police helicopter that was being used to film the scene,” reported Daily Finland. The identity of the four demonstrators held by the police has not been revealed. Three of those arrested have been charged with “disturbing of the peace and flag-burning,” and the fourth with “violent behavior.” According to the police, some 150 people took part in the demonstration in front of the Iranian embassy, however, no one was injured although the demonstration turned violent.


Newsline: Finland will reopen embassy in Iraq after nearly 3 decades

Finland will reopen its embassy in Baghdad for the first time since 1991 due an increasing Iraqi diaspora in the European country and to increase bilateral cooperation. “Iraq belongs to the European neighbourhood, and its development will affect Finland, too. Finland has a fairly large Iraqi diaspora community, which means that cooperation between the citizens of the countries and other collaboration are increasing,” stated Finnish Foreign Minister Timo Soini. Following Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait, Finland has not had diplomatic personnel in Baghdad. They have used a roving ambassador based in Helsinki. The return of asylum seekers also was taken into consideration. In 2017, a total of 5,059 people applied for asylum in Finland — a slight drop from 5,657. The country has a population of about 5.5 million. Currently, 14 European Union member states have ambassadors in Baghdad.


Newsline: North Korean diplomat heads to Finland ahead of possible US talks

A senior North Korean diplomat left for Finland on Sunday for talks with former U.S. and South Korean officials, Yonhap News Agency reported, amid a series of diplomatic encounters ahead of a possible U.S.-North Korean summit. North Korea is pursuing its nuclear and missile programs in defiance of U.N. Security Council sanctions and has made no secret of its plans to develop a missile capable of hitting the U.S. mainland. It defends the programs as a necessary deterrent against a possible U.S. invasion. The United States stations 28,500 troops in South Korea but denies any invasion plans. Tensions have eased in recent weeks, coinciding with North Korea’s participation in the Winter Olympics held in the South last month. Choe Kang Il, a deputy director general for North American affairs at North Korea’s foreign ministry, plans to attend the “track 1.5 talks”, according to Yonhap, reflecting planned contact between former U.S. officials and current North Korean ones in a broader bid to end the standoff over North Korea’s weapons programs. South Korea’s foreign ministry said in a statement North Korea would participate in the meeting joined by former South Korean officials and academics but did not provide further details.