Foreign Minister: Finland engages with China and America on problem subjects

Pekka Haavisto and the EU are emphasizing dialogue with China rather than criticism over Hong Kong, and he also says Finland is able to express critical views with the USA.

Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto (Green) in his office at the Government Palace, Helsinki, 27th August 2019 / Credit: News Now Finland

Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto (Green) says that Finland will be taking opportunities in the coming months to press China and the USA to live up to their international obligations.

His comments come after a video conference meeting between EU foreign ministers on Friday with China on the agenda.

In a statement, the European Union expressed “grave concerns” as China imposed a new security law on Hong Kong which contravenes a 1997 deal on the territory’s autonomy.

Residents of Hong Kong have enjoyed more political and media freedoms than people in mainland China but the new law allows Beijing to directly enact legislation as it sees fit, to tackle any democracy or anti-China activities it doesn’t like under the broad guise of battling terrorism, foreign influence or subversion.

“We want to support the one country, two systems principal” Haavisto told journalists in a phone briefing.

While the US and UK have more strongly criticised China’s actions, the EU has emphasised dialogue over confrontation.

“There is a certain inter-dependency between the EU and China. Many products coming to our markets are coming from China but with China we feel there is a certain leverage” Haavisto tells News Now Finland.

“It’s regrettable that we have problems like the situation in Hong Kong that is putting clouds in our good cooperation but we stressed dialogue with China” he adds.

Haavisto cites two upcoming summits where he thinks Finland and the EU can engage positively with the Beijing administration including on economic development, environmental and climate change issues in particular.

America’s press freedom threat 

Pekka Haavisto also commented on the relationship between Finland and the USA at a time when US President Donald Trump is being sanctioned by Twitter for “glorifying violence”, had threatened legislation targeting social media platforms, and as a CNN journalist was arrested live on TV reporting from the riots.

“These are very recent news” says Haavisto, citing the most recent events that happened on Friday, Finland time.

“It’s not very clear what kind of legislative steps are proposed or how it will come. But we follow very closely freedom of expression” he says.

Haavisto wouldn’t be drawn on whether the Ministry of Foreign Affairs would summon the US ambassador to underscore Finland’s concern about the state of press freedoms in the USA, but the minister says the two countries have “regular communication” especially on issues where they disagree.

“It’s not a secret like on Open Skies we have had a debate and discussion with US embassy, and Finland joined a group of 11 countries defending Open Skies agreement [which the US recently pulled out of].”

“We have a close co-operation and we express very freely our views and also sometimes our critical views” says Haavisto.