Prime Minister Juha Sipilä met his Russian counterpart, Dmitry Medvedev, in the northwest city of Oulu on Friday. The meeting focused on the countries’ bilateral relations, including trade, commerce and the economy. The relations between the EU and Russia and other regional and international problems, such as the situation in Ukraine and Syria, were also discussed during the meeting. Prime Minister Sipilä met Medvedev for the second time.
Here are the key points of the discussions between the premiers.
1. The Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline is expected to come into service at the end of 2019. The pipeline is set to run from the Russian coast along the Baltic Sea bed to the German shore. According to Prime Minister Medvedev, the Nord Stream-2 gas pipeline project benefits all its participants. “We indeed consider this project as a significant and large-scale but at the same time purely commercial project, which is of high importance for improvement of reliability of gas supplies to Europe,” Medvedev said after the talks. The project “will be beneficial for all those participating in it, including Finnish companies, which will participate in development of infrastructure, if such decisions are made,” he added. According to Sipilä, Finland considers the project from a commercial point of view “on the basis of its legislation and international rules. The most important thing for us is a thorough evaluation of the possible impact of the project on the environment,” Sipilä said.
2. The future of the House of Finland in St Petersburg was resolved. The building, which is the center of Finnish culture, science and business in St. Petersburg, was owned by a Russian foundation that was unable to cover its costs. Medvedev and Sipilä agreed that Finland will buy the House of Finland from Russia with seven million euros. The house is to provide the Finnish Institute in Saint Petersburg, the Finnish school, and a wide range of actors representing Finnish businesses and regions a “home base” and guarantee the future of their activities in St Petersburg.
3. Russia remains an important trading partner for Finland, though trade between the two countries has dropped significantly.
4. The prime ministers also discussed environmental and Arctic issues. Finland will assume the chairmanship of the Arctic Council next May. “It is important that Arctic issues remain a forum for constructive international dialogue,” said Sipilä.
5. Finland has recently commissioned an expert report on the North-East Passage data cable and the country is currently discussing the project with several key partner countries. “The North-East Passage cable project has promising prospects and, if implemented, it would provide the fastest data connection between Europe and Asia. For Finland, it is important that the project is broad-based and international, and that it be carried out on a commercial basis,” said Sipilä.
6. In connection with international issues, Sipilä repeated Finland’s earlier opinions on Ukraine and Syria. Finland gives its full support to the EU’s common sanctions and unity. The implementation of the Minsk agreement is the first condition for lifting the EU’s sanctions on Russia. The agreement is a 13 point-plan, including for example, that the European security and cooperation organization OSCE monitors a full ceasefire and the withdrawal of heavy weapons from the front lines. “We are very concerned by increased fighting in East Ukraine. As regards Syria, Finland has repeatedly expressed its deep concern over the continuous escalation of the military situation. We have strongly condemned the military action against civilians and civilian targets by the Assad regime and its supporters,” said Sipilä.
7. Medvedev and Sipilä shared a difference of opinion about the Minsk agreement. According to Medvedev, Ukraine doesn’t seem to be willing to agree and proceed with the implementation of the Minsk agreement. Medvedev expects that the EU, among others, puts more effort in implementing the plan.
Sources: The Finnish Government, MTV, STT, TASS