The EU Council President Donald Tusk in Finland: “When Discussing Security, Russia is Our Common Problem”
Rain drums the tin roof of the official residence of the prime minister, Kesäranta, on Thursday noon. The lightning pierces the dark clouds and raindrops from my fedora fall on my camera. Somewhere in the distance, I hear sirens. A sign that the guest is arriving.
Prime Minister Juha Sipilä descends the stairs of the residence. He stops under an umbrella held by an assistant. I wish I had my assistant with me holding an umbrella and carrying my bags, but he has agreed to join only the most fun missions – preferably those that involve hard drinks of some sort.
At Kesäranta, they only serve mineral water and juice, reserved for the big-name politicians like the President of the European Council, Donald Tusk, who now rolls into the driveway in a big government Audi.
Tusk shakes hands with Sipilä under large umbrellas. He is a head shorter than Sipilä but smiles just as widely.
The men enter the residence for official discussions.
President Tusk is a heavy hitter in the European politics. Basically, the Council defines the political direction and priorities of the EU. Its main goal is to bring together EU leaders and fine-tune the Union’s agenda.
Tusk is a former prime minister of Poland and has been the head of the EU Council since the end of 2014. He arrived in Finland to discuss EU affairs, involving security and defence policy and migration and things related to the UK.
At the press conference, Sipilä and Tusk talk about international EU politics – which could be classified as foreign news – and much of what they say is beyond the scope of our publication.
Regarding migration, Sipilä says that it is important for the June European Council to focus on cooperation with the countries of origin of asylum seekers, so that irregular migratory flows can be brought under control. But when Tusk is pressed whether Finland should take into account the Russian opinion in security policy, the council president wants to be “very open and frank.”
“I am talking also as a Pole with long history and borders with Russia and this is why it’s obvious for me that we have to talk with Russia. For sure I can understand why here in Finland and in the Eastern part of Europe people are very cautious when it comes to Russia, in a good and bad meaning of this word.” “For me it’s absolutely important to keep our European and western community as united as possible. When we are discussing about security, it’s clear that Russia today is our common problem. This is why I also have to respect your decision about NATO,” Tusk says.
Tusk praises Finland’s involvement in combating cyber and hybrid threats (the crisis of Ukraine, for example) and he analyses that maybe because Finland is not part of the North Atlantic military alliance, Finland is always very cautious and responsible when it comes to relations with Russia. The Finnish pols and citizens understand what it means to live next door to the double-headed eagle, with heads facing East and West.
“This is why the first thing, not only for Finland, is to build our security with our friends and then you can consult and discuss with your neighbours, which sometimes are our problems,” he says, and a shy smile flashes across Sipilä’s and Tusk’s face, and both men leave the conference for a working dinner.
Later Tusk will meet with President Sauli Niinistö for another round of discussions, circling the same topics.