SPIEGEL Interview with Finnish President Tarja Halonen 'The Baltic Sea Is Threatening to Collapse'

Finnish President Tarja Halonen speaks to SPIEGEL about European borders, pollution in the Baltic Sea and the problem with "clubs" within the EU like France's new Union for the Mediterranean.

Finnish President Tarja Halonen: "It will be important not to form any closed clubs within the EU."

Finnish President Tarja Halonen: "It will be important not to form any closed clubs within the EU."

SPIEGEL: After European Union enlargement in 2004 the Baltic region was supposed to become Europe's boom region for science, finance and technology. Will the new Union for the Mediterranean represent competition for the region?

Tarja Halonen: I hope not. We're realizing that Europe's seas no longer mark the border of the EU but rather have become the equivalent of inland seas -- and this can be a win-win situation for everyone. This should also go for the Black Sea and the Atlantic, by the way. But a precondition is that there be a balance of interests between everyone involved.

SPIEGEL: The Union for the Mediterranean looks like serving the interests of French President Nicolas Sarkozy above all.

Halonen: Well, everyone wants to cut a good figure. When Finland suggested a "Northern Dimension" plan for the Baltic region and a closer cooperation with Russia in the late 1990s people regarded us with the same suspicion. That's why it will be important not to form any closed clubs within the EU, as Sarkozy seems to envision.

SPIEGEL: When it comes to economic growth, unemployment and general living standards the Nordic countries are much better off than almost any other region in the EU.

Halonen: Yes, but we also have one of the largest environmental problems in Europe on our front porch. The levels of toxic pollution in the Baltic from farming, and the levels of sewage from places like St. Petersburg, are distressing. The Baltic Sea is threatening to collapse, and the fishing industry is in desperate danger. We need a radical change in direction.

SPIEGEL: The countries along the Mediterranean have their own problems -- like illegal immigration from North Africa.

Halonen: Illegal immigration from the Maghreb area is of course a serious problem. But we could have the same problems here, on the eastern border of Europe. That's why the Northern Dimension is so important. Finland is not just the northern border of the EU -- as a neighbor of Russia we also form part of its eastern border.


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