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Finland - The terrorist strike in Stockholm sparked discussion among the EU Foreign Ministers in Brussels

“Carl Bildt, my colleague from Sweden, received the opening address at the Meeting of Foreign Ministers from the chair, Catherine Ashton,” Foreign Minister Alexander Stubb said at a press conference held in Brussels on Monday, 13 December. “It is indeed regrettable that this sort of terrorist strike should take place. It is understandable if people are concerned that this time a strike took place so close to Finland. We are accustomed to thinking that it’s safe to be in the Nordic countries,” Stubb continued regretfully. According to the foreign minister, the Finnish authorities are doing all they can so that a strike of this kind would not take place in Finland, but unfortunately a similar event can happen in Finland, too.

“The world has shrunk. This is a global trend, strikes are possible everywhere,” Stubb stated. According to the foreign minister’s information, there is no direct threat facing Finland, but “in the Security and Defence Policy Report attention was paid to the possibility that Finland, too, might be targeted for a terrorist strike.” Finland has therefore prepared though good work by the authorities – work which Stubb stressed he trusts. “We can’t imagine that we live in a vacuum,” he continued.

Foreign Minister Bildt explained the situation in greater details to his Nordic and Baltic colleagues in a meeting held amongst themselves in the margins of the Meeting of Foreign Ministers. “In Bildt’s view, this time there was a blessing in disguise, as the strike could have been much more serious,” Stubb said in describing the main message of his Swedish colleague. Sweden is now conducting a thorough investigation on precisely what this was about.

At the same time, Stubb pointed out that “foreign ministers are, however, only ministers for foreign affairs. The real experts in these matters are now conducting investigations; we will then consider the conclusions more closely.” He did not believe that the strike in itself would cause new development pressures, for instance as concerns the Joint European Situation Centre (SITCEN), because follow-up and analysis of situations of this kind are already included among SITCEN’s tasks. Stubb was unwilling to include discussion of NATO in this connection; instead, he pointed out that: “In all, 77 countries have a presence in Afghanistan, for instance” – in other words, the great majority is outside NATO,

A more active role for the EU in the Middle East?

Stubb considered the development of the Middle Eastern peace negotiations to be unfortunate. “I was much more optimistic only a month ago.” In the foreign minister’s opinion, too often it appears that the process is considered to be more important than the outcome expected of it. “Perhaps it would be opportune to think how the EU could take a more active role in the Quartet, Foreign Minister Stubb said, weighing the prospects..

The foreign minister was particularly troubled that Israel has not granted enough construction materials to build schools in Gaza. This is in conflict with the wishes of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, operating in the Palestinian Territories. “It should be understood that, in future, the schooling of Palestinian children would serve to benefit all of the parties,” Stubb emphasized..

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