Finland’s Minister of Economic Affairs Mika Lintilä, who is on an India visit, has said that there is a possibility of his country becoming “member of NATO this summer.” The statement is significant since Russia last week warned of consequences if Finland and its neighbour Sweden join the US-led defense alliance. Russian military offensive in Ukraine has created worries in these Nordic countries with increased calls for abandonment of military non-alignment.
Speaking to our Principal Diplomatic Correspondent Sidhant Sibal, Minister Lintilä said,”Finland strongly condemns the Russian attack…people are nervous and what happens next” but “I have to say, EU is stronger than ever in this case.” The Finland economy minister is in India with a big business delegation and will be meeting many Indian central government ministers.
India’s trade in goods with Finland crossed US$ One billion (Euros 870 million) and is in Finland’s favour. Trade in services is growing and crossed US$ 1.5 billion (Euros 1.3 billion) with many Indian IT companies positioned in Finland. As per Indian government estimates, Finnish companies invested US$ 497 million between April, 2000 to December, 2019. Within the EU, Finland ranks 12th among countries investing in India. More than 100 Finnish companies have operations in India, including through investments. Nokia, Kone, Wartsila, UPM, Fortum, Metso, Huhtamaki, Salcomp, Ahlstrom, etc. have set up their manufacturing facilities in India.
Sidhant Sibal: What is your focus here in Delhi?
Mika Lintilä: India is a very important and interesting partner, Finland is a total export country, more than 40% of our GDP coming from export. In this situation we need more and more companies to do export, do investment in Finland and so on and India is very important and has a lot of potential. We already have good relations between our countries. I want to have open doors for companies. I have 13 companies in my delegation and am very interested in cooperating with Indian companies.
Sidhant Sibal: You are going to meet policy makers, what are you going to tell them, what Finland can offer?
Mika Lintilä: For example, we can do cooperation in the research sector or what is our biggest challenge, climate change. Finland is one of the front runners in new technologies in the energy sector, like the circular economy we can offer a lot, in whole energy sector. This could be a sector in which we can have more cooperation.
Sidhant Sibal: Basically, you mention clean energy..
Mika Lintilä: Last year, over 50% of our energy was renewable energy. We have different ways, like wind power, a little bit solar power, not so much as India, biomass and so on. One that has a big role is waste to energy. I am 100% sure, we can offer you solutions where you can use waste to energy better and better.
Sidhant Sibal: The Russian invasion of Ukraine, what is your government stance on that?
Mika Lintilä: Finland strongly condemns the Russian attack. It is totally violent against international law. Of course war in Europe is very complicated, people are nervous and what happens next. I have to say, the EU is stronger than ever in this case.
Sidhant Sibal: But there is a lot of dependency on Russian energy, what is your govt doing to make sure it is reduced?
Mika Lintilä: Actually, our situation is quite good, because for example oil, we can get from some other country. Gas is about 5% of our energy…but it could be a big challenge for Germany which uses a lot of Russian gas.
Sidhant Sibal: What can you do to help the European continent to reduce their dependency on Russian energy?
Mika Lintilä: We already have independent production in the energy sector but of course as I said, there is a middle European country where they use a lot of gas. They try to find new ways, how they, what kind of energy they have. Everybody wants to be out of fossil energy, and now everyone out of Russian energy.
Sidhant Sibal: Will your country join NATO? Because this is something that has been in the news, and we saw reaction from Moscow, if you and your neighbouring countries, then there will be consequences.
Mika Lintilä: OfCourse Security situation is totally different, as it was a few months ago. It could be possible that, both countries, or I can say Finish side, it could be possible that we become member of NATO this summer.
Sidhant Sibal: Indian PM will be going to Denmark for the India Nordic summit, we are going to have the Nordic leaders’ summit as well, what will be the key focus?
Mika Lintilä: I don’t know what will be discussed but I can imagine that they are watching the big picture in the security situation globally and specially in Europe. Of course, they discussed how to continue with Russia. Unfortunately, that Russia few months ago, I can’t see that old Russia. These sanctions are tight.
Sidhant Sibal: Are European sanctions working on Russian leadership?
Mika Lintilä: I think sanctions working better and better and of course the main question is energy sector specially gas, oil also. I am sure the next elements in sanctions is oil. In financial sector, sanctions are tight and they are working very good.
Sidhant Sibal: How has the Russian invasion of Ukraine changed global geopolitics?
Mika Lintilä: From Finish side, rather totally. If we doing decision, we trying to get members of NATO, It has totally changed the policy.