The key to Finnish trade with African nations is to work within, but also to develop, EU-Africa legislation and regulatory principles. There is plenty of scope for partnership and for enhancing collaborative arrangements. One issue under consideration within Finnish political society is the European requirements for fresh produce exported by Africa to Europe, which is governed by the operation of the EurepGAP standards, which enable standardisation of and certification for common farm management practices. Such issues offer opportunities for lively debate, which can translate into real change in the real world.
Veera Heinonen, Director of Communications at Finland’s Ministry for Foreign Affairs, spoke to African journalists visiting Helsinki of the value that Finns place on debate – and the desire amongst the Finnish nation to translate reasoned debate into genuine change abroad as much as at home. Finland is a development partner in Africa, working with African nations to improve economic and social structures, legislative frameworks, and political relations.
Finland engages with African nations at supranational, regional, national, and local levels. Supporting Ms Heinonen sentiments to the visiting delegation of African media was Heikki Tuunanen, Deputy Director General at the Ministry’s Department for Africa and the Middle East. Mr Tuunanen spoke of Finland’s major objectives and motives in its engagement with African nations. The main thrust of his message was that Finland works in similar fashion to the main modalities applied by the principal member nations of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). The Finnish nation’s objectives are political, humanitarian, and commercial. The origins of Finland’s approach to development, however, is also moral; it is a prime Finnish principle that there should be no poverty in the world, and that Finland as a government and as a nation supports this through domestic taxation and through the work of the nation’s development corporation.
Key to Finland’s approach to development work is its pluralistic approach. Heikki Tuunanen said, “We do not interfere in the internal affairs of any nation.”
Rather, Finland seeks purely to gain results in economic and social terms.
One wonders whether investment in East Africa would be bolstered by the introduction of monetary union, and further economic integration. Mr Tuunanen was cautious on this matter, but he does see the solutions required for growth as dependent on the introduction of common markets and common currencies. He referred to the debates on Mozambique’s dominance, in economic terms, by South African industry and cultural norms, as an example of the need for careful consideration of the consequences of interrelation between nation states.