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by Euro Reporter
2012-01-14 11:04:54
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S&P will not cut top-rated Finland

Ratings agency Standard & Poor's will not downgrade top-rated Finland in a euro zone-wide move expected later on Friday, a senior euro zone official said. "Finland is not among the countries, it will not be downgraded," the source said. S&P had put 15 of the 17 euro zone countries under review for potential downgrades.

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Jyrki Katainen says Finland must join ESM bailout fund


Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen vowed to find a way for Finland to take part in Europe's planned permanent fund for bailing out struggling member states, despite proposals for the fund that would breach the country's constitution. He also, however, said that he did not think it likely governments would be persuaded to contribute more if Greece's deal making private sector investors take a hit on their holdings of Greek debt fall through. Finnish objections to bailouts of Greece and others has proved a stumbling block for EU policymakers over the past two years, but been overcome by a combination of domestic political dealing and exceptions being made at a European level.

The European Stability Mechanism, scheduled to start operation in July, plans to have decisions made by qualified majority rather than unanimity to avoid changes being stalled by one dissenting member country. Finland's parliamentary committee deemed the change unconstitutional, and politicians fear it would harm interests of smaller countries like Finland. "I am very confident that such a solution will be found that fits everybody," Katainen told Reuters in an interview. "It is impossible to think Finland would be outside the ESM," he said, adding senior Finnish officials were seeking a solution. "It will enable efficient decision-making in the ESM and it will be possible from our national decision-making perspective," he said, declining to elaborate.

Katainen and his National Coalition party are pro-euro, but policymakers have taken a critical stance on some EU issues given voters' dissatisfaction over European bailouts. Reuters reported earlier that Greek talks with private sector creditors over part of a second bailout were going badly; raising prospects that euro zone governments must contribute more to the aid package.
Katainen said he did not believe member states would pay more. "Until everything has been done on the debt restructuring side there is no use to talk about increasing member states' liabilities," he said. "At this point I don't see it realistic that the contributions would be raised," he said.

Katainen also echoed the view of German and Italian leaders by saying he wants a financial transaction tax to be applied to the entire Europe Union, not just the 17 euro zone countries. "It should cover the whole of Europe. From the Finnish point of view, if Sweden is outside, it would have a negative impact for the development of Finland's financial markets and economy." Among the 10 EU countries outside the euro zone, Britain and Sweden are against the tax, fearing it would harm their financial sectors. France is keen to push ahead with such a "Tobin tax" even without all of its EU partners.

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One million more mines to be destroyed as Finland becomes 159 nation to join landmine ban


Finland has become the latest nation to join the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty, which comprehensively bans the use, production, trade, and stockpiling of antipersonnel landmines. Finland deposited its instrument of accession at the United Nations in New York on Monday 9 January 2012, the United Nations has announced. “We warmly welcome Finland to join the majority of countries to have completely banished these indiscriminate weapons,” said Firoz Alizada, Campaign Manager for the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL). “We appreciate it has fulfilled so early in the year its long-standing pledge to join the Mine Ban Treaty in 2012,” he added.

Finland will now destroy its stockpile of more than one million antipersonnel mines within four years, as required by the treaty. There are no existing minefields in Finland, but it provides millions of Euros to global demining efforts each year. Finland confirmed its intention to accede to the Mine Ban Treaty in 2012at last November’s Eleventh Meeting of States Parties to the Treaty, held in Phnom Penh. Finland first pledged to accede in 2012 in September 2004, after earlier citing a target date of 2006. “We hope other nations will now follow Finland’s lead, particularly Poland, the only European nation not to have fully joined the ban treaty,” Alizada said. Poland has signed the treaty, but not yet ratified—a step it has promised to take in 2012.

“We also hope this will spur the United States to conclude its landmine policy review soon, with a decision to join the treaty, as happened in Finland,” he added. In the past, Finland claimed that antipersonnel mines played a crucial role in its defence policy so it could not ban them. Laura Lodenius, who has been campaigning with the Finish Campaign to Ban Landmines for more than a decade, said: “We are so happy that after all these years Finland is finally part of the Treaty. It was not an easy decision for Finland and many Finns, but in the end the humanitarian impact of mines and the importance of the global Treaty beat the defence policy arguments. The persistence of the campaign was vital and we hope this gives strength to campaigners working in countries still outside the ban, and indeed the countries themselves, and proves that difficulties can be overcome to join the majority of the world in banning this awful weapon.”



         
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