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Tarja Halonen and the ASEM
by Thanos Kalamidas
2006-09-13 12:21:29
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The Finnish president Tarja Halonen made me proud to be living in Finland with her remarks on human rights issues during her opening speech for the Europe Asian summit ASEM in Helsinki, Finland. I have to admit that I was expecting her to make these remarks about the human rights, especially after similar humanitarian remarks she made concerning the catastrophe in Lebanon.

Ovi magazine has discussed the case of Aung San Suu Ky in many ways and we have joined with others in demanding her freedom and the restoration of democracy in her poor country, so hearing Mrs Halonen reminding everybody in the summit made us more than happy.

Sadly, the Finnish president's words for human rights were in vain after the Chinese announced more restrictions on the foreign journalists visiting the country to curb the reports of its appalling human rights. It is a paradox for the host of the next Olympics, a symbol of democracy, equality and protection of human rights, to impose strict restrictions on all media outlets operating within its borders…how can it happen?

So, is the financial relationship enough to connect two continents with so many differences? There stands the hypocrisy of our times. One country restricts the human rights and another is ruled in the name of democracy by a general who came to power via a coup.

The whole summit was mostly an investigation, or perhaps a test of the limits, between the two sides and the only positive result from this meeting was the agreement on environmental issues and especially the support and commitment of the summit to the Kyoto protocol. However, even that was only for reasons of diversion since the country that causes over 40% of the problem refuses to sign.

Meanwhile, Finland proved that it can be a good host and the EU introduced two new candidate members into the big family, Bulgaria and Romania, while the Asian side ASEAN, added India, Pakistan and Mongolia to their side. Otherwise, there were no commitments. So why did they meet?

The truth is hiding behind the words: “The whole summit was mostly a test of limits between the two sides”, since there are too many issues between them where Europe is directly involved or through American interests in the area, yet the Asian countries wanted to make sure where Europe stands.

North Korea is one. Europe, Asia and America are all involved in this carousel with North Korea and all of them want the problem to vanish. Nobody can predict what will happen with this unpredictable state, so it is probably best to pretend it never existed. Another problem is the increasing presence of the NATO army and, in extent, the US presence in Asia, with the excuse of Afghanistan and the 'War against Terror'.

Energy, despite their ecological worries, is another issue. On one side is a burning Middle East and Russia is playing games leaving the Asian countries in deep water, especially countries like Japan without any energy resources. These conversations took place in the shadows of hotels’ alleys without a worry for the human rights president and without us who can only suspect what’s really going on.

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