Alistair's Feed
Apr 16, 2015

Election strains Finland’s diplomatic balancing act with Russia

HELSINKI (Reuters) – From closer NATO ties to rumors of Kremlin-backed land deals on its border, Finland’s diplomatic balancing act with Russia has come under the spotlight before Sunday’s parliamentary election as politicians debate how far to challenge the Kremlin.

The vote sees centrist opposition front-runner Juha Sipila, who favors military non-alignment along with two other major parties, battling center-right incumbent Prime Minister Alexander Stubb, who advocates joining NATO.

Apr 12, 2015

Taste of its own medicine? Austerity overshadows Finland vote

KOTKA, Finland, April 12 (Reuters) – When Finland’s
opposition leader and likely new prime minister Juha Sipila
warned Finland could be the next Greece, it was an election
campaign quip with a serious side – signalling the risks for a
country facing a perfect storm of economic woes.

Two hours drive Sipila’s office in bustling Helsinki, the
town of Kotka shows signs of what he means. Around one in five
people is unemployed, a rate not far off Greece. Hit by the
closure of paper mills left behind by the digital age, it is
light years from Finland’s tech-savvy image.

Apr 7, 2015

Finland poll leader open to deal with eurosceptic populists

HELSINKI (Reuters) – The poll favorite to be Finland’s next premier says he is open to taking eurosceptic populists into any new governing coalition but expects they could cause difficulty with demands like an end to bailouts and kicking Greece out of the euro zone.

Opposition Centre Party leader Juha Sipila, a centrist with support from both the urban middle class and rural conservatives with eurosceptic tendencies, is commanding around 25 percent in polls ahead of the April 19 election.

Mar 27, 2015

‘Unholy alliance’ of Islamists threatens Sweden: spy chief

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) – Sweden, once cited by Osama bin Laden as the kind of country al Qaeda did not attack, is facing a rising threat from Islamist militants because of the crises in Iraq and Syria, its spy chief said in an interview on Friday.

Anders Thornberg told Reuters the number of Swedes traveling to fight in those countries had tripled in the past year, and record immigration to the Nordic country was making it vulnerable to infiltrators from militant groups.

Mar 17, 2015

Sweden must cut rates to counter deflation risk -ex-Finance Minister Borg

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) – Sweden is “driving on the edge of a cliff” its former finance minister Anders Borg said on Tuesday, calling on the central bank to cut rates further and consider currency intervention to stave off the threat of deflation.

The Riksbank cut rates into negative territory for the first time in February as concerns grew that AAA-rated economy ran the risk of Japan-style deflation.

Mar 15, 2015

After Saudi feud, Sweden debates a “feminist” global role

STOCKHOLM, March 15 (Reuters) – In a few months, Sweden’s
minority government has managed to antagonise both Israel and
the Arab world, while also angering business leaders at home as
Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom steadfastly pursues human
rights and feminism.

Wallstrom’s agenda, and the criticism it has drawn, has
exposed a struggle over Sweden’s identity and whether it should
become what some politicians call a “moral great power”, or
prioritise security and an export-led economy.

Mar 7, 2015

EU shows little appetite for more Russia sanctions

RIGA (Reuters) – EU foreign ministers showed little appetite on Saturday for stepping up pressure on Russia over Ukraine, preferring to give a fragile ceasefire a chance before deciding whether to apply more sanctions or even to extend existing ones.

Most ministers at an EU meeting in the Latvian capital pinned their hopes on the latest Minsk agreement succeeding and said the EU should only consider tightening sanctions if the ceasefire was seriously violated, such as by a separatist offensive on the Ukrainian port of Mariupol.

Mar 7, 2015

EU considers bigger naval presence to tackle Libya security issues

RIGA (Reuters) – The European Union is discussing with the United Nations ways to bolster security in Libya, including a naval presence, if U.N.-backed peace talks lead to a settlement, the EU’s foreign policy head said on Saturday.

Libya’s warring factions had held talks on Thursday in an effort to end a conflict between two rival governments that threatens to drive the country into full-blown civil war.

Mar 7, 2015

International focus turns to bolstering Ukraine ceasefire

RIGA (Reuters) РSteps to bolster a fragile ceasefire in eastern Ukraine gathered momentum on Friday as support within the European Union for more economic sanctions¨on Russia appeared to wane.

Russia and Ukraine have agreed to double the number of ceasefire monitors from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) to 1,000 from 500, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said.

Mar 6, 2015

EU may send team to Libya if peace talks succeed

RIGA (Reuters) – The European Union might send a team to Libya to monitor a ceasefire or to protect infrastructure if United Nations-backed peace talks lead to a settlement between contending factions, the EU’s head of foreign policy said on Friday.

“We have started discussing possible EU contributions …

to supporting any possible agreement,” Federica Mogherini told a news conference in the Latvian capital of Riga after talks among EU foreign ministers.