Global News Journal
Beyond the World news headlines
Last weekend, Finland’s foreign minister gathered six of his colleagues and the EU’s foreign affairs chief, Catherine Ashton, in the frozen far reaches of Lapland for two days of talks on the future of European foreign policy.
As informal ministerial gatherings go, it was a rather jolly (if cold) affair, complete with a ‘family photo’ taken with a pair of nervous reindeer, a chance to see the northern lights and activities such as skiing, sledging and snow-mobiling. Some of the ministers even brought along their families.
But as well as a relaxing weekend staying in luxurious cabins 250 km inside the Arctic Circle in the village of Saariselka, what exactly is the point?
Alexander Stubb, Finland’s young and energetic foreign minister, well know for doing triathlons and for his near-permanent grin, says such retreats help foreign ministers get to know each other better and allow them to discuss critical issues without outside pressure. First, they don’t have to worry about reaching hard-headed decisions, and equally they don’t have advisers whispering in their ears or minute-takers holding them to their every word. It’s an open-ended chat among colleagues about topics close to their heart.
It’s not often that Finland takes the lead in calling for better trans-Atlantic ties, but as the Nordic country’s energetic foreign minister might say: there’s a first time for everything.
In a speech in London this week, delivered on the eve of the Afghan conference, which might perhaps have led it to garner less attention than it otherwise would, Foreign Minister Alexander Stubb laid out a bold five-point plan for closer EU-US relations.
In the “old days” of journalism, before the rise of the internet, an alert journalist might pick up on a politician’s gaffe in the middle of an election speech or somewhere on the campaign trail and publish or broadcast a story with the potential to change the dynamic of a race.
Nowadays, it could be instead the political opponent or citizen journalists armed with cell phone cameras or small hand-held cameras who can upset the applecart with a YouTube videos, blog or website report documenting a serious verbal blunder.