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Lapland’s part in EU foreign policy

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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. stubb2

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