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Power politics behind Finnish-Russian child dispute

11/13/12

The dispute on Russian children taken into care by Finnish authorities has brought memories of the Finnish cold war debate topic: Finnish-Russian relations. Back then the mighty Russian bear dictated much of the Finnish foreign and national policy. This is no longer the case today, but the memory lives strong.

The reaction of media in Russia should raise more eyebrows. Misleading information has already given case quite a different perspective. It begs the question, is it just another political game for Russia?

 

Finland is not the only Russian neighbour that has faced the wrath of Russian bear flexing its muscles.

 

The dispute has a normative narrative: if Russia was an example of a country with a well-functioning democracy, respect for human rights, a country which guarantees freedom of media and which follows clear rules and norms that are equal for everyone, then we could take into account their concern and criticism.

 

When a Russian mainstream media journalist writes an article without knowing the facts or pretending not having been aware of the facts, it is not just a matter of his/her journalist ethic. In Russia freedom of press is not the same as we understand it.

 

Taking a child into care is a very sensitive matter. When it happens, decisions must be made very carefully, based on facts and proper investigations. It is beyond doubt that this has happened in the few cases of Russian children been taken into care in Finland. Perhaps the point lies elsewhere: why Russian media made such a big issue about this in the first place.

 

The Russian Government must think it has something to gain in all this.

 

In Finland same rules apply to everyone, citizens and foreigners, men and women alike. Surely not everyone agrees with the Finnish welfare policy which puts such a huge emphasis on the welfare of the child. Ironically, Russia is abided by the same international rules as Finland is, when it comes to the Rights of the Child.

 

While it is the duty of a country to protect its citizens, the extent of Russian political measures and media pressure is astonishing. If Cold War was still ongoing, the Finnish response would have been different, to avoid confrontation at any cost. Now we know we are more correct than Russia, and among our EU-friends, we can expect not to be alone on this one.

 

Is the play over or should we expect to see a sequel remains to be seen. Finland has every right to stand by its own path. It is no use to put our heads into bushes. The Council of Europe is a venue where civilized countries meet and discuss about common social and political challenges and cooperate in a good spirit. But are all parties truly trying to defend the best interest of the child and of the mother who breastfeeds her child? Are all the parties as humane as they say; moreover, is finding of the truth in the end even the main objective?

 

Mitro Repo

Member of the European Parliament

S&D-group

 

 

This article was published in Turun Sanomat 13.11.2012

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