Finnish Prime Minister Welcomes Development of Relations with Russia

Finland places great importance on developing relations with both Russia and the West. As a Rosbalt correspondent reports, this was announced by Finnish Prime Minister Paavo Lipponen at a pre-election press conference yesterday.

Mr Lipponen said that Finland's relations with Russia are currently better than they have ever been. He is satisfied with the contact between Russian and Finnish authorities at all levels. 'We are trading more now and I believe there are some great opportunities in the north-west of Russia for us to develop our bilateral relations even further,' said the prime minister. He also called on Finnish companies to invest more in the Russian economy, especially in the timber industry. An agreement on mutual investment will raise the level of investment.

Mr Lipponen described cooperation between Russia and the EU in the energy sector as very significant and underlined the importance of the project to build a gas pipeline from Russia to Western Europe. He also mentioned that Finland is taking an active part in the Northern Dimension EU programme, which is 'playing an important role in attracting European investment to develop the infrastructure of Russia.' Moreover, Finland supports Russia's bid to enter the WTO and is taking steps in this area, the prime minister added.

Mr Lipponen expressed the hope that US President George Bush will be more inclined to deal with the EU in future.