1 Mar 2002 – Finland and Baltic neighbour Russia are to begin talks on furthering co-operation on energy issues, reported the Itar-Tass news agency Thursday.

Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov noted that the two countries power generation issues are closely linked and that in future they may co-ordinate their energy balances. “Russia could meet all Finland’s need for gas, oil and electricity,” Kasyanov said.

Historical tensions between the two countries have meant that Finland has been unwilling to be dependant on Russia for energy supplies. Relations have been improving recently which has led to the prospect of dialogue.

The specifics of geographical location and relations between Russia and Finland require a more thorough study and measures in this sphere, according to Kasyanov.

Kasyanov welcomed the improving levels of trade and said that the sixth monthly meetings between himself and Finnish two Prime Minister Paavo Lipponen were a good tradition.

Finland faces an energy shortfall over the next decade and is addressing ways to meet the country’s needs. Imports for other Nordic countries rely too heavily on rainfall levels and expansion of coal fired power production would run contrary to emission reduction targets. The import of power and gas from Russia is one solution with another being the addition of further nuclear generation capability. The Finnish parliament will vote on an application to build a fifth nuclear reactor in the summer.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Moscow and Helsinki intends to build their relations in such a way as to conveniently fit them in the context of relations between Russia and the European Union. Russia is ready to develop and maintain the relations established with Finland, Putin said.

Turnover between the two countries increased to six billion dollars in 2001, Putin said, noting that “there are large promising projects, some of them can be called multi-national, being of interest to Russia, Finland and the whole Europe.”

For his part, the Finnish Prime Minister expressed confidence that the EU expansion in 2004 will mostly have positive consequences for Russia.

Lipponen called Russia’s upcoming entry in the World Trade Organisation as an important step in its integration in the world economy. Finland gives a high valuation to the Russian government’s efforts to meet the terms for Russia’s entry in that organisation, he said.

Russia has made a significant progress in the process, according to him. It is important to continue bilateral contacts over tariffs, as well as the work to bring the Russian legislation in line with WTO norms, Lipponen noted.