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News, 11/20/2011 | Embassy of Finland, Cairo

Foreign Minister Tuomioja to visit Egypt, Tunisia and Libya

Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja will visit Egypt, Tunisia and Libya on 20–23 November. This will be his first trip to North Africa during the term of the present Government.

The purpose of the visit is to get first-hand information about the situation in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya and to make known Finland’s support for reforms aiming at democracy and socially equitable economic development. Finland stresses the importance of implementing human rights and the rule of law. The realisation of women’s rights, including women’s equal participation in society’s decision-making at all levels, must be ensured. Its significance is highlighted now that the central elements of the political system, such as constitutions, are being created.

The position of women is the main theme of Foreign Minister Tuomioja’s article published in the major Arabic newspapers in Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Tunisia. Minister Tuomioja’s speech at the research institute Collège International de Tunis in Tunisia explores Finland’s experiences of societal development to become a modern democracy and a Nordic welfare state.

During his trip, Foreign Minister Tuomioja will meet with Government representatives from Egypt, Tunisia and Libya and the Arab League, as well as with many representatives from civil society organisations and political parties and, in Libya, with bodies coordinating international support.

Foreign Minister Tuomioja’s trip takes place at an interesting time. Elections for the assembly to enact the constitution were held in Tunisia on 23 October. The assembly enacting the new constitution will convene for its first session on 22 November, the day of the visit. The country is getting a new Government with a composition that reflects the election results for the constitutional assembly.

Elections for the lower house of the Egyptian Parliament will begin on 28 November. The elections will be held in three stages. Afterwards, elections for the upper house of the Egyptian Parliament will take place, also in three stages. It is thought that the overall outcome of the elections will be available in March 2012. The reason for the long duration is that there aren’t enough judges to supervise the elections in all of the electoral districts.

Abdel Jalil, Chairman of the National Transitional Council of Libya, proclaimed that the country’s civil war was over on 23 October. Abdel Rahim al-Kib, who was named interim Prime Minister of Libya, is compiling a transitional government. Elections for the national congress that will enact the constitution are scheduled to take place within eight to ten months.

The social reforms in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya have begun from the demands of the countries’ citizens themselves. They determine the direction of the reforms. The international community’s role is to support reforms promoting democracy, rule of law, respect for human rights and equitable economic development.

Finland has doubled its support to the countries of North Africa and the Middle East for the years 2012–2015. The support focuses on measures strengthening democracy and equitable economic development, such as strengthening the functional capacity of civil society. The aims of the Nordic countries are very similar, and they strive to enhance the effectiveness of support through cooperation. Finland also plays an active role in decision-making guiding the European Union’s support measures.

Additional information: Susanna Parkkonen, Press Attaché to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, mobile tel. +358 50 377 5601

Updated 11/20/2011

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