Moscow aims to better economic ties to Finland

European Commission last week backed Finnish efforts to break Russian grip on energy sector.
By Daniel J. Graeber Follow @dan_graeber Contact the Author   |   March 23, 2016 at 8:50 AM
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MOSCOW, March 23 (UPI) -- Finland shipbuilding capacity, including that tied to the natural gas industry, is behind a strong bilateral investment relationship, Russia's president said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin met with Finnish President Sauli Niinisto to discuss economic and trade relations, among other things. According to Putin's office, total bilateral trade amounts to more than $5 billion.

"We are cooperating successfully in many areas -- for example, in shipbuilding" the Russian president said in a statement. "In April, we will transfer the world's first liquefied natural gas fuelled icebreaker to our Finnish partners."

Putin noted, however, that because of European sanctions on Russia, bilateral trade with Finland dropped 40 percent last year, following a 15 percent decline in 2014.

Niinisto said that, with his economy dependent in part on Russia, there was room for further development of trade and economic relations, "which are still going fairly well in the given framework."

With no large-scale commercial natural gas production of its own, Finland relies heavily on Russia for its gas needs.

Last week, the European Commission threw its support behind a Finnish strategy to invest in a small-scale liquefied natural gas terminal as an energy security option.

The commission said it supported the government's plans to grant $31.5 million to build an LNG terminal at the Hamina port on the southern Finnish coast. By ending energy isolation for Baltic states, the European body said the strategy is in line with regional efforts to improve energy security.

"Russia has supplied nearly 100 percent of Finland's natural gas and continues to do so," Putin said. "It provided and continues to provide 80 percent of the oil consumed in Finland."

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