Although Finland did not join the European Union (EU) until 1995, it will have a powerful influence over its 15 members next year when it assumes the presidency of the EU Commission, Kalevi Sorsa, its former prime minister, told GlobalFax during an interview in Atlanta last week.

      Mr. Sorsa served as Finland’s prime minister for two terms in the 1970s and two terms in the 1980s.  He was in Atlanta to attend the Finnish Independence Day Celebration held here on Dec. 6 and remained for several days meeting with members of the Finnish American Chamber of Commerce of the Southeast and local officials.

      Finland also will be off to an auspicious start next year, he added, as the first member of the European Monetary Union (EMU) to adopt the euro, the new currency, by one hour due to a difference in time zones.

      He looks forward to the adoption of the euro, he added, because the new currency would ease the potential global recessionary pressures and currency speculation faced by a smaller economy such as that of Finland.

      He said, however, that Finland’s economy was faring well and that he expects a growth rate of 4% next year.  Finland is both the most wired and the most wireless country in world, he added, because it has the most Internet connections per capita and the most cell phone users per capita in the world.

      During its presidency of the EU Commission, the country’s support for expanded free trade and an emphasis on the development of Northern Europe would be stressed, he said.

      He encouraged U.S. companies to consider Finland as a gateway both to the EU as well as the Baltic states, Eastern Europe and Russia, but he was guarded about Russia’s comeback economically.  Outsiders can only become interested, he said, when the Russians take their own money back there.

      For more information about the activities of the Finnish American Chamber of the Southeast, call (770) 457-8795; fax, (770) 454-9416.