Arms deal tests Finland-Slovenia relations
By Lisbeth Kirk
Tensions between two EU countries, Finland and Slovenia grew to new heights on Thursday (4 September), with Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Jansa delivering an official note of complaint to the Finnish ambassador in Ljublajana over Finnish TV accusations of bribes in relation to a weapons deal.
On Monday (1 September) the investigative journalism programme MOT claimed Finnish defence material manufacturer Patria paid a total of €21 million in bribes indirectly to Slovenian officials and to the prime minister in return for arms orders.
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The news was broadcast on Finland's national public service broadcaster, YLE.
Mr Jansa refuted the claims as being unfounded, saying that MOT could effect the friendly relations between the two countries.
"We have officially demanded that the television channel that broadcasted this apologise and present evidence for the claims," the Slovenian prime minister said in a message published on the government's website.
Mr Jansa added the decision to purchase weapons form the Finnish company Patria was taken during the previous government's term of office.
"This is a complete lie and fabrication, and it is no coincidence that these claims have been brought forth now," he said.
The news has popped up at an unfortunate moment for the Slovenian prime minister, a few weeks ahead of parliamentary elections scheduled in Slovenia for 21 September.
The deal with the Slovenian armed forces was signed in December 2006 and included 135 armoured personnel carriers and 120 mm mortars worth some €280 million, according to the largest Finnish daily Helsingin Sanomat.
The Slovenian prime minister has been in contact with his Finnish counterpart Matti Vanhanen over the issue. But the Finnish government says it is not able to intervene in a YLE television programme.
The chief executive of Patria, Jorma Wiitakorpi, announced last month he would step down over ongoing police investigations into Patria deals in Egypt and Slovenia. Mr Wiitakorpi has denied any wrongdoing.
The State of Finland owns 73 percent of the Patria defence material manufacturer.