Could you explain to our readers when you decided to become a politician?
I first got interested in politics when I was a 23 or 24 year-old student at the University of Jyväskylä. It was the seventies and as the left wing movement entered the university community, I felt someone had to strike back.

Did you have strong political beliefs during your youth?
I first took an interest in economics and society in general. At the age of 24, I begun to take part in party politics.

Was the choice of becoming a “full time politician” difficult to make? Why?
It was not a difficult choice at all. I wanted to become a professional. The only way of really being one, is to be a “full time politician”.

How could you present The Centre Party of Finland to our readers who don’t know it?
The Centre Party is the biggest party in Finland. It is a strong party locally as well having more members in municipal politics than any other party in Finland.

The Centre Party has been represented in the government most often. Our most long-term president, Urho Kekkonen, also rose up from the Centre Party. The party had a leading role in the government also in 1991-1995. This was when Finland joined the European Union and was raised up from the deepest economical crisis of its history.

In the last Parliamentary elections in March 2003, the Centre Party ran its campaign under the title “brighter alternative”. It won 55 seats out of the 200.

Has The Centre Party of Finland always been present in the Finnish political life?
The Finnish Centre Party was founded in 1906, i.e. before Finland’s independence, acquiered in 1917.

If you had to describe this party with 5 words…
Social safety and freedom of choice, regional equality, entrepreneurship, ecologically sustainable economy, and a decentralised, democratic decision making process are important values for the Centre Party.

What are the positive and negative aspects of being a politician?
I consider myself lucky to have such an interesting job – it brings something new every day. It is rewarding to be able to contribute to the important work of consructing a fair society.

The negative aspects are those of a hard worker in any field: one constantly feels there is not enough time… Being a Minister and a public person can be tireing and stressful at times.

Do you consider it as a profession or is it more than that?
Politician is one of the professions that requiere a vocation. It would be impossible to be a politician without a true belief in one’s work. I see it as a very serious and respectable profession, as well as a lifestyle.

If you had the possibility to totally change your profession. What would you choose?
I would probably be a sportsman. I used to and still do take sports very seriously. I try to find time to be able to run 5-10 km at least three times a week. I must have a rather competitive character, which has probably helped me to become a “long-distance runner” in politics as well.

You recently became Minister of Trade and Industry, what will be your
Priorities or the priorities of the government regarding Finnish Trade and industry?
It will be of prior importance to promote entrepreneurship and economic growth and thus contribute to diminishing unemployment, to tackle large issues in the field of energy policy such as the carbon dioxide emissions trade between companies in the EU and the building a new nuclear power reactor in Finland. The State’s ownership policy needs up-dating as to be able to meet the challengies of the fast-evolving business environment.

In the Ministry of Trade and Industry we see ourselves as future-makers and renewers. We have a crucial role in promoting research and technology. Directing funds into this sector has proven to be an excellent “life insurance” to our economy.

Why do you think that in Europe people become less and less interested in politics?
I do not think young people have become less interested in politics. They are interested in many things going on in the society. They are also internationally aware. They just sometimes feel direct action is the only way to change things. Political parties should speak the language of the young and attract them into influencing through political action instead of violence for example.

How do you explain the results of Mister Tony Halme during the last Parliamentary elections? Do you think that he was elected for his ideas or for other reasons?
Tony Halme is a strong character. His voters have seen him as an answer to their problems. It is up to Tony Halme in his turn to represent his voters in a meaningful way and answer the trust he’s been shown.

What are your professional or personal projects for the future?
My goal is simply to excel as a Minister and administrate well the workings of the Ministry of Trade and Industry, including of course maintaining good relations with France.