Could you tell our readers at what point you decided to become a politician?
I have always taken an interest in politics, but I don’t think you can ever truly just decide to become a politician, it depends on the voters. My career started in the 1996 municipal elections. I was elected to Parliament in 1999, and the following year chosen as one of the Vice Chairmen of the party.

Did you have strong political beliefs during your youth?
Not so strong, but in my family we have always had a very positive attitude for the participation in political activities, which is very important.

Was the choice of becoming a “full-time politician” difficult to make? Why?
Not really. I made a choice of candidacy. I considered politics as challenging alternative.

How could you describe the Finnish Centre Party to our readers who don’t know it?
The Finnish Centre Party was founded in 1906. The party speaks for individual freedom and independence and encourages independent initiative and enterprise. Tolerance, freedom of thought, and responsibility for the disadvantaged also represent the party’s ideological set of values. Last elections in march the party became the biggest one in Finland.

If you could pick up only five aspects, what would they be?
Personal freedom and responsibility, justice, democracy, private ownership and respect for nature.

As the Minister for Foreign Trade and Development, what are your priorities for the near future?
My priority is to create coherence between trade and development policies. The aim is a win-win situation where both trade and development gain from this combination.

What are the positive and negative aspects in being a politician?
One positive aspect is that this work is extremely challenging. You have to be very well prepared and know your field of responsibility. The decisions that are made have many dimensions and it is rewarding to play a part in building this society. I like meeting new people and discussing with them. Taking your chances and then doing your very best is rewarding.
Dealing with your own inadequacy is the hardest part. You just don’t have time for everything and have to limit yourself. Losing your privacy is also a negative aspect.

Do you consider being a Minister as a profession or is it more than that?
It is definitely more than a profession, because I have invested in it so much. It is a life style and takes practically all of my time. It requires a lot of stamina and a thick skin!

If you had the possibility to choose some other occupation, what would you like to do?
I’ll think about it when the time comes.

Why do you think that in Europe people seem to be getting increasingly estranged from politics?
This phenomenon is very alarming. I don’t think that people are less political though, because, for example, non-governmental organizations are more popular than ever. We just have to show people that politics is the most effective instrument in the tool kit to change the world.

How do you explain the success of Mr Tony Halme during the latest parliamentary elections? Do you think that he was elected for his ideas or for other reasons?
The rise of extreme right movements is a common phenomenon all over Europe. I think is shows that there is a reserve of people who need an urgent change and get active in politics if there is a candidate that speaks their language.

What are your professional o
r personal projects for the future?
Right now I want to concentrate on doing my best at work until the next elections. We’ll see what happens after that.