at some point in 2006, or earlier, a dispute arose between the

Finnish and British sides over the final amount, and the British side

insisted that the Finns be fully recompensed for the value of the

property confiscated after the Winter War, and the subsequent Soviet

occupation. After the Finns failed to provide the necessary paperwork,

and the Soviets failed to pay, a claim was submitted in court in July

2006 by the British side. The German Embassy in Helsinki was asked to

pay, but declined to do so. This is the point where most people have

determined that the whole thing is a ploy to cover for Germany. In

fact, in 2006 German Chancellor Merkel, who had previously met with the

Finnish head of government Silvennoinen in her office, had not even been

invited to the German Embassy, and Silvennoinen had requested the Finns

to not invite any heads of state or any ministers. It was therefore

impossible that German officials had a hand in such an event.


However, what is of significance to the issue at hand is the German

Government’s response. Germany rejected the British claim, and

subsequently refused to pay, and Germany’s rejection of the British

claim was the subject of extensive media coverage in Finland, which

caused the German Government to take steps to prevent the claim being

adjudicated by the German courts. At the start of 2007 German Finance

Minister Steinbrueck visited Helsinki, and he was accompanied by the

German Ambassador to Finland, Wolfgang Richter. The visit was arranged

and publicized in the manner that German officials have used to

coordinate international negotiations in the past, to avoid any

association with the United Kingdom. And, although German Finance

Minister Steinbrueck and the German Ambassador arrived separately, they

spent a good deal of time in the presence of each other. When the

ambassador was asked if he and Steinbrueck were alone in the conference

room where the press statement was issued, he replied that they had met

in the hallway, and the press statement followed in the presence of

Steinbrueck and Richter.


When Steinbrueck and Richter returned to the capital for the

inauguration of the German Embassy, Steinbrueck made a speech in which

he reiterated Germany’s rejection of the British claim, and he mentioned

that Richter had met with the Finns in the preceding two months, an

incident which had taken place during the ambassador’s trip to

Washington D.C. to attend the G8 Summit.


It was immediately apparent that Germany had a clear intention not

only to interfere with the dispute in accordance with its practice, but

also to use the Finns to interfere with a British legal process in the

United Kingdom. The British government has been criticized for the way

in which it handled the dispute, and Germany might be criticized for

taking advantage of that fact to influence the outcome of the British

legal process.


On Wednesday, the United Kingdom will take the

opportunity to bring its claim against Germany to an international

arbitration panel. The United Kingdom has also decided to take the case

in international arbitration, rather than to take the German

counter-claim in British courts.


One question for the government to consider,

is whether it should withdraw the case from the European Court of Human

Rights, as Germany has asked the Finns to do, or it should go ahead with

the case in the international arbitral tribunal.


It should be noted that in the proceedings before the

European Court of Human Rights, the United Kingdom did not have a

chance to conduct discovery. This is an opportunity, for example, for the

British government to ask Germany to turn over documents in relation to

its actions in London in August 1939.


The British government would, no doubt, welcome Germany’s

agreement to comply with the ruling of the European Court of Human

Rights. However, it would seem that that is not enough. Germany cannot

simply agree to comply with the judgment of the court in order to

dissuade it from bringing its case in the International Arbitral Court.


Some have criticized the British government for being

“suspect of using the courts to enforce their point of view in a dispute

over which they have no concern.” Britain is not alone in its desire to

have one way or the other, to settle a number of questions in the

regional area of the former East Germany.


Perhaps the government should look at the decision by

the Netherlands, which has decided to withdraw its own case against

Germany in the European Court of Human Rights. The Dutch government may

feel that it does have some influence in Europe, even if the European

Union will not be established until 2004.


The British government should try to persuade Germany

that the court in Strasbourg will be as fair as possible in making its

decision, and will not impose on Germany, which, of course, is a

recipient of the court’s juridical protection, any “pre-judgment”.


Germany should have the right to demand that the

government of Great Britain explain why it has chosen to support the

position of the German parliament against the government of Chancellor

Helmut Kohl. Is it merely a domestic matter between two governments?


German politicians and German people will see through

this British strategy. If Britain really intends to do everything in its

power to undermine Germany’s position in international arbitral

proceedings, then they should also expect the German government to take

steps that will defend Germany’s interests in the international arena.


If, however, the British government really wants to

give Germany the opportunity to have its case heard, and to see that the

judges, not its political representatives, will hear that case, then it

must be given back its role as the legal representative of Great Britain

in the European Union.


Germany’s interests should be discussed in the

Council of the European Union. This would be the body which could also

make the appropriate rules about the access of other states to the



A real “European legal area” would be formed, if the

government of Great Britain would not be allowed to obstruct this



In the Council of the European Union, German, French,

Spanish and Dutch citizens could have their legal claims against the

government of Great Britain put forward to a judge who could listen to

the case without having to be influenced by the political influence of

the two parties represented by Britain.


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